THE WORD ON THE .NET

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

Category: Opinion (page 2 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.

#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

I Write Like: Stephen King, Douglas Adams, David Foster Wallace And, Rumour Has It, Vladimir Nabokov. What’s Your Writing Style—and what can it tell you?

This week I found a new toy—the I Write Like online writing analyser that apparently compares your writing style to those of famous authors. So I decided to experiment, to see what it could tell me about my style and maybe even a little about my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. The results were quite interesting (at least for me).

I thought it would be fun to cut-and-paste in pieces I’d written from different genres. Before we start, I thought I’d include the necessary reality-check and disclaimers: I’ve no idea about the algorithms they use under the hood, so I can’t comment on how accurate or thorough the analysis is. Also, the analyser doesn’t profess to assess the quality of the writing it looks at, so however much I would like to be able to claim my writing is as good as these authors, the analyser gives me no basis for believing that claim, however much I would like it to. Continue reading

How To Cope With The Harsh Realities Of Being A Writer: Guest Post By Author, Faye Ling.

This week I am hosting fellow writer, Faye Ling, who is new to the online world, and blogging in particular. Blackmail is such a dirty word, so let’s just say I owed her a few favours that she recently called in, and so today I ‘ve been forced to offer her this opportunity to try her hand at blogging. She is outspoken, often controversial, and takes no prisoners. Before I nervously hand over to my first guest blogger, I feel the need to issue a disclaimer:

 

EDITORIAL NOTE FROM T. JAMES: The views expressed in the following guest post are entirely those of its author, Miss Faye Ling. I have given editorial control to Faye for the purposes of this post. Except for her use of expletives, which I have edited, I take no responsibility for the opinions she expresses, or the way in which she chooses to express them. The words are entirely hers and in no way reflect my own beliefs or opinions. After some negotiation, I also managed to get Faye to agree to issue the following statement (although she has paraphrased my original wording):

“T. James has insisted that I say up front that I had no one in particular in mind when I wrote this post. I mean, I can think of several people this post applies to, but for some reason T. James has refused to introduce me to anyone he knows online, so obviously I’m not thinking of any of you. But because the hard-of-thinking assume that any negative generalisation somehow applies to them as an individual, any offense taken is completely the fault of the idiot choosing to be offended. Go and get some therapy for your low self-esteem. If you have low self-esteem and you aren’t prepared to embrace the darkside, do not read this post. If you’ve had a sense-of-humour bypass in the last twelve months, do not read this post. In fact, it is probably just better for you if you do not read this post.” Continue reading

Watch Your Back (Up): It’s Dangerous To Just Float In the Cloud


Everyone says, “Make a backup. Always make a backup,” of everything—photos, files, music. Why? Unless you have been living under a rock for the last thirty years everyone knows that computers fail, hard-drives fail. Breath on them funny, look at them funny, switch them on when the wind is in the wrong direction, and they’ll break, crash, and take all your valuable information with them. They are the weak link in the chain, right? Wrong.

Who says, “Beware of the Cloud?” In the mindset of most people, myself included, cloud storage has been touted as the panacea for all our storage woes. It seems everyone, Apple, Google, Microsoft and hundreds of smaller companies, are heralding cloud storage as the great Fluffy Knight in the Sky, our protector and saviour, guardian of our virtual world. Computer fails, it doesn’t matter, just download your stuff from the cloud. All is well.

Then you have your completely online solutions, e.g. Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365, Blogger, WordPress and others: Don’t just backup to the cloud, but do all your work there, reports, emails, everything—your information is safe with us. Is it? Continue reading

Are There Any Good Stories Left To Tell? All Is Doom and Gloom.

Image - open license from WikiCommons.

Now entering the final stages of editing my latest story I have been pondering the writer’s eternal question of, “What next?” What incredible, completely new, inspired, never-before-seen idea will seize hold of my inner essence and set me alight with a creative fire that burns brighter than for any work that has gone before?

Answer: Not a sausage.

So instead I am left pondering the meaning of my existence as a writer, and a human being.

The mood has been set by the subject matter of my last piece, depression, infidelity, cancer, and unemployment. In other words my character’s life sucks – which is entirely my fault. Guilt gnaws away the  last vestiges of my self-esteem. Logging onto my blog I find 145 spam messages awaiting me. This is the fruit that now bends the boughs of my creative tree. I therefore feel the need to issue dire warnings and pontifications on the future of writing, creativity, and society in general. You have been warned….
Continue reading

How Dumb Do We Think Our Readers Are?

Recently, I have read several blog posts that told me how I ought to write. I’m up for some constructive criticism. In fact I need constructive criticism, but these diktats seemed to be based on the assumption that our readers do not have two brain cells to rub together.

The advice given by some is that we should always use the simplest language when writing, regardless of the style, genre, intended readership group, or subject of the piece concerned. Comments like, “Why use a $10 word when a 10 cent word will do?” illustrate the thinking.

I will put my neck out and say I disagree. As a reader, writer, reviewer, crit-partner – whatever your role – shouldn’t we look at how well the language used works within the context of the piece, and not just seek to see how well it adheres to a set of predefined ‘rules’? Continue reading

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