This is our truth, tell us yours
This is part one of a 3 part series, that will cover #gamergate, hopefully challenge Saarkesian’s whorephobia and go on at great length about stuff most readers probably dont care about. I promise to put more sex in the next post
When the telephone was invented in the late 19th century it posed a serious question of etiquette, how should one answer it when you didn’t know the class, age or gender of the caller? It is said that Hello was “popularised” as a neutral form of greeting because of the telephone, and in other cultures specific words came into being to deal with the issue, wei in China and mushi mushi in Japan.
These concerns also led to the hiring of women as telephonists, in rather the same way that call centers now base themselves in the North East it was felt people would be more comfortable talking to a woman they did not know. So the most cutting edge tech in the world was put in the hands of women, and this was not felt to be odd or unusual. It never is, tech does not arrive gendered, we may over time assign it to one or another gender, but that does not happen instantly. Technological advances have been adopted, and adapted by men and women throughout history, and our great grandmothers who operated a telephone exchange or the steam powered loom in a mill would have had something to say about the idea women were not at the forefront of using new technology.
Closer to home when I got my mega drive no one wondered why a girl wanted the latest tech. I lived with three men (no not like that you perverts) we were housemates at university, and most evenings would see us sharing the team zeroforce driving or trying to start fights on NHL hockey. So it think it is safe to say I have always been a gamer, ever since I tried to get manic miner to the next level, or instructed Bilbo to drink the wine. Is it odd that I have to reiterate no one thought this was odd? I may have been an obnoxious preteen demanding a zx spectrum, but the objection was never “Why would a girl want one?” Its also worth pointing out here that there was no tech/nerd/geek link. How could there be, expensive cutting edge technology is never the preserve of outsiders, its cool and confers that coolness on those who own it. Those early telephonists were not seen to be geeks because they used a complex new communication device, nor were they seen to be in some way aping masculine qualities or less feminine. Of course over the years, as the job became gendered it was devalued, the pay was lower and it was not seen as highly skilled, that though is an issue with society, but more of that anon.
Life, and travel, and adding to the worlds population burden intervened for me. Other than a serious Civilisation addiction, brought on by the gateway drug of Age of Empires ( Sid Myers, just say no kids) I was removed from the gamesphere. In the intervening years a series of not so good hardware and poor business decisions led to huge losses for the major game and console producers. They attempted to market to families, to children, to any demographic who would take them, and finally hit on the winning formula, young white men who already felt excluded from society.
This was not a unique marketing idea, its a very easy way to create demand for your product. Suggest that people hunting for an identity can buy it with the right label and you will never go broke. It is also important to point out that it is not just white cis men who are looking for a tribe. From the car you drive to the music you listen to marketing tells us that moving around the little pieces of paper leads to personal happiness. Possibly the biggest test of whether you are a grown up or not is when you realise this is false. At 13 you will die without the right trainers, at 20 you need the right iphone, hopefully by 30 you understand capitalism is predicated on selling you stuff and keeping you just unhappy enough to regularly replace it.
So far so par for the course. However nothing happens in a vacuum, and in marketing to appeal to a certain demographic the game and console producers chose one that has always had an element of aggression and belief in its own entitlement. This is hardly a surprise, a small number of those cis white men do well out of capitalist patriarchy, so the myth is fed that all cis white men can reach those pinnacles. Of course it is a lie, the majority are just as much cannon fodder as their great grandfathers in the First World War. Which partially accounts for the aggression, the sense of a grievance unmet, the idea that the world isnt fair but permeates so much of #gamergate. Or as Tyler Durton said.
Man, I see in Fight Club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables – slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.
This group was sold the idea of gamer as an identity, in order to sell products. That identity was apparently an outsider, feeding that sense of aggrievement and alienation, and making millions for the companies involved. In order to keep the sense of a group with common goals and beliefs game after game was churned out that reinforced the idea “gamers” looked, behaved, a certain way.
Some feel that cis white men are being blamed for being what they are, for the accident of birth that makes them relatively privileged. This of course is a huge misunderstanding of what privilege is. We all have it to some degree, I have masses compared to trans women or women of colour. What matters is recognizing your privilege, that the world need not center on you, that yes, there are people worse off. This is not whataboutery, its not even complex, it pretty much boils down to not being a dick. However when you are constantly sold the idea the world does look like you, and that your sense of self is challenged by anyone who doesnt it can seem like an attack when others speak out. Thus we arrive at #gamergate, a group protecting an identity they have been sold because the alternative would be accepting that just like everyone else they are screwed by capitalist patriarchy, you cannot buy happiness.