THE WORD ON THE .NET

Writer T. James' Exploration of Words, on the Internet.

Category: Opinion (page 1 of 3)

My right to free speech is protected by the non-existent British constitution. Everything herein expressed is an opinion, and any resemblance to anything real, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

A ‘Neutral’ Mansplains Neutrality Versus Being Pro- or Anti- Gamergate

Sounds like a dumb title, doesn’t it? But after the launch of a recent Gamergate associated tag, #GamerGateNeutral, and watching how many reacted to it, it seems an explanation of some basic principles is needed.

(NOTE: whether the GGN tag is truly representative of neutrality in its broadest sense is up for debate. Being a neutral, and therefore having enough of a brain to form my own opinions, I would argue it is not, but that isn’t the subject of this post.)

Gamergateneutral mission statement 260115

The term ‘neutral’ was coined after the descriptors of ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ gamergate came to be used as shorthand for those who focus on fighting for ethics in games journalism and those who consider that ‘gamergate’ is a cover for those wishing to engage in harassment and abuse of women in the games industry. For those who feel they cannot subscribe to, or stand with, either position, the term neutral has been adopted by some, myself included. Continue reading

A Neutral Proposal for Solving the Gamer and Social Justice Culture Clash

NOTE: Harassment and ethics are issues that are important to many, but NOT the focus this post. Agendas and concerns elsewhere, please.
This is about looking at allowing gamers of ALL sorts enjoyment of an inclusive hobby. Gaming is easily big enough for everyone. My suggestions for moving forward are:

1) When considering gaming and the community of gamers, drop the history. Leave it behind. Stop investigating. Stop shaming.
2) Social Justice types: stop trying to ban games.
3) Gamers: stop seeing the development of games that prioritise story and character interaction as threatening. Let those that enjoy ‘gentler’ or casual games do so without attacking them.
4) Devs: be aware the market contains a huge diversity of consumers. Follow your artistic vision for the game you wish to make, targeted at the audience you think will most enjoy it. Do not cave in to pressure to change your game by anyone who is not in the target demographic.
5) Devs, Gamers & Social Justice Types: stop attacking & trying to dismantle each other’s identities and sub-communities. Create safe and unsafe gaming spaces, and trash talk, or not, in an a place where it’s accepted.
6) Gamers & Social Justice Types: don’t be an idiot and make a nuisance of yourself in someone else’s space. Stick with your own and enjoy yourselves there.

What did I miss? Any suggestions/critique/agreement in the comments below. And we’re trying to look forward here. Can we think past the current gamergate ‘scandal’ no matter our affiliation?

A ‘Neutral’ Mansplains Gamergate, Social Justice and Radical Feminism

‘Mansplaining’, One Definition: a word often used by social activists and radical feminists to label someone’s opinions in such a way that they can be disregarded, based solely the gender of the holder.

Being neutral is about either not caring or it’s about asking questions. Why is there a fuss about a Storm Trooper’s colour? Why should Katniss Everdeen have been black? Why are the current sexualisation and depiction of women in games ‘bad’? And why are those who support gamergate feeling under attack from some radical feminists and social activists when it’s women who’ve been abused and threatened?

Gamergate was birthed as conjoined twins: the harassment of some women and the issues around game journalism ethics, or lack thereof. One side wants to say it’s all about the former, that the gamergate tag has no legitimacy except as another label for misogyny. The tag should be condemned and buried. The other side are crying out to be heard as they use the moniker ‘gamegate’ as a touchstone for the shared values of gaming culture, and even community. On both sides there are those who say their gamergate is the definitive one. I’m neutral and have to disagree. Gamergate is as messed up and mixed up as discussions about the value and nature of religion, and arguing exact definitions as pointless as debates over which gender is better. Continue reading

Dear Radical Feminist, a Letter About My Son

Dear Radical Feminist,

I have the honour and privilege of being the father of a wonderful seven-year-old. It is not his fault he was born a boy and has white skin and is statistically more likely to grow up hetero-sexual. Continue reading

#Gamergate, it’s ‘Them and Us’ All Over Again

The end of society as we know it? Probably not, but there’s plenty of fallout for those too close.

