Broken Age: Mog Chothra

In Tim Schafer’s Broken Age, Mog Chothra is a large, nearly indestructible, man eating Lovercraftian monster. It is the latest in the long line of monsters that have been terrorizing the game’s universe for untold centuries. Mogs live and breed in some far-away, uninhabited region of the planet, but every decade or so one of them returns demanding a tribute. Locals name these returning creatures the way we name hurricanes, and they appease them via human sacrifice. Each village selects a handful of young girls whose virtues best exemplify the values of their society, and feed them to the monster. Over the years this custom has been so enshrined in tradition and ritual that few dare to question it.

Mog Chothra

Mog Chothra

I find the Mogs fascinating because it they are a condensation of several prominent cultural and storytelling tropes. Mog Chotrha it’s partly a menace (like a rampaging dragon) and partly an lovercraftian styled elder deity which gets treated more like a force of nature that a threat. It’s concept and design ties into many common monster and religious tropes and thus brings a lot of cultural baggage and symbolism into what otherwise is a light, fun and somewhat charmingly cute point and click adventure.

I wish Broken Age spent more time exploring it, but unfortunately it is present only in half of the very short first episode. By the time credits roll, the monster is defeated and the future episodes are unlikely to bring it back in it’s original form. If anything, the future episodes will deal with ramifications’ of Vella’s choice to kill the monster and the subsequent revelations about it’s nature. Personally, I think there is at least a full length game’s worth of content and discussion to be had just based around the concept of Mogs. For example, I would appreciate a more frank, mature and nuanced discussion of how it is to live in a modern society practicing live human sacrifice: what are the different ways it is rationalized and normalized and how that impacts the society and it’s moral values?

In an absence of such exploratory discussion however, we can still view Mog Chotrha as a metaphor that tells us something about our own society.

Transhumanist Interpretation

On some level the Mog Chothra story reminds me of Nick Bostrom’s Fable of the Dragon Tyrant. Both Bostrom’s dragon and Schafer’s Mog are nearly indestructible creatures of immense power which in the past could not be fought directly. They both require sacrifice: they insist we freely give up something our society values the most (human life) or have it taken from us by force. Both monsters are defeated by science and experimentation.

Bostrom’s fable is a transhumanist allegory which points out that acceptance of aging and death is not only morally wrong but also hypocritical. If our society holds human life as something intrinsically valuable, and considers preservation of human life to be the most noble cause there is, then simply letting people expire due to old age should be considered unethical and evil. Unfortunately in the past we did not know how to prolong human life and counteract aging and so we had to learn to accept it as something “natural”. Now that we do have technology that could help us live longer, if not forever, this acceptance of death is counter productive. It became so ingrained in our consciousness that immortality is considered unnatural (or an affront to the natural order) despite the fact there exist examples of functional biological immortality in the animal kingdom. We make all kinds of mental gymnastics to convince ourselves that death is actually a good thing: that it prevents overpopulation, keeps the societies dynamic and etc.. In many ways it is a survival tactic – it is mental self care that helps us deal with the inevitability of death. But, death does not have to be inevitable. Treating it as such blocks a lot meaningful research that could be done in the area by making it appear silly, or immoral where it should be the most rational and most noble of pursuits.

Similarly in Broken Age the Maiden Feast is considered something normal. The arrival of the next Mog is inevitable, and the locals have no means of defeating them. They come to terms with the need to sacrifice some of their members to preserve their civilization – but they go beyond that. They normalize it and turn it into a festive occasion. Being chosen as a maiden is considered a great honor and privilege.

Looking from the outside in, we the players, can of course see that the practice is clearly reprehensible and that the world-view of the in-game societies has been warped by the exposure to the terror of the Mog monsters. Vella can be seen as a transhumanist hero because she does against this established evil. She seeks to rescue the other maidens even though they have resigned themselves, and accepted their fate.

