Some ramblings about #GamerGate, Sarkeesian and all of that crapola

This week’s blog will be largely devoted to expressing my confusion at the whole #GamerGate affair. The sheer quantity of opinion written about this topic is exhausting. Look – I know I drone on a bit at times, but that’s only because this is my blog – and if I feel like droning on, I will. I’m guessing you all like to read me droning on, or you wouldn’t read this thing. I’m probably droning on now.

Haven’t you heard? There is a war going on. A WAR. No, I’m not talking about Iraq. That’s a mere trifling disagreement compared to this shit. Ukraine? Get out of here with your Ukraine. I’m talking about the war in the land of videogame journalism.

The catalyst for this whole shitstorm was some guy writing a really, really, really long blogpost about how his girlfriend cheated on him with five guys. So why should anyone care about that? Because of the people she was knocking boots with – allegedly a bunch of game developers and journalists, who then went on to give her favourable press – which is apparently not unusual in the world of gaming press.

If you’ve got twenty-five minutes spare, then this explanation (and the two sequels) will tell you all you need to know. How in the holy mother of fuck, by the way, does a video like this get more than 800,000 views? It’s just a guy ranting while going through message boards and chat logs. It’s hardly a skateboarding dog, is it?

The response from the girl in question is that she is being harassed. Harassment is big business in these circles, provided you shout about it loud enough. The more harassed you are, the more the bad guys dislike you, the better. It’s a competitive victimhood thing. This is a world in which an argument is judged not on its merit but by how much vitriol it inspires. Careerists justify their careers based on the fact that they’ve been forced into hiding. Sort of like Salmon Rushdie in reverse.

Now, let’s be clear – harassing people and sending them death threats and other such unpleasantness is reprehensible, and those responsible should seek help. Should we judge commentary on the level of harassment that follows? Is an opinion valuable if it provokes death threats? I think Piers Morgan would be the most respected commentator in all the world.

Even semi-reputable leftist magazines like the New Statesman are now on the case. Laurie Penny last night put forward a very angry blog post responding to all the terrible people demanding answers to these questions – basically labelling them all robot-nazis or something. Which they, y’know, might be. I love the sign off, by the way: “Comments are closed: deal!” Shit. That sure cuts deep.

The main grievance of this movement is that there aren’t enough women making video games. Bizarre, then, that they would form ranks around someone who sabotages a gamejam specifically set up to address that very problem. But that’s all it is; an allegation. Did she, or did she not? Perhaps some investigative journalism could substantiate this. The task of listing the bullshit so everyone can see it has fallen to Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart. The world has gone sufficiently mad that Breitbart is now the voice of reason!

I can’t wait for the future, where games are shaped, not by creativity, but by the aggregate complaints of a thousand whining agitators. Maybe one day it will apply to writing, as well, and then to film and television. Should I have written that last sentence in that way? I’ll rewrite it according to the wishes of the angriest commenter.

Another victim of harassment is Anita Sarkeesian. She is releasing a series of videogame critiques, called ‘Feminist Frequency’, which she funded using kickstarter or indiegogo or whatever. In the making of these videos, she has ripped off other people’s footage, and thereby saved herself the trouble of playing any of the games she’s criticising. Very efficient.

The outrage surrounding the release of the latest ‘Feminist Frequency’ has compelled me to delve into her back-catalog, as it has a few hundred thousand others. I was served a series of obvious truisms alongside a healthy smothering of incomprehensible proto-academese, followed by some preposterous conclusions.

This was a masterclass at conjuring meaning from the meaningless.  It turns out if you use adverbs like ‘inherently’ and ‘clearly’, you can convince people of anything. “X is sexist” sounds like a statement that requires supporting with evidence, “x is inherently sexist” sounds like, y’know. It sounds all inherently clever and stuff.

There is one particular piece of commentary centring on the game ‘Hitman: Absolution’. Now, unsurprisingly, this game requires that you kill people. But it requires that you kill specific people; the player must sneak around a location and, through stealth and cunning, find a target and assassinate him. In order to achieve this, the game allows you to incapacitate (or kill, if you feel like it) other people, steal their clothes, and drag their bodies into hiding places in order to avoid detection. As your character is a man, there is little incentive to kill women since wearing women’s clothes will attract attention (further proof of the game’s inherent transphobia).

You are awarded points based on how little attention you garner. There is one scene which requires the player to sneak through the back of a strip club, where strippers are getting changed. Incidentally, the ubiquity of the strip club in modern games has me agreeing slightly with Sarkeesian. Every game that aspires to be ‘adult’ must now feature a titty-bar. This is understandable; mamary-parading is obviously very lucrative. But every slightly dystopian vision of the future must now feature a brothel or a strip club, just as every Tolkein-ish fantasy world must feature a tavern. It’s getting pretty old, bros.

Sarkeesian, in her closing remarks, goes a little further:

The player cannot help but treat these female bodies as things to be acted upon, because they were designed, constructed and placed in that environment for that singular purpose. Players are meant to derive a perverse pleasure from desecrating the bodies of unsuspecting virtual female characters.

This paragraph gets more insane the longer it goes on.  Consequently the true extent of its insanity may elude you if you aren’t paying much attention.

“Cannot help but”

Cannot help? You can help; you are in control of your actions. This is a game. I could certainly help. I walked right past them, as the game intends you to do; if you do otherwise, you are penalised – not only in terms of points, but in the imminent danger of being shot. I suppose if you were psychotic, you might find this course of action appealing – but I am not sure we can blame the game for this.

“Female bodies”

They aren’t female bodies, they are called women. Unless you walk into the room and beat them to death, but then I suppose we have establish that beating strippers to death is mandatory. It’s a calling.

“For that singular purpose”

Singular, is it? We have rapidly progressed from ‘you are able to do this’ to ‘you are compelled to do this’ to ‘there is no other reason for these women to exist than for you to do this’.

“Desecrating”

I’m not sure I recall the ‘desecrate’ option. Necessarily, the game allows you to drag bodies around, and now this mechanic has been explored, thank you. I’d quite like to know exactly how this footage was obtained. Was it stolen, or did she actually go and beat a pair of strippers to death? Were you so inclined, by the way, it is perfectly possible to drag men’s bodies around in a similar fashion; you can even take their clothes off yourself before doing so. But clearly only a fucking dribbling maniac would do this.

I don’t know exactly how well-received these videos are, either, because Sarkeesian has disabled both YouTube comments and ratings. Which is a common theme (or trope!) among these sorts of people, along with angrily labelling your detractors as racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, ageist – labels whose meanings have become plastic enough to be jammed into any dissenting mouth. And if you don’t agree with that, it’s probably because you’re fucking islamophobic.

This strip club in Hitman also features an excellent Goldfrapp-esque song, by the way. It’s fucking mint.  I’ll try to track it down.

Until next week.

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