Gamergate and the End of Culture

While the mortars fall in Ukraine, Israel, and the Islamic State, a conflict more Byzantine and intricate rages in the forums and chatrooms of the Hollow Empire–and the result may prove just as important as any geopolitical shift. I speak of course of #Gamergate, a scandal revealing a system of cultural control so breathtakingly asinine that its very existence, like that of Lindy West, justifies immediate revolution against any and all existing authorities of whatever kind. 

The story revolves around one Zoe Quinn, an alleged “game developer” who has one text based game to her credit. When I was fifteen, I successfully programmed a simple game featuring a spaceship that attacked increasingly fast enemies which descended from above. In other words, it was a far crappier version of Centipede, an Atari game which would have been regarded as impossibly dated before I was even born. Nonetheless, I hold that this modest credential entitles me to call myself a more legitimate “game developer” than Miss Quinn.

Miss Quinn has one game to her credit, a So This Is How It Ends entry in its own right called Depression Quest. You are a “human being” (so as to include all the people who can’t figure out what sex they are, though this still presumably excludes the otherkin) living with depression. And that’s it. The game–by which I mean a series of web pages–has the purpose of “spreading awareness,” and it accomplished that in my case. After five minutes of “play,” I certainly understood depression as I found myself calculating whether the ceiling fan could support a rope and my body weight.  

Perhaps what’s worse is that the game is flawed by its own standards, as the narrative rewards choices such as constantly talking about your problems with your significant other and with friends, none of whom seem unhappy or annoyed by this. If anything, Depression Quest actually understates the difficulty of living with depression, as it gives us the usual advice that if you just talk about emotions enough, your romantic partner will (somehow) fall more in love with you and your friends will appreciate your openness. It’s akin to a relationship game that suggests the best way for a man to pick up a girl is to constantly give her compliments and then apologize (maybe Friendzone Quest?). But we will get to Zoe Quinn’s relationship approach momentarily.

What Depression Quest really constitutes is what I call the first “anti-game.” An “anti-joke” destroys the premise of humor and can therefore be surprisingly funny by confounding your expectations. (Hey, what’s something that is brown and sticky? A stick.) An anti-game subverts the premise of gaming by not being entertaining. While the purpose of a game is to provide an enjoyable departure from reality, Depression Quest actually attempts to put you in a mundane reality that is less fun and interesting than your normal existence. Instead of entertaining you, the anti-game works to give you more socially acceptable (which is to say, progressive) attitudes.

How the hell is this a critically acclaimed project rather than an obscure website? Well, that brings us to the heart of Gamergate. Like the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Gamergate isn’t really about sex–but it is. In 2013, Zoe Quinn managed to get herself a boyfriend who shared her interest in social justice. It emerges that she was cheating on him with as many as five different men (hence the alternate name for the scandal–Five Guys). Her boyfriend responded by posting the entire sordid history of their relationship online. (As we’ve started with the jokes already, what does Zoe Quinn do after she’s been to Five Guys?  Finally get something to eat.)

Why does this matter to anyone? Because these men included gaming journalists who were promoting and reporting on her projects. Like any self-respecting and strong independent woman, Quinn had essentially slept her way into a career. And just as if it would be considered a gross violation of ethics if a Politico reporter was having a House of Cards-style affair with a politician she is ostensibly covering, the inappropriate personal relationship between various industry figures and an “independent” game producer raised questions about the entire state of the industry.

What followed were a series of claims and counter-claims between Zoe Quinn and her detractors. These can be broadly separated into two camps. The anti-Zoe forces are mostly independent investigators and online commentators. They include commentators like Internet Aristocrat and the TheInvestigamer, posters on forums like Reddit and /pol, and some borderline Beltway Right figures like Christina Hoff Summers of the American Enterprise Institute. Even Breitbart has seized on the cause, notably revealing a “Journolist” style collective effort to shape the Narrative.

Their fire is directed not just on Quinn but on “Social Justice Warriors” (SJW’s) generally, who are seen as totalitarian, humorless, and engaged in a hostile takeover of the gaming subculture. More importantly, as the behavior of Quinn herself shows, “social justice” is more about money and control over resources than anything else. Quinn systematically took down an effort by a group called “Fine Young Capitalists” to promote female game developers, ostensibly for social justice reasons but also to secure her own market share. The result lead to the individuals at FYC being “doxed” and receiving death threats.

In contrast, Quinn’s defenders are precisely what you would expect and their case can be summarized easily. Shut up, they explained.

Mainstream media outlets, largely ignoring the actual scandal itself, have described the furor simply as an example of “sexism in the gaming industry.” For example, the self-described “explainer” site Vox says the first thing you have to focus on in the story is the “treatment of women in gaming.” The heart of their case is that we should be talking more about the online abuse people like Quinn receive.  More broadly, we should be talking about how we can change the video game industry so people like her can feel better about themselves.

Which brings us to the other figure deeply involved in the scandal, Anita Sarkeesian. Sarkeesian is the daughter of Armenian immigrants in Canada.  After moving to America, she achieved the new American Dream by becoming a member of the Parasitic Class—handsomely rewarded for attacking everything about her new society. For example, after acquiring the necessary academic credentials in deconstruction studies, she decided she wanted to start a video blog and started a fundraising effort on Kickstarter. After throwing in a couple whines that people were mean to her online, white knights rode to the rescue, and suddenly the effort to raise $6,000 brought home around $150,000–as well as the uncritical adulation of all mainstream media. Needless to say, she has also used to megaphone to sound off on Gamergate.

