My last #GamerGate piece was straightforward reporting, a pure recitation of the chronology of events. (Or a reasonable facsimile of same.) This one is all my opinion. Well, not quite my opinion, as I’m totally, unquestionably correct, and people who disagree with me are utterly wrong, but we’ll get to that in a second. Let’s start with conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy theories, and conspiracy theorists, are nuts. They take absence of evidence as absolute proof that a conspiracy is, in fact, occurring. “A successful conspiracy, by definition, leaves no trace!”
What do you do when actual evidence surfaces? For example, actual evidence that, for various ideological reasons, a group of gaming journalists have been colluding to suppress stories they don’t like, highlight stories they do like, and speak in unison on various issues.
When gaming journalists all spoke with one voice recently, all saying the exact same thing, gamers suspected collusion. And it was so. (As I highlighted last week.) This is critical to understand: this wasn’t suspicion, assertion, or imputation. The collusion was proven by actual emails from the principals involved (sent on the GameJournoPros email list, and leaked to a journalist). Gaming journalists conspired to suppress stories and form a unified rhetorical front against gamers.
At that point, it is no longer conspiracy theory, it is conspiracy fact. So we have to ask: when else might these same individuals have conspired?
Erik Kain, of Forbes’ online component, has been covering #GamerGate, being one of the few gaming journalists to remain neutral in the matter (criticizing both GG supporters and opponents). He said something interesting on a recent Radio Nero podcast.
The “Gamers are Dead” articles that launched #GamerGate were, in his opinion, “most similar to the Mass Effect 3 controversy…when a lot of the gaming press wrote similar pieces about how gamers were entitled.” There was “a similar contempt towards their readers.” He’s talking about Retake Mass Effect.
Ah, Retake Mass Effect. The scandal I can’t forget (still boycotting Bioware, thanks), but I don’t want to talk about.
I’m gonna do it anyway. Just a little bit.
I know at this point some of you will want to jump in and argue about the ending. Suppress the urge. This isn’t about whether the ending was good or bad, or even whether gamers were justified in their anger and actions or not. The issue is the behavior of the gaming press.
#Gamergate: A bunch of similar stories, at the same time, with similar wording, published by the usual suspects — like Kotaku and Gamasutra — all condemning gamers and defending one of their approved developers.
Mass Effect 3: A bunch of similar stories, at the same time, with similar wording, published by the usual suspects — like Kotaku and Gamasutra — all condemning gamers and defending one of their approved developers.
In both circumstances, they acted nearly the exact same way. Was there a conspiracy? Don’t know, don’t really care.
But it’s more than plausible. It makes sense. It could have happened, because that’s the way the GameJournoPros behave. They’ve done it for a long time, and they’re proud of it. And that’s a problem.
In a free society, the press has a vital role. As an institution, it exists to provide necessary information to the public, with the assumption that any other mission comes a distant second. Even making money is second to providing accurate information. (That is, you don’t soft-peddle or spike stories about advertisers and you don’t sell coverage, which is why there’s a “wall” between advertising and the editor’s desk. You also don’t sex up, mad monkey style, people you’re covering.) Reporting comes first.
But when the press covering a community has proven itself to be corrupt and unreliable, proven itself to be capable of abandoning its vital cultural purpose to pursue ideological ends, then there is no trust. People who boast of their corruption, or seek to cover it up, or simply ignore the issue cannot be trusted. They do not regret their actions, given the chance they will do it again. You cannot — should not — trust the incorrigibly corrupt.
By their behavior and explicit words, a significant plurality of the gaming press has proven they view themselves as being superior, morally and mentally, to the community of gamers they cover. There can be no rapprochement between the two, not on that basis. You cannot negotiate with someone who views you as inferior and disposable — you have nothing they want. They will not change, because there is no reason to change.
The only alternative gamers have is to identify press (or fan) outlets who do not view them as subhumans, as “obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these childish internet-arguers”, and patronize them. Boycott the unrepentant (and pressure their advertisers), patronize the abashed or untouched. (Or even — Gasp! Shock! — start your own.)
To give the hostile and arrogant press your clicks or pageviews is to reward their behavior with money. There are other sites which are neutral or even friendly to gamers, such as The Escapist, Niche Gamer, TechRaptor, and others. #GamerGaters communicate with various sites on a daily basis, they frequently pass around notices of which ones actually value their customers, rather than seeing them as a burden.
There’s no way to tell — yet — whether the GameJournoPros colluded on ME3 coverage. But their behavior in many other instances has been appalling and unethical. We cannot force them to recognize this, but we can drive them out of business. Money talks, even when morality (sadly) goes unheard. Time to let our money talk.