Author: Dan Cox

#gamersgate from inside academia

I used to think I knew what academia was, and the ways it creates walls between itself and the outer world. Having been around professors, staff, and university offices for going on ten years now, I thought I had a pretty good idea of how people react to things and their general knowledge about what I perceived as major events. Even within the far smaller group of professors and graduate students that play and write about video games at my school, I thought for sure they were as up on news, goings-on, and general trends as I was. That they, more than me, I thought, were completely caught up on things.

Yet, in talking about #gamersgate to people during my work hours, in classrooms, and in general conversations over the past few weeks, I’ve learned very quickly that is definitely not the case. While a couple of people had some awareness of it, had seen the hashtag at the very least, no one seemed to to know what was behind it or the reasons why I was unset by it. A few people, and I’m thinking of one person in particular, even accused the women reporting being harassed I brought up of making up these claims for attention. (No responses of this type ever came from self-identified women, I note.)

With only a single exception, I was the one starting the conversations and bringing this topic up for discussions and in reading response posts. Despite being in classes with people I consider far smarter than me, and in a job that places me in conversations regularly with people with doctorates or those soon to have them, there was this prevailing ignorance about #gamersgate, why female game developers and writers were being harassed, and the clashes happening across Twitter, forums, and blogs. Even when I would explain why I was so sad after several major voices started to leave writing about games, there would be this general apathy about what I seeing and talking about.

To be honest, it made me very angry with these people who I saw calling themselves “gamers” at my school. Even in engaging conversations I had around the medievalist views embedded in Skyrim, the sexuality in the Dragon Age games, and, just yesterday, a great discussion about how to challenge the morality of a game’s mechanics, every time another person would say they were a “gamer” or use the term in some grouping pluralization, I would cringe. To me, given the things I had heard or read “gamers” leverage at people I respect in the community, I wanted nothing to do with the label. I had grown to hate it many ways and would be fine, as I told some people, if we “killed it completely.”

In another instance, even, when someone I know laughed about what he saw as the media ganging up together to get rid of the term “gamer” and how ridiculous that was for him, I lost a great deal of respect for him. I couldn’t know the people I know and even those I’m just barely aware of in the industry and community be abused textually and threatened with violence physically and not grow to hate the “gamers.” I couldn’t not do that. For a label I wasn’t already too keen about in the first place, I was and remain more than happy to get rid of it.

Yet, there remains this disconnect in academia. One, I think, that is illustrated pretty perfectly in the following anecdote I’ll close with.

During a talk with someone I work with about the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition, we both mentioned writing about the series in the past. I mentioned some past pieces I’d done on the Silent Sisters and they talked about writing on the relationships. When asked where I published my writing, though, I answered honestly: on a blog. (Having written for Nightmare Mode in the past, it was one of a handful of things I wrote about Dragon Age: Origins there.)

Upon hearing that, the other person replied, “Oh, so, nothing scholarly.”

It was a response, I realized after thinking about it late last night and into today, that summed up much of my frustration over the past few weeks. If it didn’t happen within the hallowed walls of academia, it often doesn’t matter or, far worse, is ignored. Overlooked, even. Because the self-confessed gamers I’ve talked to didn’t experience the hate, were blind to the threats, and had no real connections to the writers and developers textually abused, they didn’t care until I put it in front of their face. Until they were confronted with what it meant to me and shown the disgusting nature of those attacking under the banner of “gamers,” they thought of it, I can only surmise, as something happening to other people, to those outside the protection of the Ivy Tower. That is, if they thought about it at all.