It was at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) a few years back, after a long day of swag acquisition, that I decided to walk down the street from the convention center to L.A. Live and get a bite to eat. At the restaurant, I sat next to two guys who still had their convention badges on. One was in a suit and the other looked like what one might call a “stereotypical gamer”.
“What do I have to do to get you to write a favorable review of [a new hardware product from one of the big three console developers]?” said the man whom I then identified as a representative of the console company.
“I don’t know,” said the gaming reporter, “I have serious issues with some of the features.”
“Well,” said the rep, “what if I got you an all-expenses-paid trip to [the company’s main conference], VIP passes, and an interview with [a famous game developer].”
At this point, I covertly peered over and saw the reporter swaying his head in a way that said, “You’re on the right track, but I want more”.
The company man sweetened the deal with high-end swag—limited-edition hardware and access to developer builds of games a year or more from public release. When the sum offer was satisfactory, the reporter said, “Okay”, and that was that.
I was in no way surprised by this interaction, though I was excited to be privy to it. It is a quietly spoken fact among game developers that the only sure-fire way to get a good review of your work is to bribe reporters.
And who can blame the developers? When they’ve spent millions of dollars and years of effort developing a product, who wouldn’t give away a comparably minuscule amount of “gifts” to ensure a favorable reception from industry media?
The majority of the blame for this situation lies squarely on the shoulders of the reporters who are willing to compromise their integrity for perks. Though, couldn’t the same thing be said about other, more important areas of reporting, like politics?
That’s where I fall short with the #GamerGate movement, a group of self-identified “gamers” who’ve taken to social media to decry the corruption in game reporting. They’re not wrong in their main supposition, it’s just that it’s not so significant of an issue that it should be turned into a movement. It’s kind of a silly thing to get up in arms about.
Except the response from the gaming media and associated outlets has been so overblown they’ve actually made #GamerGate important. Major players in the space are so intent on protecting their cash cow that, in an attempt to squash the movement, they’ve negated any shred of journalistic integrity they might have had.
Take this editorial from pop culture and technology site, The Verge, entitled Stop Supporting GamerGate, written by one of its news editors, T.C. Sottek. Its only argument—and the only argument The Verge is willing to publish—is that the entire #GamerGate movement is actually a concerted “months-long campaign of harassment against women”.
There have certainly been people who’ve used the hashtag in conjunction with misogynistic messaging and have even taken it into the realm of threats—the movement was kindled over articles on gaming sites that had their own, far-left agenda calling for the end of the stereotypical male “gamer” identity. But I’ve seen many more people in the #GamerGate movement denounce anything resembling hate speech than participate in it. Female supporters of #GamerGate even have their own hashtag in response to the media’s claims, #NotYourShield.
Unless the official manifesto of a movement is founded in hate, it’s ridiculous to argue that misogynistic statements alongside a popular hashtag on Twitter amounts to organized discrimination—even more so when anyone can tweet “#GamerGate” and the argument is based solely on the cherry-picked statements of a minority of participants.
And when has a large-scale argument on the Internet not attracted a fringe element spreading discriminatory speech on both sides?
Sottek’s article begins with a photo of an angry, white, male, 20-something gamer—complete with ill-maintained, thin facial hair—and spends its entirety repeatedly reinforcing that negative stereotype as the only type of person who would have anything to do with #GamerGate.
He conspicuously brushes off the argument of corruption in game reporting several times, always making sure to wrap words like “expose” in quotes to subconsciously sway the reader into thinking the whole notion of corruption in game reporting is a farce. In a statement that’s devoid of any sense of irony, Sottek insists #GamerGate is a clear cut case of “manipulative identity politics”.
But #GamerGate’s argument isn’t a farce. Corruption in gaming media is real and “reporting” like Sottek’s—an obvious argument of selective observation and an all-out attempt to deflect any focus on his industry’s under-the-table dealings—only highlights the truth behind his opposition’s claims.
But that’s not what bothers me most about this type of reaction, which is in no way limited to Sottek or The Verge. It’s that I’m now unable to disagree with these opinions without feeling required to back up my own credentials as a non-misogynist; I’m a husband, father to a daughter, and the co-founder of a non-profit that works to spread entrepreneurism to underserved demographics, including women.
The result of this type of irresponsible, one-sided “journalism” is that anyone who shows even the slightest dissent of opinion is automatically identified by the writer as being driven by hate. It’s a common method of deflection used by people whose buttons have been pushed when their underhanded dealings are exposed, and it’s damning of the gaming reporters who participate in it.
As long as the media continues to skirt the issue of corruption, but is all too willing to run articles with titles like Intel’s awful capitulation to #gamergate’s sexist thugs, the issue will not go away and the reporters involved will share the blame in any spread of discriminatory opinion.