Friday, October 17, 2014

Ethical Approches #Gamergate Could Take But Doesn't

The movement #Gamergate is problematic on several levels. One, it's based on misogyny and rooted in Privilege. Two, some of its points don't hold water. But there are people with good intentions involved in the movement, and this blog post is addressed to them.

If you want to actually address journalistic ethics in the video game industry and do not condone the harassment of women, here are some solutions that #Gamergate could take, not just to win public approval, but because it's right.

1. Do Not Read the Publications You Don't Like

If this was really about journalistic integrity, you, as a consumer, have every right to boycott a product. In this case, it's the magazines. You can even write to their sponsors, like what happened between Intel and Gamasutra.

End of story. That's all you need to do. No need to harass people, no need to Doxx women, no need to write scathing letters to people not involved with the magazines you don't like.

Don't make it about Zoe Quinn, because she's not a journalist. Don't make it about Anita Sarkeesian, because she's not a journalist. Don't make it about Brianna Wu, because she's not a journalist. If you want to be taken seriously about journalism ethics, talk about journalism ethics.

Otherwise, we'll call bullshit on you.

2. Start Your Own Publication

No one is censoring you. If you have ideas or messages or propaganda other publications don't want to cover, create your own.

That's what GoodGamers.Us did.

Do I find their rhetoric problematic? Yes. They claim to be Ad-free but make an exception for Google AdSense (what happens when Google makes games?). They don't pay their contributors.

But that's within their right, and currently, the most reasonable response from #Gamergate I've seen.

3. Codify Your Stance

List down what you stand for, in concrete terms. "Corruption in Games Journalism" might be a competent tagline, but it's useless unless you cite specific points or examples. In what way is there corruption in games journalism? For example:
  • Game reviewers should not review games they paid via Kickstarter.
That's a concrete stance on the issue. Critics from both sides can discuss this issue. I can say, for example, that it is not a Conflict of Interest to review a game you paid for, regardless of whether it was bought via Steam, Kickstarter, or at a store. But via this way, concrete points can be discussed and debated, and people can either agree or disagree on the specifics.

Part of the reason #Gamergate is demonized is because it has an abstract cause, and people can only judge the results, which is the harassment and doxxing of various women in the industry.

Codify your position, and then we can gauge you on how close or far off the reality is from that goal or intent.

4. Accountability in Membership or Leadership

Currently, #Gamergate has no accountability. What they have is a membership of convenience: if someone claims they are pro-#Gamergate, they are part of the membership; if someone claims they are pro-#Gamergate and do something that tarnishes the image of the movement, they are disavowed by some members. This is a membership of convenience, in which no member of the movement can do anything wrong, or when they do, they are immediately expelled, depending on who you are talking to.

What they need is one of two things. One is a census (and I don't mean real names). They have a list of their members. So whenever someone outside of that list does something horrible in the name of #Gamergate, it is transparent that they are not really part of #Gamergate. But if you do not have such a list, you cannot claim that 99% of your movement are good people and only 1% is bad, because you don't have the numbers to back that up. Similarly, you can't say that person is not part of your movement despite them claiming to be part of it, because you have no concrete membership criteria; you have to take the good with the bad.

In Ferguson for example, it's clear who the citizens of Ferguson are, and who aren't. And when someone in Ferguson causes or is subject to conflict, there is accountability in that community; they don't say he or she is not part of Ferguson. That person is their responsibility and they act accordingly.

But because outing is a real threat, a census is not necessarily a practical solution in this case. Instead, a figurehead or leader should represent #Gamergate, someone who can speak for them, and someone who can't be disavowed in case they say or do something wrong. Even groups like Al Qaeda have leaders and spokepersons, to either claim credit or disavow the actions of other people claiming to be part of their membership. But without a leader, claiming that someone is not part of #Gamergate is as valid as a harasser claiming to be part of #Gamergate.

This is perfectly valid. This is why #Gamergate is a movement associated with harassment and threats.

Claiming that "they're not part of #Gamergate" is hollow because the organization has no sense of accountability. In fact, this only creates an atmosphere ripe for harassment, because the harassers are part of a mob, as opposed to individuals, and can thus conduct more harassment because the blame will be shouldered by the community as opposed to the individual.

5. Change the Hashtag

#Gamergate has a lot of baggage that goes with it, including harassment and misogyny. If you really wanted to discuss journalism ethics and make it a safe space, start a new hashtag.

Would it ensure the harassers won't go with you to the new hashtag? No. But they will definitely stay with #Gamergate.

But I can understand why people don't want to change the hashtag. They attach pride and identity to the hashtag. Or perhaps they think others won't follow them to the new hashtag.

But what are you more concerned about? Actual ethics and the protection of men and women in the Internet, or the numbers a hashtag has garnered so far?

6. The Privilege of Walking Away

If you walk away now, nothing will happen. Companies making AAA games will continue to make AAA games. You will still be able to play games. That's Privilege.

You know who can't walk away? The people being harassed, especially the public figures in the limelight.


Anonymous said...

Shill harder, faggot.

Anonymous said...

Ignore that. Your points are well-written, and it is great that people outside the US, Canada and Europe are also opposing #Gamergate. From a Pinay who loves games, thank you so much for writing this.