Friday, February 07, 2014

I Am Going To Fight

I think this has been a long time in coming, though I can see hints that this was a decision I was moving towards for months now. I've been writing this post for well over a month as well, and I kept putting off posting it because I've been a little afraid to say this, to come right out and say it rather than have it just sitting in my brain. 

I have resolved that I will no longer turn a blind eye to how certain vocal segments of the gaming community treat women.

What really crystallized this decision for me was what happened to developer Zoe Quinn recently after her free game Depression Quest entered the Steam Greenlight system for a second time and she was attacked mercilessly online and over the phone.

After seeing what happened to Zoe Quinn, I made the decision that me being silent was helping those who bully my fellow geeks. I was bullied as a kid, and let me tell you, I hate that crap. As a community, we all got enough of that stuff when we were kids, and we shouldn't be doing that to other people who share our interests, and we shouldn't be making it easier for the kind of people who do. It is like if at the end of Revenge of the Nerds, the Trilambs, having won control of the Greek council, start acting exactly like the Alpha Betas to everyone, because they are merely doing what had been done to them. If we want a better community, more people have to be willing to fight for it and I think I am finally ready to do that.

The reason this kind of thing is increasingly important to me is that core of male geeks are pushing back very hard on segments of the population that by default have been deemed not geeks... especially women. When I made the decision to just blog about video games, I started follow a lot of prominent women in the industry on Twitter, and I've been hearing a lot more stories and seeing male geeks trying to push women geeks out of our community, so it is becoming more visible to me now. 

I am thinking of all those stories of girls going to conventions and having to vet themselves again and again because they do not conform with this image of what a geek is... and being told that they are fake if they screw up. Imagining myself in that scenario, I would hate that. Or the stories of being sexually harassed again and again and again as both developers and members of the press.

I had known about things like this in the past, but I never really understood how endemic it was.

I would like to say that it is because of my time spent in the early 00's on a couple of web design forums that  had vocal and prominent female members and founders, and it was through those outlets that I ended up playing my first real online multi-player FPS, Unreal Tournament with a group of men and women from that site, where there wasn't any push back on the women because we all knew each other and they were also some of the best players. And then I played a lot of years of single player PS2 games. Then, when I returned to multi-player gaming, it was in Team Fortress 2 on Steam, and I never heard or read anything in any of the games I played that was really problematic... not even rage when you were on a losing team. It was a playing experience that seemed ideal to me, and rather divorced from the horror stories of abuse in games like Battlefield and COD... know, scratch that. The truth is, I've been a coward. This is a problem that has been here all along and I just didn't want to see it or confront it. I was willfully ignorant.

I had an indication in the late 1990's, within my first 2 years of using the internet that it was a problem. And in retelling the story, I had someone who I deeply respect basically tell me the same thing.

Yet, I didn't want to really understand.

When I learned about the site Fat, Ugly or Slutty, I asked my female friends about it, and they recounted stories about things that happened to them that were very much in keeping with the things that were said and posted on that site.

And again, I didn't really want to understand.  

Sure, I was sympathetic and horrified by the stories of dick pictures and awkward, gross and actively hostile messages sent their way... but in the end, I didn't say or do anything to try to make things better, and that is all on me.

If I am going to be honest, when I look back at some of my earlier posts when I was writing about pop culture as a whole, I do notice that young female celebrities got a lot of negative attention from me, a disproportionate amount. At the time, I didn't see the problem with it since they were prominently featured in entertainment news, but in retrospect, it wasn't entirely fair of me to do so. If I am going to be a vocal part of this solution, then I have to acknowledge that I haven't always been entirely without sin when it comes to these matters.

It is so easy to criticize or make fun of a celebrity, since they are likely not going to see what I wrote about them. It feels harder to go after the kind of people who make life hell for others in the gaming community because you are often confronting them directly. I am generally non-confrontational, so even though I am resolving to fight, part of me is still telling me not to.

Back before I started Culture Kills, I used to blog somewhere else in a community that was largely conservative. I am very much the opposite of that. For a time, I was the second most popular blog in that community (and even when I was not, I was still in the top ten), but being a voice that was relatively moderate in amongst a larger group of people who were fighting over politics wore me down. I didn't enjoy fighting. I was good at it, really good, but it left me feeling angry all the time.

And for the most part, when I left there to start this blog, I largely sidestepped the fighting. I was part of a larger group of other pop culture bloggers and in general, we were all pretty polite and cool with each other, even when we disagreed, and I liked that. It is something that made blogging enjoyable for me.

But in fighting against this entrenched, sometimes anonymous group of people, I know I have to be prepared for, at the very least, some unpleasantness and I think I finally am. So I am going to be calling that stuff out here, and if I see it out in the wilds of the internet, I am going to be pushing back against it there too.


SamuraiFrog said...

I found this inspiring. I've had to take a look at myself the last couple of years, too, because I've done a lot of the same things either without realizing it, or without really being honest with myself. You hit on some of the reasons I stopped blogging so much about politics and stopped doing the Throwdown, too; all of that anger just made me more angry, and I finally just hated all the confrontation and putting all that negativity online.

Good on you for standing up for what you believe. I'm glad you're taking a stand here, and I'm proud to call you my friend.

Kristyn said...

I agree with Samurai. I think it's awesome that you're willing to reflect on yourself, but also that you're willing to stand up against this sort of behavior.

I guess, what I don't really understand, is how women in this particular industry are threatening to the men? It's really the only reason for them to be treated like this. But, it seems like there is plenty of room for everyone. It's pretty terrible how they're treating these women, and it's not just this field but in a lot of tech fields.

