To Troll Or Not To Troll, A Meditation On #GamerGate

That's not actually the question, but it comes close.

The whole #GamerGate harassment campaign against the video game press I’ve been watching from the sidelines has been driving me nuts as of late. The ringleaders of the movement are wannabe Rush Limbaughs who can’t get through a minute of YouTube “video” without saying “fuck” twelve times. They repeat their emotional opinions without backing it up with evidence over and over and then start treating it like fact.

I despise when people do that. I’ve despised people I admire for doing that. It makes me want to fight fire with fire.

You see the horrible thing about the Internet is that people respond to emotion far faster than they do to reason. Emotion spreads like wildfire, my own Twitter analytics have proven that to me. Seeing your own thoughts spread is addicting. In fact, if you want to play Inquisitor and hunt for corruption I’d say start there in your own heart before taking the fire of righteousness to others.

But no one is going to see this. No one will see this because I’m not going to launch it off into etherspace with a giant emotional charge. I might hit up the hashtag, just so this doesn’t get completely lost in the storm.

What I won’t do, for now, is try and jump down the throat of the “Internet Aristocrat” who is trying to prove that all gaming websites are corrupt like a character out of the X-Files. The logic I’ve seen coming out of this guy so far is spurious at best, and seeks to fit scraps of behavior to a theory as opposed to build up an understanding of the gaming press from easily observable facts.

If he wants to condemn the gaming press properly all he has to do is point to all the rewritten press releases and endless reblogging from site to site. Of course, he’d also have to get gamers to stop clicking on that shit.

You can see where all the thinking comes from: it’s the endgame of a deeply entrenched meme (I’m using “meme” in the technical, not the cat photo, sense) that sees the video game industry in tribal terms. The “us vs. them” of Sony vs. Microsoft, Sega vs. Nintendo, “Gamers” vs. “Filthy Casuals.”

These distinctions are illusions. They are masks. Roles taken on for the sake of play. Identify too closely with the role and you lose yourself. You lose your capacity to empathize. Lose your ability to step back from the gameboard, look your temporary rival in the eye and say “good game.”

The religious philosopher James P. Carse, author of the seminal Finite and Infinite Games, says that there are two types of games. Finite games are played to be won, while an infinite game is played for the purpose of continuing play. To win a finite game you must eliminate your opponents. To play an infinite game you need other players, and so you do what you can to keep everyone playing.

What kind of player do you want to be?

So for now I resist the urge to troll. I’d rather understand if these guys can be turned back away from the Dark Side. If there is some shred of empathy left in them. I’ll keep feeding the good wolf in my chest and hope for a better world.

Because God help us all if I let the bad wolf win.

Also: stop attaching "Gate" to the end of "scandals." For the love of God, Watergate was the name of a HOTEL. That's a note for everybody.