Dear “fans”, we need to have a talk…

Fans of a thing embarrass other fans of the same thing.

In this case: Angry gamers do something stupid that embarrasses other gamers. It’s a story we hear so often, these stories have become an indistinguishable mess of frustrating idiocy; a wrong not merely anchored by entitlement and immaturity, but damage to the very thing we all love: the creation of beautiful things.

The latest is a “petition” to get Gamespot reviewer Carolyn Petit fired from the site. This time it’s not for the usual reason of a “low” score (which sometimes sees reviewers get death threats, even for films); instead it concerns her mention that the game is misogynistic. Readers claim Petit has been pushing her “agenda” (adore that word) and politics for some time and this is the last straw(man) or something.

Now many will shrug this off. Many will say, “Oh, it’s just immature gamers being immature”, “Oh, this is typical fandom”, etc.

But I think we’ve seen what happens when we leave it alone. We’ve seen Phil Fish abandon creating games because a shock-jock called him and another developer “tosspots”, “[a] whiny asshole” and “wankers”. This wasn’t some typical Internet commenter enjoying no repercussions for leaving snark all over the ‘Net, like an aspiring Midas of animosity: This is a person who has great reach, a popular podcast, and is given extensive coverage on Gametrailers – a major video game website.

Tell me the difference between an annoyed, self-entitled Internet commenter and this podcaster: Reach. That seems to be all.

Between gamers sending death threats and threatening writers’ families, with famous shock jocks calling developers horrible names (and thereby focus on the game maker himself instead of, you know, games), with gamers shrugging and saying “Yeah, I mean I guess s/he is a bit whiny” (what the hell does that have to do with, um, anything!? That smacks too close of victim-blaming), tell me why should anyone make anything beautiful for an audience so ready, on so many levels, to destroy not only the work but the careers and lives of game makers and game critics?

No: game makers and critics aren’t perfect. Who is? But why should a “better” writer, a “better reviewer” and so forth step in? If I was a better writer than those at Gamespot, game reviews would be the last thing I do with my writing talent; just look at the reception writers get! Similarly, if I was a talented developer, why would I use my skills to enter an industry where even glorified pundits can so casually call me names and receive little repercussion for doing so?

This happens everywhere of course: politics, fiction novels, etc. But to focus on games means we focus on these too. (So please avoid reminding me “this happens everywhere” or “it’s not just gamers” : I’m not talking about everywhere or everyone)

Do I need to remind you of these Tweets to a man who made changes to an imaginary gun?

What are these gamers trying to do, exactly?

Firstly, so often it’s not about argument but a defence of something you love. There’s no actual response to whether GTA V is misogynistic (I think, from what I’ve read, it probably will be); instead, it’s fire the woman that dared say a nasty thing about my favourite game (even though I haven’t played it). But why do you need to defend it? No one is taking your games away. One person disliking your best game doesn’t make it any less of your best game.

Second, what’s beautiful about creativity are the debates around the things we create: some love, some hate. Our engagement merits the highest respect since it shows our individuality. It shows we’re persons, capable of rational thought, not merely following the crowd. I can tell you why I hate Star Wars, you can tell me why you love it. You’ll see something you’ve missed from my (justified) hatred and I hope I’d learn something from you. Discussions premised on disagreement – hopefully civil and rational – are often more fruitful than mantra-like adoration from other admirers.

Third, by taking such bizarre, childish and immature tactics, gamers are undermining the future of the things they love. Game writers and makes don’t deserve to feel threatened for doing what they do; all we’d have are worker monkeys, who are better at writing and better at making games than us. How boring that world would be! Why would I want everyone articulating my hatred or love for a thing? Again, what’s wonderful about the things we create is being able to engage with it on different levels. Why would you want someone who’s merely your scribe? I’m not so obsessed with myself that I think everyone will like or want the things I want: What’s more interesting is seeing talented creatives do what they do best: create.

Dictated creativity is not creativity – or at least, it often isn’t. Creativity seems to require freedom. By treating gaming people with disrespect and animosity we’re forgetting that we’re silencing, as effectively as any other form of censorship. I won’t stand for it in a medium I adore and neither should you, for any medium you adore either.

If you want to know why you should care about idiot petitions like this – or to get Ben Affleck removed from Batman films – it’s because we care about the art itself and the people who make beautiful things. Again: this doesn’t mean their choices are perfect. But, by all that is holy, there are better, more engaging ways to point out why someone is wrong than petitions and death-threats. If we have to keep reminding people about this, about how adults deal with things, it’s a good indicator of the kind of species we belong to.

UPDATE: You can read some of the comments and a few other details on Petit’s case at GameZone.

is.gdCrunchbase: is a company (Consumer Web), acquired by Memset.


  1. lorrieanne says

    sent to Gamestop:

    I just heard about the petition to get Carolyn Petit fired for mentioning if games are misogynistic. I appreciate having this information. While the cover alone often has enough information to make this judgement, that’s not always the case. Please thank her for including this relevant and helpful information.

  2. leni says

    I clicked on the link, read the comments, and googled her name to see if she’s getting more of the same elsewhere. Holy crap, the transphobia is overwhelming…

    I clicked the link to the article and read the first 10 comments before giving up on 9 out of 10 humans.

    Yes, the transphobia is a super convincing argument that the game they love is not misogynistic. Aside from playing the game itself -and I’ve seen the previews so I would bet my next paycheck that Petit is totally correct about the misogyny- I can think of no better support for her argument than the shit those idiot, bigot GTA fans are saying to her.

    The petition, however, is gone.

  3. says

    It makes me sick. Then we don’t get it when other media pin violent behavior on gamers. The entitlement badge gamers wear when it comes to their favorite games is something i struggle to understand. We don’t see this in any other form of entertainment. Really, grow the f up gamers.

    Her review has 1 misogynistic reference in it…

  4. F [is for failure to emerge] says

    Stephanie Duchenne’s article was going pretty well until the wrap-up at the end. Kind of dropped the ball there (or had it “edited”).

  5. says

    Yeah, the comments on that site are why I want so much to create an explicitly feminist/progressivist gaming club, so that people who are feminist or allied can play with other people who are, and avoid having to put up with this kind of shit. They’re also why I only play online in private sessions with people I know already.

  6. RP1988 says

    I thought that most of the review was pretty good (if a little spoilerific) however I do have to disagree with her assessment of satire relating to the misogyny.
    She says something along the lines of the game not underlining how insane certain characters views in the game are to show when the writers have been satirical which to me completely misses the point of satire, which is to present a completely outrageous point of view in a completely outrageous way while keeping a straight face about it. To explain when exactly you’re being satirical is like saying “I was being sarcastic by the way”, it disintegrates the entire point of what you were doing. The behaviour of gamers can be disgusting and I hate seeing it because I’m proud of my hobby and the achievements the industry makes!

  7. says

    Oh, thank you very much for posting this! GTA 5 looks Stupendous! Is everyone going to wait to play online until after you finish the story? Or are you going to rip into it and not even bother?