Wednesday, May 17, 2017

GamerGate's Lasting Effects & How To Fight Back

As the widespread use of the Internet took off in the late '90s and early 2000s, gamers started to form communities. With those communities were norms and rules both written and unwritten than began to coalesce with what those communities did and did not find acceptable. These were mostly-male dominated spaces, with the norms and rules functioning as gate-keeping tactics-- first to keep out those that might have reminded the gate-keepers of bullies, but expanded to be anyone that could be treated as an outsider or an other. This was especially true for women and other minorities. Trash talking was sen as "part of the game", even when it led to rape jokes and threats, for example.

Harassment of women and the marginalized in gaming communities in specific and online in general didn't beging with GamerGate. GamerGate just gave a collective name to what had been lurking under the surface of gaming culture for a long time. It just was now too big to willfully ignore. As I wrote last year, the more virulent influence of GamerGaters seemed prime to make hardcore gamers the new conservative reactionaries-- and this was before Trump was elected on a wave of dank 4chan memes, racism, and twitter rants.

Writing for Bitch Media, Sam Riedel reflects on the 3rd anniversary of the beginning of the GamerGate movement. She also talks about the effect it's had on her as a gamer, and the frustration that many companies that pride themselves on building gaming communities still stand by and don't seem to do much in her essay "No Girls Allowed: The Lasting Rules of GamerGate and Toxic Misogyny":
[Many of the PAX East] show’s panels that touched on harassment and abuse did so in a way that was only marginally helpful.. The Diverse Gaming Coalition held a panel on stopping online bullying, and concluded that “fixing” people who want to cause harm “is our goal” but is “not realistic,” ending 20 minutes early after focusing primarily on hawking T-shirts and signing up new partners. 
The It Gets Better Project’s panel immediately followed and was even more frustrating... When asked what should be done to fight this abuse, panelist Leslie Pirritano recommended that victims reach out to the Online SOS Network—but when it came to reducing instances of harassment, the It Gets Better panel could only spout platitudes; Huertas referenced Game of Thrones’ Tyrian Lannister, saying victims should “wear [their abuse] like armor.” 
Most disappointingly, it doesn’t seem like community managers... seem that concerned with ending the problem. At a panel entitled “Community Management 101”... Devin Connors of game studio Psyonix said CMs can try to “remold their behavior” but should try not to engage. That sort of corporate non-answer, which prioritizes companies over lives, is especially distressing when you consider that Connors is in charge of maintaining the Rocket League community as Corsair Media’s Global Social Media and Community Manager.
As Riedel points out, women play games just as much as men, but cis men hold the majority of jobs in gaming.
Take a look at the numbers: Even though Pew Research Center finds that women play games just as much as men, and "There are no differences by race or ethnicity in who plays video games," the International Game Developers Association reports that over 75% of those working in the games industry are straight, white cisgender men... gaming culture as a whole is still nightmarishly toxic for people who aren't cisgender men, and even for some who are.
This circles back to my earlier posts on diversity in the tech sector. Those in positions of power need to prioritize marginalized voices, and that means hiring more women and people of color and LGBT+ people-- not just as token hires but with real responsibility, As for those not in hiring positions, but positions of societal power, we need to prioritize amplify marginalized voices instead of talking over them, and when they talk, we NEED to listen.

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