Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Working Through Gamergate

We just launched a Kickstarter this morning. It's incredible. In less that 15 hours we're already at 83k, very close to our goal. I wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow I woke up to find us at 100k, with nothing but stretch goals for us from here to the horizon. It was, in short, a good day.

So it bothers me to no end that I still can't stop thinking about Gamergate. It's there, it's active, and it's affecting people I care about. So, I've decided to sit here and work through my thoughts on the matter. Buckle up: I'm about to get Freudian.

When I first saw the #gamergate tag on Twitter I thought it was a joke. I thought it was people making fun of the idea of "video game scandals." Soon, though, I realized that people were being serious, and that these people were attacking folks that, just a few nights prior, I was trying to meet up with for a chat.

In the months since then I've looked at arguments for and against the movement, and never once did I find merit in the Gamergate movement. Allegations of widespread corruption in gaming journalism fell flat, and behind it I could only find vitriol.

My first response was very id, and can be summed up with this article by Chris Klewe. Though I wasn't as angry as Chris about it, I was still overtly dismissive. These people are giving us gamers a bad name, after all. Their logic and methods are both faulty. Are they idiots? Don't they see what damage they're doing?

Eventually my ego kicked in, and I felt very attached to this video which explained my dismissive stance in a logical, well constructed way. I could ignore these people because they were clearly suffering from some logical fallacies and cognitive biases. Engaging with them is pointless, so why bother?

Still, something felt off. I truly hate to look at any group of people and label them with negativity. I continued to pay attention to their arguments, even after I officially washed my hands of the matter on two separate occasions. I had to be missing something. This movement was too big.

Others have noted the problems with Gamergate's lack of focus or understandable core ideals. It creates a plausible deniability for anything a member disagrees with, for one thing, and it makes arguing against the movement impossible because it doesn't stand for any one thing. The only common thread I noticed most often were the articles about how "gaming culture is dead." For some reason many people took those articles very personally, a reaction which, as far as I can tell, completely misses the point of the articles.

I was tempted on several occasions to engage with the movement, to attempt to have a real conversations with one of its members and understand where they're coming from. However, before I could do so, I would always see something to make me rethink that action. Reading comments on a post or watching someone else try in vain to get through to some of them, it all made me back off.

Still, though, I couldn't get the idea out of my head. Something was still missing.

I think I found what I was looking for in this Film Crit Hulk article. In a super ego moment, before I even read the article, I knew what was missing: sadness. Compassion. Reconciliation. Hope. There was a human aspect missing from the outraged voice of the id and the cold, logical analysis of the ego. I can not simply dismiss the Gamergate movement, even though I disagree with them. The people in that movement are people, and they hold their ideas closely. Even if it were just one person, to dismiss them would be to deny their humanity. Can't I disagree with them without crossing that line?

That Film Crit Hulk article covers more than I can hope to convey. It's a long read, but worthwhile to the end, particularly as it offers what we so rarely see these days: a ray of hope. Or, specifically, a perspective from which we can see those rays of hope that keep us moving forward.

Instead of recapping the article, I'm just going to talk about outrage. Anger is a toxic emotion. Despite my stoic demeanor, I feel most every emotion regularly: sadness, fear, joy, and so on. I can find the value in most of them, but I always find it hard to justify anger. It wears me out like no other emotion, and the things I do in anger always end in regret. 100% of the time.

At its core, Gamergate is an angry movement. That, more than anything, is what alarms me about it. Say what you will about the Jedi Code, but I believe the phrase "anger leads to hate" is absolutely true. Anger makes you feel powerful. Anger brooks no argument. Anger does not forgive. Anger silences self-reflection.

Normally anger dissipates over time, but in a mob anger simply feeds off of itself and grows stronger. Anger is an engine, roaring loud, and the mob is an infinitely renewable source of energy.

I don't want to add more anger to the world. Unfortunately, I think that engaging with Gamergate, as someone who disagrees with them, will only lead to more anger. I can't do it. As is so often the case, my only recourse is to lead by example. I've got to keep working on things that bring joy to people, one little bit at a time, all the while just hoping that others around me are doing the same.

In EarthBound you play as a kid that wanders from town to town, and each town is left a much brighter place than how it was found. That's what I want to do: brighten places up one step at a time. I hope you'll join me.

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