Gamergate and women

From what I understand, Gamergate began as a brouhaha about journalistic integrity in the game industry (a longstanding oxymoron), then morphed into game nerds harassing women in ways they didn’t harass any of the men involved. Is that about the sum of it?

I don’t care much about the game industry or its media; if they have a -gate of some sort, well, whatever. The dominance of Steam, the decisions of console makers and developers, and perhaps my own focus on other interests make me less of a gamer now than I used to be. But I care a great deal about the subject of how women cannot participate in situations without experiencing bullying and harassment. I’m not joking: if I were female, by now I am pretty sure I would have completely lost it. I don’t know how the women keep it together. (I can think of a dozen rejoinders to that. “Some don’t.” “Why do you think we do things and go places men shy away from? It gets rid of you for a while!” “Go to a women’s prison–you’ll see the ones who lost it.” “You’re asking it wrong, buster. Why is it your gender can’t learn to woman up?” And more.)

When we talk about game nerds sending death threats to women, publishing their contact information, and treating the women in ways they would not be treating a male, I suspect they come from a demographic long and often mocked: socially awkward, generally unathletic, mostly gifted males who in years past gathered for D&D, but who now gather–only virtually–in online gaming environments. This accounts for a percentage of those young males who play games, though I do not know how large the percentage is. Since these young males are not in any socially protected group, it is socially acceptable to mock them on principle without limit. It is supposed that most are gifted, but if they are, a good percentage are not all that intelligent. If they were, they would not go Full Jackass at the very hint of a female presence.

That’s why you can’t get boned, boys: because you have never taken time to develop the skills that would enable you to relate to women. You can’t ask to be ‘accepted as you are’ if ‘as you are’ is repellent. Do you like being treated like a bizarre novelty? No? Women might tell you ‘welcome to the club.’ They don’t like it either, so they tend to shy away. When they reject you, they are not being evil oppressors. And I submit that the singling-out of women in this situation tells us a lot about what’s going on inside.

The women aren’t your oppressors. They are not what inspires women to react to you as if you were a live skunk. If you have an oppressor, it is yourself.

I don’t especially care about the Gamergate brouhaha in and of itself, but when I hear about intimidation, even death threats, that will get my attention. If you’re a gamer and you are completely opposed to that, good. If you made excuses for it, or thought it was awesome, you represent the problem.

It is your choice to build social graces. It is your choice to use your intellect to adapt. It is your choice to learn what is important to other people, what they will tolerate, what they will not. It is your choice to stop being a jackass. It is your choice to decide that females are fellow human beings, who look and generally think a little differently, but deserve decent and polite treatment.

If you choose instead to be a jerk, then when the women edge away from you, and your porn dependency advances, fault yourself. Real women do not and will not behave like your porn. That’s why it’s fantasy, just as games are fantasy. And don’t try to tell me your porn consumption isn’t getting toward a dependency level, either.

However, there is a way out of your solitary world of customized self-gratification. It’s a tough level to beat, because it takes time and involves mistakes. You will reload it again and again, but it can be beaten. I am 51, I credit gaming with saving my sanity and giving me much of my teen and young adult social life, and I am happily married to a woman I would not trade for all your porno women. My wife does not mind if I game. In fact, she believes that nerds make better lovers because we try harder.

(Yes, I am going to keep calling you ‘game nerds.’ I was a game nerd back when that meant playing Asteroids for two hours at a pop, kids, or D&D until 5 AM. Unless you are over 35, you were not yet whelped at that time. I have earned my right to call you what I call myself.)

The catch is that not enough game nerds do try harder, because many become caught in the spiral of social awkwardness. It’s hard to break out of social awkwardness. I know how hard it was for me. It involves mistakes, embarrassment, stepping outside your comfort zone. It does not provide immediate gratification. The early reactions make you just want to hole up again, back in the comfort zone of the game environment, assuming an identity other than your own. The game is imaginary, but its comfort zone is not. From the comfort zone, you can vent your humiliation by behaving however you like. It is where you find your own kind, where you are not abnormal.

The way out involves self-honest assessment of what went wrong this time. Women are not vending machines, where if you dispense the correct change, they will produce a predictable result. They are people, who differ and vary, and there is no perfect formula that will always inspire them to like you. If you view it as finding the key to beating a level, you will fail. Most of the time, when I see a young man who reminds me of me in my teens, he’s complaining that he did X and Y and it didn’t work. That’s the vending machine approach. It is never that simple. If you understand that you must learn what you did wrong, and that it is not the others who are bad and mean, then you’re equipped to use your considerable smarts to change who you are. Of course, then you will learn something else you did wrong, and keep addressing the somethings wrong until you can’t come up with much, as demonstrated by the fact that you’re being invited back to places.

