That ‘’Gamers’ are over’ article: GG, you read it wrong. I annotated it.
I’m doing this without permission of the author, but here is an annotated version of ’Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience. ‘Gamers’ are over. by Leigh Alexander.
Annotations + interpretations by a life-long gamer.
Annotations like this.
Highlights in bold.
Read this opening carefully. Note where the author uses ‘scare quotes’, because they’re being used to refer very specifically to the wider media perceptions. This is a rhetorical thing, it’s bringing back the shame we all felt in the bad old days.
I often say I’m a video game culture writer, but lately I don’t know exactly what that means. ‘Game culture’ as we know it is kind of embarrassing — it’s not even culture. It’s buying things, spackling over memes and in-jokes repeatedly, and it’s getting mad on the internet.
This is the first place a lot of you got offended. You should be. This is how the wider media treated us for decades.
It’s young men queuing with plush mushroom hats and backpacks and jutting promo poster rolls. Queuing passionately for hours, at events around the world, to see the things that marketers want them to see. To find out whether they should buy things or not. They don’t know how to dress or behave. Television cameras pan across these listless queues, and often catch the expressions of people who don’t quite know why they themselves are standing there.
See? This is talking about an era in which fanboyism was played up as a negative near globally.
‘Games culture’ is a petri dish of people who know so little about how human social interaction and professional life works that they can concoct online ‘wars’ about social justice or ‘game journalism ethics,’ straight-faced, and cause genuine human consequences. Because of video games.
This is the paragraph I suspect almost all of you stopped reading at. This is the paragraph that hurt your feelings. This is the paragraph that is meant to hurt, that is meant to drive home the stereotypes we all destroyed decades ago. Because we have all forgotten how badly this image hurt us all, making us feel like gaming was the most shameful kind of escapism, and this article is about to highlight how powerfully we’ve destroyed that popular image. And yes, the highlighted section is speaking about GamerGate, but it’s also speaking about the harassment of Anna Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, and others. Whether or not you believe the slander about them, there’s no reason for these women to be threatened. If you don’t understand that that’s inexcusable, you need to re-examine your humanity.
Lately, I often find myself wondering what I’m even doing here. And I know I’m not alone.
All of us should be better than this. You should be deeply questioning your life choices if this and this and this are the prominent public face your business presents to the rest of the world.
In the original article, ‘this and this and this’ hyperlinked to various articles on the way GG and other related issues have been presented — as misogynist witch hunts. No, your intentions, your ‘#NotYourShield’ doesn’t matter here. There have been misogynist witch hunts, and what kicked off the #GamerGate hashtag, the five guys videos, is a prime example. This is part of the #GamerGate history, and while it’s admirable that it’s trying to be put aside, it’s still there. By holding up the #GamerGate banner, you tar yourself with that history. Sorry, but that’s how it is, until a lot more cleaning is done.
This is what the rest of the world knows about your industry — this, and headlines about billion-dollar war simulators or those junkies with the touchscreen candies. That’s it. You should absolutely be better than this.
Keep in mind, Gamasutra, the place the article ran, is aimed at game developers — not consumers — thus her speaking to ‘industry’. And yes, you should be better than what’s presented. You should make the effort. But you know what? We all already have. We have completely turned the popular image of ‘Gamer’ on its head, we— the gamer community — have torn the stereotypes to shreds, and the article is about to start rejoicing in that.
You don’t want to ‘be divisive?’ Who’s being divided, except for people who are okay with an infantilized cultural desert of shitty behavior and people who aren’t? What is there to ‘debate’?
If you were offended by this particular line? If you think it was directed at you? You’re not someone involved in GG. You’re a ‘gamer’, in scare quotes, the thing the media thought we were, that lie that used to exist. If you look at this line and wince, because you act like that, but you don’t mean to? This is here to wake you up, because a lot of us act like this out of unthinking complacency with no malice behind it. We just never thought about it.
Right, let’s say it’s a vocal minority that’s not representative of most people. Most people, from indies to industry leaders, are mortified, furious, disheartened at the direction industry conversation has taken in the past few weeks. It’s not like there are reputable outlets publishing rational articles in favor of the trolls’ ‘side’. Don’t give press to the harassers. Don’t blame an entire industry for a few bad apples.
This is a fact. The outburst of #GamerGate activity? It’s bringing gaming into disrepute, it’s feeding the stereotypes. Derek Smart — fucking Derek Smart — is even one of the disheartened. ( https://www.facebook.com/dereksmart3000ad/posts/10152780833782679 ) Wake up. You are making things worse for us all.
