So recently, Twin Galaxies, the guys who track videogame records, started an indiegogo campaign for a platform they call “Right2Game.” It’s a social network built entirely for gamers that will “raise awareness that avid gaming is a worthwhile, socially acceptable, and important activity that’s deserving of more understanding and support.”
They will do this with gaming Facebook that, you may have noticed in there, advertises their big media events and contests.
This is the dumbest thing I have seen in awhile, and people are actually buying into it. The sad thing is that I’m not surprised. I think we need to sober up for a moment, gaming community.
Gamers WERE victims
I’m not sure how many of the younger set are aware of this, but there was a time where liking videogames did make you a social pariah. It was seen as weird and geeky for years, and the nerd stereotype was all over television and film. We were a laughing stock, and we eventually gained a real potential boogieman in the form of politicians becoming interested in banning our medium. Once Jack Thompson appeared on the scene, crusading against our hobby, we were whipped into a mob that demanded our hobby be taken seriously.
It has been over a decade since the last major gaming controversy worth a damn (the Hot Coffee mod in GTA: San Andres), yet we’re still in full victim mode. Which is weird. Everyone plays games, and I mean everyone. There is still some stigma, but that stigma is growing smaller and smaller as more people try World of Warcraft or get sucked into the newest Assassin’s Creed. We’re no longer the out liners anymore, yet we keep acting like we are for an entirely different reason.
Now, there’s more and more people being angered by the thought of people invading their space, somehow taking their hobby away from them by demanding better representation or new ways of thinking about design. Even talented developers and industry figures are siding with this mindset, and we’re seeing more push back against this mindset every day, from people trolling the GameFAQs best game ever tourney to get Undertale to win over the undisputed two decade champ Ocarina of Time, to a growing trend of game journalists questioning long established norms in female representation (though they still have miles to go since the level of discourse there is still “are game boobies sexist?????”).
And that’s good! Well, okay, not the Undertale thing, that was just hilarious. But actively questioning cultural norms that seem to completely exist for one set of individuals is an early step for a medium to grow into its own. Self-reflection is just a normal part of growing up, every medium has had to go through it for acceptance from a wider audience and the general public. And it’s okay to disagree with a lot of these critics! You’re questioning their questions, that’s another step to reaching an answer that he community at large can get behind.
But gaming still has a long way to go because there’s factions in the larger community that refuse to consider any sort of change, fearing that they will lose everything that they fell in love with in the process (despite the retro trend in indie releases that take directly from some of the most famous games ever, the conservative fighting game community that can keep games popular for decades after release, and more). Thus, they kick and scream in frustration, still thinking they’re the victims.
Gamers aren’t the victim anymore
Gaming has become abusive and we’re turning a blind eye.
Before we go further, I’ll just define “gamer” as someone who’s been playing games for at least a decade, and not mainly mobile games. I need to make this distinction now for the sake of argument because we can’t seem to agree on an actual meaning for this meaningless title, but it’s the commonly used word and can’t really be avoided here.
Anyways, around August 2014, something truly baffling to many of us happened. A massive movement of gamers suddenly campaigned for ethical reporting in gaming journalism by making a stink about a woman sleeping with a reviewer for high review scores.
Which was bullshit.
I’m not going to get too into this topic for personal reasons, but this entire episode happened because this guy managed to use a bunch of anonymous users on /v/ and /pol/, various MRA forums, and other such places to harass his ex, able to do so because there was already backlash around a game she made that people were screaming “wasn’t a real game.” It did not take long for sane people to realize that this review in question never existed in the first place, a review score was meaningless because the game in question was a freely distributed twine game meant to teach people about depression, and that people were acting mad for wildly going after anymore who discussed the subject on social media. We even got hard proof when pages upon pages upon pages upon pages of chat log data was released, showing how this entire mess started.
Over a year later, we’re STILL dealing with the fallout. The mob started targeting any known female presence in the medium, swatting random people (calling a SWAT raid on an innocent person), digging for personal info to share with the world and ruin the lives of said targets, and more. Worse yet, the regular members openly defended this group, making half-baked arguments I doubt even they believed about how all these horrible things couldn’t have been done by them because they “weren’t a real member.” The numbers have dwindled, but far right (like advocating nazi politics right) personalities latched on and kept feeding the mob with reasons to continue.
