Kotaku points to a couple of fascinating essays: one by Dan Golding on the End of Gamers, and the other by Leigh Alexander, saying gamers are over. They’re making similar points: not that gaming is in decline, or that all gamers are horrible people, but that the behavior of unchecked hooligans on the internet has so thoroughly fouled their identity that reasonable people are abandoning the tribe. Calling yourself a gamer has acquired the cachet of identifying as a white supremacist — it stinks.
What really worries me, though, is how much the gamer story sounds like the atheist story…only they seem to be farther along in their implosion than we are, or are imploding more rapidly. We atheists should be taking notes and telling ourselves not to go down this path. I have the feeling we aren’t.
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’?
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.
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.
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.
Sound familiar? That’s what’s happening to atheism, too. You know it. Atheism is still growing — and gaming is still hugely profitable and expanding — but a lot of the early adopters and drivers of the culture are abandoning it in disgust, looking for something that isn’t burdened with the cretinous reactionaries.
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.
I feel that way about movement skepticism — skepticism is an essential element of our toolkit, but the movement has attracted way too many thuggish jerks, especially in the leadership, who want to deny every progressive effort that some of their members want to make. We’re seeing a crisis of confidence with atheist leadership, too — I know there are a lot of readers here who are pro-science and pro-atheism, and yet don’t want to be associated with the labels because they detest the baggage. Atheists already had an image problem with the name, but somehow the scum rose to the top and worked hard to make it worse.
We also saw this:
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.
On the atheist side, that was Atheism+, and look what happened to that. It was immediately beleaguered by howling mobs of libertarians, sexists, and just general assholes, isolating it and making anyone who participated in it a target. There was intense pressure to shut down a community that was struggling to establish itself and adopt a wider set of social concerns…and it was made The Enemy and provoked so much screaming and whining and complaining. It’s still going on. It’s actually rather amazing: we have seen precisely what happens to social awareness when it arises within this larger atheist movement, and it’s not pretty.
And of course the bullying shouters, all the men with their privileges, are the ones complaining the loudest that they are being discriminated against if we treat gays, minorities, trans men and women, people with disabilities, asexuals, women, young people, old people, veterans, anyone who isn’t an older white male academic, as human beings deserving of equal respect. It’s getting embarrassing to be openly atheist and openly supporting any atheist organization anymore, because we’re getting associated with sexist anti-progressive “I-got-mine” privileged assholes.
Alexander has an optimistic idea of where gamers ought to go — by dismissing and rejecting the horrible people who give the hobby a bad name as the domain of child-men who scream gay slurs and think going to a virtual titty bar in a game is a awesome.
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.
“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.
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.
It would be nice if that ugly brand of gamer were over…but then I look at the treatment of Anita Sarkeesian (read that; Thunderf00t is really famous now, as one of the loudest angry jerks on youtube, and everyone is being reminded that before he was an anti-feminist slimeball, he rose to prominence as a scientist/atheist. Thanks, Thunderf00t!), and I feel a little bit of despair.
Can we really dig ourselves out of this hole? I don’t know.
All of the tertiary accusations against Quinn (that she invented attacks or abuse) are aimed to discredit her. The same goes for Sarkeesian: the structure and content of her videos are extremely common to critical analysis, as the New Statesman points out. But when that style of criticism gets applied to video games, it feels like a threat to a certain insular, and extremely vocal, community for whom, as Leigh Alexander writes for Gamasutra, their “identity depends on the aging cultural signposts of a rapidly-evolving, increasingly broad and complex medium.”
For gaming to be taken seriously as an art form, it needs to be able to stand up to cultural critiques, and gamers need to be able to separate a developer’s personal life from her work. But it especially holds the medium back when these situations not only fail to play out in a civilized way, but become opportunistic embroiling of women in the “problems” of gaming culture, creation, and coverage.
You’d think gamers would be more concerned about the rejection of Ars Technica than the approval of 4chan and reddit, but somehow, I don’t think they will be.