Atheist Interpretation

The Maiden’s Feast celebration during which young girls are fed to the Mog feels very much like a religious ritual. The practice of human sacrifice to appease a temperamental deity is nothing new and there have been many societies in our history which practiced it. However, it is commonly associated with “primitive” societies. We assume that most societies will eventually “grow out” of that phase mainly due to the increased understanding of nature through science. Once people realize that floods, plagues and droughts are natural events which cannot be bargained with they move to less bloody forms of worship… But on Vella’s planet the evil deity is a factual, living beast. The worship is not a matter of faith, but a matter of fact. And so the human sacrifice practice gets normalized well into post-agricultural age.

Coming to terms with the brutality of Maiden’s Feast is actually seen as a form of enlightenment. Near the beginning of the game we learn that Vella’s home village of Sugar Bunts used to be a tribe of warriors who resisted, fought and hid from the Mogs in the past. But in the last few decades the attitudes have changed and the towns-folk warmed up to the Mog worship. They decided that practicing occasional human sacrifice results in a hundred-fold net decrease of the human casualties caused by the monster menace. And so they put down their weapons and became a village of bakers.

But can that ever justify human sacrifice? Is creating peaceful and harmonious society a valid excuse to indulge in ritualized murder? This is more or less the basis for half of failed utopia stories: a superficially perfect society with a dark secret. But the inhabitant’s of Vella’s planet don’t even hide it – they practice their sacrifices openly and are proud of them.

This is a very interesting example in how an organized religion can potentially normalize behaviors which would otherwise be morally unacceptably by re-framing them as acts of virtue that benefit the entire society. Sacrificing maidens is no longer viewed as a lesser of two evils, or a necessary brutality. It becomes something inherently good and wholesome. A monster devouring innocent young women becomes a symbol of pacifism and civilized harmony. The ritual of human sacrifice becomes a happy and festive, family friendly celebration. This is the real power of organized religion: the ability to skew perception and not only justify but sanctify vile acts by turning them into wholesome acts of devotion.

Maidens Feast celebration in Sugar Bunts

Maidens Feast celebration in Sugar Bunts

The worst part is that this is not a sinister thing. There isn’t some evil cult leader hidden behind the curtain brain washing the flowers. This warped worldview has evolved naturally over many decades. The townspeople are neither evil, nor particularly gullible – they are just misguided. They are mostly portrayed as sympathetic, well meaning and sometimes tragic characters. There is a great scene in there where Vella talks to a “rejected” maiden in the town of Meriloft. The girl was chosen by the community to be one of the sacrificial victims, but not devoured by Mog Chotrha which is a deep sense of personal shame to her. By failing to be devoured she has not only shamed herself, but also her entire family.

The Rejected Maiden of Meriloft

The Rejected Maiden of Meriloft

So Mog Chotrha can be a metaphorical jab at modern religions, which typically do not practice human sacrifice but often do preach morally questionable truths. For example, some religions proscribe female circumcision because it aligns with their dogma, and is perceived to be socially beneficial to the entire community. Even Christian denominations are not immune from this, as they often preach intolerance toward LGBTQ+ folk and prop up outdated, harmful power structures as models to be followed. Vella can therefore be interpreted as an atheist hero because she dares to go against the dogma. She recognizes her religion is wrong, and that the rituals are morally reprehensible and rejects them. For that she is labeled as a pariah. To to those who fully internalized Mog worship, Vella’s rebellion is and ultimate act of selfishness – a refusal of a holy, righteous sacrifice on behalf of the community. This is very similar to the way in which the critics of organized religions tend to be treated: they are labeled as sinners or heretics and shunned or expelled from their communities and their families are shamed for allowing this to happen.

Feminist Interpretation

Finally, it is probably worthwhile to ask why do Mogs prefer “maidens”? Granted, the second chapter of the game may shed more light on this, since the end of Vella’s story reveals that Mogs are more than just mindless monsters. So perhaps there is a logic to their selection. As it stands right now however, the game does not comment on this. It presents the ritual of sacrifice as is. The fact that there isn’t even a dialog option which would question why an eldritch monster would care about the gender of it’s food is rather telling. Neither game designers nor most players probably even think about this when playing the game, because maiden/virgin sacrifice is a long standing trope within our literature.

