Right off the bat, I want to say that these opinions are truly my own, not that of SteamFirst. This situation has been bothering me for quite a bit and thus I am going to vent about it to you fine folks instead of writing my normal weekly review column. I will try to get my next review up sooner rather than later in exchange.
I remember living on Andrews Air Force Base as a six year old. I recall sunny days, learning to ride a bike, and sledding down the hill at the end of our street. The fact that the hill ended in a creek filled with running, not quite frozen water did not detract from our enjoyment. It was here, via a friend down another road, that I had my first gaming experience. It was the original Super Mario Brothers. Immediately, I was enraptured. The guy on screen does what I say. I can dictate the fate, the path of this avatar. I could carve out my own story. Certainly, I died often but I knew that this sense of wonder would become a life long affair.
Many people had similar experiences and the culture of gaming, the essence permeates the privileged world. It’s easy to find someone else who shares the same passion. T-shirts, collectibles, and other paraphernalia can be found in any mall, shopping center, or bazaar without much effort. When I was growing up, it was still considered very nerdy and marginalized by the “cool” kids. Now, every day I can tap into that nostalgia to my heart’s content. Gaming, to me, is as much about the art and fun as it is recapturing that sense of time and place.
To my sorrow, though, this love affair has turned to disillusionment. Not with the games themselves, but with what the culture surrounding it currently represents. I am increasingly ashamed of what the worst among us has done. Those outside the culture are taking notice, too. Simply put, the gaming world has lost its damn mind.
One does not need to look far for the evidence. We have the specific death threats directed at Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu just in the past two weeks. Their crime? Being involved in gaming while female. There is also the practice of “swatting,” calling the cops on somebody streaming their gaming session online, just to see them get raided by a SWAT team. I don’t even want to get started on the whole Gamer’s Gate situation right now.
Those of you who looked at those links will realize that we are getting attention from the mainstream press about this stuff. Just look at this Google search page for the press Anita Sarkeesian is receiving. Did you notice the headlines? She is getting praise for being brave enough for confronting us animals. Frankly, she deserves every bit of it. The disgusting amount of vitriol she received from the moment she announced this project on Kickstarter is ridiculous and undeserved. As a benefit to her, though, it provided the exposure she needed to get the funds along with the encouragement of knowing that the landscape is fertile. If you happen to not like her, though, I would advise that you simply ignore her output.
The same cannot not be said about the monsters in our closet. These people are unfortunately very, very real and will not go away if we ignore them. They have already found themselves nested in groups that encourage further outlandish behavior. They feel rewarded when they go to a mainstream site and see the aftermath of their behavior is the news. A mark was made in the world by them and they know it.
When researching this column, I went trolling on some forums to gain different perspectives. One post in a famously loosely moderated gaming forum caught my attention in particular. It was a picture of a crime scene. A naked younger woman lay dead on the floor, her head turned to one side. There was blood everywhere and the rock used to crush the left portion of her skull was resting about a foot away. In her eyes was the look of terrified resignation that still haunts me a few days after viewing. The caption was: “This is what gets me off.” I wish I was making this up. I wish that I was able to lie to myself and say that it was fake, but I know better.
“This is what gets me off.”
I do not doubt that this is true, just not in the way the poster intended. The poster of this statement simply wants attention and went to an extreme measure to get it. The reaction to the shock value of the post “gets him off.” (I have to assume it is a male.)That, too, is the primary issue with the cretins permeating our culture. They find someone that they disagree with: a feminist, a streamer, a games journalist and harass and torture the poor soul until something better comes along.
So, if they want attention, one could reasonably assume that this piece and others like it that have already been written gives them the victory. I do not believe that this is the case. In each situation, they won when the story of the crime broke. Something that they did is a headline. Sadly, this is not a situation that has an answer that I can deduce. I do not feel that the world needs someone else to stand up and say that sending death threats to people is bad. That is obvious to most people.
What I wish to do is express that this does not have to be this way. Our community does not need to be violent and scary to the world at large. I want to live in a world where gaming is an accepted hobby, a very normal thing. I thought that we were making progress for a while there. As it is, I might be hanging up my nerd shirts for a while. Gaming might have to go back to being my dirty little secret.