Yet disclaiming liability is clearly no help. Game websites with huge community hubs whose fans are often associated with blunt Twitter hate mobs sort of shrug, they say things like ‘we delete the really bad stuff, what else can we do’ and ‘those people don’t represent our community’ — but actually, those people do represent your community. That’s what your community is known for, whether you like it or not.
And this is especially true of the #GamerGate movement. Oh, you’re all NOT misogynists? Well, I’m sorry, but the folks who chased Zoe Quinn down and posted her nudes are, and they were feted for it amongst the darker circles of #GamerGate. Don’t try and erase history, just go back and watch the Five Guys videos. That is what you are known for — picking into a woman’s sex life in the slimiest way possible.
When you decline to create or to curate a culture in your spaces, you’re responsible for what spawns in the vacuum. That’s what’s been happening to games.
And GG denies it, and puts it aside, and tries to abstain itself of all responsibility. But that doesn’t solve it. That doesn’t solve the negative stereotypes that have been dogging all of us, because for decades none of us spoke up. We did nothing while all of this happened:
That’s not super surprising, actually. While video games themselves were discovered by strange, bright outcast pioneers — they thought arcades would make pub games more fun, or that MUDs would make for amazing cross-cultural meeting spaces — the commercial arm of the form sprung up from marketing high-end tech products to ‘early adopters’. You know, young white dudes with disposable income who like to Get Stuff.
Suddenly a generation of lonely basement kids had marketers whispering in their ears that they were the most important commercial demographic of all time. Suddenly they started wearing shiny blouses and pinning bikini babes onto everything they made, started making games that sold the promise of high-octane masculinity to kids just like them.
By the turn of the millennium those were games’ only main cultural signposts: Have money. Have women. Get a gun and then a bigger gun. Be an outcast. Celebrate that. Defeat anyone who threatens you. You don’t need cultural references. You don’t need anything but gaming. Public conversation was led by a games press whose role was primarily to tell people what to buy, to score products competitively against one another, to gleefully fuel the “team sports” atmosphere around creators and companies.
It makes a strange sort of sense that video games of that time would become scapegoats for moral panic, for atrocities committed by young white teen boys in hypercapitalist America — not that the games themselves had anything to do with tragedies, but they had an anxiety in common, an amorphous cultural shape that was dark and loud on the outside, hollow on the inside.
We never spoke up. We all let it happen. By the time Jack Thompson came around on his anti-gamer crusade, we’d spent the better part of two decades pretending that if we shut up and kept quiet about our gaming habit, like it was something shameful, nobody would bother us. And you know what all of the above really says? It doesn’t say it was you, ‘gamers’, who did it. It was the people selling this shit to us, it was the media surrounding it — the old style of gaming journalism that was purely telling us what to buy, getting us to open our wallets for the next great explosion, and telling us very firmly not to think for ourselves or explore anything but the generic games we all love to hate. You know what games franchise dates from the tail end of this dark period? Call of Duty. You know what games franchise is still spearheading this AAA publisher-run ‘score it highly on Metacritic or else’ garbage viewpoint? Call of Duty. For a very, very long time, this industry has been hollow on the inside and loud on the outside. And we let it happen. But, we also changed it…
Yet in 2014, the industry has changed. We still think angry young men are the primary demographic for commercial video games — yet average software revenues from the commercial space have contracted massively year on year, with only a few sterling brands enjoying predictable success.
EG: CoD. That angry young men demographic? That’s part of the hurtful stereotype that got shoved on us for so long. That’s what the big companies sold to. This is the flip side of ‘nobody makes games for women because women don’t buy them’ — for decades nobody made games for anyone except angry young men. Projects like the Sims, Kerbal Space Program, Gone Home, almost any game that does not involve two men killing each other, were considered anathema. But that’s not all we, as gamers, wanted. Yes, violent fantasy is fun — sometimes a whole LOT of fun — but buying the same FPS year in, year out, for ten years isn’t what any of us wanted. Whether or not you like CoD, the fact is, it hasn’t changed appreciably from release to release, it’s just sucked down our money for more of the same. I think we all want something new, too.
It’s clear that most of the people who drove those revenues in the past have grown up — either out of games, or into more fertile spaces, where small and diverse titles can flourish, where communities can quickly spring up around creativity, self-expression and mutual support, rather than consumerism. There are new audiences and new creators alike there. Traditional “gaming” is sloughing off, culturally and economically, like the carapace of a bug.