More often than not, sacrificial victims in fiction tend to be women. There is a myriad of reasons for this, but this trope is closely tied to the perceived disposability of women in fiction. This is something Anita Sarkesian talked about at length in her latest video Women as Background Decoration – part 2:

As per Sakesian, it is common to see narratives in fiction (and especially in video games) to use victimization and brutalization of women for the sole purpose of fleshing out male protagonists or antagonists. For example a villain may be shown torturing or executing defenseless women to establish him as the bad guy. The same victims may also play a role of a Damsel in Distress to give the protagonist a compelling motivation. However the humanity or personal experience of said victims is mostly ignored.

Broken Age subverts this trope by putting the player character in the position of a victimized maiden who is to be sacrificed to an evil monster. The game does not feature a heroic male protagonist sweeping in to save the day, but instead the players see the experience through Vella’s eyes and rebel against the injustice with her. The maidens in Broken Age are neither damsels nor background decoration – they are people with agency and power to change their own fate.

During her short adventure Vella talks to several other chosen maidens, and they all are proud and happy to be participating in the ceremony. They are ecstatic that they won the popularity contest to earn this position and bicker about who will get eaten first. The order in which they are devoured will reaffirm their status and self worth. In a way this illustrates the way our society indoctrinates young women to accept and internalize deeply sexist beliefs even when they are obviously harmful. Their self-destructive behaviors are not only approved by rewarded by the community and held as an example to the younger generations. It is heart-breaking to hear Vella’s younger complain about her rotten luck: when she comes of age, it will be in the period between Mog incursions, and therefore she will never have a chance to become a maiden.

Concusions

As I said at the beginning of this post, I kinda wish that Double Fine recognized the potency of Mog Chothra as a metaphor and focused on exploring all the themes and tropes that naturally feed into it. As it is right now, it plays a semi-important part in what seems to be a much larger narrative. The game as a whole ties to juxtapose two coming of age stories. That of Vella who is part of a community that expects her to make an ultimate sacrifice on their behalf, and Shay whose overprotective parents keep in a protective bubble, preventing him from ever taking any risks or making any sacrifices on anyone’s behalf. Unfortunately we may need to wait until Act 2 of the game to find out how this juxtaposition is going to pay off. In the meantime however we can discuss the existing themes in the game. Mog Chothra is definitely one of the more interesting aspects of the game.

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New Computer

My old gaming rig has started to fall apart lately. Last year my video card blew up and took one of the PCIe slots with it. It took me a few weeks to sort it out. I purchased a replacement, and then it turned out that my PSU did not supply enough juice to power it. I returned it, and bought a less powerful card but could not get it to work because I did not know the bottom slot was fried, so I returned that one too. Eventually I figured it all out, re ordered a card but at that point Win7 decided it did not like the new hardware so I ended up doing a complete re-install. Fast forward a year and the machine died again, this time in even more disheartening way. After a half assed, failed attempt at replacing the PSU I gave up upon it.

So I bought a replacement: Alienware Aurora-R4.

Alienware Aurora R4

Alienware Aurora R4

I know, I know – Alienware is the hallmark of the gamer n00b and all that. There might have been a time when I cared about that, but I think I’m too old to worry about my street cred. If anyone wants to revoke my gamer card, they are welcome to it. And yes, I probably grossly overpaid for the brand name but after futzing with unreliable hardware on my own for several weeks now, I just wanted something off the shelf and with reliable warranty. Dell support can’t diagnose problems for shit, but if you diagnose for them, they will reliably keep replacing parts until the damn thing starts working. That alone gave me a safe and fuzzy feeling of assurance in the midst of frustration. This probably wasn’t my best purchasing decision, but I did take advantage of one of their big sales events and got pretty decent hardware setup without having to take all the money out of my bank (you know, just most of it):

  • Quad Core 3.70GHz i7-4820K CPU with 3701 Mhz bus
  • 16 GB of RAM (upgradable to 32)
  • Two NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 video cards
  • 256 GB SSD (6Gb/s data rate) as main drive & 1TB 7200RPM HDD as secondary

This ain’t a Titan setup, but it’s close to it so I should be able to play all the new games on high without too much headache. The old machine was starting to get a bit log in the tooth in the recent days. Both the new Thief and Metro were choppy even on the lowest settings. I didn’t particularly care for those games but I was starting to get worried I might get locked out of new releases I do actually care about – like new Elder Scrolls games, or new Bethesda properties “fixed” by Obsidian. This shouldn’t be an issue anymore.

