Some time ago, Alexander Macris from The Escapist asked me to write up my thoughts on #gamergate. I sent him a response (it’s still coming, I think), and told him that I hoped he was talking to some women. With my response, I told him frankly that I thought it would be a bad idea for him to ignore diversity for this topic, because much of the roots of this topic are based in minority viewpoints, particularly women. He latched onto this idea and ran with it. It’s a good read. Seriously, go read it.
It’s well-rounded, and does a great job of describing the total feeling of ominous despair I’ve seen overtake the dev women I know. Let’s talk about the most important thing about this article: most of these women wouldn’t participate unless they were anonymous. This maps to what I see in my friends list. There are people in my friends list who have been making games for 20 years. Some of these are women who normally will NOT shut up about what is right or wrong in game design or the games industry. Since the start of #gamergate though, these outspoken designers are absolutely, positively refusing to engage on this issue. By far, this is more true of the women than the men.
There’s a simple reason: what happened to Anita, and what happened to Zoe.
I’ve linked a few times this article by Criado Perez who documented the avalanche of shit that piled upon her once the Internet decided she was an uppity bitch. By way of comparison, last week, the twitterverse took something I wrote out of context, and decided I was part of the problem. Here’s a rough catalog of what I got when Base Mom called me out.
- A whole bunch of people who pointed out helpfully that mentioning the KKK or Nazis in any argument that’s gotten heated was fucking stupid.
- A whole bunch of people who called me a handful of names, mostly harmless like ‘idiot’ or ‘SJW asshole (the latter of which my friends found pretty funny, because they know me).
- A handful of people attempting to organize Bioware boycotts because of me, or requesting EA fire me.
- A couple of people who discounted my opinion because of how Bioware fucked up the end of ME3, or the level design in DA2 (Note: I had no part and can take credit nor blame for either game)
- A whole bunch of people who went full mom and talked about being ‘disappointed’ in me.
- A distinct uptick in the number of people trying to hack my blog.
Now, demanding people get fired because they have opinions on video games different from you is pretty uncool. But still, I didn’t get Doxed. I didn’t get DDOSed. My wife, parents and siblings haven’t been getting phone calls calling me a slut whore bitch cunt. I haven’t gotten any emails or twitters suggesting I should get raped and murdered. No one has made a video game where the sole point of it is to punch me in the face. Which is to say, a lot of shit got directed my way. But much of it was fair, some of it crossed into ‘vaguely dickish’ and some was ‘fairly concerning’. It is NOTHING compared to what happens when a community decides a woman gets uppity on the net.
I frankly think that a lot of people on BOTH sides who say they are getting harassed have no idea what harassment is. I’ve seen numerous cases where people complained they were being ‘harassed’ for being called stupid, or being told to shut up. Whether you call this harassment or not, this is light years from the worst shit that is happening.
Reading through the comments thread of the Escapist article, I see that a ton of people don’t get it. They think that these women, who are all clearly well-versed in the controversy, just don’t ‘get’ what #GamerGate was about. Here’s a hint: they totally get it. But #gamergate is a Rorschach test. For some, it’s a fight against journalistic corruption. For others, its an attempt to get rid of progressive (“SJW”) elements from games and games journalism. Some are still fighting a crusade against Zoe and Anita. Some are convinced its still a crusade of harassment and misogyny (and there’s still WAY too much of that shit going on on both sides). Some are just mad about ‘gamers are dead’ articles, as if those actually had any kind of lingering power on the games you’re going to get.
But I gotta tell you, in this ink blot, a lot of women devs look at the ink blot and they see a massive middle finger aimed right at them. Read the article – all but one of them expressed the same general thoughts. They feel silenced. They feel vilified. They feel alone. They feel despair that other women in the industry also feel this way, and some are starting to question whether to leave. And they feel terrorized that they are one crazy ex-boyfriend away from being made an example of.
And if I had to place a guess, they are really sick of being told that ‘they just don’t get what GamerGate is all about’ by people who have no idea how hard it is to be a woman in the games’ industry.
I’ve had a couple of women tell me that they are TERRIFIED TO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK POSTS OR FAVORITE MY TWEETS ON THE SUBJECT.
A few weeks ago, I made a point, which is that ‘As long as women gamers and game developers are living under a cloud of virtual terrorism, I don’t give a shit about your cause.’ Now, there are a whole bunch of people who want to bend over backwards to say that it’s only a couple of fuckwads, and that the idea that this is about harassment is a myth. I can tell you right now, that narrative is not what’s perceived. Because the women who watched this unfold KNOW that it unfolded in the roots of Zoe and Anita, and even if they want to disagree with those two, they know there is very real risk of their lives going through the same kind of upheaval.
For having an opinion about video games.
What’s perceived is that voicing an opinion is just not safe for a whole bunch of people who are, it turns out, right at the center of the debate. Whether or not you are pro or anti-, its perceived as just not a SAFE THING TO DO to SPEAK YOUR MIND. And that’s a really, really fucking shitty place to be in the profession you love.