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.

While people on both ‘sides’ have accepted my and others right to define their own position, others attack the neutral stance. Accusations include dishonesty, being a shill, being a coward for not embracing one position or the other, or being morally lacking in some way: how can you still be sane and not agree with either ethics in games journalism or be against harassment? Either that, or when a neutral states they believe in ethics and abhor harassment, then, apparently, we aren’t neutral at all, we’re stupid for not realising we really belong to the pro or anti group. While many ‘antis’ advocate the need for acceptance and tolerance of different sexual/gender identities and many pro-GG went ballistic when the media attacked their ‘gamer’ identity, identifying as neutral apparently makes you a legitimate target. Many on both sides seem to forget what it’s like to be undermined, deliberately misrepresented, and outright insulted. Don’t get me wrong, I can take a joke and I don’t melt like a snowflake, but for this to happen for hours, and be done by tens of strangers in hundreds of tweets is, frankly, bloody annoying.

However, these views of neutrality are, at best, ignorant, or wilful ignorance used to instigate point-scoring arguments (a recreational activity for some on social media). If neutrality is misunderstood by many, what is it, and why do I adhere to it?

Why is it so hard for some to understand, when you need to go no further than a dictionary?

Definition of neutrality:

  1. The state of not supporting or helping either side in a conflict, disagreement, etc.; impartiality: during the war, Switzerland maintained its neutrality.
  2. Absence of decided views, expression, or strong feeling.

(Oxford Dictionaries)

Many are neutral towards gamergate because they don’t consider having an ethical gaming press an important issue compared to all the other ills in the world. David Pakman is (or was, if he’s changed his stance since the video was made) probably the best known advocate of a neutral position towards the issues in gamergate:

If, at the same time you don’t believe the narrative that gamergate is primarily about harassing women, then you wouldn’t support the ‘anti’ side either. Hence—duh—being neutral.

Those who are a little hard-of-thinking probably want to stop here. We are about to go into the dangerous and challenging realms of subtlety—somewhere some fellow twitterers apparently find to be an uncomfortable, unfathomable place…

Neutrals can assume their stance for a whole range of reasons: David’s statements above are his, and apply to him alone. If you want to find out why someone is neutral towards pro- or anti- gamergate, you’re going to have to ask them, and then have the common sense not to generalise their answer to other neutrals. Neutrality can be the stance-of-choice for a whole range of reasons:

  1. Don’t care: don’t like video games; or not interested in the culture or politics of video games; or not interested in the latest online ‘drama’ and think it’s trivial etc. There’s probably loads of others.
  2. Scepticism: you don’t believe in the people on either side, no one seems credible; or you don’t believe that the internet can provide conclusive evidence to support either position.
  3. Methodology: you agree, at least in part, with one side or the other, but fundamentally disagree with the way that side is going about dealing with the issue.
  4. Identification: you agree, at least in part, with one side or the other, but not with the culture or group values that appear to you to represent that group. For example, you may agree that ethics needs reforming, but from your experience, you find those in GG are, largely, immature. Alternatively, you may push for social change and justice, but not feel represented by the e-celebs currently heading the push within gaming.
  5. Split allegiance: you embrace ideas and possibly methods used by both sides, leaving you spanning the gap between two entrenched and hostile camps.
  6. Abstinence: you believe passionately in the issue(s), but due to the current hostilities and online fighting, decide you just want to stay out of it.
  7. Probably many possibilities I’ve not covered here.

And lastly, there are combinations of any and all of the above that can be applied on a person by person, situation by situation, and an issue by issue basis. The point is, ‘neutral’ by itself isn’t a statement of position, only an indicator someone doesn’t identify/agree with one camp, or the other, or both. Again, if you’re really interested in why someone is neutral, then ask and be prepared to listen.

Every answer you get will be different.

If you’re interested in my answer, it’s HERE.