I feel the need to clear my head and get down some of these thoughts as soon as I can muster them, because I don’t really feel like this that often. There’s always the chance of me growing more numb to the events as they pass, and sinking deeper into an apathy I’ve been fighting to escape from all this time.
I want to believe people are better.
I want to believe people are great. I want to believe that we can accomplish incredible things and look upon the work we have done and call it good. I want to not doubt the people around me and I want to view the world not with cynicism but with cheerful optimism. I want to believe the best of the people around me.
I have to try.
Because not to try would mean giving in to despair.
The events of #gamergate have been extremely worrying for me. When the story began to break, I felt like I had been proven right. My words written a year ago regarding the animosity between the two groups had predicted the storm. I saw it coming, and so I expected to be able to watch from the sidelines as it burned down.
I also considered that I believed no actual change would result as the predominant figures writing in games moved swiftly to crush all dissenting voices – they were the ones with the most to lose, after all, and the loudest dissenters were easy to ignore simply because people who identify as ‘gamers’ have a well-recorded history of whining about anything and everything to do with video games as standard practice.
Never in a million years would I have expected events to transpire in the ways they did from those first few small flash fires. The more time went on, the more inflammatory the comments got, and the angrier both sides got. It turned from mean-spirited commentary on relationships between indie developers and game journalists into a forest fire that managed to wholly consume the gaming community. Lines were drawn. Facts were brushed off; no source could be trusted or counted upon as long as they did not fit the narrative presented by either side. Logic and reason gave way to emotion and long-held simmering grievances. My amazement grew as the specific individuals under scrutiny handled – and continue to handle – the situation exceptionally poorly, and as someone who pays attention to business and marketing as part of an actual career I couldn’t help but comment on events in an interesting little thought experiment.
As the fires rapidly spiraled out of control, I began to believe in change. I began to believe that the cesspit that is games journalism would make concerted efforts at fixing the ills it had created and addressing the concerns of its reader base. I began to believe that demanding more from games and the people who write about them for a living would improve the level of discourse and actual investigative journalism, and that lazy reblogs, as well as agenda and hit-driven clickbait journalism, would not become the standard. I began to slip off the fence. The second I began to believe change would in fact happen as a result of the community airing its grievances, I became invested in their success.
As a result, I soon became embroiled in the dialogue between the two sides and the ongoing Twitter war.
My twitter account pre-Gamergate stood at a paltry two hundred fifty tweets. Generally, I do not use social media. When I do, it’s primarily in a supervising role and used as an additional marketing channel. The flood of Twitter comments from both sides of the schism, updated live from around the world became a constant in my day. I found myself checking the hashtag compulsively, on bathroom breaks, during lunch, and every time I could get some spare time alone with my phone. The more I read the sadder and angrier I got. I got to watch people commit social suicide in real time. Information on both sides exploded outward into the void as people began to investigate on their own.
At some point my tired laughter over the events that occurred and how simply the issues could have been defused became a kind of stunned disbelief. This went beyond incompetence. Despite my healthy faith in the depths of cumulative human stupidity and an understanding that large volumes of people shouting the loudest believed with absolute conviction in what they were saying. It was only then I realized that neither side wanted the issues defused. It was a war of idealogues, a war that would only end with one victor, or mutual annihilation.
The more I read, the more emotionally invested I became. It was only a matter of time before I found my own personal berserk buttons. I felt actual, genuine rage of the sort I have not felt on the internet in a full half decade. I failed to remain detached. I had fallen completely off the fence.
Certain individuals of prominence in games journalism said things that set me off. I’m not proud of it. I believe that caring so much about something I use as throwaway entertainment to the point where it directly affects my emotional health can’t be good for me, in the long run. One of those people was Devin Faraci, and I was still careful not to attack him directly in the piece I aimed directly at him and express my willingness to start an actual dialogue. The other was Ben Kuchera. Ben Kuchera’s sins have been known for a while now, and on many levels I should have known better than to give credence to anything he says.
“…jobs writing are so hard to come by that it’s really hard to fault anyone for much these days.”
The above statement, part of a private conversation between games journalists discussing the resulting fallout of the Zoe Quinn scandal made me see red.
As someone who has known from a young age that writing for a living is all he’s ever wanted to do, as someone who has seen actual journalists gunned down on live video for investigating, as someone who has seen people bravely, quietly, try tirelessly time and time again to be published in print after entire decades of setbacks, the statement struck me as so utterly reprehensible and so completely ignorant that had I been given the opportunity, I would have immediately committed a litany of crimes upon Ben Kuchera’s person, including arson, assault and battery, assault with a deadly weapon and manslaughter, and pled guilty to every charge. I was angry enough to want to kill this man I had never met and serve the time for it. That should have given you some idea of how angry I was.
Yes, writing for a living is difficult. Most jobs writing are thankless drudgery, and you can expect the people you work for to barely give your copy the time of day if not ignore it completely. But being unable to find work writing is not justification for your actions or the actions of anyone else! You alone are responsible for your actions. Everyone is responsible for their own actions! If you’re going to blame your actions on your inability to find work writing, then maybe you need to take a good hard look at yourself and maybe admit that your writing is not worth the paper it’s printed on if nobody’s willing to pay you for it. You could also go into a different field! Let’s not pretend none of us have the choice to do something different. I chose to write for a living with the knowledge of what it meant. I could have been a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, a day laborer, a bum, a politician, a chef. I could have been any number of things. I chose to work somewhere I was allowed to write for a living.
I read the above statement at around quarter to midnight. I was unable to sleep for hours afterward, and went for a walk to cool off. I was half-dead all of yesterday at work, restless, unhappy and exhausted. I regretted ever coming down off the fence. I regretted engaging with the movement. I regretted becoming emotionally invested.
I regretted caring about video games.
As a result of saying and writing the few things that I have regarding gamergate, I have received some very angry communiques from people who perceived me as being against their side or just plain wrong. I have also had some borderline frustrating discussions with people I respect and trust, people who have already made up their minds about what to believe regarding this event. One of my friends has received some negative attention for simply re-tweeting one of my articles.
I have come out and said before that I believe in the power of play, and the ability it has to bring people together. If video games become something that divides us as a community, another thing that allows us to shame, ostracize and segregate rather than something that unites us, then I’m done with it. Done with all of it. This entire debacle has divided me from some people I care very much about. That in itself has become reason enough for me to completely remove myself from this debate, at least in public. As of this morning, I deleted my Twitter account and will no longer be engaging with people from either side in public. I’m sickened, exhausted, and tired by what I’ve witnessed and the rage I’ve felt, and all I feel right now is bitter and hollow.
At the same time, I feel like one thing that has become very clear to me is that everyone in this entire debate cares very much about video games. The absolute wealth of care, love, and hate people put into this makes me feel ashamed for being afraid to care about video games in the first place. They are very emotionally invested, and they worry very much about what has become or will become of their hobby – a hobby they embraced wholeheartedly long before it became accepted as a mainstream, fifty-billion-dollar-strong economic force.
I hope one day we’ll be able to look back on this and laugh. I feel like the community that has built itself around games needs to take some time to heal and bond, well after the ashes of the schism have been allowed to cool and tempers are no longer burning. But until we learn to listen to each other – really listen – I’m out of the game. I want to believe the best of people. I want to take people at their word and not have the seed of bitter doubt in my mind as to why they’re saying what they’re saying.
I want to believe people are better than this. I’ve been let down time and time again. But I do not believe people can be made better by external forces, no matter how powerful, and no amount of screaming about it on the internet is going to change a thing.
One day, hopefully someday soon, I won’t be afraid to care about video games again.
Until then, signing off.