I’m a geek. Chances are you’re a geek. In the complete fire-hose of potentially geek-related things you could be reading right now, the sheer shock that you found this is a delight. So thank you! Welcome! We are your kind! Embrace the geek!
Except maybe we’re not the same, because if you’re a specific kind of geek – the kind of person whose enthusiasm for a specific form of consumer product has led you to support people who doxx developers and artists, howl about Social Justice Warriors and support a culture that treats women as at best a secondary audience and at worst as a constant target of sexual violence, then please feel free to fuck completely off.
The idea of “embracing the geek” sounds wonderful, but it has limits. Just because you care so much about something – video games, casting for film and TV, comic book covers, Food Network TV hosts, whatever – does not equate to you having standing. Enthusiasm is not a synonym for intellect and simply because you found someone on “dem internets” who agrees with your conscience-free nincompoopery doesn’t connote to veracity.
Entitled little boys are not arbiters of anything
I did something really dumb a couple of months ago when most of the GamerGate news broke and my Twitter feed was full of people talking about how DEY TERK OUR GERMS and how the media was conspiring to fill their faceholes with women without their consent, in much the same manner that many of the games they loved to play featured women getting their faceholes filled without their consent.
I made a joke and used a hashtag; for my sins I got a little taste of what it must have been like to be Luke Wilson’s character in Idiocracy.
When you get sea-lioned by GamerGaters on Twitter who claim to have binders full of women who support them, you quickly realize two things:
- You are talking to entitled boys . Their concept of nuance and empathy has been taught to them by Tosh.o.
- You are talking to entitled boys. STAHP.
I was a 15 year old boy once. I was fucking annoying. I thought I was smarter than everyone else, that my problems were unique and that because my parents were getting divorced I had some kind of moral valence based on my acute suffering. The only creatures less capable of empathy and perspective than young men are house cats and Patrick Bateman.
What makes GamerGate so vexing is that it is influenced by precisely the same kind of thinking that informed me as a 15-year old boy – thinking that is both profoundly stupid and devoid of nuance, but also completely sure of itself. The idea that a grand cabal of Kotaku writers are intentionally highlighting microscopic games like Depression Quest because blowjobs are the kind of motivations I would have happily laid on people when I was that age, because I had never cared about anyone as much as I cared about ideas.
Ideas are great when your life experience is the equivalent to the tetra fish at your local pet store, but when you get out into the big ocean, the expectation is that you start to open your eyes a little wider, not retreat back into a subreddit that allows you to live in the kind of circle-jerk echo chamber that gratifies your lack of capacity.
Actually, it is about journalism, but not in the way you think
There are real and profound issues with gaming journalism – but many of those issues are not specific to gaming. Journalism itself has some fundamental challenges based on our current economic model, where writers generate content for an audience that expects it to be free. It creates all kinds of issues and potential challenges for both the person creating the work and the person consuming it, and criticism can be influenced by marketing. In my own work, I see articles written so much like my own press releases that even I’m embarrassed for the journalist.
When I worked at Canada’s public broadcaster, I struggled to get an amazing local music and arts festival publicity. I the CBC – an organization that had basically no money for sponsorship and promotion, was shedding jobs and good people constantly to support something that didn’t fit with their usual demographics to run a showcase at an amazing local bar featuring local acts and also to promote this festival on all of our channels to the biggest audience we could muster.
As a part of that deal, we some got passes to the festival for staff and for our audience, but I didn’t do it because it was worth it for me or for my friends at CBC. I did it because it was an example of the best my city can offer, because it was a small cool thing done by cool people who were trying to change things for the better.
I think that’s what’s happening in games journalism, too – that people who work in the field care a lot about the art they are covering and want to see it be the best thing it can be. That doesn’t make it a conspiracy, it makes it humanity.
You want to see really terrible games journalism that truly lacks credibility, writerly instinct and anything resembling impartiality? Read back issues of Nintendo Power from 10 years ago. Read the Official Playstation Magazine or PC Gamer before the turn of the century, before anyone other than people working for the games companies themselves had control over the publishing model.
Kotaku or Polygon or Destructoid or any of the major gaming sites put their work to shame, and they are doing it on shoestring budgets while their competitors and friends are folding all around them. Even a place like this site has a special capacity to speak to an audience that cares without turning into a mouthpiece for any specific company.
Nothing makes me prouder to be a gamer than the work I read online that is treating video game criticism as something more than a consumer guide, that is looking at the value of this still-evolving medium and is treating it with the kind of craftsmanship and devotion that some of the developers themselves are also exhibiting. It is in that relationship – where developers push themselves to do their best work while critics do their best work – that allows true artistry to exist within something that is ultimately an ephemeral piece of entertainment.
So, again – welcome (kind of)! I’m sure we’ll get along great.
No hugs, though.