August-November, 2014 and #Gamergate hit the proverbial fan, setting off waves across the net:

  • ‘Lack of ethics in games journalism’ saw female dev-minxes allegedly grinding completely innocent journalists until they were so hot on testosterone they willingly lay naked on floors, laptop-typing feverously positive game reviews that were stiletto heel edited with jabs to the neck.
  • Hidden left-world think-tank, oestro-powered cranium-women sent Telepathic Mother Waves that were downloaded through big loopy earrings and regurgitated, unedited, by glam, pretty young things.
  • Hidden left-world think-tank, testostro-powered unwashed news hacks sat around in hairy-huddles, picking fleas from each others armpits and groin-sniffed and chest beat until they thought they were Alpha Kong-Dongs and could defecate on everyone else from on-high.
  • White, fat, hairy neckbearded menchildren responded and declared themselves the new oppressed minority majority, except the journalists had already killed them, so it was too late.
  • Left to to carry the torch were women-trans-gay-coloured gamers who shouted at the open-minded and completely unbiased mainstream press who didn’t listen – they wanted to demonstrate sympathy with the fem-left by acting in an utterly patriarchal way: ‘helping’ distressed women against their online male oppressors because it was what their audience expected, and gamer-hating brought in the ratings and ad revenue.
  • The Rabid-Fem community heard the ‘gamers’ who refused to conform though. Clothed solely in totally functional and ungenderising armour woven from whiter-than-white lily petals, these humanitarian souls labelled other women, non-whites and every gender imaginable, ‘white mens’ bee-atches’, ‘house-n*ggers’ and ‘gender-traitors’.
  • The non-majority gamers retaliated with angry signs declaring ‘#NotYourShield’ and accusations of control, hypocrisy and prejudice.

Not nice, is it?

The confusion, clash of ideologies, nepotism, deceit and arrogance displayed through the whole debacle has left lives in tatters (no, really) and enraged  people on- and offline. So, who’s to blame? The Quinns, Sarkeesians, or Wus? If women had that much power, even the most rabid man-haters would be appeased, their desired matriarchy firmly established over all men and any women still willing to treat the breast-less as human beings. Whatever their actions or politics, those three have taken enough flak and it’s time to let them get on with finding their lives. Zoe Quinn will, hopefully, eventually find joy in developing games and sharing them with an open-minded audience. Yes, Anita Sarkeesian will probably release another video or several criticising males and video games and appear on mainstream TV and in editorials, but that’s what she does. I’m not going to tell her she can’t. I’d even fight for her right to do so but she doesn’t need my help.  Whatever she says or does, I hope those that threatened her are caught and dealt with. And Brianna Wu? I hope she keeps finding the courage to send a few mocking tweets – there are plenty on  the internet who need a good prodding. My hope is that they’re big enough to take it, and restrict their responses to tweets-in-kind.

So, that leaves the misogynist gamers (no matter their colour, creed or orientation), the corrupt games journalists, the sociopathic trolls, self-serving mainstream media, the Boadicea Wimmin Warriors and Fem-Bashing Neanderthals. Who’s your tribe? Which group(s) do you hate?

Personally, I blame the cliques; group-think works for any ideology. It’s the safe way to live.

How to fight an historical patriarchy that remains as part of the establishment, making the life-slope steeper for women to climb? Solution: define yourself by opposition and become a man-hater pushing for preference, not equality.

How to fight racism and discrimination against human beings who just happen to have more melanin in their skin than I do? Solution: define yourself by opposition and call white males bigoted ‘rednecks’ and ‘neckbeards’.

How to fight the corrupt media? Solution: in-focus and huddle, until you call for boycotting of every site that hosts reviews you just don’t like, and not just because they manipulate and grant behind the scenes favours. Follow up by nit-picking every little mistake your opposition makes, as if that proves your point. (But your opposition does that too, so it doesn’t matter.)

Instead, do you join the corrupt media? Answer: absolutely, because you get to close ranks with your mates when the finger pointing starts, insult you readership, and refuse to even consider signing up to ethically sound journalistic guidelines to ensure a level playing field for everyone.

That leaves the disenfranchised, what should they do? Answer: form an anti-whatever group and send the hate ‘they’ dissed you with back at ‘them’, ten-fold.

What’s so utterly obvious, yet apparently so hard to believe and act on, is that no one is perfect. Prejudice, self-righteousness, anger, hatred, judgemental-ism: it’s part of all of us. People are complex. No-one’s online self is all that they are. But, whoever we are and whatever our weaknesses, we’re defined by our choices. So, which have you made? Do you hate/despise/belittle those who oppose you? Attempt to silence them? Attack them personally?  (Note: criticising someone’s work is different – maybe just keep the bile out of it?)

Are you defined by being anti-something, or are you for something, and no, they are not the same.

Humanity doesn’t need hate-filled feminism any more than it needs self-interested patriarchy. It doesn’t need self-appointed, self-interested power groups any more than it does those who would resort to abuse or attacks to fight them. It doesn’t need groups or individuals labelling and condemning each other and not listening.

Whether our bits jiggle when we walk, or not, whether we turn pink in the sun, or not, when did we leave parts of our minds / souls / spirits behind?

Tomorrow is another day, so why not make it better?

#Gamergate: What Does it *Mean*? And Should You Use it?

