This past weekend, DiGRA held their annual games conference in Germany, which can mean only one thing: clearly it was time for #GamerGate to send in the welcoming committee, flooding the hashtag with a load of unwelcome hate for the attendees to enjoy – a playbook that #GamerGate has seemed to decided to copy from their attempts to do the same to GDC and the Calgary Expo. Because it turns out, if you are trying to reach a whole bunch of people who are skeptical about your cause, the best thing you can do is to hijack their hashtag and fill it with anime, porn, and mockery of their life’s work. In this case, it didn’t work out so well – the usual cranks didn’t discover the conference was happening until it was almost over, and since they were on European time, most of the worst flooding happened while the academics were all out partying. At any rate, it proved to be another excellent excuse for those of us in the know to educate people about the AutoBlocker tool.
DiGRA has about as much to do with ‘ethics in games journalism’ as a plate of oatmeal cookies. The haters are merely riding ridiculous conspiracy theories founded by a YouTube eCeleb named Sargon of Akkad who attempted to forge a link between the organization and journalists last autumn, particularly the ‘Gamers are Over’ articles which the gamergate teeming throngs continually willfully misinterpret as an attack on all gamers, as opposed to an open condemnation of the minority of gamers who were attacking Anita and Zoe, followed by a call to the rest of gamers to not ‘give press to the harassers. Don’t blame an entire industry for a few bad apples.’ But I digress.
The point is that DiGRA has been a tertiary satellite of this whole #GamerGate thing since late last year, when the hardedged footsoldiers of the Gate embarked upon military jingoistically titled “#Operation Digging DiGRA”, an op where they would fact check and peer review DiGRA’s papers in order to search for bias, error and, of course, the influence of the evil feminists in the world of academia. As near as I can tell, they never found much – possibly because there was nothing to find, but in fact it probably largely due to them realizing that reading many academic papers is about as interesting to most lay people as watching paint dry. Still, DiGRA had the all-time best response to this – they offered and encouraged gamergaters to read their papers and send in or publish their comments, if those participants were willing to participate with academic rigor! Probably because academics, too, know that laymen find reading academic papers about as interesting as watching flies fuck.
At any rate, I don’t want to cast any real aspersions of how dumb you’d have to be to have a lot of knowledge about the inner workings of the industry and academia’s relationship to it, and still think that DiGRA posed any kind of existential threat to the ‘Gamer’ populace as a whole. So of course Mark Kern was involved, offering such chestnuts such as decrying some presentations as libelous, and implying that anyone who hasn’t shipped a game before isn’t worth listening to. I think I also saw somewhere that he demanded to know how DiGRA is funded, but ironically, Mark has blocked me on Twitter, so confirming is a pain in the ass.
The truth of the matter is that we went from a world that had no game studies or game creation college programs, to fully fledged programs aimed at helping students build, examine and understand the mechanics, in a shockingly short period of time. Hell, I helped create one of these college programs myself at a community college here in Austin, although the program I worked on had a lot more hands-on vocational skills we need in local studios in Austin, rather than the navelgazing that DiGRA excels in. Still, this eruption of new college programs across the world actually demonstrates how games have fully risen from being a backroom oddity played by antisocial nerds to being massively important cultural forces that the whole world enjoys. Which is to say, DiGRA is a result of the fact that games are, in modern society, a hugely important cultural product that merits that level of examination and study. Which is to say, people who truly love games should celebrate DiGRA’s existence, not fear it.
At any rate, you would think that some Gators would be excited that one of the prepared talks was about a study showing that game use doesn’t correlate to increased sexism. This study conflicts with the findings of some others, and clearly the methodology of the various studies will need to be compared and contrasted in order to explain the discrepencies between the findings, or identify the next study that needs to happen to resolve these differences. Still, this is how knowledge is SUPPOSED to grow, not by choosing a stance and then ignoring all information that conflicts with your belief system.