A Toasting of Jef Rouner

Alright, kiddos. I just read one of the most idiotic articles ever. Like holy shit. I’ll be toasting it: responding to each statement piece-by-piece. Without further ado…

There was a time back when I was a teenager when I could always count on organized protestors of a particular religious bent to get together and try to shut something down.

They still do that, you know.

Usually it was something they hadn’t even seen or heard or read, and I know that’s true because Harry Potter is the most popular Christ story since the original, and yet it’s been a constant presence on challenged books lists since 1999 for promoting un-Christian witchcraft.


Those people are still around, of course, but in the tech-centric social media world they’ve been supplanted by a new group with different uniforms but a startling similar aim. Gamers, specifically right-wing reactionary gamers, have become the new religious right looking to blast art they don’t like from the face of the Earth.


It’s kind of an odd thing to have happened. Once, there was a pretty significant debate over the censorship of video games. Video game activist Jack Thompson crowed that violent games made people shoot up schools, Doom was accused of promoting devil worship and Congress held hearings on the subject.

As if Anita Sarkeesian isn’t doing the exact shame thing with saying games make people sexist. it’s the same goddamned moral panic dressed in different clothes.

Much of the rhetoric calling for the censor or banning of games was coming from the same voices who protested Marilyn Manson and Dogma.

Sure, in the ‘90s and early ’00s.

Games were often already heavily censored by the American branch of Nintendo, with the bloodless Super Nintendo port of Mortal Kombat being pretty much the entire debate in microcosm.

However, though there was a lot of talk about official censorship there was never really any serious chance it would happen in America. Video games were declared free speech by the Supreme Court in 2005 in a 7–2 decision, and Nintendo had given up their dream of completely family-friendly entertainment by 1994. Mature content became a badge of honor to the gamer community. It was proof that the medium couldn’t be stopped by moralistic thugs determined to protect us from ourselves.

Thanks for the history lesson. Readers, keep this story about how developers stopped self-censoring to meet the religious right’s demands in mind.

That was the status quo for a long time until the rise of social critiquing of games came about. Journalists like Leigh Alexander and Mattie Bryce as well as YouTubers like Anita Sarkeesian began looking at game content, both narrative and mechanical, an examining what that content said about us. It was not, as a lot of gamers like to claim, a call to censor or ban that content.

It was. The same words were not used, but the same chilling effect occurred. Remember in the last point how we talked about censorship? It is precisely because of these people mentioned that developers are once again starting to censor themselves — games are having sexual overtones edited out, or in some cases are being outright not localized for the West. There are localization teams which are right now mangling translations to make them “politically correct.”

It was just looking at it in a more thoughtful and nuanced way. With games now protected by all the power of the First Amendment, you would think that discussion over them could flourish more freely since they were in no danger of being taken away.

The same way that Anita Sarkeesian is allowing discussion in the comments of her YouTube videos? Two parties are required to discuss. You can say something is sexist, but if you don’t allow others to say “I think that’s bullshit, here’s why”, you are not having a discussion, you are having a monologue.

That’s not what happened, though. Organized retaliation against the concept of conversation and dialogue in the form of 4chan ops and GamerGate happened instead.

I was wondering when you would get around with conflating your victimization narrative of things that had been happening for years before GamerGate with GamerGate.

Sarkeesian’s videos were constantly flagged on YouTube in an attempt to take them down

[Citation needed]

and online campaigns to have various journalists discredited

Happened, but not for their social commentary.

and fired

You start insulting gamers on a news website whose main customers are gamers and see where that gets you.

became a new way of life for anyone who dared deconstructing games from a social justice perspective.

And, who incidentally, were colluding with ‘progressive’ indie developers to promote their games in exchange for various benefits and kickbacks.

The message was clear: this is bullshit, and here’s why.

I fixed your typo.

This was the first way that gamers became the new apostles in the church of censorship,

Repeat it often enough, and you might even start to believe it.

and it’s more related to the religious protests in the ’90s than I realize.

Oops. There’s another typo. Fixed it.

At the heart of the movement to shut down game critique is an appeal to tradition and purity.

It’s actually an appeal to freedom of expression. Critique itself is an appeal to censorship.

Discussing how sexualized avatars contribute to the objectification of women in the real world gets framed as an attack,

Rightly so: it’s the same goddamned argument as saying that violence in games contributes to murders and mass shootings in the real world, and has been thoroughly debunked by a peer-reviewed, longitudinal study. Note: Peer-reviewed. That means that other people did the same study and got the same results.

similar to how women entering the workplace in greater numbers in the 1980s was often framed as an attack on the traditional gender roles celebrated in The Bible.

Nice try conflating the two issues.

Whenever women or other minorities

We are 55% of the first-world population; a majority, not a minority. Women are only a minority in second- and third-world countries.

speak up against systems that oppress them it challenges the idea that the current norm is good, and if the norm is not good, then we are bad for having supported or participated in it.

Here’s my problem with this statement, and with thinking like this: you would lump those of us who are not oppressed or do not feel oppressed by those systems right in with those who support or participate in them. This is a subtle privilege-shaming, and it’s bullshit.

Criticism of the status quo, no matter how mild, is felt like an attack on a person’s morality.

For precisely the reason stated above.

Religious people in the ’80s who were comfortable with traditional gender roles took the idea of someone else rejecting those roles as a judgment.

Because once again, ‘comfortable with’ does not equal ‘attacking those who challenge’ or ‘actively attempting to maintain’, like you’re insinuating.

Likewise, players who are perfectly happy with a white,

The majority of FPS protags are given no race, and non-FPS casts are incredibly diverse and in many cases customizable. Incidentally, the least racially diverse games are from Japan, who are well-known for their ethnocentricism.


Bullshit, look at all of these EXCELLENT games.


You just spent two entire fucking paragraphs railing against the Religious Right for trying to censor game violence in the early 90s, and you keep bringing it up as your false analogy to today’s gaming culture.


Alright. You got me on that one. But games are not the only aspect of society for which heteronormativity has always been the norm, and there are far more fitting examples.

status quo in gaming

For the record, games have traditionally been more loose about those things than other mediums of entertainment.

feel judged for that happiness when marginalized people and their allies speak up about how it affects them.

No; we feel judged when people like you falsely claiming to represent those marginalized people speak up about how it affects us. Specifically, in my case, as a woman.

Alongside the wave of socially conscious critics has also come a brilliant new world of indie game development.

Define ‘brilliant’. Do you mean Fez, whose creator hates the people who play his games? Or a text adventure about depression by someone who has in the past attacked depressed people? How about that Papers, Please! ripoff by David S. Gallant with graphics that were seriously, actually drawn in MS Paint? That project Tim Schafer wasted $2.9 million on? Scam Citizen?

Or how about some good indie games, like Hunie Pop (oops, muh soggy knees, never mind the fact that you can play as a girl) Hotline Miami (which you would, based on prior observation of your commentary, write off as too violent), Avernum (whose author adores the sexist, racist The Witcher 3) or . . . well, you get the idea, and we’re off on a tangent here.

Individuals and small teams have access to both the tools to create games and tremendous distribution systems thanks to Steam and the mobile phone game platforms.

Good! Be the change you want to see. There is no longer anything stopping anyone from making a successful, ‘progressive’ game except their own lack of ability and customers’ lack of interest. And as the market has shown again and again, ‘progressive’ games succeed as long as their cast is not simply diverse for diversity’s sake. Affirmative action hurts video games just as much as it does the real world.

Free from the massive sales expectations of Triple A gaming, and therefore less beholden to the status quo,

Triple-A gaming has long since abandoned what you call the ‘status quo’. What the fuck rock have you been living under?

these games are often the ones that social critics applaud.

Without disclosing that those critics are friends with, financially support, or are otherwise invested in the games’ success.

They take chances on main characters being non-white or female or gay.

Often with bad writing as a result, which is the only reason we dislike them.

They play with subverting tropes instead of relying on them.

AAA games have been doing this since Phantasy Star in 1987 (1988 for NA).

Consequently, these games tend to be ones that critics interested in new, more diverse fare get really excited about. The problem is that now there is a whole community of gamers dedicated to hating absolutely anything that these critics enjoy,

Because it is (in my and many other gamers’ opinions) poorly-written shit, if it even qualifies as a game. We’ve just been very vocally voicing those opinions.

and they often go on dedicated harassment campaigns to try and shut down the games or drive them away.

[Citation needed, author ironically seems to be confusing ‘criticism’ for ‘harassment’]

For instance, That Dragon, Cancer

$15, for less than two hours of play.

has just come out, a game I’ve been avidly waiting for more than the last two years. It’s a game about navigating the world of parents whose son is diagnosed with a rare and deadly form of cancer as a baby. The game was inspired by the experiences of creators Amy and Ryan Green, whose son, Joel, lived to the age of five after being given only four months to live when he was one.

It sounds like a beautiful bit of interactive art, and as someone who has watched way too many people lose to the dragon I had a personal interest in playing it once I get paid this weekend.

Good on you. If you like it, buy it.

Unfortunately, Feminist Frequency gave the game a good review, and so of course the horde has descended on Steam to flood the forums with cries of “feels-marketing” and saying the Greens immoral for not donating profits to cancer research.

Actually, they’re saying that $15 for a <2 hour game is bullshit.

Bear in mind, none of these people have actually played That Dragon, Cancer. They just hate it because a bunch of other people they normally pick on all got together and said it made them feel something.

And the creators refused to silence it, and instead allowing Steam forum moderators remove posts and threads that violate Steam’s own code of conduct.

Don’t believe me? Here’s one who really wants to play Pony Island, but who can’t bring himself to do it simply because game developer Zoe Quinn, a prime GamerGate target,

And serial abuser, noted liar, and person who attempted to wield the law as a weapon to silence her ex from speaking the truth…

liked it. He otherwise thinks the game looks great, but because it has a vague connection to one of the dreaded others who must be destroyed to preserve game purity he won’t drop $5.

Or, rather, he just wants a clarification, and it should be noted that the developer gave it, also gives zero shits about GamerGate — a wise move — and appeared to have allayed the person’s suspicions.