The former gaming rig valiantly survived 5 years of almost continuous usage. I never really shut it down, and I specifically prevented it from going into sleep mode so that I could download torrents or run batch jobs overnight, or VPN and remote desktop into it when I was at work. Hopefully this machine will do equally well, though I might try to ride it a little bit less hard to extend it’s life a bit.

I’m mostly posting this here for my own future reference so that I have a rough idea when I bought this machine when it decides to break at some point in the future.

Next post will be a review of a game that I totally did not need this rig for. In fact I played it on my MacBook while waiting for this machine to be delivered.

Posted in technology | Tagged | 3 Comments

Let’s have a serious talk about Gamer culture

I have been playing video games most of my life. It all started in middle school. I don’t exactly remember how old I was when one of my friends invited me to his house to check out his brand new Commodore 64 rig. What I remember was how it felt like. I was completely blown away. It felt like I was in a science fiction movie, because I have never actually used a “real” computer before that. All of a sudden I was siting in front of a programable machine that could do literally anything if you only knew how to issue the right orders. Naturally the only orders we knew how to issue were the ones that loaded and ran games, which is what we did. Not only were the cassette tapes filled to the brim with pirated games cheaper than a trip to the arcades. They were also trivial to copy and exchange. For the first time we had a potentially infinite number of games we could play at our own leisure.

Commodore 64

Some people started on Nintendo. I started on C64.

For the next two years I basically lived in his house glued to that machine. We have spent countless hours becoming experts at calibrating the cassette tape deck and accumulated a vast library of pirated games, half of which never actually loaded. Still, we had a lot of fun. Later another friend got an Amiga 500 and I was once again completely blown away by the sheer power and speed of that 16 bit gaming marvel and the sheer capacity of the 3.5 inch floppy disks it used as primary storage medium.

C64 Head Fit Program

Successfully loading a game using the C64 tape deck was a function of luck, stable platform and the time you put in cleaning calibrating the tape heads prior to the attempt.

It wasn’t until sixth or seventh grade when I finally got my own gaming rig. Unboxing the Amiga 600 was probably one of the happiest moments of my childhood. Finally I was able to play games I wanted on my own time. You could say that was the moment I became a “gamer” but that probably wouldn’t be accurate because there wasn’t such a thing yet back then. Just about everyone who owned a personal computer was to some degree a gamer, because that’s what the 8-bit and 16-bit rigs, which connected directly to a TV and shipped with a pair of Joysticks more often than with a mouse, were good at. Dedicated gaming consoles were still a few years off (at least in my corner of the woods) so me and my friends drew lines in the sand, and insulted each other over hardware platform choices our dads made based on what they could afford.

Amiga 600

Amiga 600: my first “gaming rig”

I don’t really think we had a “gaming community” when I was a kid, but rather a vague granular collective of various quarreling sub-groups, with distinct tastes, preferences and philosophies. These sub groups traditionally always disagreed about pretty much everything and constantly bickered over just about everything. As far as I’m concerned sense of fellowship and camaraderie among gamers did not arise until internet era. The first time I can remember gamers of all creeds standing together as one was during the brief moral panic over video game brutality about a decade ago. When Jack Thompson and is ilk took on video game industry we all put away our differences and united against the common enemy. I was there along side with my gaming brethren loudly proclaiming that video games do not make one violent, while at the same time screaming for Thompson’s head on a pike. The irony of that behavior escaped me back then, but it was possibly the first time I felt something akin to a “community” sense. It was “we the gamers” against the world.

Jack Thompson

I think this guy did more to solidify a unified, monolithic “gamer bro” identity that transcended platform, genre and age divides than anyone else.

