The silent majority. What a weird concept. How could such a critical mass of people be silent? The ambient noise of people simply existing should be deafening in such quantities. In ways, it is. Twitter, Facebook, and all other social media are filled with people grousing about how their day is going, sharing small victories, talking about food and love and life. The exceptional, from anyone’s perspective, gets a mention- be it frustrations or joys. But the majority of life, for the majority of people, is a lot of stuff that’s just okay- not amazing, not astonishing, just there and we’re alright with it.
It’s hard to motivate people to speak up about these things. When there’s no problem, but also no particular joy, what is there to talk about? Ordinarily that’s fine. If Twitter was just a barrage of “The public transportation options in Chicago are still acceptable, like it was yesterday” and other such mundane, edgeless messages, it would be unbearably dull. There are times, however, where such voices are not just appreciated, they are invaluable. This is one such time.
I am not a man who’s going to go out there and talk about how games journalism and criticism is so incredible- about how what we achieve, day to day, is so impressive and so wonderful. Honestly, I don’t think it is. There are exceptional articles written, and I try to point them out publicly when I spot them. There are terrible articles written, and I honestly try to stay quiet about them because other people will be far louder and more nasty than I about it anyway, and as long as the writer knows that people think the work is below expectation, there’s no value in piling on or trying to hurt feelings. Mostly, day to day, I think the industry’s writing is simply okay- room for improvement, but it could also be far worse. And while that’s usually not worth saying, today it is.
The incredibly vocal, obscene minority- and let’s be honest, that’s what this is- behind the GamerGate movement has made it worth saying. I have no interest in calling out specific people. In any movement, on any side, there are individuals whose behavior is completely unacceptable, and soloing them out is just using a strawman to make the larger movement look bad without actually proving a point. There are examples of absolutely disgusting behavior on the part of some members of this group, and that’s worthy of mention and condemnation, but we can’t use them as representative of the whole.
The whole movement consists, as I see it, of two groups. One group is a bunch of individuals obsessed with locking down games as they are. They are the same people who called Gone Home “not a game,” the ones who tried to block Depression Quest from getting on Steam, people who have perpetrated incredible acts of dispassion and selfishness on Patrick Klepek, Anita Sarkeesian, Jenn Frank, and so many more than we have time to list. These people aren’t worth addressing- they are in it to cause pain and grief, and that’s all. It would be a mistake to say that they don’t care if you or anyone else finds their behavior objectionable- they care a lot. That is their motive– to see you unhappy. That is what they are about. I have nothing to say to them, and once the second group of this movement clears their eyes and sees their “allies” for what they are, they will drop them like a hot potato.
The second group are actually sincere people who see a problem with games journalism. They have a wide variety of motives- a misunderstanding of how journalism works in every other medium, a resentment of certain styles of games journalism, misogyny (conscious or unconscious), or some combination thereof. Obviously, I think they’re wrong. Saying that journalists should review games made by close personal friends of theirs? Barring a few extreme fringe examples, that doesn’t happen, so that’s fine. Demanding that journalists not share a drink with a dev and chat at GDC? That’s just not comprehending how journalism works. Journalism is talking to people and making connections so that you can learn things to write about. If no one will talk to you, you’re not doing journalism- you’re rewriting press releases.
Objective journalism is not a thing in this industry, because it’s not a thing in any industry. Any piece of writing, unless it is a mathematical citation of facts with no interpretation, is a product of the writer’s biases and opinions. There is no nonpolitical work in any journalism, for simply by writing thoughts you reveal what you think. And as far as the misogyny goes… well, to those who know it’s misogyny and don’t care, there’s nothing I can say to them. But to those who aren’t aware, just pause for a moment… your movement is overwhelmingly harassing female developers and writers, it is obsessing over the sexual life of a prominent woman while ignoring offenses like sexual harassment by men at PAX and disgusting comments by male devs on Twitter. Does this really seem like it’s about “fairness” and “journalistic bias?”
It’s easy to get caught up in a movement without realizing its true aims. It’s easy to make statements without realizing their significance. And once you’ve publicly committed to something, it’s incredibly hard to back down. It’s in our DNA- we can’t change our minds! It makes us look weak! Strong people are always right, and when they seem wrong they just stick with their position until others give up and admit it could be right. But if you’ve supported GamerGate, and then started to have doubts about what they’re doing, and about their priorities… please, please take a minute to reconsider. It doesn’t make you weak, and it doesn’t make you a fool. Foolish is standing by people you know to be wrong out of a sense of pride.
The evils committed in this “crusade for journalistic integrity” are many, and few of them have even the slightest appearance of actually being about journalism. If you have real concerns about this industry and how it’s covered, we want to hear from you. We want criticism, we want feedback, we want a dialogue about how we can make this thing we all love better. But that’s never going to happen as long as you march with these animals obsessed with hate. Your points will never be taken seriously when you call misogynists and people threatening rape and murder your friends. Let’s make this industry better, and let’s start by not tolerating what is the absolute worst of it. Because no matter what you think of the possible bias of a review of Depression Quest, we all know it isn’t in the same league as threatening to rape someone. When a movement is a thousand times worse than what it claims to be protesting, no one can take it as anything but savage hatred, and no one will actually consider the points you argue.