"Keep Politics Out of Gaming" - Why Games Journalists Won't Leave Their Ideologies at the Door | GIZORAMA

“Keep Politics Out of Gaming” – Why Games Journalists Won’t Leave Their Ideologies at the Door

October 15, 2014 by

It’s time GamerGate supporters stopped viewing the “ideologies” and “biases” of outlets and writers as an inherent form of corruption, and starting accepting that ideologies are simply a part of life.

[Disclaimer – Since this is an opinion piece, these opinions are my own, and are not necessarily shared by the other writers at GIZORAMA. Thankfully, GIZORAMA gives me a chance to share my thoughts and hopefully have a positive impact on the games industry, something I am forever grateful for. My opinions have also not been influenced by that one time Tim Schafer favourited a Tweet I made]

As of writing, it is October 15th, and GamerGate has officially seen gamers and this industry at its worst. I’ve seen some pretty awful things happen to good people in the games industry over the years, but threats of terrorism are a new low. Before you jump down my throat and accuse me of being unethical or “bias” (FYI, one person cannot represent the concept of “bias” – biased is the word you are looking for), I’d first like to state that this article will not be about harassment, misogyny or any of the other vile things we’ve witnessed as our medium has slowly warped into a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Rather, I’d like to address the notion that ideologies, politics and biases are inherently “corrupt”, and that they have no place in games media.

romney

When this whole thing started, I posted an opinion piece informing readers of The Sarkeesian Effect, a silly little Patreon project attacking socially responsible games media people under the false guise of anti-corruption/pro-ethics in games journalism. It’s officially the most commented on post on this site, and I was originally prepared to indulge some of these commenters and fight my corner, since it was clear that there are folks who are genuinely concerned with games press being secretive and dishonest. That is, I tried, until I was faced with comments like:

Rape threats are generally harmless, as long as they’re repeated.

or

Have you found a penis yet? How’s the vagina working out for you, mangina?

The final straw was when I was called a “racist” for commenting that the two white men funding The Sarkeesian Effect were dressed in a similar manner to that of modern film re-imaginings of The Devil. I’m not sure what planet these people live on, but I don’t think anyone from Earth has ever defined racism as the above. Still, these comments, as vitriolic and maddening as they were, gave me a peek into the abyss that is GamerGate. Other than the obvious, my main take-away was the idea that so many GamerGate supporters believe that left-wing ideologies have no place in games media, or that said ideologies are so ubiquitous that they’ve become the “canon” of games media. Most comments pertaining to this were in response to the idea put forth by myself and many that only left wing, “SJW” (blergh) people were being targeted by harassment. Typical to the roundabout of facts and opinions that GamerGate has become, said response was essentially: “Left-wing journalists were targeted because their political opinions are the only ones on offer, which we see as a form of corruption. We want these people taken down so we can see more “objective” games journalism that isn’t tinged with the ideologies of individuals/companies”.

clegg

On the surface, there’s some sanity to this, but if you dig a little deeper things become a little complex and unhinged. First of all, let’s check out some definitions. For a simple, every-man, Wikipedia definition of “ideology” we get this: An ideology is a set of conscious and/or unconscious ideas which constitute one’s goals, expectations, and actions. Simply put, ideologies are like arse-holes – everybody’s got one, even if they don’t like to think about it. Ideologies are a fact of life, both on a personal, political and corporate level. Companies like FOX and The Guardian have ideologies – very different ones – and this means that the way they conduct business has an effect on the world. We can disagree with the ideologies of both of these companies (I know I have), but we generally allow them to conduct their business because they aren’t causing immediate psychological or physical harm to people (okay sometimes FOX is).