Other than a common enemy we did not really have much in common. We didn’t even like the same games, and we were just beginning to have dialogs across the platform and genre divides. But most of us were young, middle class, nerdy young males. And so we built the community around our the stuff we had in common: our own toxic masculinity, our elitism and our persecution complexes. In absence of positive values, we defined ourselves in opposition against censorship, control and the mainstream which rejected our hobby. After our common enemies faded away, we let that noxious concoction boil and fester unchecked for a decade. The behavior we see today is a direct result of our failure to build and curate an inclusive, progressive community.

This is what it all really boils down to. Gaming culture was never anything but this weird, insular, xenophobic ghetto built around very toxic notions of masculinity and persecution complex. Games marketed at boys promoted and reinforced this hyper-machismo image, and gamers were seeking to embody it and so it went in an endless self-reinforcing circle. It is no accident that teenagers scream homophobic and gender slurs into their head-sets or brag about “raping” the opposing team in Call of Duty. It’s no accident that video game related message boards basically invented the “tits or gtfo” greeting. It is no accident that Anita Sarkesian could post feminist critiques of SF films, TV shows and novels without much harassment but the moment she started talking about video games, she instantly got death and rape threats. Because this community was not build around tolerance, acceptance of criticism or diversity. It was a fortress of solitude built by man-children to protect their toys from evil mainstream activists.

Face of Modern Gaming

Face of Modern Gaming

Lets face it, the gamer culture is toxic and the community is broken. It always has been like this, but we didn’t really see it clearly up until recently because we did not pay attention. We had our heads too far up our asses for that. There were always people who were criticizing the culture and trying to fix things from within and without but they were not being heard. We drowned them out.

But then the internet things happened and our boys club industry got disrupted.

In 2014, the industry has changed. We still think angry young men are the primary demographic for commercial video games — yet average software revenues from the commercial space have contracted massively year on year, with only a few sterling brands enjoying predictable success.

It’s clear that most of the people who drove those revenues in the past have grown up — either out of games, or into more fertile spaces, where small and diverse titles can flourish, where communities can quickly spring up around creativity, self-expression and mutual support, rather than consumerism. There are new audiences and new creators alike there. Traditional “gaming” is sloughing off, culturally and economically, like the carapace of a bug. (…)

Developers and writers alike want games about more things, and games by more people. We want — and we are getting, and will keep getting — tragicomedy, vignette, musicals, dream worlds, family tales, ethnographies, abstract art. We will get this, because we’re creating culture now. We are refusing to let anyone feel prohibited from participating.

Gamer isn’t just a dated demographic label that most people increasingly prefer not to use. Gamers are over. That’s why they’re so mad.

Video games have outgrown young white male nerds. They have went mainstream for real this time and no single group can lay claim to them anymore. It is time to let them go. If you love something, let it go! Let it flourish. Let it become the artistic medium we all want it to be.

For the last few days I’ve been trying to figure out the right words to what to say about the latest shit-storm of internet ugliness perpetuated by “gamers”. I don’t really want to re-cap all the stuff that has happened because it would take me all day, and there are better sources for that. To wit, Andrew Todd posted an excellent writeup of the situation few days ago. I highly recommend giving it a read if you need to catch up with the situation.

I still don’t have the right words but I feel compelled to say something about it. After all it is happening in my back yard and I feel partly responsible for this. I feel I contributed to this toxic culture of hatred and misogyny by complacency. I feel that I helped to cultivate these attitudes and helped to fan the flames by laughing at the wrong jokes, and not calling people out enough.

Consider this: a community which condones and celebrates rape jokes will eventually become a save haven for rapists. A community which turns a blind eye towards humor that involves casual racism, homophobia and transphobia becomes a safe place for bigot to share their opinions. That’s how it starts: with “harmless” jokes and an assumption that everyone is on the same page, and understands that the joke-tellers don’t actually mean the things they say. That they are just being “edgy”, that they are just pushing the envelope and etc. But here is a newsflash: there are people who are bigoted or rapey misogynists on the internet. They see these “funny jokes” not as a tongue in-cheek silliness but as a validation of their world views. They flock to your communities, they become your online buddies, your guildies, your Steam friends. And you won’t know they are terrible people because the your local custom is to for everyone pretend to be an absolute asshole even if they don’t mean it because this is the internet and you’ve got to have a thick skin to make it here. Because you worship this terrible, toxic masculine ideal of detached macho, “equal opportunity offender” who does not give a shit about anything or anyone as long as he gets his. And so your community slowly becomes this cesspit full of bigots and misogynists who think that d0xing someone and sending them rape threats is an appropriate response to a Youtube video criticizing a game they like.