Here’s the Men’s Rights crowd

Here’s a stupid fuck lumping gamers in with MRAs.

judging Broken Age without playing it because it looks like a “raging feminist turd.”

Heh heh heh heh heh.

When creator Tim Schafer took to Reddit for an Ask Me Anything session, he was immediately flooded by trolls trying to shut down any real conversation.

Perhaps because in the process of creating it, he squandered the 2.9 million dollars the BA kickstarter blew past its $400,000 goal?

Once again I’ve come to a point in my life where I just know certain things will stir up a group of organized protestors.

If you’re only just now coming to that realization, you truly have been living under a rock since your teen years.

Just as church groups would get together and make signs or write letters, this gamer mob can always be counted on to gather on message boards and plan a strike.

And the social justice crybully mob doesn’t?

They use DDoS attacks


and hordes of sock puppet accounts

Yeah. All of us women, trans people, and all the people of color engaging in criticism of “progressive” games and “progressive” critique of “___ist” games are sockpuppets. Every. Single. One.

on Twitter instead of standing outside a concert, but the result is the same. What’s disturbing is what they attack.

Stop using ‘attack’ when you mean ‘criticize’.

The religious right was alarmed by sex and Satanic imagery and realistic violence.

You’re alarmed by the exact same thing, except without the satanic part, and you call it sexism and toxic masculinity.

The gamer right


is fighting a war against… being sad about cancer? Having a black female lead in an adventure game?

Nobody is fighting a war against those things, except the straw men in the very diseased mind of a reactionary left-wing blogger.

The conceit of the religious right was always that exposure, any exposure, to certain information was a gateway drug into a godless, doomed existence.

Just as it is Anita’s conceit that exposure, any exposure, to certain tropes is a gateway drug into a sexist, bigoted existence.

Really, though, it was just fear of change and fear of rejection, a story as old as children choosing different paths than their parents. Mainstream gaming, for all its gun fights and sex appeal, is still a world largely dominated by the same Judeo-Christian American norms.

Except for the equally-as-large part dominated by Japanese norms. Oh wait…

Women are largely ornamental,

Except for the five hundred and forty-one games on Steam alone, representing more cumulative play time than most people can get through in their lifetime, in which they are or can be the main protagonists.

minorities are rarely present,

Could it be because writers are afraid of people like you blasting them for portraying those people or writing their dialogue incorrectly?

shooting things is usually the best answer

Careful, you’re starting to sound like those crazy anti-violence right-wing reactionaries you’re making us out to be.

and if not it’s probably getting and hoarding as many resources as possible.

I love me some Sid Meiers’ Civilization 5.

For all the outrage, the games protestors fought in the ’90s were very much in line with their core values.

Then why did they protest against them?

The only argument was over how much blood and sex teenagers should get to see.

[Citation needed.]

Games like Gone Home


and Life is Strange

Actually pretty good.

and Undertale

Hey, most of us think Undertale is fucking amazing. I don’t. I’m weird. Then again, I think Undertale is a bastardization of all the original internet memes I loved.

are all very much rejections of traditional gaming norms. They are the gaming equivalent of a child becoming an atheist after being brought up religious.

Careful, your superiority complex is showing.

Lots of players like that for the same reason lots of people enjoy weird indie films or underground noise bands.

To be different, yeah, we get it.

Gamers, though, are people who have made games and games culture a core identity.

It’s true.

It’s one of the reasons why even though I play games every day I no longer refer to myself as a gamer.

Your choice, but stop forcing it on everyone else, you twat.

The term has come to refer to a small group who treat playing games as a simulated oppressed class […].

Whereas you were probably the kind of preppy kid who made our lives a living hell in middle and high school for being socially awkward, smarter than the rest, or just plain unsightly. (It was the former for me, along with being gay.) No wonder we retreated into gaming as an identity.

They use games not for enjoyment,


but to bolster traditional values that empower a very straight, white male point of view.

Stop erasing me as a lesbian.

It’s no different from churchgoers who define themselves by pro-life activism or who spent all their time opposing marriage equality.

The gaming community was fucking nothing like the church community that branded me as demonic for being attracted to other girls. I’ve never met a more welcoming and inclusive group than gamers. Ever.

The gamer right has its moral crusade, now.

You’re projecting so hard it’s hilarious.

It wants gaming to be orthodox and traditional and easy to swallow without thinking too much about it.

We gamers don’t actually want this. Stop putting words in our mouths.

Even something like That Dragon, Cancer, truly a game I assumed everyone could agree was at least a moving idea, cannot be tolerated.

Except that by ‘cannot be tolerated’ you mean ‘will be met with healthy suspicion by a player base that has been burned before regarding matters of industry corruption.’

Not if feminists think it’s good, and not if there isn’t any power fantasy to fulfill.

I have thus far proven this untrue. I myself disprove it with my own identity and preferences, but you seen hell-bent on erasing those.

The religious right fought to keep sex and murder from interactive media, and their ideological successors are fighting to keep sex out of it with the same, unquestioning zealousness, but by dressing it up as misogyny instead.

I fixed your typo.