Nosy Gamer is a blogger I’ve followed since he began writing posts about EVE Online back when I was actively playing that game. He’s had some seminal pieces, with his analysis of Real Money Trading being especially outstanding. He’s rightly earned a reputation for doing his research, getting his facts straight and presenting, what we called at my alma mater, scholarly works.
So it was with a great deal of sadness I read his latest post Gamergate: Tempest in a Teapot. It’s not that I disagree with everything he writes. I seldom do, and everyone is entitled their opinion. I know I spout mine around here often enough to be annoying. No, what disappoints me most in his post is the admission he ignores certain opinions because those sources don’t conform to his ideal of what game journalism should be. And what’s worse, he feels he is completely right to do so.
“Sites like Gamasutra, Polygon, and Kotaku always seemed sketchy to me, so I’m glad to see my judgement vindicated.”
I suppose it’s his right to do as he wishes. Gods know there are some political sites I will go out of my way to avoid. But that’s not because I disagree with them, or even feel their research is lacking. It’s because they are filled with hate and vitriol. So long as sites I disagree with avoid personalizing the debate, I read what they have to say. As a fully vested member of human society, I have an obligation to learn all sides to a story – not just the one with which I personally agree. I feel it is a civic duty to understand not only your reasoning, but also the opposition’s reasoning.
That goes for any community I belong to, not just the political. There are always two sides to every story (often more,) and justice demands I understand all of them. Only from a position based on that sort of understanding, can I generate self-assurance my opinion is not off the proverbial deep end. I suppose this attitude came to me during my military service. If I was going to fight and kill another human being, I at least needed to understand why they were fighting and trying to kill me.
Some people would say to that last desire, “who cares?” The answer to that question is simple. I care. When I was a young man, I read All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. There are many scenes in that book which haunt me to this day, but the one I think about most is the scene in no man’s land, in the shell crater, after Paul Bäumer has stabbed the French soldier in a brief but horrific struggle. But that wasn’t the most horrific thing that happened in that muddy hole. Bäumer had to watch the man die, slowly, painfully. To this day it’s hard for me to remember that scene. In the end, Bäumer decides he must know who the man was, and takes out his wallet. Looking through the contents he learns that his fearsome enemy is no different from he, once full of hopes and dreams – now as dead has the man Bäumer killed. “I have killed the printer, Gérard Duval,” means far more than the words “I have killed a man.”
It’s an object lesson in empathy. Because of it, and other more personal events, I strive not only to learn what other people think, but to also put myself in their position. I don’t get Google Alerts because I only want to know what the majority have to say on a topic. I want to know what you, or her, or that guy writing the article think and feel about it. It is irrelevant to me if their opinion is the majority opinion or not. Though we are a society based on the rule of the majority, that in no way obligates us to ignore the minority, or to marginalize their struggles. When people do that, you end up with the Holocaust. Yes, that’s an extreme example. Nevertheless, majority promulgated abuses are going on at this very moment in places like Ferguson, Missouri. Do you think they can’t be preludes to worse?
It’s so easy to perpetrate these tragedies. All we have to do is dismiss other people’s “scandals” as unrepresentative and unimportant.
Now, I am not trying to put GamerGate on a pedestal beside the Holocaust, or Ferguson. Don’t be absurd. There are orders of magnitude difference. What I am trying to do is draw your attention to a larger issue. It’s an issue that’s seeped into the fabric of our communities, real life or virtual, and most people are not even aware of the rot it causes to that fabric.
I want to share with you a non-gaming article I read this week. To me it clearly shows the issue we face, and by we I mean readers and writers alike. The article is titled Why I Decided War Reporting Was No Longer Worth the Risk, by Tom A. Peter. Read the whole thing, you will not regret the five minutes it takes. But I want to highlight the conclusion (that means the emphasis is mine BTW) as evidence of what I’ve been trying to convey.
“Covering wars for a polarized nation has destroyed the civic mission I once found in journalism. Why risk it all to get the facts for people who increasingly seem only to seek out the information they want and brand the stories and facts that don’t conform to their opinions as biased or inaccurate?”
This question has been on my mind since I read it. It concerns me – deeply. It’s a rot I’ve long noticed and in my own, small, personal way have resisted. But it isn’t enough to keep it a personal resolution. The solution is not in keeping it to myself, though I’ve encountered internal resistance coming to that conclusion.
You see, I’ve tried to convince myself this problem is not as wide-spread as I fear; that it is only a political thing. But then I see evidence it’s managed to leech down into somewhat trivial areas, like the gaming community. Your first reaction to that sentence was probably, “So what?” That seems to be a catchy phrase these days. But I’m afraid you’re looking at it backwards if that’s your initial reaction. You’ve got it wrong if you think it does not matter people now cultivate their own bias, even in areas that have no real impact on society as a whole. It does matter, because it indicates that such bias cultivation has become second nature. We allow ourselves to do it in all things, even the inconsequential, and that’s unsettling.
Are we so insecure in our beliefs that we can’t entertain the thought we might be wrong? Is our continued existence so precarious that we dare not stray off the knife’s edge certainty we are right and they are wrong? Are we so afraid of spilled tea we won’t risk a little tempest? Because I can guarantee you every journalist who wrote a “gamers are dead” article feels they have just as valid a point as you do.
You owe it yourself to not dismiss it. No, strike that. You don’t owe it to yourself. You owe to all those who will come after you to live in the world created by your actions. Actions promulgated by your cultivated bias.
No. “Gamers are dead” articles do not trumpet the end of human society as we know it. Please revisit the warning above against being absurd. It is however a symptom of a larger malaise. If you are unwilling to exercise due regard for the unimportant things, what makes you think you’ll be able to do it for the important ones? If I learned one thing from my 13 years of military service, it’s that you train exactly how you’re going to fight. Why? Because when the bullets fly, you don’t have time to think about it. You must have already cemented the habits that allow you to do your job and survive. And it’s not just your life on the line. Every soldier with you depends on you to get it right. It’s also their lives you risk, just as you depend on them getting it right too.
So in all things I strive to train as I would fight. When it comes to opinions, I read them all. I don’t discriminate based on the originator’s previous behavior (well, I strive not to, but I AM only human,) and I do my best to empathize with every person even though I might have strong opinions of my own. I don’t want to stab a man in ignorance, literally or virtually, because he matters. I will not deny his humanity though I deny him his life (or livelihood if you disdain metaphorical hyperbole.) Understand this if nothing else: we live in a world of gray, where absolutes are the last bastions of denial, and denial is the last defense of intellectual torpidity.
Nosey, you’re better than that. You may not like how some people choose to react to a particular issue, but that does not mean it isn’t a serious issue. Or their concerns don’t matter. Even if the issue only affects a minority of gamers. Go read This is not a GamerGate post by Jessica Cook at Herding Cats and tell me her FEAR about even mentioning an opinion does not matter. I am certain only a minority of gamers feel the way she does, and everyone last one of them is female, but gods dammit they shouldn’t have to. If you’re dismissing it all because you are offended by the statement “gamers are dead,” then you are doing them a grave injustice. You have the rot my friend. Fight it. And that goes for the rest of you male gamers who have the audacity to turn other’s fears and oppression into some conjured insult so you can sleep better at night. And here I thought this wasn’t going to be a GamerGate post either. Peace out.