There are a lot of people who play video games that baulk at the idea of being called a gamer. I work for a website literally called TheGamer, and I feel the same way. Also yes, TheGamer. No spaces. Gaming is one of the most popular hobbies in the world, and the representation on screen, in development studios, and in journalism is more diverse than ever. In the boardroom, not so much, but hey - nobody’s perfect. There are a huge range of games to play and characters in them, and yet nobody wants to be a gamer. Who can blame them - this week has shown that gamers are the worst, and it’s difficult to know how to stop it.
There are the more general gamer elements that have become so acceptable we barely even register them. I wrote last year when a female Valorant streamer was told to go back to Halo - despite ‘go back to Valorant’ being the usual sexist callout - that it’s basically impossible for women to play a game without being told it’s not for them. The exceptions are the less-combat focussed games like Animal Crossing, although many toxic gamers will tell you they’re not real games anyway. It’s WarGames - the only way to win is not to play.
Then there’s the rampant racism in gaming communities. PewDiePie remains one of the most recognisable figures in gaming despite his use of the N-word, which itself has been memed as a ‘gamer moment’. IShowSpeed might have been perma-banned from Twitch, but his violently sexist and obnoxiously offensive style of streaming has earned him a huge, impressionable audience. FaZe Clan, one of the most well known orgs in gaming, just banned another member for using the N-word. I’ve lost count of how often this has happened between all the different orgs. Gaming’s representation is getting better, but the stage is set for the audience to get even worse. We’ve just written off a large corner of the community as sexist and racist. In labelling them as ‘gamers’, we are tacitly endorsing their behaviour. It’s just a thing gamers do and that’s the way it’s always going to be, right?
Onto the more specific incidents, keeping in mind that the longer we allow ‘the gamers are at it again’ mindset to remain, the longer we are accepting that things like this are just a regular part of one of the planet’s most popular pastimes.
A new Monkey Island game was given a full reveal recently, which included a brand new artstyle. I’ll be honest, I don’t really like it. Guybrush looks a bit like a rotten banana and the whole thing reminds me of one of those British ‘90s cartoons I resented being made to watch when all I wanted was the Americana of The Simpsons, Rugrats, and Doug. My reaction to this artstyle though has been to shrug and think ‘huh, I don’t really like that’. It was not to send threatening messages to the development team. Unfortunately, not everyone shared my view. While anecdotally there’s something like a 60/40 split in favour of liking the new direction versus hating it, the 40 percent against it seem to have shit themselves en masse and thrown the soiled underwear at Ron Gilbert’s head.
This, unfortunately, is a rather common form of gamer rage. God of War Ragnarok fans have been far more creative. God of War is the biggest game yet to release this year, but it currently has no release date, and fans are salivating over one. Fans who are definitely going to buy this game day one are currently desperate to see an advert for it. I’ve used ‘fans’ repeatedly there because I have seen the argument that these people are not ‘true’ God of War fans. These people have the collector’s editions, the tattoos, the custom controllers, the posters, the action figures, the framed artwork of quotes. They are bigger fans than you. They are the biggest fans on the planet. This is what mainstream gaming is, and we have to be honest about it.
When Alanah Pearce joined the God of War development team, we saw signs of this. Pearce is one of the most fetishised people in modern gaming, and at the first sign of delay, she was immediately bombarded with rape threats and pornographic deep fakes of herself, blaming her entirely for the delay. This week, when rumours of a Ragnarok release date reveal came and went, another female dev at the studio revealed she had been sent numerous dick pics, essentially ransoming an end to the harassment campaign if she told the sender the release date. All so he knows when he’ll be able to buy a toy he’s definitely going to buy anyway.
This was mocked more than it was criticised. Silly little gamer and his silly little penis pictures. But this is a campaign of sexual harassment that is ostensibly being done out of love for the piece of art she is helping create. It’s monstrous that this happens and it’s ridiculous that we just toss these incidents on the pile of excuses and say “gamers will be gamers.” We should care more about gaming than to let this all slide, only interacting when we can get a cheap laugh out of a dunk tweet, all while the undercurrent of hatred and harassment swells stronger. Gamers will only be gamers when we stop them. It’s a start that Cory Barlog has repeatedly called out these God of War fans and publicly stood by his team (and unlike Druckmann, is less inclined to make it all about himself), but it’s only a start. All of us need to be aware that for all the progress on screen, too many in gaming’s audience have been allowed to stay safe and secure in the discrimination of the past.
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