This is another of those paragraphs that hurt, but this, this is one of the most celebratory pieces of the entire work. Because we all DID grow up. We formed new fertile spaces, we made communities spring up around new creativity, we made Kickstarter and Early Access change the way games are made — granted there have been some horror stories, but there have been real triumphs that would have been all but impossible a few years ago. We engage in self-expression and mutual support — this is one aspect where GG is, truly, amazing and positive and brilliant, for those within it. It is a perfect example of a movement and community of mutual support and self-expression, but it has been pushed down some woeful, woeful paths. And that line at the end? ‘Traditional “gaming” is sloughing off, culturally and economically, like the carapace of a bug. ‘ ? That’s another one that hurts on the surface, but pay attention to those scare quotes. What we’re sloughing off is the old stereotype of the boy in the basement, of the kid waiting to go Columbine, of the nasty social entity that has disconnected from his family. We have, frankly, destroyed that as the default image of the gamer, and though bringing it back in jest or in anger is easy enough, these days, few people will think of it when you tell them you played a neat video game. This is an era where you are free of the bug-like carapace.
This is hard for people who’ve drank the kool aid about how their identity depends on the aging cultural signposts of a rapidly-evolving, increasingly broad and complex medium. It’s hard for them to hear they don’t own anything, anymore, that they aren’t the world’s most special-est consumer demographic, that they have to share.
And this? This part hurts if you think it refers to you, but you know it’s all lies, it’s an unthinking insult. But honestly? It doesn’t refer to you unless you’re one of the ones who stand up and go out of their way to hold the rest of us back. Some of us, as gamers, have our identity sunk in gaming, and we don’t want to see that broken down. The same way someone who self-identifies as gay, or lesbian, or bisexual, or straight doesn’t want their sexuality misrepresented as something it isn’t — that they love in a way others think is immoral, or that they engage in sexual practices they don’t just because they’re gay — we gamers don’t want to see our hobby, our passion, misrepresented as something it isn’t. There are, among us, those who cling to the identity of gamer so hard that any other person with an alternative viewpoint are screamed down. Maybe it’s the debate on bunny-hopping in an FPS shooter, maybe it’s the 8bit era versus the 16bit era, maybe it’s DOTA2 versus LoL, at some point someone marks out their territory and pisses on the rest of us. Unless you’re someone who’s marked out a slice of territory in the gaming landscape as yours and yours alone, this doesn’t really refer to you, and you need to stop thinking it does.
We also have to scrutinize, closely, the baffling, stubborn silence of many content creators amid these scandals, or the fact lots of stubborn, myopic internet comments happen on business and industry sites. This is hard for old-school developers who are being made redundant, both culturally and literally, in their unwillingness to address new audiences or reference points outside of blockbuster movies and comic books as their traditional domain falls into the sea around them. Of course it’s hard. It’s probably intense, painful stuff for some young kids, some older men.
Isn’t this what GamerGate is all about? Isn’t this why it’s there? Ethics in journalism, exploring the issues, breaking silence wherever it’s found? But all GG’s doing is making it so people are afraid to stand up and speak, on either side, of the recent misogyny witch hunt. Isn’t GG supposed to challenge lazy devs trying to sell us the same old shit year in and year out, trying to pull the same old tricks to get their games scored in the high nineties? Isn’t this stuff the POINT of what GG is trying to do?
But it’s unstoppable. A new generation of fans and creators is finally aiming to instate a healthy cultural vocabulary, a language of community that was missing in the days of “gamer pride” and special interest groups led by a product-guide approach to conversation with a single presumed demographic.
And we ARE unstoppable. We are the new generation, and we are changing things. Look at those scare quotes around gamer pride again, because they’re talking about an era in which the news lambasted us. When she speaks about ‘special interest groups led by a product-guide approach to conversation with a single presumed demographic.’, she’s talking about the era in which game companies treated us not as ‘consumers’, but as cash cows to tap with the next uninventive knockoff because we are all the same angry young man. But we’re not, and we never have been, and that stereotype was never true.
This means that over just the last few years, writing on games focuses on personal experiences and independent creators, not approval-hungry obeisance to the demands of powerful corporations. It’s not about ‘being a reviewer’ anymore. It’s not about telling people what to buy, it’s about providing spaces for people to discuss what (and whom) they support.
It was never true, because we are growing up. Those of us who were the children raised on NES and Genesis, have grown up. We’re in our late twenties and early thirties, we’re the ones writing for a demographic that is US. Sega and Nintendo used to have their own in-company magazines masquerading as game journalism, and we all used to buy them. We figured that was as good as it got, we used to pay for glorified ad copy. But things have changed, and this article is highlighting that, and it’s glorying in that change! We have the ability to talk about games, to debate them, to discuss everything about them without the corporations grabbing at our money getting involved. That’s us! We did that, we achieved that!
These straw man ‘game journalism ethics’ conversations people have been having are largely the domain of a prior age, when all we did was negotiate ad deals and review scores and scraped to be called ‘reporters’, because we had the same powerlessness complex as our audience had. Now part of a writer’s job in a creative, human medium is to help curate a creative community and an inclusive culture — and a lack of commitment to that just looks out-of-step, like a partial compromise with the howling trolls who’ve latched onto ‘ethics’ as the latest flag in their onslaught against evolution and inclusion.