Anita Sarkesian Harrasment

This is gamer community’s cool, measured and reasonable response to a video applying academic critique to the medium. (triger warning)

When your community is conditioned to routinely objectify women and treat them as prizes, objectives and decorations rather than individuals, then is it surprising that they eventually refuse to acknowledge women critics and developers as their peers? That women who want to help shaping and improving the video game industry from the inside are viewed as enemies and outsiders? When your community outright rejects concepts like “political correctness” is it any wonder it becomes abusive and shitty environment?

Like it or not, political correctness is just another way of saying “common human decency and empathy”. It is treating people that might not be exactly the same as you with the same respect and dignity as you would wish to be treated with. Not only does it keep your community inviting and open to everyone regardless of their sex, race or creed. It also keeps the absolute fucking monsters in check. Throwing it away is like rolling out a red carpet for sociopaths and miscreants itching to play out their sick power fantasies in front of a live audience.

Without rules, moderation and codes of conduct all communities tend to descend into anarchy as they grow. The end result of this process are sites like 4chan – the self-proclaimed cesspool of the internet. The myth of “self moderating” communities is false. The direct democracy of Reddit can actually be even worse because they give the community tools to silence any dissent and help to create an echo chamber effect only the most conservative and reductive opinions are heard. It allows the majority to get away with abuse while at the same time giving minorities no recurse other than to leave or hide. They are also cultural and social hubs for self identified gamers.

Popular gamer hangouts such as /r/gaming or /v/ that are honeypots for human shaped monsters who want to play out their sick and twisted fantasies in front of a live audience. And make no mistake – if you don’t say anything, if you turn a blind eye, laugh or wave off the abuse as “just internet things” you are part of that audience. You are enabler and a cheerleader to the abusers.

Trolls

This picture is pretty much literally the gamer culture: trolls being abusive assholes, and white dudes on the sidelines enabling, taking pictures and laughing their asses off at the carnage.

Think about this: what does the gamer community stand for? What are the values it espouses? Liking video games is not a community value or a moral stance in an of itself – it’s merely the circumstantial condition required for membership. Looking from the outside in, it does not look that good.

Is the gaming community welcoming to the outsiders? Fuck no. It is elitist, exclusionary. There is fierce gate keeping is in effect. It is not enough to love video games. It is not enough to be passionate about them. You have to like them in the “correct” way to be accepted. There are names for the people who want to participate in the community but are brutally rejected by it: casual gamers, “fake gamer girls”, etc..

Is the community take care of their own and ensure members are treated with respect? Fuck no. There is this notion that if you want to be a gamer, you have to develop a thick skin. You have to learn to take the abuse, because that’s what happens in gaming spaces. If you are hurt and offended you need to leave. If you don’t feel safe, you need to leave. The community believes that ones right to shout hurtful, hate filled slurs into the ether trumps your right to be treated as a human being.

Is there anything the community believes in? Like freedom of speech and artistic expression? Does it welcome constructive criticism? Fuck no! If you are the wrong kind of person and you criticize video games the wrong way you will face severe backlash and the community will try to silence you. Just look at what is happening to Anita Sarkesian for attempting to apply feminist theory to video game design the same way you would apply it to any other art form.

The gamer culture itself is also off limits and belong critique. If you don’t like the status quo, if you dare to say anything negative about the community you are a “social justice warrior” and therefore the enemy of the state. If you stand up for the abused, you become collateral damage.

These are the values of the gamer community: it’s pro abuse, pro hatred, and against social justice and political correctness. It is a community that will fight to death to protect the freedom of speech of racists, sexists and homophones while at the same time trying to silence legitimate academic feminist critiques. It is a community that prides itself for being apolitical while at the same time being more extremist and conservative on social issues than Fox could ever even dream to be. Let that sink in for a bit. Just think about what kind of people this sort of “culture” is attracting.