All this exploded because gamers honestly felt like THEY were the victim. Historically, they have been victims. A journalist supposedly did something unforgivable that dirtied the name of their hobby, and they were supposedly apart of a site that was largely seen as the instigator of a lot of criticism of their medium (Kotaku). I’ve known a lot of members of that mob, and I can definitely say that a large reason they managed to stay in for so long was pure, hard denial. They refused to see what was happening as wrong because they truly did feel like THEY were victims, not the people having their family endlessly harassed by a bunch of internet crusaders, pets killed in SWAT raids, and those who committed suicide over the stress of the madness.
This mindset required you ignore the sheer amount of victims were women, trans, or people of color, all people who are far more likely to be victims in modern society.
This industry wants us to think we’re victims
I don’t think many realize the position we hold in society now. Despite some left over stigma, gaming has become a major entertainment industry that’s now birthing new art movements and experiments in mechanical design, story telling, and more. We’ve always had serious and interesting works, but not nearly at this new variety, even in the AAA gaming scene. They’re still socially conservative, but the sheer amount of mechanical systems in these games would be unheard of just a decade ago.
We have a real place of cultural power now, and we’re affecting how entire generations view the world or interact with it. That’s exciting! And yet, so many of us seem to ignore that in favor of regression. It’s all about the classics that laid the foundations, or the emotions and thoughts they had when they first started playing. When new voices start appearing with their own ideas and concepts for how games can work, a lot of backlash starts popping up because of this fear that our hobby is being taken away, because we had to deal with that threat for years.
But while this mindset is dying, it’s being shouted as loud as possible in increasing bizarre ways. Our various industries are listening, despite how we think otherwise, and are responding in kind. That little horror story I shared earlier? Most, if not all, major gaming websites refused to actually describe the reality of that situation and painted it as some sort of disagreement between two opposing sides.
Various organizations are also trying to cash in on this by appealing to the ego and victim complex of the gamer. Breitbart is probably the most notable example for their latching onto that chaos mentioned before, but we also have more subtle moments of this, like Good Old Games having a sale of games picked by an internet personality who was directly involved in all that harassment madness around the peak of his involvement, or the entire reason I started writing this, Right2Game.
I cannot think of a more blatant example of pandering besides a politician going up in front of a Jewish audience and telling them his thoughts on Schindler’s List. The name of the network, Right2Game, is politically charged to bring up that old fever from when we were campaigning against political groups trying to ban our medium. It implies we have some inherent right to be who we are, which every minority group does. Thus, we deserve a social network entirely for us, like how LGBT+ groups have safe spaces for members to express themselves.
The problem is that GAMERS ARE NOT A MINORITY GROUP NOR ARE BORN BEING GAMERS.
I’m all-caps and bolding that because good lord, it’s astounding how many people keep forgetting this. We’re not alone in the victimization mindset (I once saw a brony compare people not liking bronies to slavery, and that is not a joke), but this shit has been going on for about a decade long now with no justification, and that attitude is doing two horrible things to us.
- We’re becoming easy to manipulate as a possible consumer for various groups and companies.
- That mindset is allowing the abusers among us to hurt people unchallenged.
It’s very easy to shill to people this worked up, because we rarely second guess the actual intentions because we want to feel like we’re validated. That’s dangerous, because there are truly horrible people now using us to hurt others by using the right words to disguise their actual intentions has something else. I am honestly disturbed and disgusted by how often I see situations like these just accepted or even believed at face value.
It’s because we want to keep feeling like we’re always in the right. Everything we do is just and everyone else is wrong, because that’s how it felt for so long. But that’s not true anymore, and definitely never was. Nobody is right all the time, but so few of us fail to accept that truth.
I used to be a pretty awful person, fueled by ego and the need for gratification or always having the last word on someone. I felt like I was the victim and was always right because of my own history with bullies. I was unhappy as that person, and I’m not sure I’d still be here if I didn’t start questioning what I was doing. When I started to realize how nearly every one of my problems were caused by my egotistical, only person that matters mindset, I gradually became someone else that I can say I would like if I ever met them. I don’t view the world with disgust anymore, more concern than anything else.
I can’t abide by people allowing abusers to do as they please, or allow themselves to be so easily suckered into such a gross marketing gimmick. You can be better than that, and I can say that from experience. You can be more than the angry, self-centered person the media is making you out to be. Just take a step back and ask yourself some questions.
Questioning the norm is the first step to growing up, and this medium needs to truly mature as soon as humanly possible.