This is where the GamerGate movement differs, if not in its intent, then in its proposed outcome. By causing the harassment/endangerment of several people, and now a school, their ideology has gone from “disagreeable” (ergo okay to exist in the world) to downright toxic in the same vein as actual terrorism, crime, and bullying. When a kid bullies another kid because he wants his chocolate muffin, we don’t hear them out, we say: “No stop bullying that other kid”.

camcam

If we take this further into the realms of media studies, a hegemonic ideology is an all encompassing ideology that has transcended debate and become a sort of normative, socially agreed upon collective consciousness. In 2014 in the Western world, the majority of people think racism is bad, slavery was/is bad and that Hitler sucked. These are hegemonic because pretty much everyone agrees with them, although at one time or another, not everybody did. I’d like to think most people are in favour of LGBT rights, and in many places LGBT support is hegemonic, but not everywhere. If we apply this to gaming, or more appropriately, games press and gamer culture, most people who write for gaming outlets are of the opinion that diversity is important and necessary for games to grow as a medium and a culture. These writers write about said beliefs because it’s important to them that, in their eyes, they actively try to help the medium they love so much. They then get called “corrupt” and “biased” for not sharing “the other side”. Of course they’re biased, that’s what an opinion is.

I can understand wanting more conservative viewpoints and/or gaming outlets sharing their two cents, so long as that two cents isn’t covered in bile. I’d almost certainly disagree with it, but diversity is diversity, and people can analyse/criticise games from a conservative perspective too. As I alluded to before though, creative types tend to verge heavily onto the liberal side of the political spectrum, at least where social issues are concerned. There’s no huge conspiracy wherein journalists want to hide some “missing truth” from you, they probably all just got sick of bigotry after the 50th time they were called “whore” or “faggot” in high school, and as such they’d rather expose the awful sides of GamerGate than discuss the tiny bit of positivity it’s supposed to stand for.

putin

So let’s be clear. It’s impossible for an opinion piece to be unbiased – if you don’t agree with the politics of an outlet or writer, there are other sites like IGN and GameInformer that generally stick to plain games criticism and news. It is also impossible for a review to be unbiased; a review is literally someone expressing their opinions on a game, and if they make statements like “X game looks horrible” as one would state a fact, it’s because they believe that you are intelligent enough to know that a review is somebody’s opinion. If you’re pissed because a writer is injecting feminism, Marxism or any other school of criticism into their reviews, then I’m sorry, but they are well within their rights to do that. Again, there are plenty of other outlets that will simply tell you if a game is “good” or not.

Now, I can understand wanting more objectivity within gaming news reporting. Real news outlets always try to stay objective and leave behind their ideologies, although I’d argue that they rarely succeed. I, and a lot of other writers, generally shy away from or hate writing news pieces, because they can often feel like simple press releases. I often inject opinions into news pieces along the lines of “this sounds pretty cool”, or “I’m not really feeling this”, but only because that’s the sort of games writing I grew up with and enjoy the most.

benji

The real problem here is the blurred lines between games critic and games journalist. As a form of hobbyist journalism, games journalism is effectively made up of passionate gamers writing about the stuff they love. In this regard it is nothing like real journalism, and is much closer to film coverage or Angler’s World. Most reputable film critics aren’t posting trailers for new movies by Christopher Nolan, because their time is taken up by watching and critiquing films. Why is this different in games media? Why are games critics spending valuable review time telling you that there’s a new Borderlands game?

So if what you’re after is more “objective” games journalism, there are places that will tell you what games exist and when they are coming out. There are places that will tell you if they like a game; if its graphics are nice and if its controls are tight. There are also places that will tell you Skullgirls is sexist and they didn’t like it for that very reason (not me, I loved Skullgirls). That’s okay though. You might not agree with them, and you’re welcome to ignore them, but they’re well within their rights to express those opinions. Upending the entire press industry and replacing them with right-wing, old guard critics is something that will not happen, and will damage games criticism at large.

It’s become clear that journalists and gamers are really on the same page with regards to ethics and actual corruption. Being paid off for review scores is terrible, and I don’t know a single writer that would sacrifice their career for the sake of a Twitter follow or fifty bucks. Corruption is terrible for any industry, and it’s beneficial for journalists above anyone else to want it eradicated. Expressing ideologies, however, is not a form of corruption, it is the basic foundation for criticism and debate that keeps the world turning, and keeps our brains from turning to mush. As long as your opinions aren’t actively harming people, they’ll always be welcome in gamer culture.

