Thursday, April 2, 2015

Reflections on Gamergate and Moral Grayness

In August 2014 game developer Zoe Quinn and gaming journalist Nathan Grayson had the dubious privilege of being in the epicenter of what would become known as Gamergate. Details mostly come from the old middle school drama bullshit of "he said, she said" from what I can tell, but the gist of it is that Nathan Grayson wrote a blog dragging his ex-girlfriend through the mud for breaking up with him. That's where the harassment part of Gamergate came from. Then other people went "hang on, you were in a relationship with a game developer, whose game you reviewed, and you did not disclose your bias?". That's where the gaming ethics debate part came from. Enter other names like Brianna Wu and Anita Sarkeesian, all terms to be googled at your own discretion, and you got the mess that is Gamergate. What do I think about it? 

Personally, I couldn't care less about the bedroom and breakup drama that doesn't concern me at all. That's private and should have stayed private, and regardless of whether Nathan Grayson was "corrupt", as some Gamergaters (seriously?) called him, he lost some major journalism cred by dragging that into the foreground. 

So let's leave the main argument by the way side, because after almost a year the overall "point" of the movement seems to have become so muddled by both sides throwing figurative poop at each other that none of them can come away with neither a shred of dignity intact, nor with the moral high ground. 

You see, dear observant reader, I am one of those horrible people that believes himself to live in a world of moral grayness. There are no absolutes, there is almost never just white and black. But that's not what entertains people, which is why this blog is probably doomed to failure. In the end, I will always come down and say "You had valid arguments, but your opponent had some good ones as well. You both behaved like assholes though.". You can tell why nobody wants to hear about this. Nobody wants to hear, or outright admit, that they were wrong, or that their arguments are flawed. 

Not a fan of Bob Chipman, but the man has his moments of clarity and in one of his recent episodes he said something to the effect that people started screaming and shouting and not giving in to fair criticism, because they were afraid that the opposition would be able to use those conceits as ammunition for their own line of argument. Whatever his opinions on other subjects may be (ASM Spider-Man is still best Spidey, Bob!) I think he absolutely nailed that point and it's the reason that a controversy like Gamergate - seriously, why does everything have to be a "Gate" these days? Thanks, Nixon... - did not become a moment where people looked up and honestly tried to change something, honestly tried to improve gaming culture, however hollow a term that might have been. It's because neither side wants to admit that their shit does also smell. 

In the end, it doesn't really matter. Gamergate could have been an exciting opportunity for the gaming community, to actually contemplate their faults and find some constructive criticism. Instead both sides have been arguing in such an incredibly flawed, unreflective, and mean spirited way that they, in turn, lost the right to claim moral superiority. 

I believe that we need people like Anita Sarkeesian and that we also need people who fight against corruption in journalism. What we don't need is people fixing their findings, or doxxing, swatting, harassing their opposites. 

All we ever needed was a serious sit down and a talk among adults about reform. But like so many reforms it all ended in violence and sorrow because no side could agree to the validity of some of the opposition's points. 

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