by Ed Button
Sadly, no one has ever accused gamers of being mature humans who take the feelings of others into consideration.
The gaming community on Twitter was out for blood on Tuesday after columnist and scholar Samantha Allen came under attack when she criticized gaming news/review/podcast site Giant Bomb for hiring “Game Informer” magazine alumni Dan Ryckert as the site’s senior editor.
Allen was seemingly unhappy with a white male being hired for the position, instead of a writer representing a minority population (she being a transgendered woman).
For my part, I’m through believing in “good guys.” You’re maintaining a homogeneous games criticism that’s as boring as it is exclusionary. — Samantha Allen (@CousinDangereux) July 1, 2014
What happened afterward was unfathomably disgusting.
In typical Internet fashion, assholes of all shapes and sizes came crawling out of the digital woodwork, calling her a “faggot” and a “some guy who got his dick mutilated” who was using “militant politics” and “gender identity” to try to make a bunch of good-ole boys look bad. The public abuse was horrifying. I don’t even want to imagine what the private messages and emails were like.
Thankfully, some of the writers and personalities of the site in question hopped into the fray:
Here is me saying this out loud. Attacking women with hateful slurs because they’re criticizing our site is beyond unacceptable.
— RICKY THE AC!D KING (@alex_navarro) July 1, 2014
Dear people acting like shit on the internet in the name of Giant Bomb: You don’t represent us or our community. Stop it. — Jeff Gerstmann (@jeffgerstmann) July 1, 2014
After a couple of hours of degradation, Samantha called a Twitter sabbatical after she says she received death threats via email.
OK! Officially off Twitter for an indeterminate time. People asking what you can do? Support minority games writers and critics. I’m out. <3
— Samantha Allen (@CousinDangereux) July 2, 2014
People being assholes on the Internet is nothing new, but this situation is a horrifying microcosm of the gaming community, and the Internet, as a whole. What about her statements would qualify death threats? And how did the gaming community, who was the butt of many jokes just over a decade ago, become the group dishing out the hatred?
Is Samantha to blame for the vitriol flung at her? Not in any way, shape, or form. People are entitled to their opinions. I think she’s a wonderful writer that allows her beliefs to influence her writing decisions. Many people, obviously, are not in the same camp I am.
Is Giant Bomb responsible for this? Absolutely not. However, it seems their goofy, unorthodox style of reviews and podcasts tends to draw a “dudebro” crowd more than other sites. A crowd who obviously can’t handle criticism of their beloved site.
Was Ryckert the most qualified person for the position? I don’t know. Unfortunately, I don’t keep up with gaming as much as I used to, so I’m unfamiliar with Ryckert and I don’t know who else applied for the job. However, he does have credentials, and decent ones at that. What confuses me in this whole situation is the fact that the Giant Bomb crew hired a friend, which is a valid point for criticism, but the focus in this situation is the fact that he is a white male.
Was it outright bigotry or patriarchal something-or-another that lead to the hiring, as some of her supporters claimed? I doubt it. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that minority writers and columnists are a rarity, and hopefully more unique voices like Samantha’s are inspired by what happened in this ugly situation. On the other side of the coin, however, many people see those who claim “sexism” or “bigotry” when something doesn’t “go their way” as people who are incapable of attaining things on their own, which, right or wrong, does more harm than good.
Criticism is a good thing, whether you’re writing, playing the clarinet, or running a gaming site.
But to come out and threaten, belittle, and insult someone (she IS a person, people) is animalistic, cruel and uncalled for. I’ve disagreed with Samantha on some of her articles before, and even voiced my opinion. But I did so in a measured, responsible fashion. A professional fashion.
A humane fashion.
Video games are a wonderful medium, for both art and entertainment purposes. I love gaming, and when not being called a “raging homo” by XxXd00mSnYpeRXxX or someone with another equally asinine handle, I enjoy online gaming, especially with friends. However, with the explosion of online gaming in the past 5-10 years, hopping into a random game and looking for a good time with strangers has become harder and harder. Often times, I simply mute everyone in the room before a game starts. And I’m a straight white guy.
It shouldn’t have to be like that.
How many people are turned off from gaming, a hobby I quite enjoy, because of asshats like those who attacked Samantha? How many more studios, or jobs, or games could be created with those dollars that will never come in? When will game companies, publishers, et al, get serious about online abuse?
Gaming tries so hard to resemble Hollywood, but it has the blessing and the curse of being an interactive medium. And until companies like Microsoft and Sony really take abuse and harassment seriously instead of treating it like a burden or an afterthought, gaming will not grow to its fullest potential.
The Internet is a wonderful tool for learning and interaction with people you would never know otherwise, but as time goes on it seems like we’re losing our ability to civilly disagree with people, and it’s harming us in the so-called real world. When we stay in our own comfort bubble with our own views and talk with others who share those views, we tend to become emotionally attached to things or issues that we shouldn’t be emotionally attached to at all. We become hypersensitive to criticism, and lash out at those who dare to question our beliefs and the norm.
Anonymity online can be a great thing. Unfortunately, I think it will also be the end of the Internet as we know it.
Ed Button is an award-winning broadcaster based out of West Plains, MO. You can find him on Twitter @edb87.