[GG] What if … I told you that making online death threats wasn’t normal?

red dot



It feels like shooting fish in a barrel to mock Gamergate right now.

Once the New York Times, The Guardian, and Le Monde have come out mocking the “movement” and even The Escapist had to pull some “interviews with gamergate-sympathetic developers” because said developers turned out to be idiots with histories of harassment, they’re pretty much going to be the butt of everyone’s humour for the next few years regardless of my putting the boot in.

What can you really make of a movement which claims to be about journalist ethics but which in practice mostly is about trying to shut down sites/ people they disagree with? Apart from POINT. LAUGH. It’s not about safe spaces for guys and/ or geeks – there are other male dominated hobbies which are way less toxic than gaming (sports, some music scenes). My beloved is big into prog rock and goes out with the guys for regular prog curries or beers and off to see bands or go to music festivals, and in their groups the older guys keep an eye out for the younger ones, try to give them decent life advice and make it about their joint interests, not about hating (tbh they can’t even agree which bands they hate anyway). That’s what a supportive male-dominated hobby could look like, if you want it to.

It would all be quite funny if it wasn’t for the death threats, and in the end it was the death threats that overwhelmed whatever else people thought they were being angry about. In truth, the only thing the participants could all see to agree on was that feminists make them so angry they lose their collective minds. That’s what I picked up from talking to GGers, and it’s nice to see I’m not the only one (that link is a reddit comment from a writer from the Boston Globe who was challenged by GGers to go “look at the proof” – he did Smile ).

There is no culture war. General society is moving into the internet and finally we are at the point where acts that would not be acceptable offline (terrorist threats, trolling) are no longer going to be acceptable online either. I would argue they never were. It was never cool to send death threats to developers or forum mods. Never. People didn’t do it because it was their culture, they did it because they thought they could get away with it.

If you’ve seen any of Sarkeesian’s videos about anti-women tropes in gaming, they’re about as mild and inoffensive as you could imagine while making their point (which in an industry where ‘boob physics’ is a thing, cannot surprise anyone.) Normal people can disagree with things without sending their blood pressure into the danger zone, just by comparison.`

No one is going to stop making games that sell several million copies out of the gate, but gaming constantly reinvents itself when some genres get tired or less profitable or when new markets open up. So it always has been, so it always will be. I have a lot of sympathy though for the poor saps who were fooled into thinking that GamerGate represented them as gamers.

Gamers are more than just the shit stirring reactionary death-threat-sending smack-talking hate-mongers.  There are many many good things that come from our hobby. Friendships that last years, innovative ways to manage online communities and interact with people, opportunities for learning and working together with people from all round the globe. And now it’s time for us to prove it.

17 thoughts on “[GG] What if … I told you that making online death threats wasn’t normal?

  1. People were losing their minds over Anita before her Kickstarter had even begun — it was partially the loud screaming and frothing of her haters that brought her increased public attention in the first place (a fact I find deliciously amusing). Then their rage went even higher when her funding blew her original cap out of the water, and that was when her hate-stalker parade really began — before she had even made a single video, and simply enraged because they didn’t want a feminist criticism series to be made about games.

    That alone tells you everything — before there was even a game series for them to pretend to be offended by, they were offended by HER EXISTENCE. Period.

    • That’s also true. I always figure that when someone has an emotional reaction that’s way way disproportionate it has to mean there’s something else going on. But I have no explanation for the screaming levels of hatred here.

      The other thing that’s just bizarre is that people will tell you their movement is non political while spouting right wing reactionary talking points. Yup, that’s non political alright … NOT.

      • The hatred and rage is utterly bizarre.

        Going to some of the GG blogs is a scary experience – the language they use *when talking to each other* is littered with terms like “infiltration”, “traitors”, “quislings” etc. It’s like something out of the McCarthy era. There are some very disturbed people on the net.

    • Pretending that the internet doesn’t have real world impacts is ridiculous these days, especially considering how much business and personal life aspects rely on it in developed countries.

      And especially for games, given how important online gaming of all variations is.

