Author’s Note: Due to the escalation and dramatics surrounding this issue, all references and quotes have been kept completely anonymous. I don’t want to be the reason for someone else’s suffering if it isn’t something I set out to do in the first place.
While I always do my best to try and represent the common gamer to all of you, I do realize that I am an industry enthusiast and freelance journalist for the industry and can’t really be seen that way, sometimes, so with an issue that’s as explosive as #GamerGate that seems to demand attention from the gaming community at large and the mainstream media, I figured that the best way was to step aside and let the actual gaming community speak up. Through a questionnaire I made available in a few local community groups and locations throughout social media, I have come to one general conclusion: gamers seriously don’t seem to know or care about #GamerGate and are just annoyed by the dramatics it creates. Most have a seriously positive opinion of both the direction gaming, as an industry, is going in and can really appreciate the increasing quality of the roles of women in the industry and in the games they play. It would seem that things aren’t nearly as bad as a lot of people would make it out to be; why would you take my word for it, though? Let’s look at what the gaming community had to say about a few things…
What Gamers Really Think About #GamerGate
Contrary to what people who support or oppose #GamerGate would have you believe, it would appear that it’s been blown way out of proportion and taken seriously by way too many people. When asking about this in the local gaming community a large number of people gave me, more or less, the same reaction: a shrug of the shoulders. Most people agree that there is a problem within the industry when it comes to oppression and most of it, while offensive, annoying, and abusive, can also be readily ignored and avoided. While it would seem that while gaming has become a pop culture mainstay it is doubtful that it has been completely embraced and accepted as a form of entertainment: a lot of the social stigmatization that came with being a gamer still carries forward today, even among those who call themselves gamer, causing segregation and separation within the greater community. I feel that this is more of that very same stuff: gaming journalism has always been rife with payouts, bribes, and bias, whereas the industry – as well as Western society as a whole – is kind of a breeding pit for misogyny as both sides of that fight feed that fire until it got out of control and between the two there’s little sight of what makes gaming what it is and it serves only to cause further segregation within the community.
With this in mind, a lot of gamers feel that if they’re concentrating on gaming and enjoying playing and talking about video games, they have little time and need to discuss these matters that have, over time, lost sight of gaming as a whole. These are some of the things the local gaming community had to say in response to questions regarding #GamerGate:
When you hear about #GamerGate, does anything come to mind? If so, what?
“Nothing comes to mind considering I’ve never heard of it until asked this.”
“To be honest, it all seems like rubbish to me, I’m not saying I’m for the wrongful treatment of females in games, but, to be honest, at the end of the day, people are going to be who they are, some people like to get people mad, that’s just the way they are. Forget em and move on.”
“I am not familiar with what this is, so nothing comes to mind.”
“I haven’t closely followed #GamerGate but most of my thoughts go to the thing being a giant mess. I think two very important issues (journalistic integrity and gender issues) are getting mixed together with the worst of the both coming out. Women in gaming are getting trod upon and the people who actually care about journalistic integrity and couldn’t care less about the gender of the people involved are getting thrown under a bus. Neither issue is getting actually looked at because drama queens and dudebros are getting all the airtime.”
“Annoyance, if I’m honest. This whole thing has gotten out of hand. Yes it’s good that female roles in games, movies and such are becoming more than a stereotype, but some people take it way too far. Also some don’t even believe there’s anything wrong, and that if females see a problem, then they should change their entire situation instead of
anyone else doing something about it.”
How do you feel when you hear the names Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn?
“I feel as if it’s just a bunch of drama, and I’ll just leave it at that.”
“I don’t know enough on the subject to give a proper answer to this so I’ll leave it at this.”
“I am not familiar with these names.”
“For Anita the main feeling is that just because someone doesn’t like her opinions doesn’t mean they get to threaten her life. I get the feeling that a lot of the abuse hurled at her has to do with her position as a feminist who happens to be talking about games.
For Zoe, I’m not really sure why her thing got as big as it did. So she slept with someone? I get the feeling if it was a male dev and a female journalist we wouldn’t even have heard about it. I would imagine there are lots of people in the industry hooking up with each other, as people tend to have a fair bit in common with the people they work with. As he didn’t even review her game, and it’s pretty well known that the game, while unique, kinda sucks I really don’t see how this alleged plot to use her body for reviews even worked.”
