It’s been going on for months now, the chaotic online struggle known as #gamergate. What began as an angry letter from a boyfriend that felt he’d been wronged has transformed into a movement so large (and utterly confusing) that the hashtag alone cannot encompass everything that’s happening. You have people upset about corruption, you have people upset about misogyny, you have trolls making death threats, you have trolls verbally attacking the suicidally depressed, people screaming nonsense, people taking things out of context, etc. etc. etc. It’s pretty much everything you expect from the Internet, except bigger and louder. One of the main issues about #gamergate is that people on both sides of the argument have, for fear of being doxxed or relentless trolled, been afraid to step forward and make their opinions known. Now, one of the biggest female names associated with gaming and geek culture in general has stepped up to say a few words about how the #gamergate debate has affected her. Scroll on to see how actress and uber-nerd goddess Felicia Day is responding.
In a recent blog post, Day shared her opinions on the chaos of #gamergate. You can head to her tumblr to get the full read (I recommend it), but here are a few of the main points:
If there’s anything I’m proud of in this world, it’s the fact that I’ve had people come up to me on the street and at conventions over the years to tell me that they feel confident to call themselves a gamer because of my work, where before they were ashamed.
So seeing another gamer on the street used to be an auto-smile opportunity, or an entry into a conversation starting with, “Hey, dude! I love that game too!” Me and that stranger automatically had something in common: A love for something unconventional. Outsiders in arms. We had an auto-stepping stone to hurtle over human-introduction-awkwardness, into talking about something we loved together. Instant connection!
But for the first time maybe in my life, on that Saturday afternoon, I walked towards that pair of gamers and I didn’t smile. I didn’t say hello. In fact, I crossed the street so I wouldn’t walk by them. Because after all the years of gamer love and inclusiveness, something had changed in me. A small voice of doubt in my brain now suspected that those guys and I might not be comrades after all. That they might not greet me with reflected friendliness, but contempt.
She then goes on to talk about why she has maintained silence regarding the #gamergate debate. The chief reasons – self-protection and fear. It is an unfortunate side-effect of the movement that it has brought out the worst of both sides and, since we live on the Internet, trolls and other sociopathic elements have latched on to the argument and use it as an excuse to do some seriously fucked up shit.
Felicia continues with:
I have encountered a small fraction of the attacks from people like the ones who currently represent the worst of this “movement”.
The attacks I experienced over the years were NOTHING compared to people who are the victims of these attacks now, but I still thought early on during the Gamer Gate phenomenon, “These trolls will dissipate into the night like they always do, it will be fine.” But they have not dissipated.
The fact that it has affected me, to the point where I decided to cross the street last weekend away from those gamers, was heartbreaking. Because I realized my silence on the issue was not motivated by some grand strategy, but out of fear that the issue has created about speaking out.
So I write this to urge any person, male or female, who now has the impulse to do what I did, to walk away from something they loved before, to NOT. Don’t let other people drive you away from gaming.
She then goes on to give a heartfelt encouragement to gamers in general:
Games are beautiful, they are creative, they are worlds to immerse yourself in. They are art. And they are worth fighting for, even if the atmosphere is ugly right now. A small minority are putting up barbed wire walls between us who love games. And that is sad.
Because odds are 99% certain that those guys on the street who I avoided would have been awesome to talk to. I realize that letting the actions of a few hateful people influence my behavior is the absolutely worst thing I could do in life. And not an example I want to set, ever.
So to myself and to everyone else who operates out of love not vengeance: Don’t abandon games. Don’t cross the street. Gaming needs you. To create, to play, to connect.
Ironically, the statement echoes what many of the people in the #gamergate community have been arguing in favor of. It’s the reason that there was a general outcry when several popular news sites published a barrage of “gamers are dead” articles. Or when one journalist, Leigh Alexander, decided to post statements such as “’Game culture’ as we know it is kind of embaressing — it’s not even culture” or “[gamers]…don’t know how to dress or behave.”
Which makes Day’s next statement feel somewhat out of place:
I know this entry will probably draw contempt from people in the Gamer Gate movement. Something to scorn, something to rile them up against me and everything I’ve ever made.
While I find it encouraging that someone with the star power of Felicia Day is stepping up to make public statements about the phenomenon that is the #gamergate debate, I am also somewhat saddened by the fact that the hashtag is associated purely with negative acts. Those following closely will note that #gamergate members have been responsible for a number of good things, such as anti-bullying charity movements, funding a Kickstarter devoted to bringing more women into game development and, more recently, a movement to petition the FBI to investigate fully the death threats being made against people such as Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn and Brianna Vu. As with all revolutions, there are elements of good and evil. That one of my absolute favorite actresses would fail to examine the issue deeper than that which has been dominating the popular news sites is disheartening to me.
Lastly, Felicia makes a plea to those in the #gamergate community. It’s a bit misguided given all the facts, though her message is a positive one nonetheless:
Steeping yourself in the emotions that you’re surrounding yourself with, of hatred and bile and contempt, is ultimately not destructive to others like you want it to be. It’s destructive to yourself.
I know it feels good to belong to a group, to feel righteous in belonging to a cause, but causing fear and pushing people away from gaming is not the way to go about doing it. Think through the repercussions of your actions and the people you are aligning yourself with. And think honestly about whether your actions are genuinely going to change gaming life for the better. Or whether they’re just going to make someone cross the street away from you. And away from something, ironically, that we both love.
It is frustrating to all involved that there are so many trolls using the #gamergate debate to funnel their anger, often in illegal ways. But the bullshit is being flung from both sides. Some recent twitter posts from Valleywag editor Sam Biddle shows that the animosity is shared, though his came across as contempt for those who proudly label themselves “gamers” when he tweeted – “Bring Back Bullying” and “…nerds should be constantly shamed and degraded into submission”.
It’s no wonder that nobody can seem to focus in on what the majority of #gamergaters are trying to talk about – corruption within the gaming and gaming journalism community. It’s no wonder that a once-revered site like Gawker would dismiss the entire #gamergate phenomenon by boiling it down to an issue of misogyny and, in the process, belittling the voices of those that have important things to say. It’s no wonder people post reactionary articles that, while they make solid points, become soiled with statements such as “I hope you all, every #Gamergater, picks up a debilitating case of genital warts” and “These paint-huffing shitgoblins think they’re “gamers,”.” And, naturally, the crimes are persistent from both camps.
Personally, the majority of what I’ve witness during these last few months has been people screaming, people misunderstanding, news sites smokescreening and damn near nothing getting accomplished in the way of productive conversational exchange. Hell, Felicia Day was reportedly doxxed within an hour of making her statement (an action that, btw, #gamergate was just as pissed off about as anyone else).
Is there an end in sight to this fiasco? #gamergaters will continue to struggle for what they see as right and true. Trolls will continue to harass those on both side of the debate. The ideals of the movement will continue to be misrepresented and female journalists will continue to be the primary targets of all the fallout.
Is it better to end #gamergate so that nobody has to suffer? It would mean a great many people abandoning a movement they see as worthy of participating in. And, ultimately, the sociopathic, misogynistic trolls would win. And then they’d just find another movement to latch onto and run into the ground.
Like it or not, #gamergate will be here for some time. The only question is how long will it take for it to turn into a proper #gamerdebate?
Source: Felicia Day’s Tumblr