Friday, August 29, 2014

Gamers Are Dead. Long Live Video Games.

In The Academy, I had a great history teacher. Captain Veggeberg, USMC. He brought knowledge and a personal interest to the subject. You ever see a story about an ageless history professor who's described as talking about history "like he lived it" and then thought, "no one describes anyone like that"?

Captain (now Lieutenant Colonel[Congratulations!]) Veggeberg talked about history like he lived it. He infused every class with passion and his description of the Battle of Midway is indelibly etched in my mind. Maybe that's why I think about The Battle of Camden to this day, especially lately.

So, it's August, 1780. 234 years ago this month. The American Revolutionary War has just shifted to the south after the British defeat at Saratoga. In theory, a southern campaign would provide the British with more loyalists and allow better use of the British fleet. They had just taken Charleston, laying a convincing claim to South Carolina and Georgia.

Then, General Gates rolled into South Carolina with an American army and the intent to kick the British out. He'd been the victorious general at Saratoga, he was fighting on home ground, and had just shy of twice the enemy numbers.

His opponent was General Charles Cornwallis. If you're from The United States you probably know Cornwallis as the guy who surrendered at Yorktown. Camden wasn't Yorktown. It was the exact scenario the British envisioned when the war began. Militias were routed early in the encounter, the American army was scattered, and Gates fled the field and didn't stop until he was far, far away.

For Cornwallis, it had to feel pretty good. I picture him on his horse on a hill looking down on the battlefield as the sun sets. He's smirking as he removes his gloves. There's a smug, overconfident remark passed to a lieutenant riding up with a status report. Something to the tune of how the colonies were about to be put down. How things were finally turning around for Britain. 

Having Jason Isaacs as Cornwallis may not be accurate to The Patriot, but The Patriot wasn't accurate to The Revolutionary War, so fuck it.

Six months later they would win a second battle at Camden but be forced to abandon it anyway. In eight more months, the war would be ended with a British surrender. In reality, The Battle of Camden was the zenith. The last gasp. The Battle of the Bulge. The The Empire Strikes Back. The August 2014; also known as the penultimate moment in Gamer culture.

I've never thought of myself as a Gamer. I read Penny Arcade. I watch Jimquisition and Zero Punctuation. I even wrote some video game articles for an eLance gig that one time. I'll swing through Kotaku. I got Mass Effect 3 the week it came out and blazed through it without so much as an FAQ. You can't get me off of Minecraft and Civ IV. If I play through Portal or Web of Shadows one more time, my friends are going to stage an intervention. I'm aware of the big news stories in the video game world and have a well-informed opinion of them, unless there's a bigger story breaking.

The shooting of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri eclipsed video games for the first half of this month. So I missed this week. I missed gamers tweeting bomb threats to airports to inconvenience the president of Sony Online Entertainment. I missed guys calling SWAT Teams on each other. I missed a jilted ex accusing a games developer of sleeping with games reviewers for a better review, was unaware of the internet feeding frenzy that followed, and barely caught the news that the dude she slept with never reviewed her game at all. I missed a denial of service attacks on Playstation Network and Blizzard. I missed Anita Sarkeesian's sixth Tropes vs Women in Video Games.

I've never been a fan of Anita Sarkeesian. I checked out her Tropes versus Women series when there was the initial kerfluffle over the Kickstarter. Back then, Gamers were claiming that her arguments were without merit and that she was running a scam. Now, Gamers are claiming that her arguments are without merit and that she is running a scam. Just like last time, Lewis' Law is in full effect.

Lewis' Law says that comments on an article about feminism justify feminism. The people--especially Gamers--who deny misogyny by leveling threats of violence, rape, and death at the women talking about the existence of misogyny prove that the misogyny is real and active and dangerous. As I write this, Anita Sarkeesian has, at the urging of law enforcement officials, left her residence for her own safety.

People are so angry that Anita Sarkeesian is making videos talking about violence against women that they have delivered credible threats of violence to her, a woman.

I came into this debate around the time that Jim Sterling retweeted the first of two 4Chan-originated "wanted posters" for, well:

That's the thing. I'm not a Gamer. We're not Gamers. I'm a person who plays video games and today, everyone is a person who plays video games. It's like declaring yourself the President of Beaches. Everyone goes to beaches. You're at a beach like everyone else, but Gamers were there an hour earlier and think that gives them the right to kick over other people's sandcastles because they're not doing it right. It's an irrelevant identity that should dissolve the minute everyone else arrives, but the pretense of appreciating something in a way no one else could is too important for folks who obviously have no other facets of their life to use as an identity.

So turn the page of Gamers and gaming. Pop out the DVD of yelling YouTubers and slip in the one of cankled secretaries swapping strategies for Mario. Leave the basements of testosterone-laden alpha-male power fantasies marketed to betas and enter the fabulous ballroom of real people playing games to understand the world around them. Burn and bury the corpse of games as gratification and water the tree of games as art.

So watch Anita Sarkeesian run with smug satisfaction, Gamers. It's your last victory before you're through. It's your Camden, and only the best historians will be bothered to remember it.


Derek said...

Gamer "culture" died the second it became a viable marketing demo graphic.

See also, nerds, geeks, hipsters et al.

Good riddance as far as I am concerned.

VanVelding said...

As soon as it became this group that became targeted and catered to, its members became entitled shits.

Leigh Alexander wrote a great piece about it from a dev's perspective on Gamasutra: