As I’m writing this GamerGate is entering its 8th month of ongoing terror and intimidation across social media. It’s been a horrendous period in games, destroying people’s lives, driving people out and away from the games industry, permanently scarring the reputation of games in the public eye, causing universities to cut funding for games programs, and showing no signs of stopping anytime soon as its advocates continue to find new, even more horrific methods to try to drive out their adversaries.
What exactly GamerGate wants remains unclear. Are they fighting to preserve the status quo of games being designed by and for straight white men? To keep out people they feel are invading their space (despite being here since the beginning)? To preserve the sacred role of game criticism where opinions must align with gamer expectations and “objectively” ignore any larger cultural context? Or do they just want to cause mayhem for the sake of mayhem, treating this all as a game with no real stake in how it plays out save ensuring it never ends?
Depending on who you ask it’s about all or none of these things. It’s a collection of people with no organization or ability to figure out even among themselves what they want. And so GamerGate rolls forward, lashing out at anyone who would dare criticize them while in the same breath defending these actions as “ethical” and “right”. The ends justify the means, essentially, no matter how inhumane the means and unclear the end become.
This whole affair has taught me a lot about the worst gaming culture can produce. How its homogenized outward image can drive people away from games, seemingly proving some fictitious point that the game industry somehow belongs solely to those already within it, and outsiders (whether that be people who don’t already play games or fall outside GamerGate’s idea of what a gamer looks like) are unwelcome. It’s become too toxic to bear, too painful to continue to watch, helpless to come up with a solution to all the hate flooding Twitter feeds and message boards or even understand where it’s coming from. All it’s made clear to me is gamers are not my friends and allies. They are not the people I wish to associate with and support.
Gamers, as a group, are now synonymous to me with the vile hatred and harassment of GamerGate and those who support it or neglect to make a stand against it. To call myself a gamer is to declare myself as part of a group, a group I once felt was the one place I belonged, but now is impossible to see as anything but an assembly of hypocrites and abusers. These are not the people I once saw as my friends, as fellow social misfits in love with a medium that’s constantly dismissed as child’s play and incapable of contributing positively to society. While games have long since outgrown this perception, it would appear gamers have not, and are actively fighting so they never have to.
It would appear that gamers are now living up to what fanatical news stories and overly concerned parents and politicians always feared. They’ve shown themselves to be violent, racist, sexist, exclusionary; abusive to anyone that’s not “one of them”. Even if GamerGate is a small minority of those who play games and those who identify as gamers, in their uncontrollable rage across the internet they’ve made themselves the face of gamers, and effectively destroyed any good will that has been built up over the years. Games have grown up and outgrown their niche, and now all that remains are a group reluctant to accept that they aren’t the center of the universe anymore (as if they ever were).
Ceasing to call myself a gamer doesn’t mean I plan to stop games, or stop loving games and readily welcoming anyone who wants to take part in them. But I will no longer do so under the mantle of gamers, or require anybody do so to be allowed entry into this industry. Instead I am merely a person. A person who loves games, the people who make them, and sharing them with anybody and everyone I can because I don’t want to keep such an amazing medium to myself. I believe everyone should be allowed to play games, and in my eyes the first step I can take in making that possible is to stop associating myself with a banner that’s actively attempting to keep newcomers out.
“Gamer” is only inclusive insofar as to those already a part of it. From the outside it appears an incomprehensible assortment of quick tempers, demands of the industry, and seemingly a lack of understanding beyond their own small worlds. This is not the term by which we let others into games or move away from the harm GamerGate has caused.
You don’t have to be a gamer to play and talk about games. Games are not made for one group but for everyone, regardless of how long you’ve been playing them, what reason you play them, or what games you choose to play. It doesn’t matter what your race, gender, orientation, or age is, and the faster we can make this known, the sooner we can move out from under the tyrannical image of those who play games GamerGate has scared into everyone’s minds. I don’t need to base my identity around games to show how much I love them, and I hope in not requiring others to do so either, games and their culture will be allowed to grow and reach people who have just as much a right to them as anyone. Why wouldn’t you want to share something you love?