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.
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.
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...
...you 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.