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Responding to "Gamer Shaming"

Looking back on the GamerGate scandal with a cool head.

Maybe we should declare a cease fire.
Well, it's been a few years, so "Gamer Gate" has kind of blown over by now. But that's precisely why I feel a pressing need to talk about it. Because, in the thick of it, it was hard to even say "Gamer Gate" without getting tongue-lashed or even censored. Now, hopefully, since "time heals all wounds" we can sit down like reasonable adults and have a reasonable discussion about it. It's worth discussing. We shouldn't try to pretend it didn't happen just because it was ugly and tantrum-y. Both sides raised important arguments and made interesting statements about what they think the "gamer" identity is and should be. These days, to move forward as gamers, we should address the concerns of the critics of the video gaming community. I think we should do this with rational arguments, which were lost to the firebombs of virulent hostility on both sides I witnessed a few years ago. 

Gamer Gate was important to me because I went into it identifying as a feminist liberal AND a geek, though not necessarily a gamer. I didn't identify as a gamer because gaming is not my primary geeky focus—Japanese culture, classic sci-fi films, and animation are more of it than gaming. I play and enjoy video games, but I picture a gamer as someone for whom gaming is more of the total focus of their free time. What I saw irrational or dishonest feminist journalists saying about gamers could also be applied to geeks of any kind, whether they like video games, tabletop games, card games, anime, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, etc.

Their language was bullying, shaming, and demeaning to gamers. They used a few bad apples as examples to make the case for burning down the whole damn orchard. They based judgments on many stereotypes about gamers, and to me, it felt like the exact same vinegar I had received from bullies as a child. Liking Pokémon as a kid made me a "weirdo," a "freak," and people joked about how I'd "never get laid." So I can understand why gamers were upset—people were bullying them.

It also seemed weird to me to hear (from the articles Gamer Gate was outraged about) an attack on gamers as men, not living up to the (presumably female) authors' expectations of masculinity. But how many times have we heard that feminism is supposed to be good for men, because it is (supposedly) aimed at deconstructing social gender expectations, for both men and women? Yet these particular feminists seemed to think it was fair game to shame a mostly male group based on outdated stereotypes about masculinity AND stereotypes about male gamers. The whole thing really put me off from feminism, and made me more open to listening to anti-feminist arguments. 

But, before I go into an extended rant about how I felt, as a geek (hurt, shamed, bullied, belittled), I think I should at least try to understand where the other side was coming from. I want to ask—could improvements be made to gaming culture? I'm guessing that they could. It seemed to me like, however misguided their use of language, they were the ones who felt attacked and bullied by misogynistic trolls, who made our whole camp look disgusting.

Geek culture, in my opinion, should be inclusive. We should try to make it a place where everyone can have fun, and no one is bothered or ostracized. Certainly, we should make every effort to call out or condemn actual instances of harassment and misogyny when we see them. I say "actual," because there are some feminists, like Anita Sarkeesian, who have made whole careers out of trying to catch gaming-misogyny in basically everything, from Ms. Pacman to Bayonetta. But I don't mean that. I mean, there sometimes are cases of misogynistic attacks on female gamers and game developers, and we need to do more to make sure they don't feel like the entire gamer community is aligned with the nastiest of trolls. Don't like being bashed for being a gamer? Don't bash other people for being a female gamer, or for liking games you don't like. Can't we all be cool and civil?

Well, it would be nice if we could, but since I'm not counting on it, that's why I'm not using my real name. 

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