Sunday, February 15, 2015

#GamerGate: The Last Stand of Individualism

Sometimes the hero is the one you least expect...


Their goals and their demands vary. Their movement requires almost nothing of its members to join, and so their diversity of both personalities and physical traits is astounding. They're also the last people one might expect to get into a culture war. "They" are the supporters of #GamerGate, and they have been confounding people for almost a half a year now.

Even after all that time, it's still a Herculean task to convince people of the significance of #GamerGate, with all "the happenings" as the gamers would call them making it nigh-impossible to wrap it up in a neat little bow for people to understand (though I did take a stab at that.) Those who do take an interest are often stymied by the chaotic nature of a leaderless Internet subculture. David Pakman, for example, spent many of his initial interviews grappling with the notion that a movement with such a low barrier to entry can simultaneously be so certain of the content of its members' characters.

After all, how can any participant state with authority "it's not about harassment; it's about ethics in journalism" when nobody is an authority? The opposition wields that apparent contradiction like a hammer, bashing #GamerGate as incapable of shaking off the stink of its supposed connection to harassment. They argue that anyone truly interested in ethics would undoubtedly abandon that permanently tainted hashtag and move on to something else.

Naturally the self-appointed arbiters of equality and progress neglect to mention that any new endeavor would immediately be considered the fruit of a poisonous tree because they have little interest in either ethics, equality, or progress. In reality, that which currently masquerades as "social justice" and "feminism" is merely just another form of collectivism, the age old desire of human beings to stuff people into arbitrary groups in order to exercise control over everyone. Most of the time that desire is even well intentioned.

Under the banner of helping the previously disenfranchised the social justice army has marched through every aspect of our culture, grinding any meager opposition between manufactured outrage and guilt by association until they simply give up. Even in sports we now have debates over how offensive a team name might be to a particular group that didn't seem to care much before. Given that, one might expect that a newly popular hobby like video games would be an easy target.

Instead the PC police found a resistance for which they were entirely unprepared. Frustrated by gamers' unresponsiveness to their normal proselytizing and thinking they had an opportunity to exploit the Zoe Quinn situation, they dropped all pretense to throw a haymaker with their "Gamers are Dead" campaign. Rather than falling to the ground to beg and plead for forgiveness like every other group before them, #GamerGate simply stood there, wiping a trickle of blood from its lips and grinning like some demon within had awakened. Then the gamers had the unmitigated gall to hit back.

It really shouldn't have come as such as surprise to all of us. Video games are the last bastion for people who seek to rise and fall on the merit of their actions and the content of their character. There's no Patriarchy to blame for failing to complete a quest, and scoreboards have no concern for gender, race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. The rules of the game don't change because somebody was offended by the results of a match, and those who break the rules face ridicule and scorn because cheating renders the results meaningless. So it's no wonder so many members of #GamerGate's opposition admit they don't like video games very much, at least not in their current form.

Meanwhile, whether imbued from playing games or having attracted them to the medium, the #GamerGate supporters all have a deep affinity for the individualism video games promote. It's a nearly extinct philosophy that at best gets paid lip service nowadays, but gamers feel it in their bones. The freedom to pursue their own happiness is integral to their worldview, and they accept that their pursuit may come with unpleasant consequences like criticism, derision, and failure. They seek open and honest debate, and they prefer to let the market dictate the fate of ideas and products.

They also realize none of that can happen without a strong ethical foundation, particularly among the press, which is why the ethical breaches they have witnessed have struck such a chord in their community. Prior to the media turning on them, it could be written off with some grumbling as isolated incidents, but when even the freest parts of the Internet suddenly went censorship happy, it became impossible to ignore.

That part gets left out of the media narrative all the time, by the way. The real catalyst for the gamer revolt was not the sex scandal; it was normally open spaces closing their doors to the kind of unfiltered discussion that's a hallmark of gamer culture. Had that not occurred, the gamers would've stopped grumbling in a matter of hours and #GamerGate would've never happened.

Instead the censorship made it quite clear the problem goes beyond merely a few dishonest video game reviews, and the only way to stop this encroachment upon the safe haven gamers built for themselves was for them to go on offense to smash this collectivist nonsense wherever they find it. So now when feminists try to destroy a brilliant scientist because of his choice of apparel, #GamerGate is there to defend him.

And they don't need a ruling council or a party platform to tell them what to do or what they stand for. After all, it's actually not that nobody in #GamerGate is an authority; it's that everyone is. They rest their moral certainty on the notion that the only person for whom they must speak is themselves. Others can choose to follow if they like. Good ideas will rise from the cacophony of voices, bad ones will fall, and anyone can contribute, whether they're an outspoken female porn star or a male firebrand Breitbart reporter.

So here we are, witnessing an unprecedented and wonderful event. All of the people we expected to prevent tyranny from sneaking up on us in the night have fallen to its lure, and in their place stands a ragtag bunch of nobodies who have spent much of their lives being shunned for enjoying the very virtual worlds which have awakened within them the courage and principles necessary to take up arms and slay the dragon in our midst. It's almost like the plot of a video game...


The artwork for this post was created by Sarjex.  Check out her store!
*this post cross-posted at http://www.theirfinesthour.net

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