Gamergate: The (Im)perfect Storm?
I don’t think anybody expected Gamergate to blow up the way it did when it started back in August. I don’t think anyone ever expected it to even be a thing in the first place. But Gamergate has become a storm sweeping over video games. One can’t help but wonder if Gamergate will become the hero or the villain at the end of this. Remember, these are my personal thoughts and interpretation of those thoughts based on the knowledge I have of this situation. This is just my opinion on the matter, from my point of view.
Many people believe Gamergate started on August 28th 2014 with the “Gamers are Dead” articles published by several outlets. But I believe there has been a silent underground outcry of resistance going all the way back to Dewrito-gate and the Mass Effect 3 ending debacle. I think it was around this time that developers and publishers felt it was a more viable marketing scheme to invest money into marketing to the press instead of trying to market to the much larger audience of consumers. There’s no denying they probably saved a lot of money marketing to a smaller group and letting the press handle the consumers, but in doing so they gave the press more control than they should have had. I think this is truly the starting point where a need for Gamergate arose.
With this shift in marketing, I think it came to bring a sense of entitlement to the press. They came to be gatekeepers between devs and consumers. The press became the ones who decides what and who reaches the consumers eyes and ears. Once the press became more focused on politics instead of the industry itself they ultimately came to hurt a lot of developers. We came into an era where devs were required to have enough money behind them to buy coverage or forced to toe a political line to earn coverage from the press. With these happenings, the underground rumblings that would later become Gamergate grew.
These things I mentioned — and many more that I won’t here for brevity [Editor Note: See our Death of Games Journalism series] — ultimately lead to the fated “Gamers are Dead” day that unintentionally caused the explosion of angry consumers known as Gamergate. And in these past ten months, which feels like several years in internet time, we’ve seen massive changes from indie scene all the way up to the AAA developers. It’s much like sitting on the edge of your seat, biting your nails, wondering what will survive and what won’t in this massive storm. But one thing’s for sure going forward. Games journalism as it is, is dead. The mass of consumers in this industry have spoken and have said, “No, we will not be insulted or slandered, we will be treated with due respect, and we will be heard.” The games press is now left with a decision. Either reform to these new heightened expectations or to die out in the storm they had a hand in making.
There are definitely risks going forward, though. Things that are still unforeseen, and things we can only hope do not happen. But these things call for a good discussion going forward. One of the big worries with any industry changing event is: instead of true reform you end up with a mere exchange of power. It is important that once the storm has made its due course and passed over that we do not turn into the things we fought against.
As was once quoted by actor Aaron Eckhart:
“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
It is a very slippery slope, but Gamergate as a whole does have similar upbringings as social justice as a movement. The ideologies behind them vastly differ, but both felt their way of doing things was for the greater good of everyone, both found a means of gaining power to enforce these changes they felt needed to happen, and both have yet to put down the powers it is wielding. Granted, Gamergate is still in full swing at this point, but it is very important that once this is all over, Gamergate be responsible enough to put down this power as to not turn into the thing it’s fighting against. The worst thing that could happen, I believe, is Gamergate merely becomes the villains of gaming it is fighting so hard thwart.
Now I’m sure some might shrug off these notions that Gamergate could become the thing it fights against. But just as this storm brewed from several sources that most never expected to go together in this once in a lifetime event, it is possible that this storm might not die and just changes course. All it really takes is enough people in Gamergate getting drunk on power — much the same way social justice did — and refuse to put down this power they are wielding and instead direct it towards another cause.
The cycle could continue much the same way social justice still wields its power. No longer for noble causes, but for personal gain and to keep those they do not agree with below them in a social construct with foundations in guilt and shaming.
There are other things Gamergate needs to accomplish as well before it can put down its power — for good hopefully. For example: addressing the publishers and developers that ultimately abused the press for favorable coverage and hopefully handling the minority of gamers that do, in fact, give gaming a bad name with all their vitriol and hate. But it is important, as a level-headed Gamergate supporter, that we use this power we have achieved with responsibility and in the interest of all, not just ourselves. This is a massive opportunity to change not only video games, but the world as a whole for the better. Don’t let that slip through our fingers by becoming what we fight.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of the SuperNerdLand.com staff and/or any contributors to this site.)