Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Internet Activism I

Recently I and several other Fangamers received tweets about our connection to Comcept (the Mighty No. 9 folks), specifically because apparently they were hoping to boycott Comcept for a day? Or something? I'm not sure. Very likely it was just a small faction of the larger Gamergate movement that doesn't really understand how to boycott properly. We haven't heard anything about it since, so I assume they finished their tiny, ineffective boycott and moved on without involving us.

Still, between that and the Gaming Feminist Illuminati shirt that we'll be offering in our store soon, I've been thinking a lot about activism, especially as it relates to Internet activity. Should I be vocal about where I stand on a subject? What are the repercussions if I do? Will it have any effect? Are there consequences for staying silent? I'm not sure, but I have a few observations so far.

The hottest topic in my sector of the Twitterverse right now seems to be the subject of feminism, particularly as it relates to the gaming industry. Everyone has an opinion about Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, and the Gamergate movement it seems. I do, too, though I tend to ask myself the same thing I always ask myself when I develop an opinion: who cares? Why should I say anything? What can I say that hasn't already been said by someone else in a far more eloquent manner?

So, generally I just keep my mouth shut unless I have something of value to say. And, since I don't think that highly of myself, that means I don't say much at all. So, sure, I want to voice my support for women in the gaming industry, but beyond a few encouraging words to ones I know I'm not sure what to say. While I appreciate, say, Anthony Burch's zeal for the cause, I'm not inclined to completely Other the Gamergate folks, who may in fact be good natured but misguided or something. I'm not really sure, as I have not really sat down and talked to any.

Still, after the prods we got this past weekend about our relationship to Comcept, I did react with a couple of anti-gamergate tweets including a picture in which I related the experience to an encounter with Mormon missionaries. I received a text afterward from someone suggesting I delete the picture, worried about repercussions from the Gamergate folks. The picture did not result in any repercussions, though, since I'm a relative nobody with <300 Twitter followers--even if someone saw the picture and was offended, they had the presence of mind to realize that I'm really not worth their time. Still, the potential repercussions of taking sides in these things are very real.

Tim Schafer is the CEO and head game designer of Double Fine Productions, and he's a vocal supporter of the feminist cause. He's also a notable Twitter personality with ~200,000 followers. Naturally he gets hate mail, death threats, and such. Not as much as actual women do, but probably enough to be scary. His opinions also got Double Fine's website DDoS attacked, shutting it down for several hours. I'm not sure how much that attack affected their business, but  similar attack on, say, Fangamer would be dangerous since it would affect our sales.

I don't want to downplay the severity of the death threats either. I don't think that anybody will ever follow through on the threats of violence since that would be a great way to end their movement in a big damn hurry (martyrs tend to have that effect), but there's always that "what if...?" to worry about. What if these people really are angry enough to do it? What if there's just one wacko who wants to make a name for himself? What if...?

And even without the death threats, it's not exactly easy to have to wake up to abuse every day. Maybe, after a while, you might get used to having insults and slurs lobbed at you, but who wants to deal with it for that long?

That said, I'm personally prepared to deal with such abuse if it serves some purpose and actually promotes a worthy cause. But that brings up two questions:

First, how much of what I say reflects on me personally, and how much does it reflect on Fangamer? Or, more to the point, is Fangamer ready and willing to come out on one side of the issue or the other? Reid and I have both come out in support of feminism, but that doesn't mean that Fangamer itself, the company as a whole, has taken a stance. (Yet. Again, that upcoming Gaming Feminist Illuminati shirt will probably end that tacit neutrality, for better or worse.) Also, notably none of the women in the company have spoken out about it for whatever reason: uncertainty, fear of reprisal, apathy, etc.

Also, as I noted before, there's a real danger in having a company take a stand like that. So far I don't think my opinions or Reid's have reflected directly onto the company yet, but if the company takes a position against a vocal group not only are we at risk of e-terrorist activity like DDoS attacks and hacking, but we also have the much more mundane concern of people who simply don't agree with the position refusing to buy our stuff. It's a real concern, and it could affect our livelihood. I'm willing to martyr myself for a worthy cause, but I'm less inclined to force martyrdom on anyone else.

The other question is whether or not taking a political stance online actually serves a purpose. And, to be honest, I have no idea. Thinking back on all the Internet arguments I've had over the years, especially when I was younger, can I think of any that have resulted in me changing my mind?

The answer is... well, yes, probably. I'll talk about that next time, though.


  1. To be completely honest, Charlie, Gamergate scares the shit out of me. That it's 2014 and there are men out there going up against women to this degree .... it's scary and heartbreaking. I don't understand how some people can't accept that women play, love, and make video games. I just don't understand.

    I'm a feminist, of course, but I don't speak out about it because I've been on the receiving end of internet "terror attacks" in the past. I'm not willing to open my arms wide and welcome more such attacks.

    1. Yeah, I can't fault you for that. I'm just happy that you, among many others, aren't abandoning the industry. I think that's more important than speaking out. Just by being a part of the community you're making a statement, and just the activity of being yourself proves the misogynist view to be false.