No Girls Allowed: Gamergate and Privilege

No Girls AllowedI don’t stay up much on the whole gamergate thing, for reasons that will become clear enough in a moment. But I found Todd VanDerWerff’s article over at Vox interesting, Gamergaters Don’t Think It’s About Ethics in Journalism. They Think It’s About Colonialism. For those of you who are blessed with having never heard about it, gamergate is basically a great big whine on the part of the traditional gaming community who think that the girls and the darkies are going to pollute the insular fun of their Call of Duty games. I think the best way to think of gamergate is to imagine three ten-year-old boys inside a tree fort with a sign on the outside that reads, “No girls allowed.”

This article is in reference to an article by Gita Jackson at Boing Boing, We Are Not Colonists. According to her, the traditional gamers feel as though they are settlers of a world with their distinct culture. And now, they feel all these “foreign” elements are coming in and taking over. This is, of course, a ridiculous notion. No one is trying to stop people from getting their vile kicks from Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto.

I think the “colonization” paradigm is a useful one. But it describes the situation from the inside. Jackson asked the question, “Are there ‘natives’ to non-physical spaces?” Of course there aren’t. What makes one a native is to be born and raised in a place. These gamers are just as much immigrants as anyone else. But most of all, no one is taking anything from these guys:

Colonialism historically removed power from minority groups, stripping them of their homes and cultures. But no matter how many thinkpieces on gender and race and sexuality in games get written, there will be a new Call of Duty every year. For every Twine game, there are thousands of bros who will buy the next hot AAA release without reading a single review.

But I also think it is simpler than this. The complaints of the gamers are exactly the complains of any group with power that sees that power threatened. It is really just about privilege. I don’t think the irony is missed on anyone that these aggrieved games are generally straight white mans of the middle class and up. The whole of gamergate can be seen as a microcosm of the American power elite’s clinging to power — or a replay of the aggrieved white male of the 1970s, trying to deal with the increasing public power of women.

From what I can tell, the ultimate fear of these basement dwellers is that people are starting to look down on them. And I think they are right. I think the portrayal of women in almost every game I’ve ever seen will gradually be seen sort of like Playboy magazine. But having the world think that you aren’t creepy, immature, or both is not something anyone has a right to expect. But expecting things you have no right to is the very definition of privilege.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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