If that didn’t sate you, let’s deconstruct each side’s issues, seeing as the debate started with rather valid concerns to begin with. I continued questioning some of these folks regarding the base issues of either side of the discussion to see how people felt about it:
Do you believe that gender roles are alleviating in the gaming industry and in the games you play? Do you find that the roles are becoming more realistic in their portrayal of non-fictional species and gender lines?
“I’ve never really thought about it, but, I assume that they will, not much i have to say about this.”
“It’s improving yes but there are definitely still plenty of issues such as the gaming industry being afraid to put female protagonists on the front of a boxart because it will lower sales. While some have strayed away from the possible threat (Irrational Games – Bioshock Infinite) others have gone against the tide and proven the myth wrong (Naughty Dog – The Last of Us).”
“In the gaming industry itself, I believe gender roles will always be regarded in different ways as, fact of the matter is, women are in the minority. I don’t feel they should be treated any differently than anybody else who enjoys and/or works with this medium and welcome more with open arms.
From what I have seen in games, certain characters are portrayed tremendously. Some almost feel like bits of films now and getting a real sense of who characters are has never been more profound.”
“They are getting better and seem to now be on par with books and film (which also have their problems). We now have some kick ass female characters (I personally named one of my daughters after one) With most games you have at least the choice of one female playable character or for a game where you don’t select a character there is at least one important female main character. There is still a ratio issue (I expect for games that depict something close to our reality to have a 50/50 split like we have in real life. Games with an actual explainable reason get a pass, like war games or a plot that explains why all the women/men are gone.) and women typically are portrayed as young and pretty whereas men are portrayed more diversely.”
“I do believe that the roles are starting to become more even, and that recently we’ve had multiple strong female leads. However that doesn’t mean that the progress should stop. I think that developers/writers should consider what kind of character would be best for the role, and not that a woman ‘would never be in this spot.’ That being said, I would love to see a reverse Zelda game – Prince Link and his hero, Zelda.”
“Gender roles are beginning to become more defined. A female perspective is finally becoming more accepted or at least visible in the gaming community. I believe that certain tropes, such as the damsel in distress, or main love interest, will always have a place. However, that seems to be more towards bad writing than any sort of actual issue.”
How do you feel about online or published reviews of games? Do you base your opinion or willingness to purchase based on them?
“Not really, I prefer to know as little as possible about the game before I pick it up, I don’t want to go in knowing what to expect, that sort of makes it kinda boring.”
“I look to online reviews for an idea of what I’m getting myself into and nothing more. Metacritic is my go-to place considering it has many reviews I can overlook.”
“For the most part I enjoy reading reviews. You get to know the writing styles of certain publications, but overall I like taking in different perspectives on one particular game. I feel that to many, the score a game receives is the only factor in a review, but I understand they are generally used as a means of drawing in more of an audience. It seems a lot of people think all video game journalism is, is opinion and/or reviews. However I think these are some of the more minor aspects, whereas informing is among of the more important ones, if not the most important.”
“I rely on trailers, game play footage and demos to make my gaming purchases. I typically borrow a title from friends and family before buying unless it’s a sequel.”
“Depends on the source. If it’s a site dedicated to game reviews and recommendations, then I feel pretty poorly about it. I tend to stay away from those sites since some people tend to follow what’s said like blind sheep into the slaughter. They’d buy a game that’s complete shit if it had a golden review on their favourite review site. Not to
mention that companies or developers have bought out an opinion on multiple occasions. So I never know if the opinion is legit, or swayed by a pay cheque. However, if the reviews are on sites that sell the game (Amazon, Best Buy, EB Games/Gamestop, etc); those are the ones I actually pay attention to. Those reviews are simply customers that bought the game and shared their opinion. No company involvement, no employment worry, just a consumer with a yay or nay about their purchase.”
“I believe that games that are unbiasedly and freely reviewed usually hold the most truth. I don’t believe in motivating gamers into making misinformed choices, especially when the whole industry relies on gamers.”
When you cast all this drama aside it would seem those that I spoke to did not lose sight of their love for gaming as a whole and shared the same general sincerity in wanting this whole thing done with so that way things could go to where they were before it started. Along with questions regarding the #GamerGate situation, I asked some general gaming questions to see if things really changed as a result. I can say with a smile on my face that cannot be measured with any kind of ruler that gaming is still very much a positive thing among those, at the very least, in my local gaming community:
What does gaming mean to you; like when you hear the word, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Expand on that a little.
“Gaming to me is much like enjoying any other art form. Whether it’s music or movies, video games are just an evolution of entertainment. Gaming to me is being immersed in a fictional world where you can actually experience it much like the character would.”
