Thursday, October 23, 2014

Gamers and Gates

On Fridays, if I'm lucky, I go to the rifle range and shoot holes in circles. It's a relaxing thing I like to do and it's a kind of reward, a conceit, after a decade of running a successful business. It's my golf. There is tremendous guilt in this time away, but that's another story. I mention this because you will never see a more polite group of miscreants as the fine ladies and gentlemen of the rifle range.

Why? Mostly because they all have guns. That tends to engender politeness, despite what you might have been told. When there's yelling, it's because there's a violation of safety. I was yelled at last week for not noticing someone else's safety violation. It takes a village.

They also have a common cause. They're all members of a maligned sub culture. They have vastly, wildly divergent views on politics, religion, the way of the world, but they all agree on one thing. They all want to continue to punch holes in paper circles, and much of the world disagrees.

I mention this because gamers are also members of a maligned subculture. Sure, the video game market is literally 100 times larger than the hobby game market, but any attempt to distance myself from video gamers ends up with me throwing stones within my glass house.

Their games are violent. Check. They're a black hole of time. Check. It's predominantly a male pursuit with difficulty integrating women. Check. My male dominated murder hoboism, AKA my D&D group, meets all standards for which I dislike vidya games. There are great, beautiful, creative, and non violent themes in both genres, and we all strive towards those examples, but the criticisms, the examples of what's normative in the sub cultures, are mostly the same.

The one saving grace of hobby gaming sub culture, one difference from video game culture, is eventually, hopefully, we'll meet face to face. It's social gaming. We're not all holding guns to engender politeness, but we still get along well enough to kill the monsters and take their stuff. Yes, our online forums are just as virulent as the video game forums, but have you ever been on a firearms forum?

Oh geez, the amount of time people spend trying to convince you that one, one-hundredth of an inch is vitally critical to your survival is just staggering. Arguments get just as heated, although there's very rarely threats of violence for obvious reasons. There is no deterrence in gaming forums.

Without a social outlet, video gamers have no social consequences to their douchebaggery, no deterrence. There is no convention or game store where they'll have to encounter each other and reconcile their differences. There's no rifle range of politeness.

I'm not a solutions guy, but if I had to guess, it would be more accountability and zero tolerance. More walled gardens and less Wild West. But I've got my hands full over here, trying to get my own hobby game house in order. Our basic guideline of Don't Be a Dick, Wheaton's Law, tends to work pretty well for us.


  1. GamerGate has become a microcosm of the culture war.

  2. "More accountability and zero tolerance" doesn't really work in this context. More accountability means that whenever you openly hold an opinion that is unpopular with any group, you risk being attacked (online) by members of that group for holding that opinion. And the social group of the people doing the attacking will generally APPLAUD that attack, not punish.

    Imagine the following. I say on twitter that I am pro-gamergate. It's unlikely to mean much because I'm not someone that anyone cares about. But if I'm someone known, I could suddenly find an inbox full of messages calling me a misogynist neckbeard virgin, a terrorist, 16 year old who lives in their mom's basement, or some combination of the above. And the potentially hundreds of people who messaged me? No one cares about them individually so they won't be spammed, and their social group considers me an enemy, so no social punishment for them.

    Now obviously with real threats of violence, having more accountability will help identify the people making the threats. But of course, it goes both ways. More accountability will also make the people being threatened more vulnerable. If to post on twitter you have to post using your real name and verify your identity (via some mechanism), you are a lot more exposed to people who will ACTUALLY do you harm.

    More generally, the inability to be anonymous makes it difficult to openly have unpopular opinions or positions, or suffer potential social costs in real life. It just enforces conformity to whatever is considered normal. Imagine if someone couldn't post anonymously asking questions about how to come out to their parents or the best ways to transition in gender identity from male to female. What if you are in to perfectly legal but freaky sex and are looking for partners with your specific fetish. Well, you can't post anonymously now, you have to attach that to your real name.

    So now you say, well, we should have separate sorts of sites, one where people can be anonymous, and the other where all names are known. Now you have created two walled gardens where populations don't talk to each other, which usually leads to MORE polarization on opinions, not less, since people will only rarely hear from the other side.

    So you see why this is complicated and there are no easy solutions.

  3. GamerGate would of been over in August if publications like Kotaku, Polygon, RPS, and Gamasutra just admitted they have been corrupt and they collude (as proven by the GameJournoPros email leaks). Now a whole bunch of shady shit has come to light and after 2 months of media hit pieces that only made GamerGate grow in size, there doesn't seem to be any way for them to negotiate. Since they blocked off any kind of communication with their fan base, preferring to call them misogynists and basement dwellers, their consumers were forced to use the only option they have left. The consumer boycott, which is working extremely well. Now that they're losing advertisers and money it seems they might be willing to talk, but that time seems to have been 2 months ago.

    This is why I go to the Escapist or Youtubers for any DnD or gaming news. The Escapists' forums are alright and they immediately changed their ethics policy when all this stuff went down in August. Also youtubers like Total Biscuit and Boogie come clean with any brand deal they get. Plus it just seems that video gaming websites are dinosaurs, youtubers and twitch streamers do a much better job of showing me how a game is by simply playing it and letting me watch.

  4. I don't think GamerGate would have been affected much by more openness. None of the GamerGaters I've talked to give a damn about journalistic integrity...they're all just venting their rage.

  5. "they're all just venting their rage."

    A predictable response from any group of people upon being informed by decree that they are dead, when they are, in fact, not dead.

  6. Actually, I think most subcultures wouldn't care much about some random journalist declaring their label obsolete.

  7. Fascinating, "some random journalist" wrote eight different articles for Gamasutra, Destructoid, Kotaku, RockPaperShotgun, Ars Technica, Vice and Buzzfeed all concurrently. Who is this superhuman wordsmith and where does he find the time?