Sort of reminds of that thing a few years ago when a bunch of guys harassed and treated a woman--Rebecca Watson--abominably over her interest in science. It got so bad that Richard Dawkins took time out to personally put her down for her not wanting to be sexualized and manhandled at conferences--he basically called her issues first world problems and told her to get over it. Frankly, the whole thing was disgusting!

Long story short: these industries have a LONG way to go before there will ever be any sort of equality.

MC said...

SF: And I sort of miss the fact that you don't go political very much anymore, but I totally understand why. It is exhausting, and I know you were getting some nasty comments on those posts too. You definitely took some hits

Kristyn: One statement variation I've read a lot is "Why are you trying to change/wreck games? They are fine the way they are" like there is a way things always were and by commenting, creating or even participating, somehow women are going to make games worse or at the very least different.

I am sort of ashamed of myself that it took the Zoe Quinn incident to mobilize me though... it should have been what happened to Anita Sarkeesian that was the trigger. That was brutal.

I'd also like to thank you both for your support. As I said, I was worried making this statement.

Semaj said...

Sometimes, celebrities do read the things written about them on blogs. Remember that certain DJ that sent me an e-mail, which goes to prove that even famous read the things about them

I can see this is an outgrowth of our discussion over at my blog and I can see your point being an outsider myself and hating seeing our "kind" being picked on. I think there is a branch of fanboys that feel threatened by the female branch of nerds and geeks, and they lash out.

Somewhere around the early 00s extreme gamers started to take over and grow. That was probably the reason I left FFXI because I didn't want to be forced to play with so many assholes. And, I can now see the connection you make here.

Now, the Anita Sarkeesian thing, that's whole other can of worms.

Kristyn Hammond said...

I can see how you would be concerned. I also appreciate you pointing Anita Sarkeesian. I've watched the first video in her Tropes vs. Women series and it's fantastic. I might never have seen this.

MC said...

Semaj: I know that Juliana Hatfield probably have read something I said about her blog so there is some truth in that.

And re: Anita Sarkeesian, I think there is a huge difference between respectfully disagreeing with someone's methods and conclusions and a group of people en masse trying to systematically harass someone and trying to destroy them online and in real life.

I've heard criticisms that she has comments closed for her videos on Youtube... and it is like people who say that are ignoring or minimizing just how much hatred and abuse she was getting and is still continuing to get for deciding to make a series of videos about games. That was the tinder box moment.

Or there are people who say that men get harassed like that too and women are just complaining about it. I mean Chris Brown and Michael Vick didn't get that amount of focused and determined hate for the crappy things they well and truly did.

Can you think of something you could do that would cause that response from a community before you had even started? I can't at all.

Kristyn: I'm glad I was able to connect them to you then.

Semaj said...

Side note: I nearly shit my pants when I read that that famous person read that blog and it stuck in his crawl for years and one day he just decided to e-mail.

Yes, women do seem to take the blunt of the attacks when discussing VG and issues of that manner. I think we're missing a key discussion about her and her stance due to the creepy and dangerous comments and threats toward her. There have been other women that have countered her claims somewhat, but they get lost in the ether due to the attention by the crazies.
And, yes women tend to receive more of the blunt of harsher attacks than their male counterparts. And, it is a real shame. I just think the loud and crazy responses are taking away from the counterpoints to her videos. I think a good measured response to her videos came in the form of Thunderfoot and a few others. Let's just make sure we place the crazy ones in group and measured responses in another one.

You've known me for years. You know I am a moderate and like to see things from a balanced point of view.

((Can you think of something you could do that would cause that response from a community before you had even started? ))

Nope, I can't. I think I know where it came from though.

And, this where I mentioned the extreme nature of gamers of late. I started seeing a change in the behavior of gamers around 2003 or 2005 that I didn't want to be associated with.

I started actually seeing it the gamers when I was playing FFXI and other games. I think this has to do with these Rage Gamers that spend every waking moment playing Vgs and ranting and yelling. As the systems and games started getting more powerful so did the attitudes of the gamers. I think the Anita response is an outgrowth of this rage gamers. Somehow, all these factions of gamers came together to attack her, when they usually attack each other.

I want there to be a discussion about the issues she brings up and counterpoints and less of the attention to the ass-hats.

Now, the bigger issue is how do we change the problems involved with these a-holes that threaten and attack the female crowd?

How do we approach it and make that change?

MC said...

I want discussion and to debate people on the merit of their ideas as well. But the people we are talking about take that off the table every time they show up. They wreck it for EVERYONE.

And I am not saying she should be immune from criticism at all, but in a weird way, because of, as you have appropriately put it, the way those asshats treated her, criticizing her is in a way helping them. And if it is between helping them by expressing any misgivings I may have at the moment about her work and keeping any thoughts I have on that work to myself so those asshats don't have something from me to use to keep wailing on her with, I choose the latter for now.

I hate that that is how that works out now, but it is sort of what happened.

But let's be clear here. My anger stems not from that, but the fact that such incidents happen at all. That a segment of our community acts in this way again and again, and it isn't just kids doing it, it is adults... it's people my age acting that way too, and that fundamentally disgusts me. It is people who should know better.

Which leads us to the question of how to change it?

People like you and me and others have to push back against the kind of behavior we are discussing, we have to make it clear that it is a detriment to the community, that as a group we find it unacceptable behavior and if you want to belong, if you want to be a vocal member of our community, these are the norms we follow.

There are people who are silent like I was, who don't want to fight but hate that these things are happening too, who very well may join us as more people get involved in pushing back against these kinds of things.

Semaj said...

That's one thing we can agree on 100%. We should know better given the ass-kicking and punches and attacks on our appearances. (never got into a fight because I was just a mean and depressed guy. I could write a book about the way I was treated in the black community in middle and high because of the way I talked and the things I liked.

Perhaps, we need to remember those awkward days in order to see we're doing it again this time with us as the bullies.