Monday, September 01, 2014

The Spectrum of Views on Gamer Identity

I didn't think up the idea that the identity of The Gamer is dead (I probably wasn't even the first one to come up with that title). I just seized on it when other folks brought it up because it stuck a chord of truth.

Dan Golding wrote "The End of Gamers." In it, he briefly describes the origins and definitions of Gamers before explaining why that definition is disintegrating as video games progress. Video games in the future—the near future—are universal and cannot be owned by any one group, no matter how filled with hate, fear, and bile.

Leigh Alexander penned the highest profile response to this, "'Gamers'don't have to be your audience. 'Gamers' are over." In it, she eviscerates folks who identify as Gamers. She points out the valueless consumerism that's served by fans willing to create threats of rape and other violence to silence people who don't feel the way they feel about an entertainment product.

Click through for the full-sized image.

I've followed a lot of new folks on social media lately. Mostly folks from a 4Chan blacklist of games journalism. Those guys get a lot of messages, “Calling gamers obtuse shitslingers is equally bigoted,” “Not all gamers are making these threats,” “We have legitimate complaints about Sarkeesian and Quinn.”

But if these guy were so concerned about their images, they'd be calling out the violent assholes in their ranks, not the people calling them violent assholes.

They'd be spoiling for fights with the folks discrediting their cause if they were genuine. They'd be promoting the good on their own side instead of getting Adam Faux-Baldwin tospread the character assassination of Zoe Quinn. They'd be having a debate on merit instead of splitting hairs, trolling, and harassing everyone around them with childish quibbling and then crying “censorship” when they're blocked or ignored because adults have responsibilities they have to get back to.
If, as you're reading this you think, "Kris, I'm a gamer. How could you say such things about me?" Please ask yourself just once, "Self, I'm a gamer. How could these people reflect so poorly on me?"

Luke Plunkett wrote "We Might Be Witnessing the Death of an Identity," doing a good recap and summarizing the points of the first two. That Kotaku would take a moment in all of this to call out the end of, y'know, the self-identified demographic that probably pays their advertising bills is a bit frightening in its significance. A good kind of frightening. 

Andrew Todd at put up "Video Games, Misogyny, And Terrorism: A Guide To Assholes" is an A+ piece. Talking about the similarities between terrorists—id-driven ideologues who use the threat of violence to intimidate a populace into accepting political change—and Gamers—id-driven ideologues who use the threat of violence to intimidate a populace into stopping social change—is worth an entire write-up on its own. I'll do it later.

Jonathan Holmes in “Why Does the Term 'Gamer' Feel Important?” deconstructs why the identity is important. Like Todd, he thinks we should take it back. 

Here's the deal: once upon a time when people who played video games were treated a troglodytic, cave-dwelling man-children, a common identity was a bulwark against the undeserved scorn of the world.

Now, that common identity serves as a bulwark against leaving the cave, a cave that's disintegrating around them to reveal a wide-open plain large and diverse enough to accommodate everyone. Bad news if you are (metaphorically) a misanthropic agoraphobic. Good news if you're a fully grown, moderately adjusted adult who likes being entertained from time to time.

Can I put this another way?

Some people have said that having reasonable people abandon the identity only leaves the extremists. That's not...a bad thing. It's disassociating yourself from extremists. It's what I do in real life; I'm a political moderate because I don't want to be associated with the extremists in in either major party.

If Gamers want people in their little club, maybe they'll have to decide that they'd rather pitch the shrill, insane, violent ideologues and pick up folks a bit closer to not insane. Until then, self-identifying Gamers can keep that name and accept its new definition as a moniker for hypervigilant gatekeepers who think there's a right way and a wrong way to have fun. 

Edit: After I'd posted this I became aware of The New Statesman's "If You Love Games, You Should Refuse To be Called a Gamer."

No comments: