I’m gonna get my bona fides–or lack thereof–out of the way up front.
I’m a gamer. I’m a feminist.
Am I a hardcore gamer? I imagine by most definitions, the answer would be no. I don’t have time for it; I have a son to raise and books to write. I drift in and out of gaming when something catches my attention. Whenever I’ve tried to be a hardcore gamer–for a while my husband and I had an arrangement for me to be able to take Friday evenings off from parenting starting at 7 PM so I could raid with my guild–it never worked out. 7 PM for me was 10PM for many of my guildies, so they wanted to start raiding at 5:30 PM, just when I was eating dinner with my husband and son. I always felt guilty because either I was letting my guildies down or I was ignoring my obligations to my family, so I just stopped trying to be a raider. Trying to do RaidFinder-type raids resulted in me being rejected and sometimes harassed for not being geared to their standards, so now I mostly stick to single-player games or do solo and small group content that I can work on in my own time.
While I am a feminist, I also don’t pretend that I’m the most educated and informed person on many of the issues. I’m very reclusive and sometimes that puts me behind the ball on current events and issues.
So, there. I’m by no means either an expert gamer or an expert feminist. I’m just someone who cares enough to try to call attention to issues when and where I can, using the voice and the medium I have available to me. Which, in this case, means as an author of LGBT romance.
When I started writing Player vs. Player , it was about a year after the harassment of Jennifer Hepler (formerly of Bioware) had taken place, and slightly less than a year after Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency had received such toxic backlash for starting her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games Kickstarter.
Those incidences stayed with me because I knew that internetting while female could be a nasty business, and because the harassment was so very vile, because it spoke of such a deep-seated hatred in gaming culture toward women, part of me thought, “Dear God, what is going to happen when one of these people goes from trolling to actual violence?”
It didn’t seem like a far-fetched possibility to me. In fact, it seemed downright inevitable. Because that’s the way things work. Bullies egg each other on and make one another feel bolder and try harder to impress each other and the bullying keeps escalating. That’s the way it’s worked ever since I was the bully-magnet on the playground when I was a kid. One kid would say a cruel thing. The other kids would laugh, so he’d say something crueler. Someone else would try to one-ups him. Next thing I knew, I’d be cornered with them all trying to out-do each other and intimidating me physically. A few days later, someone would be walking down the halls right on my heels, stepping on the backs of my shoes to try to trip me, pushing me into lockers, or, when I got older, grabbing my ass to impress his friends when he came across me browsing the book aisle in the supermarket.
Bullying escalates. So it didn’t seem at all unrealistic that the sort of treatment Hepler and Sarkeesian had received could eventually morph into actual physical violence. After all, what is the point of disseminating someone’s personal information such as their phone number and home address unless you’re trying to encourage someone to go after that person physically, and trying to intimidate that person with the possibility of an actual physical assault?
So that is what I wrote about. But I’m a writer of LGBT (primarily m/m but that may be subject to change in the future) romance, so I used the platform I had, making the story a murder mystery with a romantic subplot between two male characters. At one point I tried to contact Ms. Sarkeesian and see if I could get any more insight that would help me craft that story, but I imagine the amount of email she gets is tremendous so I’m not surprised that mine didn’t catch her notice, and that’s okay. I wrote as best I could, with the information had.
I thought I’d seen vile. I hadn’t seen anything yet.
I hadn’t seen an ex-boyfriend with a sexist ax to grind mobilize a bunch of misogynist trolls against Zoe Quinn (see next paragraph for explanation of this event.) I hadn’t game developer Brianna Wu driven from her home by threats. I hadn’t seen a college campus massacre threatened just because Anita Sarkeesian was going to speak about misogyny in video games (see below.) I hadn’t seen Felicia Day, the darling of geek culture, doxxed less than an hour after cautiously standing up and saying, “this isn’t right.”
(It should be noted that a couple days earlier, former NFL player and notable gamer and LGBT-rights activist Chris Kluwe said the same thing Day did, only much less diplomatically, but he hasn’t been doxxed. It’s only women being targeted.)
I’ve been posting recently about GamerGate, both here and on Tumblr. Maybe some of you don’t know what that is. I’m not going to try to explain it, because many people have done so much better than I can. I will refer you to this article, which explains it nicely.
ETA: After you’ve read that, check out this for a series of screencaps from discussions on 4chan in the first few days of the GamerGate operation, where we see it transition from a misogynist harassment campaign that wasn’t getting any traction to a concerted, calculated effort to try to cloak the harassment under a veneer of legitimacy and co-opt social justice hotbutton issues and language in an attempt to turn other women against Zoe Quinn.
But let’s just make one thing very clear. Despite subsequent recruitment of well-intentioned but misguided stooges and efforts to cloak themselves in legitimacy and claims of being about journalistic ethics, GamerGate is and has been from its very first inception about harassing women in the gaming industry, and women who critique gaming and gamers. It is a misogynist movement whose supporters are willing to make terroristic threats to silence people for suggesting that maybe, just maybe, using images and tropes relying on sexualized violence against women (and people of color, and LGBTQIA+ people) is at best, unimaginative and at worse, harmful to actual people.
GamerGate came along right after I had finished final edits on Player vs. Player. Part of me wishes sometimes I had written it a year later. It would have been a much more informed book. What was primarily on my mind as we were wrapping up PvP was Elliott Rodgers and the UCSB shooting. I even addressed the dedication to his victims and started the book with a quote from vlogger Laci Green, where she said about the shootings: “Misogyny actually kills people.”
At the time, Laci’s message was topical to PvP because that is, at its heart, what PvP is about. It’s about the misogynist/homophobic/racist backlash against gamers requesting (and game developers delivering) more diverse gaming content.
Misogyny actually kills people. That’s an important point to make. We know–especially right now in the aftermath of the murder of unarmed young black men in Ferguson and elsewhere across the United States–that racism kills people. We know that homophobia kills people. And misogyny kills people.
What is so very terrifying about GamerGate and the anti-diversity backlash in gaming is that it’s a perfect storm of misogyny, homophobia, and racism. These people are making terrorist threats against people who are simply asking for fewer harmful tropes and more diverse representation.
A very sad, jaded part of me wonders if the fact that Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu, Zoe Quinn, and now Felicia Day are being terrorized, threatened, even driven out of their homes, would be getting as much play in the press if these women were black, and an even sadder part of me knows the answer to that question would be “no.” We’re taking notice because this is happening to white women (Correction: Ms. Sarkeesian actually identifies as Armenian, I’m told, and her family is from Iraq.)
If I were writing Player vs. Player today, the murderers in the story would identify themselves as supporters of GamerGate. The only reason they don’t is because I wrote the book a year too early. In the author’s notes at the end of the book, I reference Jennifer Hepler and Anita Sarkeesian and explain how their incidences informed the writing of the book. If I were writing it today, that list would be a lot longer, and the book would probably actually be a lot grimmer, because the situation is far more toxic than even I envisioned at the time I wrote the book.
Ms. Sarkessian, Ms. Hepler, Ms. Quinn, Ms. Wu, Ms. Day, this book is for you, and for all the women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ gamers who have been and are being harassed into silence. It’s for cypheroftyr and dragonreine, two amazing LGBTQIA+ female gamers of color who are running the Why-I-Need-Diverse-Games blog and the #ineeddiversegames hashtag. It’s for more people than I can possibly hope to mention, who are refusing to be silenced, despite the best efforts of these misogynist, racist, homophobic trolls to turn gaming and simply being online while female into a culture of terror.
Thank you for fighting the fight. I know my contribution is nothing next to yours, but I’m doing what I can and I will always, always have your backs.
20 responses to “Why I wrote Player vs. Player: @FeliciaDay @FemFreq @Spacekatgal @ChrisWarcraft @TheQuinnspiracy @gogreen18”
Thank you for writing this. ❤
You’re very welcome.
I am also a feminist and hardcore gamer. My own gaming fiction was light and cute and meant to embrace game culture but now I feel like this has colored parts of it in a darker light. I’ve always liked gaming. There’s definitely some hate but it always felt like childish tantrums and I never took it seriously. I don’t play certain games and I’d say 99% of my experiences through the years in gaming have been positive. I’ve seen hate flung at games like Gone Home (which is great storytelling) but I wrote it off as trolling. As a writer, I’ve been trolled and sometimes it’s gotten worse/personal but never to this degree. I’m sickened and saddened by these people because they’ve ruined a community. They drew a line in the sand and now it’s hard to fully embrace being a gamer if you’re female. I’m not going to stop. I love gaming and their nonsense isn’t taking that from me, but I thought Felicia Day expressed it well. No longer do I feel comfortable heading into an online forum or match or into a store unprepared. I don’t care who did or did not sleep with someone. I don’t care if the worst game ever was hyped (and I doubt any of those things are true). The top 100 books on the NYT bestseller list are, in my opinion, probably at least 60% crap. It’s how it goes. Marketing hits for some things an not others. I’m sure there are great unsung games. But it has nothing to do with even one of the points these people have tried to make.
When a man publicly threatens rape, when he jokes about choking women, and anyone takes him seriously? I’m done. I guess I’ll go play my Xbox while I can still can. Before I corrupt it by being near my vagina.
Thank you, Sarah. Yes. This. So much, this.
Reblogged this on Eliava Says and commented:
This is a fascinating (and terrifying) look at the way misogyny in gaming culture has escalated over the past year. Over the past 8+ years of playing World of Warcraft, I have experienced all sorts of different reactions to the fact that I’m a gamer… I can’t imagine being as visible as any of these women and thus increasing the negative reactions exponentially. Being a woman of color who is also a feminist and a gamer is not an easy task at any given time, but it’s getting harder and scarier in times like these–and gaming is my outlet. It’s my free space… I just want it to be a safe space too. By denouncing this movement as the misogyny that it is, and keeping in mind that misogyny is a real threat to women everywhere, I hope we can work together to make the gaming community a place where women don’t have to hide and be silent because they’re afraid.