  2. Unfortunately, when you get to the bottom of the matter, some people are daleks 🙂 A great many more are sheep, and the problem with the internet community so far has been that the sheep have been copying the daleks.
    I could hope that a few salutary convictions will discourage the daleks and the sheep will find better role models, but I have my doubts. Too many people are too young, too immature or just plain too think to realise that being arrested and prosecuted could happen to THEM.
    The real world solution to trolls is the punch in the face – quick, immediate feedback that makes it painfully clear that the offender has crossed the line. What we need is some saviour of the internet to invent a face punch that works over IP and can’t be used itself as a tool for trolling and griefing…

    • ” a face punch that works over IP and can’t be used itself as a tool for trolling and griefing…”

      As much as I’d love this, I don’t believe it’s possible – no tool is griefer/troll-proof, sadly 😦

  3. With regard to “safe spaces for gamers”, there’s a nugget of truth there, but not a precise match. There’s a lot about bullying and dominance and so forth, but the one thing most people overlook is that the people that are doing the bullying and dominating the “safe spaces” would NOT, in any other venue, be dominant or capable of bullying.

    “Online” is one of the few places where a wannabee alpha male can pretend to be an alpha male without having to back it up in meatspace. He is dominant here and his personality has played out in exactly the same way a schoolyard bully would develop, with the exception that he’d fold like a busted chair if he had to confront, well, almost anyone in a real-space personal manner.

    So the big fish in the little pond roars loudly but only at a frequency that other fish of the same species can hear, because if any real sharks heard him, he’d be somebody’s breakfast.

    But it’s a little pond, so any attempt to carve that up and redistribute it makes him lose his shit. In his mind, he’s cornered. If he loses this territory, he has no other territory that he can “dominate” in. And he LIKES being the dominant (in his mind, mind you), species in his pond.

    The villagers have cornered the monster. The monster will be most fierce now, because it has nothing left to lose, but the writing’s on the wall, and the monster will soon be buried in the garden with the snails.

    The last Tyrannosaur likely had similar thoughts, in its lizard brain, as the food supply became tighter and tighter after the meteor hit. Other than the fact that a lizard has no concept of “justice”, of course.

  4. “If you’ve seen any of Sarkeesian’s videos about anti-women tropes in gaming, they’re about as mild and inoffensive as you could imagine…”

    You’re fucking kidding right? Way to try and rewrite history though. Here’s a quote from one of her videos:
    “Players are meant to derive a perverse pleasure from desecrating the bodies of unsuspecting virtual characters. It’s a rush streaming from a carefully concocted mix of sexual arousal connected to the act of controlling and punishing representations of female sexuality”.
    Anyone who gets that kind of pleasure isn’t sending death threats on the Internet like the 15yr olds behind this current Internet outrage. So fuck Anita Sarkeesian for assuming devs/players had that kind of thinking behind a sand box game like Hitman.

      • You can’t seriously make a post like that and then say “disregard the tone”. That very tone is alarmingly hostile towards something fairly innocuous

      • My tone towards Spinks was the regrettable part. I could have stated my point way less explosive emotionally. But yea we are going to agree to disagree on A.S.

      • But can’t someone like Sarkeesian be disregarded if you don’t like what she is saying?

        It seems to me that, yeah I wouldn’t agree with her either, but by responding to her the way that gamer gaters did they have now lent credibility to her original arguments.

        It’s a variation on Godwins Law, the one who first invokes the use of Nazism or Hitler loses the argument. In this case, the one (or group) that uses death threats loses the argument.

  5. Civilization is hideously fragile… there’s not much between us and the Horrors underneath, just about a coat of varnish. ~C.P. Snow

    Is man’s civilization only a wrappage, through which the savage nature of him can still burst, infernal as ever? ~Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, vol III, book V, chapter 7

    There are many humorous things in the world, among them the white man’s notion that he is less savage than the other savages. ~Mark Twain, Following the Equator, 1897

    Civilization: a thin veneer over barbarianism. ~John M. Shanahan, The Most Brilliant Thoughts of All Time (In Two Lines or Less)

    The older I get, the more I believe the quotes above.

    When I was young I believed a bit like Jean Luc Picard, that humanity was evolving towards a more civilised and gentle nature. Sure there were hiccups along the way, wars and all that. But then there was the internet, which gave an individual to give someone else a virtual punch in the face with no possibility of being punched back, and there you see the real person with that thin veneer of civilisation scraped away.

    (Note: I still believe in the absolute necessity for free and anonymous speech both on and off the internet. It is a requirement for a society to maintain the rights and freedoms of its citizens. But calling for death and rape of individuals disagreed with crosses the line, and the caller deserves neither rights nor freedoms in this case.)

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