And here it is. So much of this discussion about ethics in game journalism belongs to that prior age when console companies ran their own magazines for their own target audiences, for an era in which people got fired for giving a game a shitty review. For an era which we have basically destroyed, an era in which ‘gamer’ was an epithet for that howling noise on voice comms spewing obscenities over a kill. We are inclusive. We are women, we are POC, we are still white boys, we are everything. GG is proving that day after day with the number of people who #NotYourShield resonates for, because those people feel voiceless. It’s up to debate if #NotYourShield is a good thing, opening up a voice for the voiceless, or some kind of culture jamming 4chan style op, but it does prove that those who feel on the margins, the women, the LGBT, the POC, are earnestly burning for their voices to be heard in this conversation. But there’s a sorry truth in #NotYourShield. You’re actively trying to shield the rest of GG, all of it, including the historical stuff that kicked it all off. You are shielding a tarnished thing. You are letting some of the worst people out there hide behind ‘ethics’ at your expense.
Developers and writers alike want games about more things, and games by more people. We want — and we are getting, and will keep getting — tragicomedy, vignette, musicals, dream worlds, family tales, ethnographies, abstract art. We will get this, because we’re creating culture now. We are refusing to let anyone feel prohibited from participating.
This is the key thing. This is the part none of you read, the part you all threw aside as people linked you to it and said it was offensive to gamers. This is what every single person against GG thinks they’re fighting for — a world where no one feels prohibited from participating. But isn’t that what you’re fighting for, GG? A world where ‘gamer’ isn’t something to be stigmatized? A world where we’re not treated like money-sprewing cattle?
“Gamer” isn’t just a dated demographic label that most people increasingly prefer not to use. Gamers are over. That’s why they’re so mad.
And this has been quoted over, and over, and over again without context. Look at the scare quotes. Look at them. They mean she is talking about the stereotype. The one we killed. That is what’s over, that is what’s dead, and the ones who are mad are the ones who have staked out their territory and refuse to share it with anyone else. Is that you? No? Then stop being offended. And if it is? I’m glad you’re offended. This isn’t just your gamer’s world, it’s mine too, and I do my best to share my part with whoever wants it.
These obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these childish internet-arguers — they are not my audience. They don’t have to be yours. There is no ‘side’ to be on, there is no ‘debate’ to be had.
There is what’s past and there is what’s now. There is the role you choose to play in what’s ahead.
And that’s the end of her article.
What role do you choose to play in what’s ahead? What debate do you think you’re having?
This article, this in-depth exploration of what it is to be a gamer in this day and age, exploring what’s changed and what hasn’t, became the focus of a shitstorm of anger because you all interpreted it as an attack. It isn’t an attack, it’s a celebration of gaming, of how far we’ve come, of how much we’ve made change, of what we are as a new generation of gamers.
Even if you disagree, even if you think this article really is an attack, at least have the integrity to allow me, a fellow gamer, my opinion on this article, my view that it’s a celebration of everything I’ve fought for ever since I stood up on a soda crate to reach an arcade machine’s controls.
By getting Intel to pull Gamasutra’s ad money, over this article, you essentially spat in my face. You told me that my view doesn’t matter, that my celebration must necessarily be wrong, and that the views of the majority, your majority, are far, far more important than mine.
You said that if someone disagrees with you, you will fight to pull the plug on them, because that’s what attacking the ads really does to a website like Gamasutra. That is where their money comes from, and when that money dries up, so does the website. And this isn’t a matter of ‘listen to the consumers’ ‘you can’t insult consumers’ ‘don’t insult consumers’ — this wasn’t insulting you. This was celebrating you. You read it wrong.
Even putting aside the fantastic other articles on Gamasutra, which include coverage of everything from regular op-ed pieces to an investigation of that pay for play thing on youtube which is still a major open question in game journalism ethics, you made a very important statement.
You said that if someone disagrees with you, if someone hurts your feelings, you will attack them and hurt them as badly as you possibly can. You will not accept criticism, you will not respond to it with words and thoughts and feelings, you will attack it with the same tactics the big corporations use to try and squash ideas like net neutrality.
You will exploit your collective economic power to squish anybody who disagrees with you.
And that is bullshit. And you should tear down these jackasses telling you to boycott and to get advertisers to pull their advertising. You just attacked one of us because you were too lazy to read beyond the third paragraph of an article that celebrates everything that is right with gaming.
You attacked one of us because you were acting like a ‘gamer’, instead of a gamer.