Overcoming social awkwardness is like getting bleu cheese dressing out of a bottle. At first, it just hangs there. Then a little bit comes out. Then too much. Then a steady, encouraging flow. Then you are at the phase where you know there’s a lot stuck to the walls of the bottle, but if you turn it upside down and wait, when you open it, there’ll be a mess.  At some point, you accept that there’s always some dressing left into which you will never dip Albertson’s deli spicy chicken strips.

“But I want to be accepted for what I am! How is that wrong?”

If ‘what you are’ is a jackass, it’s wrong, because it is unreasonable to present society with the demand: “Love me! I’m a jackass!” No matter what your mother told you growing up, you aren’t automatically wonderful just for being you. She was biased, and the prevailing culture and her own emotional needs conditioned her to say that to you. If you think it through, for her to say otherwise would have been to say that one of her most important life works was faulty, and she wasn’t and isn’t going to do that. You might appreciate her, but she’s not objective. She almost can’t be. Her connection with you is far too intimate for that.

Being wonderful takes no work at all for some people. They have it pretty good, and they have a hard time understanding why others don’t just automatically do the same. For social clods, such as myself, trying to be wonderful is a work in progress toward a theoretical goal. If you turtle, and quit trying, your skills atrophy, just as it takes time to get back into a game if you don’t play it for a while.

My father was like me, but before there were games to nerd about. So he became an engineer, then a radio control model nerd. His social life occurred only on his own terms with fellow R/C nerds. Everywhere else, he stopped trying. And when he found himself alone, having alienated his children and his wife, he went into serious but not dangerous surgery, seized up, and died. I’m pretty sure it was his final flight from social awkwardness. I decided to fight against social awkwardness because I didn’t want to die alone at 54.

Your social life does not have to suck. Plenty of game nerds are like me. They have good relationships, work and play with women just fine, and do not engage in harassment. The lonely nerd stereotype only goes so far. Being a lonely nerd is a personal choice. Being a harasser also is.

So what will it take?

  • Resist the impulse to become an idiot at the very hint of a female presence. They aren’t that special. There are three billion of them on Earth. They aren’t ivory-billed woodpeckers, and very few are pop stars or supermodels. They aren’t novelties. They’re all over the place. (They even, to my consternation, show up in traditional barber shops.)
  • Understand that feminine companionship is not a divine right. It is earned on personal merit. Every time you become insulting or harassing, you prove that you deserve only the love of your Fleshlight.
  • Accept that much feminine companionship is not romantic or sexual, and value it regardless of love or sex. If you cannot be a woman’s friend, I fail to see how you can be her lover.
  • Shut up and learn to listen. Not just hear and react, but listen and consider.
  • Try empathy, which is not the game nerd’s natural strength. For some of you, I probably need to define it. Empathy is when you take enough time to see the world through others’ eyes, and imagine how it feels to them, and give a damn. If you will not see the world through her eyes, how are you entitled to expect her to see it through yours?
  • If you behave in repulsive ways, break the habit. If you have a really irritating voice, tone it down. If you think it’s funny to fart a lot, or your belches set off seismometers, stop. No, ‘who you are’ is not worthy of acceptance if you choose to be repulsive. Choose not to be repulsive.
  • Sending dick pics, or hitting up random females online with sexual innuendoes, makes you a loser. It never works. Almost no women want that. And of those who might appear to, often they are just retaliating by letting you make a bigger fool of yourself.
  • Examine your social behavior, especially the moments where you lose people. Fault yourself, not them.

You are not going to fit into every social environment. I have learned to tell when someone has simply decided s/he doesn’t like me, and I’m fine with respecting that choice. (Maybe I’m not too fond of him or her either.) I would be outright disaster at a DC cocktail party, for example, and I don’t care to change that. I was never cut out for a fraternity. In fact, I am not even cut out for D&D groups, and I can live with that. It is not the fault of any of those environments that I do not fit into them. I chose not to bother, and I am at peace with it. I can just about hold it together long enough to get through a typical social gathering without slipping into my opinionated, emotion-sleeved, long-winded, audience-losing self. And by going to enough social gatherings, I developed the mental muscle memory to avoid making others uncomfortable by accident.

It takes effort, but it works. My wife is not my only female friend. I may have more female than male friends. Wouldn’t that be a nice situation? That is where this leads, if you choose it.

The Gamergate situation soon stopped being about the original issue, as I see it, and became about the rejected frustration and rage of loneliness. If you are a lonely gamer, you choose to be. And if you are a harasser, you are choosing to be evil simply because you can get away with it.

That’s like a bunch of smug jocks giving you a Rear Admiral and flushing your head down the toilet because they can get away with it. The answer to bullying is not to find someone else you can bully in turn. The answer to bullying is to kick the shit out of the bully (I don’t believe in turning the other cheek), and then empathize with other victims, and do not become a victimizer. When you harass in turn, you have become a victimizer. And if you are not careful, the women may kick the shit out of you.

If you harass them, I hope they give you a few kicks on my behalf. I keep encouraging them to. But I’d rather see you abandon harassment and learn to function like the kind of man that women want as a friend.