Like many writers, I find stringing words together gets my thoughts in order. I wasn’t sure I was even going to publish this… but I decided to. It’s not an academic piece. It’s not referenced, it’s opinion. It’s pretty much an unedited stream of consciousness written at 3am after a private disagreement with another writer about gamergate. Was it ethical to use the hashtag on Twitter, to participate at all?

‘#Gamergate’ is something that’s become a massive controversy in the gaming community. Gaming has been a huge part of my life, nearly 30 years of it in fact. I took a break recently to explore my own creativity and have come full circle writing in a game universe. (Usual disclaimer: these opinions are completely my own and are not representative of anyone else’s. I’m an indie writer and enjoy the privilege of spouting off without undue concerns about being censored.)

Gamergate is a complex, many headed hydra. It started with an online ‘exposure’ by Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend of intimate details of her life, their previous relationship, naked photos, and accusations of sleeping with games journalists for favourable reviews of her game, amongst other personal attacks. The ‘sex for favours aspect’ was subsequently rebuffed by Kotaku (the site the games journalist she had a relationship with wrote for), stating what was written was not contemporaneous with the relationship and nothing was written after it started. But the internet had already got hold of the story. Some vicious thugs, because there is no other name for people that do things like this, persecuted Quinn to such an extent she was driven out of her home and it’s wrecked her life. Other female gamers/developers/critics have encountered similar hateful treatment. Perversely, some of the gamergate movement denied this ever happened, that the abuse isn’t real – I’ve read the tweets. Whether this stems from ignorance or a wilful desire to ignore the evidence, I don’t know, but I’m not convinced by either.

Others accuse those affected of cynical victim-hood to push an agenda, and even engineering the evidence of the abuse for personal gain or furthering of political agendas antithetical to gaming culture. Personally, I don’t think this likely. The victimisation is real, it’s ugly, and is a stain on the gaming community as a whole… And for some that’s gamergate. Jealous ex -> stigmatisation -> vilification -> victimisation. Ruined lives. The label of gamergate stood for, and will always stand for, the systematic abuse of women in the gaming community. After the hateful experiences of those concerned, that’s a perfectly reasonable interpretation. Gamergate for them will always be when their community turned on them. Many people of conscience also feel this way about the tag. (Watching someone go through that, you’d have to be a real git not to empathise.) They argue that to use the tag is to perpetuate the abuse, even implicitly endorse it. Some of those under the gamergate banner still espouse viewpoints I think most reasonable people would find utterly offensive. So, this leaves a question, how can anyone use the tag online, support gamergate, and even defend it? Is gamergate now not just another misogynistic label and rallying point for sexist bigots and abusers?

You’d think so. I was surprised when I read the tweets.

As well as the abuse, I found a diverse range of people: white, coloured, male, female, trans, gay, bi… all using the tag. Surely this is morally indefensible and reprehensible? It comes down to motive. I read, listened, watched. I went back in time and and did more of the same. Some of it was about the victimisation/affront to gaming of Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, and Brianna Wu; some viewpoints were sympathetic, some not. There was, and still is, threads running through the tag highlighting the minutiae of the lives and event-sequences for all three individuals: who did what, when, to whom; what this tweet/vid/blog/interview means. But that wasn’t all that was there. There were many who were genuinely concerned about the ethics of games journalism and political agendas. Whether or not Quinn was guilty as charged didn’t matter, there were other things wrong with games reporting. Nah, I thought. So I did some more digging. Major companies have pulled advertising. Gawker has been found to have broken Amazon’s advertising-host Terms and Conditions and lost its backing; games journalists and forum moderators sites have been called out for bullying and abusing ‘gamers'; professional cliques (ProJournos) are thought to communicate behind closed doors, having the power to make-or-break a title before release. There was, and is, a massive community outcry to have these issues and concerns heard, to have them discussed within the gaming news sights that purport to represent ‘gamers’. Most were silent and gamer resentment mounted. Then several sites released ‘Death of the Gamer’ articles. Gamers were labelled as fat, white, heterosexual misogynist ‘neckbeards’. There was abuse from people who called themselves professional journalists towards a community that, apparently naively, thought they were there to provide a service and share there love of gaming. White male gamers didn’t like it. But neither did women gamers, coloured gamers, or gamers of other sexualities. This isn’t us!’ they shouted. ‘We are gamers too!’

The antipathy had been there a long time. Some reviewers were evaluating the content of the games, in a way that asked, ‘Were they “PC”?’ Many gamers wanted reviewers to just review games, not add in ‘progressive’ political footnotes. The divide, dislike and distrust between journalists and many gamers grew, until some journos declared they wanted them, and any male-based culture, ‘Dead’ and gone. From outside, a storm in a tea cup? It can look that way, but for many gaming is a passion, and for some of the most vulnerable, their only escape. The defence started. No one likes being called a misogynist, sexist, a bigot because they play some games featuring women lacking a full set of clothes and pneumatic breasts. (The debate as to whether this makes you a misogynist or not is one of the central ones of gamergate.) Other non-white/non-male/non-hetero groups were outraged at being misrepresented by those who supposedly thought gaming should be more inclusive, and that this wasn’t going to happen until the old, stereotypical white male culture was dismantled. ‘Gaming is already diverse; we’re here and we have our own voices, thank you very much,’ came the response. So gamers of all stripes, genders, and orientations protested. Some gamers allied with the journalists, some stayed neutral, and some idiots stirred the pot. The dialogues had all been happening under the label, the hashtag, of ‘gamergate’. The label was irrevocably attached to the conversation/debate/war. Everyone now knows what ‘WWII’ means: six years of hell to push back an evil regime, but to some in 1939 it meant a local territorial dispute that would be sorted by Christmas. ‘WWII’ is a label whose meaning changed over time for the people that lived through it. So it is now for many moderate gamers: ‘gamergate’ is no longer just Quinn’s story, or Sarkeesian’s, or Wu’s – it’s still their stories, yes, but there’s now many more. To anyone whose watched trends and ‘movements’ come and go on the internet, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Repackaging, reinventing, rehashing of meaning is endemic to such a transient medium as social networking. The word remains.

So now you have camps: those who are disgusted by anyone who identifies with the gamergate tag; those who feel it represents them, their community, their concerns and stand in opposition to a press that they feel has betrayed them; those who want it to implode, to display the moral bankruptcy of the white male patriarchal gaming culture; those who want it to disappear so they can go back to playing games; and those who couldn’t care less. (There’s probably more.)

Whatever their viewpoints or agenda, the meaning of ‘gamergate’ has changed, for the people that use it (or not), and over the course of time. It will continue to change as more moderates feel they can/need to affiliate with it to actively engage in a discussion things may settle down, develop, mature. Useful dialogues and accountability, a vilification of those who peddle hate and violence may become hallmarks of the virtual culture crossroads that is gamergate. Either that, or it will fall into the hands of one extremist mindset or another and drift into obscurity leaving the disillusioned middle behind… or everyone will get bored and drop it as yesterday’s fad. Whatever happens, the collective meaning of gamergate is different: from yesterday, to today, into tomorrow.

The meaning for those whose lives were chewed up by gamergate’s genesis will not change, however. And whatever their politics or viewpoint, my heart goes out to them.

Whether you choose to use it depends on what it means to you.

 

Fan Fiction: Evil Plagiarism, or Innocent Homage?

Fan fiction (fanfic)—fans writing fiction based on an author’s book—hit the headlines in 2011 when E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey became a best-selling self-published ebook. The publishing rights were purchased by Random House and the (eventual) trilogy went on to become a mainstream best seller, with the first novel becoming the fastest selling book of all time, outstripping (cough) even Harry Potter. (The series was originally inspired by Stephanie Mayer’s Twilight novels, but later morphed into something quite, well, different.) At the time it was vilified  by “proper” writers and shredded by critics, but the books have sold over 65 millions copies. Fan fiction splits opinion, both of authors and readers, but recently I started a new writing project that has forced me to re-examine mine. Continue reading

Problems Writing Your Novel Or Story? Maybe A Little Logic Can Help…

So what do you do when your creativity goes to sleep? How do you respond when readers tell you that your character’s actions and speech are inconsistent and erratic? How do you smooth out those kinks in your plot? When your creativity implodes, rolls over and dies; or when it’s buzzing along so fast on turbo-charge that your characters morph and change faster than Play-Doh being pummelled by a hyperactive four-year-old; when your plot has more holes in it than a rusty cheese grater—it’s time to stop writing, give the right side of your brain a rest, and reach for your internal Mr Spock. Continue reading

Self-Publication: The Floodgates Aren’t Open Yet—But They Will Be, Soon.

Since I self-published my first eBook in March this year there has been around 200,000 books added to Amazon’s Kindle eBook store; that’s over 65,000 new titles per month. If my guess is correct, then this may only be the start and the floodgates have yet to open. Continue reading

Self-Censorship Vs. Creativity.

When a writer writes, should they play it safe and live comfortably in the knowledge that no one will be offended? Do they push their craft to the limits of their imagination, even if others hate what they do? Is there ever a valid reason for breaking with ‘good taste’? These are some of the questions I’ve been thinking about this week.

Last month I tried an experiment: I gave an opinionated, obnoxious and thoroughly unlovely character some of my blog space. Most blog posts that feature fictional characters are careful to let the reader know what is going on; in my blog posts I deliberately kept that fact hidden—instead I left some clues in these posts for readers to find. Some clues were discovered, some were not.

I received a wide range of responses: some thought it was clever and funny; others did not like it; still others felt as though it was a joke made at their expense. So my question is, as a writer, do I follow my creative whims or do I censor what I write to avoid offending people? Continue reading

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