The following is an opinion piece penned after multiple bomb threats shut down a Miami based discussion on ethics in video game journalism, also known by the shorthand- GamerGate. The following piece does not necessarily reflect the views of Rise News.
By Thomas Fairfield
Describing the values shared by much of the GamerGate movement, and detailing those points on which they do and don’t disagree with the opposition, is a worthy but daunting process; and within a short opinion piece, perhaps an impossible one.
So many people have brought in so many axes to grind (on both sides), that arriving at a list of “core” tenets in one document would at least require peer review and survey. However, I can detail a large personal stake here.
I am a nerd. More specifically, I have Asperger’s Syndrome. It is classified as a “mild” or “high-functioning” branch of the Autism Spectrum, but at a glance it’s often mistaken for more debilitating disorders.
It led to immense bullying at school, where I was called things like “retard” and “faggot” (Bigots saw homosexuality as a disorder); among other sorts of insults. I was derided as babyish because I still loved Nintendo while others were “growing out of it”, and seen as frighteningly psychotic because I laughed at certain shows that others didn’t.
Even faculty who wanted to help me often didn’t understand me, and I got stuck in Special Education classes with the genuinely mentally-challenged or even insane; such as in third grade, where I got stuck with a child who gleefully talked about killing.
Even as an adult, I have suffered; my voice and mannerisms unnerve people who don’t understand Asperger’s, my wallet ails from the horrendous personality bias entailed in the hiring processes of many major companies, and I am humiliated by the continued inability of even caring persons to assume by default I’m a functional being.
After so much discomfort and ignorance, I figured that the political left would offer me a way out; who better to fight business corruption and add one more unprivileged minority to their liberation record? I was wrong. Almost a year ago now, leftist journalists collectively smeared nerds, and GamerGate roared to life.
While I would not become aware of this until a few months later, many others, such as Mytheos Holt and Liz Finnegan, immediately noticed familiar anti-autistic/anti-introvert misassumptions in these zealous calls ironically against perceived bigotry, and when I finally looked into GamerGate I found plenty of common ground.
Mind you- GamerGate is not simply an autistic issue, and as stated, journalists are just the latest tip of a larger prejudiced iceberg, but GamerGate’s fight is my fight, because a new intolerance has seized mainstream society; an intolerance not of inherited outward features, but of mindsets, which drives activists to mass-shame people who’ve said—or sometimes, worn-trivial things that even debatably smack of discredited old ideas.
With egalitarianism and tolerance reconfigured as the new social axiom, they have also become the new excuse to condemn the socially-inept, who can get labelled reactionaries or even potential criminals for as little as their desires to ogle beautiful fictional women, cosplay as game characters or play war-games with mock-aggressive buddies.
As has happened for literally centuries, the as-yet unproven suggestion that pleasure-centric culture makes people sinful has been dredged up once more, and this time it is aimed at those of us who by nature are introverted and prefer activities set in The Great Indoors.
Still, maybe it’s not just this time that Autism and the like were involved; I can’t help but wonder how many past victims who got labeled as “witches”, “demons” and the like might’ve just had mental conditions unrecognized as such at the time. The point is that, when it is socially-acceptable, or even desirable, to shame thoughts in the name of social harmony (and adjusted for different values, it has been at many points in throughout history), people whose thought-patterns are obviously “off”, and whose desires unique and pronounced, become tempting targets; much as they have been many times before.
For myself and many others, all of this “gamer”-bashing is just the same “Ew; you like X terrible thing?! You must be Y terrible thing!” dreck of the sort we’ve suffered at many points in our lives. That it is painted in the trendy new language of progressivism matters little, and I’ve yet to hear GamerGate’s feminist opponents remark on the irony that their supposed war against the patriarchy is in practice attacking the sorts of men who’ve suffered themselves for not living up to the macho ideal.
Yet what is different now (besides that this time it’s the Left leading the old “pleasure is sinful” charge), and for the first time, is we’re fighting back and hard. We no longer have no response when any given situation’s de-facto bullies ask “You and what army?” We now have an army, and it is GamerGate.
It is not composed solely of autistic people, and left-wing and right-wing people rub shoulders in it; their actual thoughts may differ drastically, but they all (mostly) work together because almost anyone who has been thought-shamed for any reason can now fall in and march alongside others who at least agree with them that rampant thought-shaming stinks, at a time when many in the mainstream press, including some self-proclaimed tolerance advocates, remain in favor of it on some level.
If such people are to continue this sort of knee-jerk-driven character assassinations, without allowing the characters in question a chance to represent or debate their ideals on neutral territory (not to mention stifling said representation and debate with bomb threats), they’re just proving correct GamerGate’s perception of them as a new breed of moral authoritarians, which is already becoming bad PR.
Meanwhile, GamerGate’s momentum just keeps building. While contrary to the accusations, there is no canonized GamerGate ideology that justifies the use of intimidation tactics, we don’t shy away from signal boosting vile behavior on the record, and it is having an effect.
The diversity and tolerance progressives already won are here to stay, and good for them, but for the first time in decades, it looks like autism-bashing is on its way out, and if things keep going the way they are, progressives will look back and bemoan that, even while they demonized it, GamerGate stole this tolerance victory from them.
Have an opinion about GamerGate? Would you like to write about it? Then read this.
Photo Credit: Luke Hayfield/Flickr (CC By 2.0)