“When I hear the word gaming, or game, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a good time. Adventure, action, maybe puzzles, depends on what I’m planning to play. To me, gaming is a means of an escape. It’s a way to break away from reality, to pass the time, or have a fun night with friends.”
“Gaming primarily means playing video games to me. Then it expands to tabletop and board games. I think about the fun I typically have gaming (if it isn’t fun then why bother? I have precious little free time.) Gaming is also a social thing for me so I think about hanging out with friends and family, eating junk food, hanging out and depending on how many players a given game can support either playing along or knitting while someone else plays. (For instance, I haven’t really played Starcraft, but I sure as heck ran over to watch every cut scene, especially in Starcraft 2. Although with the way Heart of the Swarm ended I’m not sure if I want to watch the third instalment.)”
“Gaming means the world to me. I never had any hobbies as a kid, so I was always drawn to video games. I’ve grown up with them, learned from them, and am devoting my career to them. The passion has always been there.
When I hear gaming, the first thing that comes to mind is groups of people coming together to share this art, whether it be in online sessions, conventions or just having a friend or two in your living room.”
“Gaming is a past-time, a hobby, something that you do to enjoy yourself and perhaps discuss with others who share a similar passion.”
“A place where I’m able to have fun, see all sorts of exciting things, meet new people, form relationships with those people, challenges, competition, There’s a lot that can be done in gaming, it almost can feel like a second life if you’re deeply involved.”
How do you feel about the gaming community as a whole? Do you participate in your local gaming community? If so, how do you feel about the local gaming community?
“As a whole, I love it, it’s a lot of fun to see people having a great time and doing what they love, playing games. But as far as the local community, that’s even better to me, I’m in a group on facebook, it’s always nice to see what people are up to, who’s playin’ what.”
“It’s like any other community except it involves game. It’s filled with equal parts negative (ragers, immature folks) and positive people. I’ve never really gotten too involved in the Windsor scene since I’ve never really gone to the University but it’s always been tempting. Aside from moderate League of Legends Windsor Area and Gamers of Windsor I don’t involve myself in much of the community but for the most part we seem mature.”
“I am a relatively new resident of Windsor, but in the two months I have been here I’ve really gotten to like the gaming community here. I participate in discussions with lots of people at school and online (a la the Gamers of Windsor, ON group). Seeing people with a 3DS, Vita, or any mobile device with games always gives me hope for the industry in the future. A few weeks back a man approached me while on the bus and asked if I wanted to battle in Super Smash Bros. with him. This kind of stuff makes me proud to be a fan of video games.”
“I live in the middle of nowhere so I don’t really have a local gaming community. We have a local nerd community (the hub is a comic book store, that also sells video games and tabletop games.) I’m welcome at the local Magic night and I’ve never had a problem brining my daughters to the store. (The eldest is a customer too! It’s really cute to see her bring her comic to the counter.)”
“I currently don’t, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to. I shop at local used game stores, but that’s the extent of my involvement. I’d like to participate in community events, like tournaments or game nights. Though I have my own things that stop that. Any way, from what I can tell the local gaming community is pretty decent, and our area has plenty of gaming related shops and such.”
“Yes I do participate. Local gaming communities are slowly becoming obsolete with the advent of internet gaming and groups. Local hobby shops still hold strong although they live or die based on where they are or how diverse the nerd community surrounding it is.”
How do you feel about the gaming community as a whole?
“Lol gg easy. No but seriously, gaming community is much like an online one; where anonymity allows users to do or say anything without much consequence. The community is nurturing in certain aspects, helping those with social/mental conditions reach out to similar comrades.”
“The gaming community has it’s ups and downs, but what group doesn’t? This one in specific has vast extremes, and it all depends on which area you’re diving into. There’s some that will ridicule and trash talk anyone to make themselves feel better, and go around boasting about their skill. Then the second they’re bested, they’re back to
insulting the other player or blaming things/people that aren’t at fault. However I like to stay within the kind side of the community; and this side has done so much good. I’m talking about the people that do charity streams, raise money, really care about the fans or supporters. The gems are out there, you just have to avoid the thorns.”
There are some really fleshed out answers here and this has really made me happy because I had built this up in my head as I’d gotten involved and done research. This gives me a lot of hope for the industry and for the fanbase as a whole.
What do you think? Do you think the industry will move on the same way it always has after this has all passed?