If you're a gamer you've probably heard about the "Quinngate" scandal, in which indie game developer Zoe Quinn was accused of cheating on her boyfriend with gaming journalists in exchange for positive reviews. The Internet responded to these allegations by bombarding Quinn with insults and threats, because of course they did. It's the Internet. Expecting sanity is futile.
But here's the thing. As a gamer, I've gone from being ignorant about the existence of sex to getting awkward boners from Soul Calibur II to maybe not being a complete idiot when it comes to discussing gender. But I look back over that time span and it seems like gaming culture hasn't made a whole lot of progress. I'm as guilty as anyone else, but I've noticed a few problem areas where us chronically underrepresented straight, white males could stand to improve -- or, at the very least, just recognize.
#4. We're Incapable of Mature Conversations About Gender
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Let's start with a hypothetical scenario. You just read a rumor about a fluffer who may have gotten a leg up on her competition by giving handies to porn directors on the side. As a pornography enthusiast, this concerns you because you want all fluffers to be judged solely on their merits and fluffing skills. You want a level playing field. So you decide to express your opinion online. Which opening would you use? Is it ...
A. While I want to hear all the facts before I rush to a decision, this does raise some potential concerns about the professional ethics of the fucking industry.
B. What an ugly whore. People jeopardized their careers to get a handie from that slut? I'd jeopardize my career to avoid one!
If you picked A, then congratulations! You're more mature than the average gamer. Here's a typical response to Quinngate:
Yep, let's all take personality lessons from this perfectly logical guy.
Charming, right? Here's another.
"Because what's the point of leaking nude pictures if I can't even get off? Worst scandal ever, am I right?"
Now, I know what you're thinking. "Mark, you're just cherry-picking comments from trolls! Plenty of people were polite! Also, I think you're incredibly attractive and I secretly pine for you!"
You're right on the last two. But as much as I hate to say it, I think those comments exemplify, if not a majority, then one incredibly fucking loud minority. Go to any video, article, or forum discussion about Quinn, and in most cases you'll find that the balance weighs heavily toward the dickwads.
Now, look at Options A and B above again. Which one would you rather respond to?
The first one, obviously. No one with an IQ higher than "potato" wants to engage in a conversation with a person who has the attitude in Option B, because they know it would be like talking to a wall that keeps calling you gay. Somehow, it's shocking to the wall that you don't want to engage, and so it's convinced there must be a conspiracy.
There's a baffling disconnect where gamers want to be taken seriously, but they also want to be able to call Quinn (or Anita Sarkeesian, or Brianna Wu, or Jennifer Hepler, or the woman who just chainsawed them in half in Gears of War) insults that the average convicted sex offender would consider over the line. They want to have their asshole cake and eat it too.
Well, guess what? If you can't talk like an adult, then you have to keep sitting at the kids table. But I'll let you in on another secret: it's not hard to talk like a sane adult human. Just ask yourself this simple question: "Would what I'm about to say get me yelled at or punched in my stupid fucking face if I said it in real life?" If your answer is yes, try to find a way to make the same point while using fewer slurs.
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"Wait, so you'd pay more attention to me if I didn't call you a ho-bag?"
I know that to most of you that advice is patronizing, but the comments on this very article will prove that gamers haven't mastered it yet. And that's strange and disappointing, because I can't think of any other hobby that struggles so much with basic human decency. And because these people think "slut" or "whore" are terms they can use and still be taken seriously, it's embarrassing to share an interest with them.
#3. Male Gamers Think They Know What the Real Problem Is
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The people who were calling Quinn an ugly slut claim they were doing it only because they care about the ethics of game journalism, a strategy reminiscent of when David Frost called Richard Nixon a gigantic cockgobbler.
"Thank you for joining me, former President Fag! Lolololololol!"
In their minds, an obscure indie developer most people haven't heard of supposedly getting a single positive review for a game most people will never play is a scandal that should be shaking the very foundations of gaming journalism. There's only one reason major gaming sites decided to either ignore the story or defend Quinn instead of blowing this affair wide open, and that reason is conspiracy.
I like a good conspiracy as much as the next guy who knows 9/11 was faked in order to increase Call of Duty sales, but maybe, just maybe, the fact that there's a seemingly endemic problem of harassment in gaming is the bigger story here. Ignoring the fact that it isn't a journalist's job to commit slander based on hearsay, the two big questions from Quinngate, a phrase that makes me cringe more every time I'm forced to type it, are: "Was an ethical breach committed?" and "Is Quinn a bad girlfriend?"
The answers are "no" and "I don't know. Who the fuck cares about her private life?" respectively. There, I've just put the entire scandal to rest. I don't know how Pulitzers are awarded, but if you need my address to mail me the Pulitzer ... Cup, or whatever, please feel free to contact me.
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"Thank you for awarding me this honey-glazed ham for excellence in the field of journalism."
The problem is that guys who have never faced discrimination because of their hobby or profession really do believe that this obscure ethical non-breach is the bigger issue. After all, it's a bigger issue to them. And I understand where they're coming from, because as a white, straight, Adonis I have never faced insults because of my interests, which leaves me free to focus my time and effort on other important issues, like when the fuck are we getting a new TIE Fighter game already?
But for women and men who are less selfish than I am, the continued harassment of women is obviously a bigger concern than an indie gaming sex "scandal." And there's another weird logical disconnect, because the same people who harassed Quinn think they're helping women.
That's right, ladies, the people who use phrases like "fellating their queen feminists" are standing up for your rights (unless it's your right to have sex). Doesn't that put you at ease?
So they recognize that gamers have a problem with gender -- they just can't understand how they're contributing to it or why anyone wants to talk about it instead of their problems. Again, you can understand where they're coming from, because when you're not the target of threats it's easy to dismiss them as inconsequential. Luckily, there's this thing called "empathy" that can overcome that.
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"Wait a minute ... what if the women I'm threatening to rape have feelings?"
A minority of loud, male, and probably young gamers want to dictate what the rest of the gaming community talks about, because in their minds they know what's important and best for everyone. But by protesting one "problem" in the dumbest way imaginable, they reminded everyone of a much, much bigger problem, yet they're baffled as to why everyone wants to talk about the latter instead of what's important to them as white dudes.
I'm sorry, that's a simplification. Some of them are probably Asian.