Of course, both Sarkeesian and Quinn have received a great deal of criticism online in recent weeks. And, let’s be honest, some of this criticism includes threats of violence or rape–though how many and if all of these “threats” are actually authentic is up for debate. More importantly, they are giving as good as they get, with even reasonable critics finding their YouTube channels or posts deleted by moderators pressured by SJW’s. This crackdown is even extending to /pol itself, as supposed SJW moderators are deleting posts because they are--you guessed it--linked to Quinn. Wikipedia of course, hardly a neutral source on politically charged topics, has been especially energetic in violating its own standards to present a SJW friendly take on Gamergate.

What is remarkable about the scandal is the fanaticism of both sides as the battle rages on. Many otherwise left leaning figures have simply had enough with SJW meddling and are making common cause with Right to fight against extreme feminism. Feminists and their media allies and enablers are moving the goalposts so rapidly that gaming itself is being redefined. And those who simply want to play and not think about any of this may be forced to take a position on one side or the other.

Racial realists and White advocates have a unique position in all this. There is not one overt activist or writer who has not experienced death threats, threats of rape (regardless of your sex), or outright physical attack. Unlike Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, who have quite literally made their careers on the basis of receiving online criticism, White advocates lose jobs, have family members and neighbors pressured by media groups or thinly veiled gangs, or suffer destruction of property, with the utter indifference or even approval of law enforcement. Entire companies, families, and lives have been destroyed over the accusation (true or not) of racism. And mainstream reporters actually urge on the baying mobs rather than serving as guardians like they do for Quinn or Sarkeesian.

Therefore, it is of relative indifference to me whether Quinn and Sarkeesian are depressed because people said mean things to them online. They gave as good as they got, they enjoy a larger megaphone than all of their critics, their pronouncements are as uncritically repeated by the mainstream press as any Southern Poverty Law Center press release, and more importantly, their very livelihood is dependent on such “abuse.” If it did not exist, they would have to make it up–and in some cases, they may have done just that. You might even call it their business model. 

But what are we to do with the idea of a “gaming” subculture that is under attack? To paraphrase Marx, the point is not to retreat from the world, the point is to change it. And yet, we have to understand why so many young men, especially young White men, retreat into a world of fantasy. Markus Willinger, author of Generation Identity: A Declaration of War Against the ‘68ers, writes in “On Escapism,”

The world, as it presents itself to us, is empty and cold. Its communities have been dissolved; what remains are individuals rushing madly to and fro in the service of the global economy.

It may not be surprising, therefore, that many of us escape into another, much more pleasant world—that of computer and video games.

There one finds that which no longer exists in the real world—a community to belong to, solidarity, great heroic deeds, authentic chivalry, and true love. In fact, video games are, for many of us, the last possibility to somehow perform heroic deeds, experience epic battles, achieve victory in combat, and overcome defeat.

This is why many of us choose this path, and some even forget their real lives in favor of it. They don’t want to go back into the cold, senseless world that you’ve created, into which you’ve forced them. [78]

Now, the SJW’s are moving to take even that away. As Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, “One must leave a way of escape to a surrounded enemy.” By denying it, the SJW’s have inadvertently encountered a level of resistance and fury far beyond anything they could have expected.

Yet even this will eventually fade unless it is grounded in something deeper. As Lawrence Auster frequently noted, the “unprincipled exception” to liberalism is never sustainable. Gamers protesting they should be “left alone” will fail unless they can actually ground their beliefs in something deeper and systematic. In contrast, SJW’s and progressives have already begun constructing the infrastructure necessary for an outright takeover of gaming. After all, schools like American University now offer courses combining social justice theory and game design. If we’re not careful, every game will look like “American Story: A Pitfall Adventure,” a game designed to teach you about the need for Obamacare.

Though both groups lean heavily to the Left, there is a real battle in gaming and the tech industry between those who owe their status to mastery of computer technology and those who wield the weapon of ideology. Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, and their ilk represent the efforts of aspiring members of the managerial class to seize control of something they never could have created themselves. Even events like “The Fappeningand other scandals are really the low level skirmishes around a central battle for control over the commanding heights of the new economy as the managerial class struggles to assimilate the tech industry and its various subcultures. And unfortunately, our cultural commissars have been very successful so far.

Ultimately, #Gamergate matters because it is one front in a war that encompasses our entire culture. Indeed, it is a war that determines whether something called “culture” can even continue to exist. What ultimate victory for the “Social Justice Warriors” would mean is the end of culture.

This is not simply the traditional right wing claim (preferably expressed in all capital letters) that a world of Zoe Quinns will drive out Truth, Beauty, and genuine artistic achievement (although it’s that too.) A SJW World is a literal anti-culture, where creation itself is secondary to deconstructive social critique based on constantly shifting standards. Producing anything–be it a game, a painting, or a piece of music–is secondary to protecting an egalitarian narrative enforced by a Parasitic Class of professional scolds. East Germany was a cultural wonderland compared to what the liberal arts graduates of a typical American university can cough up. The end game of the managerial elite is the total control of human interaction, and through that, the control of economic resources.

For that reason, we see an increasing efforts to bring formerly uncontrolled spaces such as black metal under supervision, with bands policed for inappropriate beliefs or statements, and the music is made secondary to promoting an ideological agenda. As gaming has arrived as an art form, it has become a cultural battlefield almost as important as movies or music.  And this matters because the dreams and fantasies of a people color how they view the real world. Far better, all snark aside, to aspire to Skryim, than a real world that resembles a never ending Depression Quest.  

#Gamergate affects you even if you have never played video games, or think no one should play them. The struggle is about freedom of association in culture, something just as important as freedom of association in property. And the solution in both the flight from communities and the flight from reality represented by video games is the same—get serious about why you have the right to revolt against egalitarianism, and fight back. After all, they aren’t going to let you run anymore.