I told myself I wouldn’t write about this. My concern with this blog is video games. Mechanics, designs, trends, culture, as well as the errors in covering such. I try to keep my politics rather separate, and have recently taken steps to keep politics out of my life per a doctor’s advice. Politics came to my gaming, and I’ve been flabbergasted by much of what I have seen.
I’m not going to talk about individuals, or even the hot topics. I am going to address some mental patterns I have observed among us writing class. This was spurred by the sudden appearance of “gamers are dead” themed articles. I don’t care if they appeared as part of a concerted effort, because grassroots or not, the idea itself is a bizarre attitude to take and should be addressed.
I recently wrote an article titled “What Is a Gamer” which explored how the term can be empty, as it is so broad an umbrella that it encompasses almost too many things. Like a stadium with a roof that could be mistaken for the sky. I stand by that article, particularly regarding the scope of my own life, but at the same time I must acknowledge that no matter how broad an umbrella, it still casts a shadow. I am much more than a gamer, all gamers are, but I remain a gamer.
The idea of “gamers” being dead is laughable, but the volume at which it is being touted by those who hold the megaphones on the internet is alarming. How many times have we seen a declaration of PC gaming being dead in the past decade? That was hyperbolic and inaccurate, and was regarded as such by any serious thinkers when it was said. Now we get a proclamation for not just a platform, but a category of people by the editors and writers of the most prominent sites. Is it any less hyperbolic or inaccurate? No. It is inflammatory writing, and frankly diving so deep in to such strong and divisive language is unprofessional. I’m not talking ethics here, I’m talking simply knowing your craft. This is shock authoring with a veneer of critique to claim a transcendence over an audience you don’t like.
Now there are many reasons to not like your audience, many of which can be valid – though you should make sure this applies dominantly to your audience and not merely a vocal minority, or your own stereotypes of it. An individual is free to address others as they wish, to target who they wish with their content creation, but when you are writing to inform a population on a subject they have chosen to pursue information regarding, the individual does not control that. They may leave, but they cannot claim the platform. They are not the platform, they did not provide the platform. Gamers exist regardless of what I write, at all. I can write to gamers and it is their decision to pay me heed. The writer is the invited, the guest. They do not have squatting rights over the minds of their hosts who are enabling them.
Some may say “Oh, it is only the label and stereotype of gamer that is dead.” To which I reply that on one hand, it is ridiculous to declare a population you are differing yourself from as being substantially non-existent, and on the other hand as being a semantic ploy to justify the use of sensationalistic headlines. The internet however loves a blundering fool, or at least it seems that way by the rate at which we all seem to reproduce, as far as cognitive patterns go.
No, they don’t go for either of those paths. They double down. Repeat it, repeat the mantra to avoid hearing any opposing – or worse, simply not in full compliance – voices. It is dogmatic. Now I don’t find dogmatism to be innately bad, but you have to really have all of your ducks in a row before you take that approach. It is akin to plotting a course on a device that flies mostly by air current and gravity, rather than an engine. In this doubling down I see two common threads: Relatibility, and Cultural Critique. Cultural Critique I get, I’m yet to see one that was factual, but I get it. It is an honest attempt to understand on one level, though it usually stems from a persistent refusal to consider the possibility of an opposing position on another level. You don’t need to analyze the state of the world to figure out why someone is acting the way they do, if you simply ask them. But asking them will involve acknowledging that each one has different reasons, and the moment you do that, it is hard to group people into collectives for a convenient enemy.
I’ll start with what is to me the more disgusting form. Relating. When the authors of these articles claim to understand the voices of those who don’t write for major sites, they do so from the assumption of evil and vile behavior. “I was once that horrible.” “I used to hate change in my world.” “I used to be an internet troll.” It presumes that everyone who disagrees with them is horrible, that they inherently hate change in the world, that they are internet trolls. I can’t, and will not try, to speak for everyone. But I never thought that it was okay to troll someone, that there was an acceptable time for harassment. Anonymity was not my safeguard but merely a fresh start. Yes I wasn’t a happy kid, but being an unhappy kid doesn’t immediately turn you into a jerk. I knew lots of unhappy kids who were still nice kids. Good kids. They weren’t trolls on the internet, they weren’t harassing anyone or making threats. I didn’t do that when I was young, and the admission from your own mouth that you were? Well, I do wonder what sort of an adult you are now, if as a teenager you thought such things were okay. To be a little bit southern for a moment, “Who raised you?” No really. People grow up, I get that, but you shouldn’t base your appeal on being a decade late on the basics of sympathy as a foundation for your condescension to those who disagree with you another decade or three after the fact.
The critique usually pertains to a claim of understanding, “I get why they’re so passionate, this is important to them”. Importance is perceived as stemming from it being all they know, that they are angry and seeking an outlet, of machismo, or serving as a power fantasy. A lot of these perceptions are bigoted in nature, based on ignoring the qualities of the individuals involved. But these problems aside, it ignores one simple thing. People such as myself, people much more successful than myself, write about games as a livelihood or income. It is often not part of our “free time” but an investment. It is an inhalation. Gamers? Gamers are involved as an exhalation. It is what they do without profit or a compelling force. It is what they choose to do with their free time. It is part of the expression of their free will and potentiality. A lot of people find themselves trapped in their job, region, family, school, but not their video game genre. It isn’t the only thing they know, but it is a pillar of their free life. An assault on that, real or imagined, is going to cause an exceptional reaction. Gamers are engaged with games differently than those in the industry, or its surrounding industries.
You don’t tell someone that one of their outlets of private choice is dead, that their identity as part of that is dead, in any rash fashion. Certainly not without a meaningful trend, demonstrable over years, presented in clear depictions every time such a claim is made. You don’t assume their gender, their race, their beliefs, their attitudes simply because they don’t align with your beliefs completely. This is the basis of intellectual generosity, and if you want to claim the mantle of addressing games as cultural objects, you need to be open to others being intelligent. The basis of cultural and intellectual growth is acknowledging that you don’t have the complete picture. You do have your own biases. And when you are dealing with a group as broad as gamers, those biases will cut a swathe larger than many countries, and it will catch a lot of people that you believe you are defending.
This entire thing is a cluster, and it isn’t going to resolve itself with finger pointing, particularly at large populations. It can only resolve itself by those most involved better knowing who they are, what they believe, and why. Always the why.
I would have much rather spent this time playing games, or sleeping. Just don’t assume. No one has enough knowledge, wisdom, insight, or luck to correctly assume for a population. They rarely do for an individual.