Ok, so today I’m taking up the NBI talkback challenge and I will speak about how the famous GamerGate has affected me. By doing so I will be breaking a lot of my own rules about blogging, namely to not engage in issues in which I feel I have no real say and issues which are virtual landmines fields. I will likely offend people with this post and I do apologize for it but if you chose to not ever talk to me again then so be it. With that preamble out of the way, let’s get to offending people.
So the question is: “How did Gamergate affect you?”. The short answer is, I was terrified to death of it and did all I could to not be dragged into it. The long answer has a lot to do about my own personal experiences with volunteer work, past involvement in social movements and life philosophy. If the long answer interests you, read on!
Once upon a time…
… I was a teenager, had excellent grades and was a major nerd. My good grades got me in an International Education program which offered more advanced classes to us since they assured us we were destined to be future world leaders. The whole program was overseen by the UNESCO and as part of the plan to make us great humanists; we had to take part in mandatory “volunteer” work in our local communities. Over the years I’ve served meals to the poor, spent time with terminal patients, shifted through piles of old clothes, cleaned shores and many other tasks all in the name of involving us in our communities and helping our fellow man.
I’ll give it to the program; it was a life changing experience. It opened my young eyes to a lot of social issues and problems that plague our societies that most often we have no idea about. I’m still haunted by the week I spent with a lady dying of lung cancer who only wanted some company, I listened to an abused wife try to justify her husband actions because she was afraid he might go after the children next and I’ve been thanked by 6 years old children for giving them soup because their family couldn’t afford it.
We all know or heard of these stories but to experience them firsthand is something else entirely. It grips you, makes you sad and angry at the same time, it changes your values and the way you look at the world. Mind you, volunteer work wasn’t always perfect and there was often some petty politics among the volunteers but overall I felt it was worth it because we were helping.
Amnesty and true horror
I was about a month away from high school graduation when I was approached about volunteering for Amnesty International. I was doing volunteer work at a food drive at the time and someone I was working with was also volunteering for Amnesty and thought I’d like it there. It would also be the first time I’d be volunteering on my own and not as part of my school program so I was pretty excited. After the first few orientations meetings for new volunteers I was assigned to the group whose task was to greet newly arrived refugees. Set them up with a place to live, food, facilitate contact with the authorities, etc…
And this is where I met true horror. Every time a refugee would come in there would come a moment during the first few days where they’d tell their story. Stuff of nightmare that I don’t even want to write down on this blog. It’s one thing to read about genocide and another to have someone sitting across the table from you at a McDonald tell you about how his entire family was murdered in front of his eyes.
The reason I’m writing about this is because I want to get across that it made me acutely aware of how privileged and lucky I was to live in my small Canadian town where my worst problems where about my grades, finding a girlfriend and getting a well-paid summer job. I didn’t learn the lesson right away but over time it drove the point that I have no right to speak about problems that don’t directly concern me. Who the eff am I to go stand on a soapbox and talk about refugee and immigration issues when I never even had to really fear for my safety? I have no right, none at all and anything I will say is ultimately the speculations of a privileged North American white boy who had it pretty easy all things considered.
And then politics happened
Getting involved in student life and committees was a natural extension of what I felt at the time was my duty to make the world a better place. We didn’t call it as such but there was a group advocating for just about every single social justice issue out there and I got involved with a lot of them. I had good intentions like most of the others but we were all a bit headstrong in our arguments. We thought we knew better and we wanted to let everyone know about it. Often time a bit too forcefully. The old ones are probably smiling a bit right now because it’s a phase I think most of us go through around college time when we want to change the world.
But I found out at the same time that I’m good at making arguments and winning them. So good in fact I was spotted by a few political parties. I learned that for the political parties recruitment begins in college and I had a lot of positives going for me. I came from a good family, had great education, lots of volunteer work to my name and I could win arguments. I didn’t know it back then but I had been marked as a potential and the gears started turning.
This was when I was introduced to the awful world of backroom politics. I was invited behind the curtain and told that we, the students, needed to make sure this or that manifestation happened because it’d be good for a certain politician. About how to avoid certain issues or how to push for others, how to manipulate a student assembly so the vote would turn out a certain way… It disgusted me. Worst, I found out that a lot of the people responsible for groups I had volunteered for where part of the system. Sure they helped out but they would also make sure that certain parties would benefit from it.
Food drive needed? Sure, but let’s hold it in a certain part of the city that happens to be a friendly politician neighborhood. Also, let’s buy the things we need from our friends to thank them for the help during last campaign.
It disgusted me, still does and ultimately it drove me away from anything that has politics involved in it. I might have been naïve but to see how people turned very real issues into opportunities for personal gain just… it still makes me go insane. How can someone dare to take a problem like someone not being able to eat and make helping them conditional to whether or not they profit from it?
And we get around to Social Justice
So here’s the thing, I do not trust people who take it upon themselves to be social justice warriors, doubly so when the issues don’t concern them directly. I’ve seen firsthand just how often there’s hidden agendas behind these issues and how ultimately the real goal is not about how to solve anything. When I look at Gamergate, I can’t help but see politics on both sides of the argument. There’s a very real issue that needs fixing but yet again it’s been hijacked by people with agendas.
I’m not arguing about the existence of the issues, I’ve seen their effects firsthand. I’m questioning the people arguing about them, whether for or against. I do want to help get them solved but I don’t believe arguing about them in a public space like the internet is the best way to go about it, especially when it’s issues that don’t concern me directly. I’m doubly suspicious whenever broad generalizations are made or when someone tries to solve all the world problems in a blog post.
You can’t solve every gender issues in less than a thousand words. It’s impossible, it’s stupid and if you try to do so I’m going to be reading real close to see what’s the real message you’re trying to get across, who are you working for?
And now Gamergate
So why did Gamergate terrorize me? Because I value my blog as this place where I can nerd about games. Just like Belghast it’s a happy place, somewhere I share my passion for games. Issues like Gamergate too often have this way of polarizing people. I respect that some people feel they have to fight for a cause whenever and wherever they can. More power to them but like I said, I can’t help but feel that there might be a hidden agenda.
In the specific case of Gamergate, I simply have nothing relevant to say about it. I’m an outlier in this case. I’ve read and listened to both sides of the argument, made up my mind where I stand but I won’t share it with you.
Why? Because I’m a privileged white boy who has no idea of what women really go through so instead I’ll share my passion about gaming and leave it at that.