Thank you for speaking up and for the reblog.
I’m deeply excited to have a new book to read! I’ve pre-ordered Player vs. Player, it’s relevant to my interests. And thank you for writing both the book and this post. I’ve been following gamergate closely, and have managed to be only mildly blasted by gamergaters for my fairly scathing comments, despite the fact I am female, a gamer, and an employee of the Evil Empire (Also known as EA.) It honestly kind of amazes me that the whole movement is still going, since gamers generally have the attention span of one of my cats. I can only hope this becomes a real watershed moment in the gaming industry, encouraging people to go the OPPOSITE direction of what ‘gaters want. I know I for one don’t feel like going anywhere.
Thank you so much. My husband and I have been bracing ourselves in case I draw too much attention, which I hope won’t happen but if it does? It only goes to prove the point we’ve been trying to make.
I mentioned last night on Tumblr that I feel like the gaters have turned themselves into the Westboro Baptist Church of geek culture. Nobody, not even the people who might agree with them, are going to want anything to do with them now.
Well before the Internet, there was an aversion (though subtle) to women playing Dungeons & Dragons (literally a board game, ruled by the throw of dice, and overseen by a Moderator). In the late 70s/early 80’s I tried to join a group playing D&D; but was NEVER taken seriously. The people I knew were at Uni (late teens/early 20’s), but they never allowed me to even TRY! (OK, I was older than them, but I didn’t think it mattered)! So, this is not new.
Thank you, Amelia, for all your valid comments – so true, unfortunately. I’ve followed the GG fracas on Twitter and FB; read the blogs; and avoided the dregs. The excuse of “realistic” journalism is pathetic, and realistically, the nay-sayers are digging a HUGE hole for themselves to fall into 🙂 I have a great deal of pity for those GG’ers who have nothing better to do than whine at women who are strong enough to stand up to them. Long may Women demand equality!! 🙂
You’ve hit upon a core truth here. This isn’t just a gamer problem. This is a geek culture problem.
This is a problem with the way cosplayers are treated at conventions (also addressed in PvP.) This is a problem with the way women are treated in comic book stores, how it’s assumed sci-fi is a male-only genre despite the fact that the very first ever sci-fi novel was written by a teenaged girl (Mary Shelley, Frankenstein) and the fact that the first ever masked super-hero was written by a woman (Baroness Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel.)
This is a problem with the “Fake Geek Girl” trope, where geek guys assume if a woman enjoys something within geek culture, she’s faking it for male attention.
These assholes need to recognize that we STARTED geek culture. Women. Not men.
Last night, I saw this rather incredible screencap and my mind is still blown: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B0lb8wNCEAA1tm5.png:large
Some of these guys have seriously talked themselves into believing that women playing video games is cultural appropriation. I can’t even.
We had ourselves a pretty good rant about this at GRL, so you know I’m with you on this one.
It’s such BS that these ‘Gaters seem to act as if it’s been all them all along, and if game designers try to include anyone else, well, who’s ‘anyone else’? To them, they’ve been the only ones.
And that’s crap and one of the lies they tell themselves. They try to steal the language of social justice and use it very poorly, treating their definition of ‘gamers’ as some sort of oppressed minority which kinda pisses this queer black chick off.
No one’s trying to take their toys away from them, so I wish this tantrum would end already.
In addition to that bit of brilliance about “cultural appropriation” linked above, a day or two ago, I saw a post where someone was claiming that gaming is a man-only “safe space” and that the reason they get violent is because we’re trying to take it away.
It’s such bullshit. Their true “toy” is the ability to terrorize women anonymously. It’s not about the games at all. The games are just an excuse, and unfortunately, without legal action, I don’t think that toy is going away any time soon.
Man-only safe space?
I think I choked on my tea.
Holy shit, since when?
Seriously, you can’t make this shit up: https://manboobz.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/daniceguy.png. This guy is acknowledging that some of these misogynists in gaming are possibly actually dangerous, but that it’s all the feminists’ fault if they get hurt for poking them with a stick. I can’t even.
Eee! I love that site!!
Yeah, they’re right on top of all the bullshit, calling it out day after day. I’d be reblogging them incessantly except I’m afraid it would lose me every follower I have. I get the feeling I’ve already lost some who follow me just for the m/m and have been turned off by the gaming stuff.
…and this is why I have a separate blog. I can be as ranty (and vulgar) as I please 🙂
I’ve considered it, but I figure what’s the point of neglecting two blogs?
Pingback: So, GamerGate finally worked up the guts to go after @ChrisWarcraft | The fiction of Amelia C. Gormley
Pingback: So much ethics: An anti-GamerGate rant @Veeren_Jubbal @INeedDivGms @ChrisWarcraft | The fiction of Amelia C. Gormley