Written by Brenden Mernagh
Published on Tuesday, 02 December 2014 05:45
Editor's Note:This text is labelled as blog. It does not represent, implicitly or explicitly, the positions, policies, or opinions of GameFocus. Feel free to comment with the author but please, respectfully .
This is the first piece of a series that will discuss video games and the many people who play them. The question: who plays video games and what constitutes a video game player has been asked a lot these past few months and I thought I would provide some personal insight into the discussion. While many of my points have been made by others who are far more eloquent than I ever will be, I hope this at least can help change one ill-informed mind from attaching itself to the narrow halls of ignorance, and allow them to see how complex and interesting the world can be.
This first piece will focus on someone who I know better than anyone else, myself.
It was 2000, and I was 16 years old. I didn’t know anything about politics, the privilege my status as a white male at the turn of the century afforded me, or the social politics that did or didn’t affect me. All I knew was video games and the worlds that were made for me and that are overwhelmingly, and disappointingly, still made for me.
Al Gore and George W. were up for the US presidential election and my knowledge about international politics (I’m Canadian) was very limited. All I had really paid attention to was what each candidate had said about video games and as far as my at-the-time limited understanding about politics could tell me was that Al Gore wanted to ban violent video games and George W didn’t care. I wanted George W to win the election based on that little fact. Upon reflection of each candidates position, I was wrong to think the way I did. But I was young and willing to believe almost anything I read on the internet and if I read something that scared me, like video games were about to be “outlawed”, I would react in a very negative and ill informed way. This is what ignorant minds do.
Now, you see, I had been bullied in school and video games were more than an escape, they were a place to dream in and to learn from. Each character showed me who I should be and how should I act. Video games were safe-zones in which I could be powerful and I could find some semblance of control in a life that didn’t seem to have any. I was gullible, dumb, and self-centred and the games I was playing during this time fed into my ignorance and self-centredness. These games always featured heroes who were white men and who would have to kill nameless “others” in order to save helpless “women.” Did these games distort my reality? For sure they did. They were fantastic little power trips and whether explicitly or implicitly they affected my personal politics and view of the world. Did I care what George W. Bush stood for politically? No, I was just happy he didn’t want to hurt my safe-zone. When he stood atop that aircraft carrier and claimed “victory” I believed that the world I lived in was a lot like a video game. Something is wrong when your mindless distraction starts to make you mindless.
It’s easy for me to look back at my silly position and its lack of insight, its ignorance, its arrogance, and see how wrong I was. It’s easier when you consider George W. Bush’s horrible record as president, yet, even if George W. Bush hadn’t been running for election, I would still look at my thoughts and feelings during that time with disappointment. I wish I would have been more informed and less ignorant. I wish video games would have made me think about the world in a more positive, more inclusive, and more challenging way. But they didn’t.
To be short, video games mattered to me too much and video games were not helping me overcome my social anxieties or challenging my view of the world in a productive way. I wish games like Gone Home, or Depression Quest were around during that period of my life. They would have expanded my idea of what a video game could be, and I would have been a better person for it. This is what has made the last few months so depressing. There really has never been a better time to play video games, yet there has also been a no worse time to care about video games.
Games like The Stanley Parable or Braid or Limbo point to the future of video games and how effective and affective they can be. The counter-culture movement has arrived in the video game world and it is happening at just the right time.
I won’t dive into the specifics of #gamergate or beginnings of this debate as much has been written about it. I’ll just tell you this, I worry that if I was a 16 year old today, I would have been a #gamergate supporter. It’s repulsive to think, but it’s probably true. All I have to do is consider my ignorant perspective on George W. and Al Gore to realize it. This open-letter is to my 16 year old self, to that 16 year-old who feels afraid of the world and who doesn’t want his fragile world of dominance and control taken away from him. When my friends would talk about that 2000 election, I would tell them why I wanted George W. to win, and when they laughed at me, and told me why George W. would be an awful president, I scoffed. I kept thinking, why would they stand for someone who wanted to hurt video games? This is no different than the delirious nature and young minds of the gamergate faithful. That said, gamergate is not just some high school kids mindless ignorance, its a movement that actively seeks to harass, threaten, and discourage discourse while claiming that it supports it. Sick minds control gamergate, just as sick minds convinced me that George W. Bush was a great president. It has to stop.
I strongly believe that most of those who support #gamergate are ill informed, scared individuals. I also believe that many individuals involved in the #gamergate movement can be dangerous and should be criticized and judged accordingly.
This letter is meant to save those ill-informed 16 year olds from attaching themselves to a movement that is based on ignorance and hate.
I’m going to follow up this post with a series of posts relating to what I think a gamer actually is, and why gamergate is not representative of any of them.
Follow me on Twitter @brendenmernagh