Gamergate* is dead. Indeed, it’s been dead in the water since it began. I’m not going to cover the genesis, or the long arc of harassment and continued misunderstandings about what words like “ethics“, “games” or “journalism” mean. That, as you can see, has already been extensively covered.
But like a rapidly transmitted virus – say, the flu – the reach of Gamergate went far beyond the borders of the nation of ManCavelandia to find coverage in the mainstream media from the likes of NPR, PBS or the New York Post. In no particular order, the death of Gamergate:
No one actually buys the ethics in games journalism defence. It was a slapdash bandaid applied to a bitter ex’s angry blog rant about a claim of collusion that is provably false. More than a few minutes spent in any of the forums for pro-GG posters show that a) they’re primarily concerned with punishing women who critique the game industry status quo and b) they have no fucking idea what ethics in journalism actually means, since they feel like games coverage shouldn’t be critical or negative of a product when that company also advertises with you. No, really.
The smokescreen of ethics probably makes the next point so infuriating.
2) Mainstream media coverage:
In a setting where “fair and balanced” coverage means giving both sides of the story equal play, even if one side is completely ridiculous (looking at you, climate change “debates”), the MSM has been unequivocally critical of Gamergate. New York Times coverage focuses on GG as a movement devoted to silencing feminist critics of games, Forbes ran an article criticizing Intel’s decision in pulling advertising based on the campaign, and big name stations like CNN and the BBC covered the Utah State massacre threats because, well, obviously.
In fact, the only thing GG appears to have been remotely successful at with regards to mainstream media is getting Anita Sarkeesian interviewed on everything, including the Colbert report:
(In a cute piece of irony Alanis would love, most GGers seem to believe this is a coop for the movement because Stephen Colbert argues for boobies in video games.)
3) Everyone knows it’s about hating women.
Chris Kluwe took basically an enormous verbal dump on Gamergate hydra-like head, and nothing happened. (He made a few people cry, maybe.) Nerd idols like Joss Whedon, Wil Wheaton and Greg Rucka have all spoken against the toxic nature of the movement. And yet, it’s Anita Sarkeesian, Felicia Day, Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu – all relative small potatoes, until they got national attention for being targets, anyway – were the ones threatened. Those threats were widely reported on, which led to a number of reporters looking into men who have criticized GG, and why they weren’t threatened. Considering this is the media that was hesitant to talk about the Isla Vista shooter’s misogyny, don’t you think that’s a little telling?
4) Games are changing.
Anita covers it a bit in her talk, but the truth is that interdisciplinary programs are gaining ground in universities and colleges, and many media labs and incubators have computer scientists who are artists as well, visual artists who can code, writers who can market. This isn’t just meant to double-dip and save money, but rather reflect the flexibility and diversity of the world in the people who make games, so that games can grow beyond the linear narrative structures and kill-to-win models that dominate a lot of major game studios’ portfolios. Sandbox games like Animal Crossing, Tomodachi Life, the Sims, and Fantasy Life are immensely popular, entertaining and fun. You can’t beat them them. The only way to win is the satisfaction of enjoying the game while playing it.
What’s more, you get games like Fold it, where the satisfaction and enjoyment from the game can also be derived from the sense of purpose that succeeding has applicable, real-life benefits. Check out the latest puzzle, for example, where players need to find a way to bypass a cap on the ebola virus that prevents a cure from binding before the virus can bind to a human host. Terrified of ebola? Be the actual change here.
Gamification has gotten a bad rap because it’s used so poorly in most cases. rewards based systems only work so long as the reward is high enough value for you to press through doing your homework, or chores, or job. But gamification done well broadens the scope and arena of gaming to be pretty much limitless, which is terrifying for Gamergate. How can it be a special club if everyone enjoys it?
*not to be confused with gamergates, or reproductively viable worker ants.
(See WoW Insider’s “Open Letter to Jaina Proudmoore” for backstory. Be warned of 5.4 spoilers!)
If it comes as a surprise to anyone that I love ladies behaving badly in Warcraft (and other storytelling mediums), then I invite you to take a gander at my two Blizzard Story contest entries, where I think about Blood Queen Lana’thel and Leyara’s histories, respectively.
It’s hard being Alliance for all your WoW-playing career and having a fascination with villainy, because they tend to either be a part of the Horde (Sylvanas) or quest/dungeon/raid bosses (Keristrasza, Leyara, BQL, ad nauseum). The Blizzard Story contest is, at the moment, defunct, but I had been planning exploring a Sylvanas story after reading Dave Kosak’s short story, Edge of Night, because I did find it very interesting that she wasn’t present at Arthas’ death.
A lot of this is born out of my frustration that women in Warcraft tend to be pushed to their limits by the storylines, and then callously abandoned to their fate (often death, at the hands of us “heroes”) when they’re deemed irredeemable. Keristrasza was captured, abused and forced to be Malygos’ consort after she murdered his previous one, and you have to kill her in the Nexus, an act which the wiki entry for her states “a sad, but necessary end.”
Lana’thel is forced into service for the Lich King when she faced him at Northrend, armed with her former friend’s blade Quel’delar, which she was overwhelmed by Frostmourne, and forced to serve him. (Sensing a theme?) Leyara’s grief and anger at the Horde, and her father-in-law’s madness leads her to ally with the minions of Ragnaros because she doesn’t feel she has anything left to live for (and she doesn’t even make it into the dungeons, you kill her during a quest chain.)
This female madness issue didn’t start with Wrath, nor end in Cata. In Pandaria, where strong emotions are made physically manifest in the Sha, both Suna Silentstrike and Liu Flameheart become infested with Sha, and the players are forced to kill them. It would not be so very telling if not for the fact that Tarah Zhu, leader of the Shado-Pan, is similarly affected, but in the dungeon where you encounter him, all the player needs to do is drive the Sha out of his body, and defeat it.
If that’s the case, why did Suna and Liu have to die? Their grief and doubt – at the loss of a beloved husband, the fear of failing your god – are perfectly reasonable within the context of their stories, which were created by the writers and quest developers. Why do the women of Warcraft only get one chance at redemption, and then only through death?
What’s even more fascinating is that this is a narrative that’s not just played out in the game and supplemental materials, but also in the fan base. Jaina factors into this because like Suna and Leyara, she’s lost loved ones, people she was a leader to. Her story has always been one of courage and of loss. SPOILERS for 5.4 to follow the cut: