As exposed by the recent “Gamer Gate” gamers as a whole haven’t been the best stewards of goodwill in the recent past. While this has only recently come to the attention of the mainstream press, this is something that most gamers, if they’re being honest, has been a problem for quite some time. Gamers being marginalized, harassed and even threatened with real physical violence is not a new trend, and not something that is restricted to games alone, but a broader problem of our modern social media and internet-centric lifestyles. The internet gives people a layer of anonymity that seems to, in most cases, bring out the very worst in individuals. While the topic of Gamer Gate has been much discussed, and received a massive amount of attention, the biggest disappointment to this writer is that the gaming community as a whole didn’t stand up in response to this and make it a non-issue as soon as it was raised.
Trash talking and gaming seem to go hand in hand, as in non-couch based sporting, any time you pit two opponents against each other, we seem to enjoy the friendly act of “trashing” our opponent, their skill level, their decisions, and sometimes going to far and attacking the person themselves in the heat of the moment. I can remember even at a young age, staying up late into the night playing Tecmo Super Bowl near ceaselessly with a good friend. We would sit next to each other, small hands clasped around non-ergonomic NES controllers until our fingers blistered, playing game after game to face each other in the Super Bowl. There was a good amount of friendly jibes, barbs and jokes tossed about in youthful exuberance, but never did we become cross. It was known that there are lines that you don’t cross, gentlemanly rules of engagement that while present in my childhood seem to be all too absent in today’s gaming culture. As I grew I continued gaming, procuring each new console and with it entering into a new rivalry with a new friend on a new game. Tiger Woods PGA tour dominated my college years, and while the language may have grown more colorful with my age, there still seemed to be an air of civility in the discourse while playing. It was only when online gaming surfaced in my life that I experienced my mother being insulted, my sexuality being questioned and various other tirades that didn’t seem at all congruous with my idea of gaming. That break in having to be next to the guy or gal that you’re playing next to and knowing that a comment out of line would likely mean a swift punch on the arm from your buddy, seems to have been a drastic one, and not for the best.
All of what I’ve said above shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that’s gamed, or even set foot on the internet in since it’s inception. People just seem to grow two feet and become tougher and more judgmental when you put them behind a controller or a keyboard. What truly alarmed me about the entire Gamer Gate situation was the lack of outrage from the gaming community as a whole. While this isn’t an issue unique to us, this is an issue that could be solved by us. That “punch in the arm” from you buddy on the couch should be applied virtually by other gamers when they witness an online act of disrespect, harassment, or outright threats. All to often the same anonymity that causes people to lash out in uncharacteristic ways seems equally capable of causing good people to be silenced in the face of online bullying. As a community, a proud subset of the population, gamers as a whole should’ve stood up and declared that this was completely unacceptable, that we wouldn’t stand for it, and then gone out into Azeroth, Vice City, The Mushroom Kingdom, Thedas, or whatever virtual realm you prefer, and as the vibrant and storied heroes that we all enjoy playing as, stood up against the evil-doers.
It doesn’t surprise me that Gamer Gate happened, but I am disappointed that an entire community has allowed it to continue. Do a favor for the rest of the gaming community, the next time that you’re in a party chat, a raid group, or an in game chat, speak out against those that act as buffoons, while the online realm does offer anonymity it shouldn’t excuse inhumane treatment of others. We all enjoy a little friendly trash talk, and that’s okay, it’s part of life and part of gaming, but we all know when the line is crossed and it’s our duty as gamers to stand up and speak out against those that cross that line. Don’t be afraid to hand out a virtual “punch in the arm” next time you see someone behaving badly online, it’s not just something that you should do, it’s your responsibility as a gamer.