To be honest, I don’t want to be a gamer if those are gamer values and gamer culture. When I was a child, I did childish things, but as a grown ass man I don’t want to be a part of a community that condones d0xing and death threats. I don’t want to be a part of a “culture” which goes war against a female developer over what amounts to some insignificant gossip spread about her by a spurned ex. I don’t want to be a part of a group that makes women working in the industry feel unsafe to the point that their regular, day to day existence feels like desperate struggle for survival and make them leave in droves. It fucking kills me that we have already lost some prominent female developers and journalists over the gamer gate bullshit.

Compared to the harassment that happened in the past few weeks the whole “journalistic integrity” discussion seems petty and insignificant. How come we didn’t have a journalistic integrity crusade back when Jeff Gerstmann got canned for giving Kayne and Lynch a bad review score? Where was the self righteous anger and the burning ire back then? Everyone just shrugged and said: “See, I told you big companies do pay for review scores after all.” But somehow no one stepped up to make a full feature length documentary about that incident.

I seriously doubt I will convince anyone who has already thew their lot with the gamer gate hashtag to change their mind about this. But perhaps I can reach out to a few reasonable folks who did not get swept up in all the hatred yet. If, like me you are member of the “core” gamer demographic (meaning white, cis, hetero male), please realize we are have a social responsibility to fix this mess we created. We’re not gonna be able to fix it over night. We can’t go out and forcefully readjust the attitudes of all the “SJW conspiracy” nuts out there. But we can all try to affect change locally and within our means. Best place to start is with yourself. Examine your own behavior and think about your interactions with people in online communities and what kind of behaviors and attitudes your behavior encourages? Do you sometimes make off-color jokes? Do you upvote or otherwise reward hurtful or problematic posts? Can you do better?

Some time ago I went through several years worth reddit comment history and ended up nuking entire account in disgust. Not that this absolved me from past sins, but it did help me to realize I was part of the problem. That I came with my own baggage of hangups, insecurities and prejudices which made me behave like a complete shithead. That learned hyper masculine posturing behaviors are not conducive to building inclusive and welcoming communities. That freedom of speech is not the same as freedom to abuse and dehumanize others.

So start with yourself. Do some soul searching. Read what people who are different from you say about the community and their experience with it. Try to empathize with them. Try to be a better person, and by extension you will make the community a little bit less shitty for those in your immediate sphere of influence.

Beyond that, help other people be better. Help to shape and curate the kind of community you want to be proud of. Call out your friends, guildies or clan members when they are being sexist, racist, or shitty in general. Help to moderate communities where in which have leadership positions or where your voice can make a difference. If a large community like Fark can do it, then your local group should have no problem implementing a similar policy.

Reach out and help marginalized members of the community have their voices heard. There are plenty of things you can do to help. If you want to keep this identity and keep “gamer culture” alive then help to make it less shitty. Make it about something: about teaching, sharing and exploring the hobby. Banning abuse and making the community more open, inclusive and inviting to others is not going to destroy it. If anything it will make it better, healthier and more vibrant. An identity based on celebration of hatred, exclusion and abuse is not worth having.

We can either change what it means to be a gamer or kill this identity completely. We don’t need it anymore. Gaming is no longer a niche hobby. Being a nerd is no longer stigmatized the way it used to be. These days it is almost a fashion statement. Frankly, it may already be to late to salvage gaming as an identity. The events that transpired in August may have cemented the reputation of a gamer as an absolute worst kind of human being. To be honest, I have been hesitant to describe myself as a gamer for a while now, on the off chance that I might be associated with the kind of people who launch harassment campaigns against the women in the industry. Now I’m no longer hesitant. I ashamed. I don’t want anything to do with the people un-ironically posting to the gamer gate hashtag. So Im actually all for ending gamers and gaming communities.

If you need me, I’ll be over here sharpening my +3 double handed sword of social justice, writing critically about gender, race and social issues in gaming without an ounce of journalistic integrity, donating to cool patreons and playing with people who are not deranged sociopaths. Feel free to join me.

Posted in video games | 13 Comments