I was asked what #Gamergate was over twitter this weekend, since I’ve been rather active in it based on an article posted on August 28th on Gamasutra. So I’ll start this post off with the conclusion which is this: #Gamergate is a fundamental rejection of an orthodoxy presented by a set of totalitarian fake journalists corrupt to the core. #NotYourShield is a simultaneous double fundamental rejection of that orthodoxy by the very people the fake journalists said didn’t exist as “gamers” in the fake journalists’ orthodoxy. If you’ll pardon the dystopian science fiction pun what was attempted in the days leading up to and over Labor Day weekend was nothing short of Orwell 101.
Ok, to set this whole thing up, we need some context. The Orwell I’m talking about is 1984. It was written and published in the late 1940s as an indictment of the totalitarian regimes that were dividing up the world after the end of World War II. The main points are these: a totalitarian government was controlling thought itself by controlling information and language that could be used (Newspeak, Doublethink), and destroying the any opposing viewpoint so utterly that no hope of revolution could occur. The book follows Winston Smith, a worker bee at the Ministry of Truth. The Ministry of Truth is where the information was sanitized to be correct relative to the orthodoxy of the moment. Okay, now on to how Orwell relates to #Gamergate and #NotYourShield.
In the case of #Gamergate and #Notyourshield, playing the role of Winston Smith’s colleagues at the Ministry of Truth are the fake journalists mentioned in the opening, including Leigh Alexander, Casey Johnston, Patricia Hernandez, Nathan Grayson, Tim Colwill, Luke Plunkett, Dan Golding, Chris Plante, Fenriff, Andrew Todd, and Devin Wilson. They work for the Ministry of Truth in the form of Kotaku, Polygon, Ars Technica, games.on.net, Gamasutra, Badass Digest, Destructoid, and blog on Tumblr. Their job at Minitrue is to craft the orthodoxy that’s imposed upon every resident of Oceania, which in our case is anyone who consumes their writing. At no time was that orthodoxy more apparent than the #Gamergate #NotYourShield saga’s equivalent to 1984’s 2 Minutes Hate on August 28th.
Article, after article, after article, after article, after article appeared on the same day, over 10 all told, to boldly proclaim that the gamer identity was dead. Orly? This is one aspect of the orthodoxy crafted by the names listed above. Another article extended the orthodoxy by trying to give a playlist of sorts for how to “end”, meaning kill, gamers.
How does one define the orthodoxy of these fake journalists? Well, first, “gamer” in their orthodoxy is defined exclusively as straight, white, heterosexual, violence for pleasure seeking, basement dwelling, virgin males. Second, according to their orthodoxy, relationships between PR firms, journalists, developers, contest judges, and potential bosses up to and including financial, romantic, cohabitation, sexual, and/or business are all okay so long as you are a member of the party. Third, in their orthodoxy, the appropriate social justice message is an acceptable substitute for quality in a game or an appropriate substitute for software being a game at all.
In 1984, two techniques were used to continually maintain the orthodoxy of the party. Newspeak was the fictional language that continually evolved as the means to make unorthodox thought impossible. Doublethink is the act of people accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct. In our examples over the weekend, articles by Leigh Alexander and Devin Wilson attempt Newspeak definitions of words we’re all quite comfortable with, while applying Doublethink to do it. From the Alexander article:
Now part of a writer’s job in a creative, human medium is to help curate a creative community and an inclusive culture -- and a lack of commitment to that just looks out-of-step, like a partial compromise with the howling trolls who’ve latched onto ‘ethics’ as the latest flag in their onslaught against evolution and inclusion.
This quote is particularly great because it supports the orthodoxy by allowing a journalist to shed any hint of integrity to support friends and business associates while simultaneously creating two opposite definitions of writer: the first is that of the content creator, the second is that of the objective journalist. By saying writer in this paragraph, the 2 simultaneous conflicting definitions can be interchanged at will in support of the orthodoxy as well as the greatest good of all, cash money.
Our second example comes from the Wilson article:
We stop upholding “fun” as the universal, ultimate criterion for a game’s relevance. It’s a meaningless ideal at best and a poisonous priority at worst. Fun is a neurological trick. Plenty of categorically unhealthy things are “fun”. Let’s try for something more. Many of the alternatives will have similarly fuzzy definitions, but let’s aspire to qualities like “edifying”, “healing”, “pro-social”, or even “enlightening”. I encourage you to decide upon your own alternatives to “fun” in games (while avoiding terms like “cool” and “awesome” and any other word that simply caters to existing, unexamined biases).
In the Wilson playbook for killing gamers, an attempt to create a second contradictory definition of the word “game” is made. This paragraph is attempting to apply more Newspeak to what is already a Newspeak definition of “game”—nowhere in this article is winning and losing mentioned; consequently, the focus is maintained specifically on fun as a synonym for quality. If successful, any attempt to tie entertainment value to quality is written out of the lexicon, and orthodoxy is maintained.
This blog post wouldn’t be a proper comparison to Orwell if we didn’t talk about dissenting opinions. Games.on.net simply isn’t allowing them at all if you aren’t on the orthodoxy bandwagon. Feminist Christina Hoff Sommers isn’t aligned with the orthodoxy, and the Ministry of Truth took issue with that. Ben Quintero was demoted for supporting #Gamergate in the face of orthodoxy; however, thanks to the work of both #Gamergate and #NotYourShield, his status was reinstated. These events are only the tip of the iceberg. To be honest, the hashes are moving faster than I can keep up with, but the weekend has been full of examples of detractors of the #GamerGate movement doing everything they can think of to silence the movements to no avail.
So who are we in all this? Believe it or not, we were expected to be the Proles. We were expected to be so busy fighting amongst ourselves and mocking each other that we weren’t supposed to notice this all go down when it started two weeks ago. It is at this point that the comparison with Orwell breaks down because the Proles were uneducated; conversely, the community of gamers is extremely sharp. We are also used to a gaming media that is less than forward about what gets written about whom for what reasons. Thus, when the community of gamers sees something that appears to not be up to scratch, so to speak, we start to dig, and we did. In response to that, we were told there was no issue. The community of gamers rejected that notion on its face and started #Gamergate. #Gamergate had no identity in terms of race, gender, or sexual orientation beyond that of “gamer”; i
Finally tonight I want to acknowledge that every group has knuckleheads. The community of gamers has more than its fair share of knuckleheads; people who do take it as a personal affront that we should be discussing representation in video games. The folks on the other side of the isle have their share of knuckleheads as well; people who take it as a person affront that #Gamergate and #NotYourShield might end a conversation about representation in video games. There is a conversation about representation that needs to be had, but it needs to be had in terms of representation, not inclusion. Also, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the Youtube folks out there who have been doing the digging and finding the information to keep ignorant f-bombs like me up to speed. In particular, thank you Sargon of Akkad for keeping the links in your videos, as they were invaluable in making this post. Most of all, thank YOU gamers of #Gamergate and #NotYourShield. Keep fighting the good fight with dignity and class.