I’m not a gamer. I tried Candy Crush a couple times but I couldn’t really figure it out. I once roomed with a guy addicted to Final Fantasy, but it only lasted a couple weeks. I do tend to mention IKEA a lot in my writing – IKEA is kinda like a game, right? It’s sort of a cross between Pinball and Tetris.
Angry teenage hackers can go through all my devices and all they’ll find are complaints to Burts Bees and a couple pictures of my little dog, Oyster. I was born too early for nude pictures, I don’t have any serious financial assets, and I can’t be fired from my job. I live in an apartment building, so there isn’t even a front lawn on which to burn a cross.
Which means that, when it comes to Gamer Gate (the male-supremacist movement focused on driving women from the gaming community) I really don’t have much of a stake. I don’t have an opinion on anything that impacts them, and in return, 4chan hasn’t declared one of their fatwas on Oyster. Do it at your own risk, guys, that puppy is the size of a chicken but he’s a nasty biter, and I haven’t given him his yearly rabies shot yet.
Begun as a revenge campaign by a (male) gamer against his journalist ex-girlfriend, Gamer Gate has spiraled into a bigotry-fest of downright weirdness (they drew themselves a female mascot to prove they weren’t misogynistic, then held discussions about fucking her). Speaking as an outsider, it’s… well, it’s just plain strange. My immediate reaction is to shake my head and thank goodness I have no wish to try any game more complicated than “World of Goo”. It’s like learning about horrific atrocities in Iraq – yes, it’s terrible stuff going on over there, but I had no interest in ever visiting Iraq anyway, and this just reminds me why.
Even in the academic field of fandom, where the tools of the trade are privilege vs. stigma, us non-gamers are used to shrugging over the confusing gyrations of the gaming community. All that vocabulary I don’t understand, the technology that seems so specialized, the members who often represent my worst memories of 7th grade… Incidentally, the same is also true for Sports fandom scandals. Lots of us just want to shake our heads and say, “Honestly, what’s up with that?”
It’s a question much of the non-gaming world may be asking right now. What’s up with that. Does this impact anything real at all, or is it just the usual creeps being creeps?
Well, here’s the thing: bigotry is really bad for business. Appeals to our better nature may or may not have any effect, but as proud Americans, surely we can appreciate a solid appeal to our wallets. The same way the auto industry sure as hell better care about ISIS atrocities lest they impact the flow of oil to American gas stations. The same way the flower and catering industries should be on the front lines of gay marriage advocacy.
It’s a lot easier to take civil rights personally when they might directly affect our paychecks. And the gaming industry is big about passing out paychecks to pretty much every other industry I can think of, from manufacturing to movies. Globally they’re valued at more than $65 billion, the fastest growing segment of the US economy.
What we’re dealing with here is called the taxi driver’s dilemma. A taxi driver sets a threshold for the amount of money they need to make in a day, promising to go home only once they’ve got enough. If fares are scarce, they’ll have to stay out all day and night to reach the quota, but on good days they can go home early! It seems to make sense until you do the math – in actuality, setting a threshold like this makes you less money, for more work. It would be a much better strategy to leave early on days with no fares, and stay out late on days with good ones. Twice the cash, less driving.
Females like gaming, or at least, young females express about the same rate of interest as young males. Unlike football, or trains, or a pathological love of dinosaurs, there doesn’t seem to be any particular gender bias built into the thrill of pushing buttons, (or whatever those young whippersnappers are doing these days, oh my aching back, etc).
So where is the gaming industry’s capitalism-fueled indignation? Where is the accountant in some cubical, staring at a spreadsheet, counting out the numbers again and again, until they finally come to the conclusion: “Shit, maybe if half our potential audience wasn’t worried about getting raped and murdered every time they play, we could double our income?”
It would be like if a bunch of Swedish people decided only Swedes deserve to eat IKEA meatballs. And then dispatched teams of angry, violent Scandinavians to all the international IKEA’s of the world to beat up locals when they tried to order lunch. I’m pretty sure Corporate HQ would notice that drop in sales pretty fast. I shudder to think what a company like IKEA does to folks who impact their bottom line. All those tiny tools…
Anyway, it’s a classic Taxi Driver’s Dilemma. The gaming industry can indeed pander to the creepy vocal minority by staying silent about the treatment of their female audience. And doing so does indeed help them fulfill their quota of skeezy dudes who want to buy their stuff. But there really are only so many skeezy dudes in the world, no matter how loud all the shrieks of offense.
Instead of trying to reach 100% skeez saturation, gaming companies could be working less hard for twice the money if they would just lend a little support to the other half of the world’s population who also wants to buy their stuff. You know, the ones who, right now, have been driven away from their product by creepy dudes. More than half the world’s population, actually, I’m sure there are plenty of guys who are just as creeped out by this kind of awfulness.
So come on, accountant with a spreadsheet, stand up for a lady’s right to give you lots of money! If I was the gaming industry right now, I’d be desperately donating to every women’s rights charity I could find, launching outreach campaigns, and hiring women like mad. I hear there are lady gamers with lots of cash, and maybe, just maybe, if they weren’t constantly afraid for their lives, they would like to give some of it to you. Hell, maybe I’ll even give it a go.