About Liam Lambert

Liam is a writer from the UK. He is currently pursuing his childhood dream of become a professional wrestler, by constantly wrestling with his deteriorating mental health.
  • tuym wuystah

    Paraphrasing from Maddox’ article on Bill O’Reilly: “yes, because nothing is worse than being an adherent of a particular ideology” – this in response to O’Reilly’s habit of dismissing his opponents as “ideologues”.

    It looks like there’s bit of a subcultural divide regarding how people understand both those words: you and Maddox consider them to be general, neutral terms describing some set of values and interpretations of the world that, when judged for their merit, may very well be concluded to be reasonable. O’Reilly, the O’Reilly-hating anti-feminists, Gamergaters and, generally, pretty much all people I follow or converse with, on the other hand, use it interchangeably with “secular religion” – a dogmatic, irrational agenda and worldview that relies on filtering evidence, drawing artificial connections and equivalencies while ignoring others, and employing dismissive, cult-like tactics in order to fend off dissenters (=debunkers): all in the service of maintaining the artificial, mostly emotionally driven narrative that they impose on the world.
    A position is questioned, concluded to be irrational dogma, and then labelled as an “ideology”.

    Judging from experience, “ideology” is a bit of a more lenient term that can sometimes be stretched out to include the first, more benign meaning, while “ideologue” is pretty much exclusively used as an indiction. However, when they accuse you of “pushing your ideology”, rest assured that they mean that in the bad way.

    Now, with that established, let’s take a couple looks at your degree of intellectual honesty, and where you can be located on the whole “judging reality on its own merits vs. squeezing it into your selective narrative” spectrum.. shall we?

    “a silly little Patreon project attacking socially responsible games media people under the false guise of anti-corruption/pro-ethics in games journalism.”
    You’ve yet to demonstrate how it’s either “false” or a “guise” – and after you’ve claimed so in your previous article, responding to the objections in the comment section as well as Owen’s own response video to you, is pretty much a required part of said demonstration.
    Please keep in mind that this isn’t you making a claim about Gamergate or some oher large movement – we’ve got two blokes, who’ve announced a project, and you’re insisting that they’re lying or mistaken about their own views and premise based on arguments that have been thoroughly dealt with both in the comments and in he response videos – so responding should be a no-brainer.
    If you don’t, that means you’re filtering reality and are therefore an ideologue.

    “That is, I tried, until I was faced with comments like:”

    Are those the best quality objections that comment section has to offer and it only goes downhill from there, or hardly noticeable nonsense comments that can easily slip past the eye as you’re scrolling through the longest comment section on your site?
    A quick look, of course, will unambiguousy reveal that the latter is the case – it’s filled with long, long, multiple-paragraph rebuttals that would be highly dishonest to ignore just because someone else also posted “penis mangina”… if, of course, you ever decided to do such a thing. ;)

    “The final straw was when I was called a “racist” for commenting that the two white men funding The Sarkeesian Effect were dressed in a similar manner to that of modern film re-imaginings of The Devil.”
    Well, hey… how does it feel getting a taste of your own medicine? Some overly emotional nitwit, after seeing numerous attacks from your general site of the fence against these two guys and others for being “white men criticizing a woman”, saw your remark and imagined things.

    Of course you, as someone who’s pretty much done the same to O/A when, right after that Devil paragraph, you said: “and it’s starting to get pretty tiresome explaining to a small number of people what everyone else in 2014 already understands. People of different genders, orientations, sexualities, religions, nationalities etc. are all fine”, you don’t really think you’re in the position to get upset at being falsely called a racist, do you?
    Oh wait, you do – it was such an outrage, it was the final straw to break your back, right? Aha.

    “but I don’t think anyone from Earth has ever defined racism as the above.”
    But you have apparently defined it as making a documentary claiming to expose a culture of bias and corruption in the… ah sod that for now.

    “gave me a peek into the abyss that is GamerGate.”
    Why did those idiot comments give you a peek into the abyss of GamerGate, but all the countless constructive and critical comments you’ve ignored didn’t give you a peek into the abyss of your own ideological bias? Oh wait I guess I just answered the question,
    A non-ideologue would address everyhing thrown back at him, within reasonable amounts of course – or address none at all. But you had to pick the easy targets in order to maintain your narrative.

    “Most comments pertaining to this were in response to the idea put forth by myself and many that only left wing, “SJW” (blergh) people were being targeted by harassment.”
    Well, the people on your side of the fence are all left-wing SJWs from what I know. Did you make the claim that only your side receives harassment?

    I’ve just been on that comment section a couple hours ago, and, let’s just say that I’m not buying your “most comments against leftist ideology in gaming were in response to something about harassment” – plus, THE SARKEESIAN EFFECT ITSELF isn’t a response to “harassment”, and any fleeting or in-depth familiarization with JO’s content shows unambiguously that his opposition to this leftist bias (which, as it so happens, includes dismissing all criticism as harassment… kinda suspiciously similar to what you’re doing right now) is based on actually observing said bias in the media and not as an explanation for the one-sided (?) harassment.
    “There’s the feminist Sarkeesian supporters, there’s the anonymous trolls and harassers, and then there’s this third group, namely us, who condemn the harassment and merely object to the feminist side via rational discourse, and we’re being swept under the rug or conflated with the trolls” is pretty much his position in a nutshell.

    “Typical to the roundabout of facts and opinions that GamerGate has become, said response was essentially: “Left-wing journalists were targeted because their political opinions are the only ones on offer, which we see as a form of corruption. We want these people taken down so we can see more “objective” games journalism that isn’t tinged with the ideologies of individuals/companies”.”
    Was that an explanation behind why some people are eager to harass the leftists, or actually a subtle justification of said harassment?

    Regardless, why don’t you pick a more difficult target and address the arguments of those who either didn’t talk about harassment or ACTIVELY CONDEMNED IT?
    You’ve got some shady folk there that may kind of support harassment – fine, they’re baddies and we all reprimand them emphatically.
    Now, what next? You gonna ignore the other camp JO was talking about, and present right in that fucking comment section, or are you gonna address them as well?

    “Simply put, ideologies are like arse-holes – everybody’s got one, even if they don’t like to think about it. Ideologies are a fact of life, both on a personal, political and corporate level. Companies like FOX and The Guardian have ideologies – very different ones – and this means that the way they conduct business has an effect on the world.”

    I’ve already dealt with that preemptively – that’s not what they mean by ideology. “Inquisition was religion, Stalinism was ideology”, to put it bluntly.

    “By causing the harassment/endangerment of several people, and now a school, their ideology has gone from “disagreeable” (ergo okay to exist in the world) to downright toxic in the same vein as actual terrorism, crime, and bullying.”
    Is it the whole of Gamergate, or only a subsection of it that the other section condemns and distances itself from? Cause there’s sure a lot of members of GG who do just that – all the prominent youtube members/supporters like Sargon of Akkad, InternetAristocrat or Queeny for starters.

    At any rate, away from GG and back to O/A whom you wrote a passive-aggressive smear article about and now are defending: has Owen supported bullying and harassment? Has Aurini, for all his kooky attitudes, supported bullying and harassment? And just to make it clear, I’m only superficially familiar with the latter and a lot of the times, it’s hard to make out anything sensible in his obscurantist sophistry – but still, the burden would be on you, to either show them to be pro-harassment, or make clear that your criticisms of GG don’t apply to the makers of TSE.

    “They then get called “corrupt” and “biased” for not sharing “the other side”. Of course they’re biased, that’s what an opinion is.”

    So? Jordan Owen is a sex-positive individualist libertarian who regularly opposes all prominent forms ideological, bigoted suppression of sexuality (feminism, in general terms, being among those), and believes that the focus on individual rights is the pathway to all “demographic rights”. He’s as pro LGBT as you, so in what sense is he “on the other side”?