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14 thoughts on “Gamergate and women”

  1. It’s sad that the focus has changed to the harassment that women have recieved because the original issue is a valid one and people should be concerned. Fortunately, many of the sites involved have changed their policies regarding such conflict of interest relationships. I agree that the shit storm of threats and such is disgusting but then so was the response to the original complaints and the threats to anyone who refused to toe the line, like Biggie and MundaneMatt and so on. The trolls who took to harassment are individual idiots who can’t do much else, but they don’t represent gamers or the attitudes of those who are reporting on this issue. The people who do are those we back and they have a responsibility to be honest and open and that is not how it has been and when found out they closed ranks, insulted their audience and threatened everyone they could into compliance, everyone who disagrees is a misogynist. This should be a concern to everyone.

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    1. Thanks for your input. It may be a matter of what is most important on the greater scale, in one’s opinion. I know only my own: that the integrity or lack thereof of gaming media are minor on the national scale of things. The way women come in for disproportionate harassment extends far beyond this, and in this case, the ‘individual idiots’ (who may not be such a small minority, based on my experience) are presenting a symptom of a problem whose importance dwarfs that of all games ever designed. At least, as I see it.

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      1. I agree that it’s a very important issue, but it should be an issue by itself, as women (and men, too) can be subject to such abuse if you kill their player in a game. Obviously, when it becomes a more directed campaign at a target in particular then regardless of topic it should be highlighted and tackled. As a precentage of a population group it’s hard to say how many behave this way, I’m unaware of any studies, but as there are millions of gamers, it is a minority.
        On the scale of things, it does dwarf a few people scratching each others backs on a few websites, but that depends on how important gaming is to some people. That doesn’t in any way excuse the reactionary behaviour of trolls, just pointing out that for some people gaming is a very important part of their lives which is why the original issue (not talking about the harassers) is important to them.

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      2. It’s the same lens through which one might view, say, college football, or any sport for that matter. For some people, college football is life and death stuff. To those to whom it means nothing, maybe it matters only in terms of economic footprint and traffic jams on Saturdays. But as a client of mine says, perspective is everything. As important as college football might be to me, when it comes to players who commit domestic and/or sexual violence, the game and the team (including mine, if need be) just took a back seat because we’ve now uncorked a greater issue. That is how this looks to me, and it goes beyond gaming and into online interaction in all forms–anyplace where the harasser can hide behind electronics.

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      3. Agreed. The team itself however shouldn’t be automatically included with the act of domestic abuse, which is what is happening here. They still exist as separate entities. After all, as you say, regardless of the subject women will be subject to such abuse. At this stage anyone who speaks about the journalist issue is thrown in with the rest.

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      4. And when that happens, the team and institution and fans have to make some choices. Sometimes they choose badly (Penn State is an example). And if those for whom it is still more about the journalism factor are vocal in condemning harassment, that’s a great sign; more the merrier. But I am going based upon the personality types I have seen in my own experience, and in my opinion, there are a few of the worst apples acting on what a lot of other bad apples are thinking. I have seen the personality type too often in gaming environments to doubt it (and no, it wasn’t better in the old days; all that’s changed is that now harassment is easier). I myself am not throwing anyone in with the bad apples who doesn’t qualify as I have defined a harasser, but the more decent men who come out and tell the bad apples where to head in, the better I’ll feel about it. Just as, if someone on my favorite football team behaved like that, I don’t care if he’s up for the Heisman. If he is guilty, throw him clear out of school and I’ll volunteer to slam the door behind him. And if my school hedges, they can expect to hear about it from me.

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  2. Re: “”From what I understand, Gamergate began as a brouhaha about journalistic integrity in the game industry (a longstanding oxymoron), then morphed into game nerds harassing women in ways they didn’t harass any of the men involved. Is that about the sum of it?”

    Not really. The “journalistic integrity” thing was more of an afterthought to rationalize the harassment. So, even worse.

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    1. PhaedraB, do you have a link that would support that? Not that I doubt you, but so that I can read up on the perspective. I had thought it had all begun with a spat over journalistic suborning, and that women involved in the situation ended up singled out for harassment of a sort that did not happen to the men involved.

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      1. Well, it began when Zoe Quinns ex published a long post about their relationship where he details information about her relationships with people in the industry. Many people chimed in about it because of the conflict of interest issues. Others because the way she behaved was contradictory to some of the feminist positions she had taken or made (such as cheating being a violation of consent). Others just wanted to give her abuse.

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      2. Of course, personal harassment and death threats are out of bounds regardless of gender, but I’m under the distinct impression that what Quinn got was well out of proportion to what a man would have. Would you concur? The conflict of interest…that takes me back to Usenet and c.s.i.p.g.s, Critical Bill, the Derek Smart brouhahas, and how the game magazines were always being accused of padding ratings. Sorry, memory lane stuff.

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