Calgary Expo: A Disappointment in Understanding Each Other
Standard Disclosure: I play neutral with the topic of Gamergate. This means that I support the original goals of discussion of gaming journalism and the gaming community, but do not support harassment, censorship, or hate of any individuals. I am a thirtysomething adult. Gaming is not my primary focus in life, but I feel I am a gamer in the most basic definition a gamer can be, someone who enjoys games and has played them a long time. My views are my own and not reflective of anyone else, including people who support Gamergate. I have no personal or corporate connections to anyone in gaming whatsoever, and no investment in either side. I am just a person. Plain, simple me.
Calgary Expo disappoints me. It disappoints me because I thought that as a more open, tolerant, and civil society compared to previous generations, we could be better than this. I’m no stranger to listening to unsavory political or sociopolitical opinions of other people. I’ve lived in regions of the United States known for being socially conservative. I currently live in a region known for being socially liberal. I personally consider myself socially liberal, and I say that because I don’t personally believe it is my place to tell another free-thinking individual what to do or say. Our entire human history of war and conflict is because people believe they can and should control other people.
Now, let’s lay one thing out now. I’ve never listened to Honey Badger Radio. I know of them, thanks to the Gamergate controversy, but I also know of about fifty-six other things now because of Gamergate. Because of the aforementioned adult thing, I don’t always pay attention to everything that is out there. I understand they talk about a lot of political views, and espouse a lot of views on Men’s Rights. I also don’t know much about Men’s Rights either, so I cannot comment much on that. But like any political group, they are entitled to their opinions and views and entitled to express them where they are legally permitted. I don’t know how different Canadian free-speech laws are, but I presume they’re similar to the United States and at the very minimum, they should be protected from opposing hate and harassment.
Now, I also understand that the root cause of this issue, is that some of their members attended a panel on women in comics and had a non-threatening, non-harassing, civil conversation with the panelists on the topic. They politely asked to speak, were allowed to speak, spoke, and that was it. No fist-fights, no anxiety attacks (at least on-site) and no need for security or convention staff to drag them out. The next day, they were told they were being ejected from the convention because they received “twenty-five” reports of harassment. Rumor would also suggest that they took offense to the artwork and posters supporting Gamergate themes being sold at their booth. Either way, they are claiming all of this under their rules and regulations that prohibit harassment and threats to con staff, panelists, and attendees.
I’ve been going to conventions since 2002, and staffed one particular convention for ten years. I also know people who organize conventions and talk about their challenges online. It’s not an easy task, and many beginner organizers don’t realize the complexities of running an event a thousand or more people will traffic doing approximately whatever they want. The majority are civil, some are not. I have heard stories of people destroying venue property, ruining hotel pools with body paint, and verbally harassing cosplayers. These earned them an ejection and ban from future conventions, as it should. However, I’ve also witnessed and heard of hecklers in panels, arguments in the middle of rooms and hallways, loud and obnoxious gatherings, and unwanted cosplay photos. I don’t know the end outcome of all of these, but aside from pulling them aside and warning them, I don’t think they were kicked out or banned. The point here, is that you really have to go out of your way to get banned from a convention, and I don’t think these people did that. They paid for a table, were given a table, and they came and set up in that space. They went to a panel, asked some questions, had a conversation that did not seem to get heated or out-of-control at any point, it ended, and they went about their business.
So why were they ejected from the convention?
I think the most disappointing and difficult part of answering that, is that no one has a consistent answer. The staff delivering them the news mentioned harassment complaints, but then various other accounts, online and offline, gave different tales. No investigation seemed to take place, I’m not even sure if the convention chair or co-chair were even notified or involved. Frankly, if anyone is to be ejected from a convention, they should be hearing about it from the convention chair, in person. But considering their official Twitter feed went back-and-forth with The Mary Sue, not even an hour after the notification, it seems like everyone was ready to call this a Gamergate-related crime, and make the official reason for their ejection, being Gamergate related.
I get people do not like Gamergate. I don’t always like Gamergate either, because much like social justice activism, it has become a thirteen-year-old identity crisis for people with unwarranted self-importance. The reason I am neutral is because I am old and past those years of my life where I felt I needed to belong to some grand cause of biblical proportions. I have things I am responsible for at home. I don’t care about what a bunch of kids with money in San Francisco do. To me, Gamergate is just a Twitter hashtag people use to tag relevant conversations about gaming media, and the gaming community. When I talk about Gamergate, I am not talking about the two-tone color banner, Vivian James, and OFF WITH ____’S HEAD, I talk about why outlets like Kotaku and Polygon feel it is beneath them to want to be better writers and journalists, about polarizing pundits trying to cash in on the controversy for their own ends, about the gaming community’s struggle with AAA developers, and how games are made and sold, among other topics. I don’t “sea-lion”, I don’t harass, and I don’t participate in mail campaigns, targeted operations, or other mob-rules activities others do. If people don’t want to talk to me, they can ignore me or tell me they don’t want to talk. Like civil adults. This does not mean I disagree with their actions, or even agree with their actions. It means that I am not in control of these people nor should I be, and neither should you. If you unequivocally hate someone or a group of people you don’t even know in real-life, you do so because you either have a strong personal investment in your side, or you have a strong personal investment in your identity tied to that side. I have none such ties. They could disappear tomorrow and I’d continue on with my day. Again, adult. I hate to keep pushing that word, but the majority of this is high school tier bullshit and you all know it.
But if I were asked to have an opinion about Calgary Expo, I would reply that I do not agree with their ejection from the convention. I do not agree because I do not feel they did anything that would warrant such an action. Setting up a booth and shilling “Gamergate-related merchandise” might offend some people, but you don’t have to look at it, buy it, or interact with it in any way. As for the panel, the panelists told The Mary Sue that even though they weren’t keen on the dialogue, they admitted it was polite and orderly, and nothing hostile happened. So it is pretty clear that in the absence of any other evidence, Honey Badger Brigade was ejected and banned from a convention for not having the same political and sociopolitical views as the organizers and guests. Their official statement may say otherwise, but after reviewing their rules, they are about as loose and subjective as Indiana’s religious law everyone, including myself, objected to for being vague and open to abuse.
But my greatest fear is that more conventions, as they try to adopt these sorts of rules and guidelines under the guise of “equality and fairness”, will also adopt a murky, undefinable idea of who is acceptable and who is unacceptable to attend their conventions. I don’t attend conventions to stand around trying to determine other people’s sociopolitical views. I go to have fun and talk with people about the hobbies I enjoy. Yet for me to talk about this, or write about this, stirs these people up into a frenzy because apparently I am literally oppressing them by suggesting that people of all genders, identities, races, and so on, have fun at a convention together as they see fit. Why? What possible reason is there to have such a big issue with people you won’t even go up and talk to anyway? Let’s be real here, you’ll take out your phone, log into Twitter, and tweet something like “Ew, those nasty Goobergrapes are in my convention! How dare they!” You can’t even hold a conversation with them because you’re full of imaginary, manufactured anger and fear that they will turn your pure angelic wings into ashes and sew goat heads onto your arms.
You know what other social construct feels that way about people that aren’t like them?