Friday, December 5, 2014

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised 3: Born In Fire

Part 1: An Introduction
Part 2: A History Lesson
Part 3: Born in Fire
Part 4: Factions Form
Part 5: The Curious Tale of David Pakman

In Which I Make An Analogy

In the year 2013, the video game industry raked in over $66 billion. Gaming regularly dwarfs other forms of entertainment, like movies, TV, the music industry. People who buy and play video games are a very large, very diverse, and very influential demographic.

The industry itself, though, is very young, and has faced relatively few of the trials that other mediums have faced, but the ones it has faced have come in rapid succession. From (disbarred attorney) Jack Thompson to (indicted for corruption) Leland Yee, from invasive Digital Rights Management software to politico-moral crusading and cries of “think of the children,” gamers have been fighting one battle for respect after another for a few decades now. And in the meantime, the gaming medium has grown: it's become more mature and more inclusive, and most gamers have embraced that. So if you think that video games aren't “a big deal,” you might want to rethink that.

As I've discussed previously, the relationship between gaming press and gamers has been tenuous at best, but when the medium you write about is approaching the status of being the officially largest form of entertainment in the world, you really should feel some duty to be a consumer advocate. But, to quote Destructoid now:
“That said to me that this "gamer" term has some inherent power to it. It makes people feel something, for better or worse. Compare it to terms like "golfer" or "golf journalism." Imagine if golf pros and commentators were to declare that the term "golfer" is dead. The collective golf community would likely raise an eyebrow, shrug, and get back to golfing. That's not what we're seeing in the "gamer" community right now. “
Would they? Would they, really? I mean, excuse my ignorance (and I know a large number of Erin's audience are gunnies, so also excuse me if I sound a bit repetitive) here, but if Guns & Ammo declared gun owners “obtuse shitslingers, wailing hyper-consumers, or childish internet-arguers” and declared the term “gunnie” dead, would they really just raise an eyebrow, shrug, and go back to the firing range?* Would you really want them to be the public voice advocating for and representing your hobby, that important chunk of your life, or how you choose to spend your free time and income? Would you want them as the loudest voices defending your passion when the U.S. Government turns its eye towards you, with new legislation on the purchasing, ownership, or registration/licensing of firearms?

What if all that you and your friends at the range wanted for years was for more people to understand how satisfying firing off a few rounds was, and the pride of a well-maintained firearm, and then American Handgunner decides to publish a piece about how more new people are discovering firearms, and the people that were already at the range are just mad about “all these scary new people enjoying their pastime?” What if a self-professed gun owner called gunnies “misogynistic losers that are making all gun owners look bad?” What if a disturbingly large number of news outlets started referring to gunnies as people that just want to see children dead because of “muh secin ammenment?”

Now imagine if a dozen such articles dropped inside of a 48-hour period on a dozen different firearms-enthusiast websites, like what happened here:

Obviously, in no way, a coordinated strike.

One would think that if all of this was just about an attack on Zoe Quinn, then articles about it would have come out immediately after the incident went public. But they didn't; two weeks passed between The Zoepost (August 16) and the day in which the gaming press carpet-bombed their own readership (August 28). Two weeks is a long time on the internet, especially in a trade that has a 24-hour news cycle. It took two weeks for the immature blow-out that was the “5 Guys burgers and fries Quinnspiracy” to blow over and for people to start noticing links between developers, journalists, publishers, and publicists, and to start asking questions.

It's been argued that these gaming sites are not talking about all gamers, but they make little to no effort to differentiate between any gamers that might (and I say might, as no one has any solid proof) have been involved in any harassment that may have taken place and those that might not have been.
In fact, some go so far as to say things like “Let's say it's a vocal minority,” only to follow up in the next paragraph with “those people do represent your community” and how “so much of gaming culture is howling and flinging shit like a death-metal festival in the Monkey House.“

In short, the unfortunate incident that revealed some ugly details about a relationship also shined a light on some things the gaming press apparently did not want seen and, when questioned, decided that instead of taking a second look at their policies and procedures, went on the full offensive. (This list doesn't repeat any of the links found elsewhere.)

Imagine my above scenario again, with the firearms-enthusiast press attacking gunnies left and right. Now imagine that, in the rough world of online journalism, where your revenue lives and dies on clicks, pageviews, and ad revenue, you find out that competing websites are colluding on a narrative. And sharing that information with representatives from weapons manufacturers. And no matter how many questions you might ask, even from a neutral perspective (yes, I'm bringing my own experience in here), you're told that even questioning the narrative makes you a woman-hating misogynist. Imagine discussion forums where 25,000+ comments are deleted. Where accounts are banned for questioning what's being presented as irrefutable truth. How would you know who stands where?

And this is where we find ourselves: in the fiery ground left in the wake of a sect of entertainment press that chose to to carpet-bomb their own readership rather than address the appearance of impropriety and earn the trust of the consumers they should have been advocating for. And in that fiery ground, in the ashes left behind by the immature and frankly embarrassing reaction to the Quinnspiracy incident, is where GamerGate was born.

Next week: Factions Form

*  Erin says:  As a culture, gunnies probably wouldn't care if some pundit stated that the term "gunnie" was dead. But as for the rest... well, one only needs to Google such luminaries as Dick Metcalf and Jim Zumbo to gauge our response. 

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