    What a nice rhetorical trick you pulled there – first defining your side by “accepting of LGBT and writing about this positive attitude”, and then contrasted it with “the other side”, intensely and passionately flirting with the implication that this other side doesn’t support LGBT and calls you goody two-shoes corrupt and biased for your all-inclusive views on LGBT.

    However, addressing that bit where you said “in their eyes” – well, that is the beginning of truth. Fanatics who call a movie transphobic or homophobic for not including LGBT people, or portraying one as villainous or some stereotype they don’t approve of, or, in the aftermath, claim the people who objected to their vapid accusations are themselves homophobic and transphobic.
    Now, some of those dunces undoubtedly, “in their eyes”, really do think they’re doing something else – others, I’d almost dare to suggest, have some darker, vindictive diva thing going on.
    But, that’s the main, and in fact, only issue we have with you “leftists” and “SJWs” over there – that, good intentions aside, all you’re doing with that sort of behavior is spreading stupidity and hysteria, and we’re kinda really, really tired of you having more sway in the general public eye than, say, Scientologists. Or bigots.

    And yes, in your previous article, you’ve been guilty of that very same thing.

    “I can understand wanting more conservative viewpoints and/or gaming outlets sharing their two cents, so long as that two cents isn’t covered in bile. I’d almost certainly disagree with it, but diversity is diversity, and people can analyse/criticise games from a conservative perspective too.”
    Conservativism is in no way required to oppose your particular kind of social leftism.

    JordanOwen, for one, is equally against social conservatives as he is against liberals (social lioberals in particular, but he’s also an anti-tax libertarian HELLO? but that’s a different story altogether) – for instance, in the way both tend to create moral panic over youth culture or hobbies (metal, vidya) and both try to suppress or outright ban porn using somewhat different, but still suspiciously similar rationales.

    “and as such they’d rather expose the awful sides of GamerGate than discuss the tiny bit of positivity it’s supposed to stand for.”

    You tried and failed to put on a positive tone spin on what you just admitted to be DISMISSIVE BIAS.
    They’ve been called faggots in school? Fine, so you’re saying it’s understandable on a personal level why they’d “rather” ignore non-faggot-calling parts of GG and then SHARE THAT PERSPECTIVE OF THEIRS IN THE GUISE OF JOURNALISM – but we over here, see, are kind of against that bias regardless.

    You’re carefully putting the “supposed” in italics – but in this very article, and one before it, you’ve unambiguously demonstrated your tendency to ignore and sweep away those “supposed” parts even when they’re glaring you in the face while a the “awful” side is represented by a few specs of one-lined dust just kind of floating about.
    If you hear claims about supposed X, look into it, and find no evidence it, you have the right to call it “supposed” – if you refuse to look into it depite having the opportunity and knowing where to look, you’re no longer in such position.

    You’ve been called fag in school and now are gonna smear a bunch of people who object to something you write on a news site? Won’t fly, sorry to inform you.

    “It’s impossible for an opinion piece to be unbiased – if you don’t agree with the politics of an outlet or writer,”
    That’s because there are different things referred to as “bias”.
    Having a certain political ideal, say, I dunno, 20% safety net and 80% free market, means you’ve got a particular set of values, and a particular solution to the giant moral dilemma that is the organization of our society. You may concede that it’s your “opinion” and not necessarily the right one, or you believe in it very ardently – hence, “biased”, “impossible to be unbiased”.
    However, this form of bias in no way leads down the path of filtering and altering facts and reality in order to retain your views on said facts and reality (which just happen to also include the positions of your opponents, and the accuracy of said positions) and/or manipulate other people into joining your cause… unless you let it. In that sense, it’s very easy to be “unbiased” – just avoid intellectual dishonesty and you’re good.

    “If you’re pissed because a writer is injecting feminism, Marxism or any other school of criticism into their reviews”
    Well, that’s all fine – but when your views, whether based in a political ideology or not, start getting outlandish and nutty, people are gonna notice – and when they start crossing into smearing and accusations, as is the case with you, then we’ve got ourselves a little conflict over ethics such as the one going on right now.

    “n this regard it is nothing like real journalism, and is much closer to film coverage or Angler’s World.”
    Well, I myself am not that big about that whole “ethics in journalism” slogan – but at the end of the day, if the mainstream narrative is being controlled by ideological kooks, that’s not the most ideal situation imaginable.
    If it’s journalism, then there are mechanisms to weed that kind of shit out – and if public education on a given subject is dominated by a bunch of opinionated hivemind bloggers, that’s a whole bunch of probems in on itself!

    Me, a “capitalist” solution to this problem is what I’d prefer the most – having other people set up their own media, gain popularity through legitimate means, and then go from there.
    Now, of course, once that propaganda starts getting spread to mainstream TV news shows, that’s a bit of a different story… and exactly the case right now, as it happens.

    “Upending the entire press industry and replacing them with right-wing, old guard critics ”
    What, Jack Thompson all over again? Like who the fuck wants that.

    “and keeps our brains from turning to mush”

    Ideology under your definition, yes. Ideology under our definition, certainly anything but!
    But that’s just a little language barrier we’ve got here – the crux of the issue is that YOU, Liam Lambert, are actually expressing “ideology” as WE use the term!

    Now, stop your smearing, drop your little sly implications like “now *our* side just wants happiness for people of all ethnicities”, abandon the intellectual dishonesty and comment cherry picking and pretty much all the other problems I’ve just found in your essay, and then you can go on making your warm&fuzzy finishing statements all you like.

    Case in point:
    “As long as your opinions aren’t actively harming people, they’ll always be welcome in gamer culture.”
    And yet, O/A’s project aren’t actively harming people, and yet you called them a bunch of backward white cis male exclusionists even though they didn’t do even THAT.
    That is what’s called “preaching one set of ideals and practicing another”, a common feature of all insidious trojan horse ideologies – tolerant of all harmless opinions, except whenever you feel otherwise.

    To bookend that set-up from the first couple paragraphs of this post – QED.
    Have a great day!

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  • Ryumoau

    i’m sick of all the liberal bias when it comes to game coverage. Even worse is the fact that each of them act as if they are doing something brave and revolutionary by repeating all the same cliche ‘diversity’ and ‘gay rights’ talking points we’ve heard a million times before. :/

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  • drjonesjnr

    Great article, I must say i agree with mr Liam Lambert

    • bryoneill11

      great article? If you agree with him, you must be his mother

      • drjonesjnr

        No I’m his father !

  • Guest

    Essentially, #GamerGate = Conservatives and #StopGamerGate = Liberals. Politics always seeps into any popular medium.

    • bryoneill11

      90% of gamergaters are liberals like me… Look for the polls

  • Noolid

    Gamers and journalists are not on the same page. I’m a gamer, I don’t think journalists should meet up in a closed google group and discuss how they should collectively report on things. They think it’s fine. I really don’t see how we can agree with each other, our differences seem to be quite fundamental. I believe every publication should be telling it’s own opinion. When publications start to collectively search for “correct” opinions, in my eyes they’re no longer doing journalism, they’re doing propaganda. That’s my opinion and the press has done nothing to try and convince me and people like me that what they’re doing is not corrupt. In fact, they don’t even care enough to address this issue, they continue to use that closed google group called GameJournoPros even now.

  • Eric Hurtubise

    indeed if anything gamergates shown us gamers that the industry cannot be trusted mind ya the ‘big’ game review sites have been on a steady decline since long before this was blown wide open.

  • Sam Trashcan

    “It’s become clear that journalists and gamers are really on the same page with regards to ethics and actual corruption.” Really? The only outlet that I have seen acknowledge any criticism is The Escapist. The concerted effort to release the same article on something like 15 different sites proclaiming “Gamers Are Dead!” was a pretty good indication that they wanted to duck legitimate criticism and redirect the conversation to how much they hate gamers. I am a moderate in most regards, but if mainstream gaming press wants to disown me, so be it. I’ll be at The Escapist or techraptor.net.