#GamerGate: The #NotAllMen of Gaming

Between the Zoe Quinn scandal, death threats on Anita Sarkeesian, and the ensuing #GamerGate scandal, it’s been a dramatic week for the gaming community. Watching all the tweets on #GamerGate and #NotYourShield has shown me that people honestly don’t seem to realize that there is a massive difference between indiscriminate, personal, and systemic harassment.

So let’s start with a basic thesis: harassment is wrong, even on the internet. The internet is not some separate lawless world that isn’t real, it is simply another way of engaging with our – very much real – world. And while League of Legends is just a game, it is a game played by real people.  Attacking somebody for who they are is petulant, immature, and offensive, and we should seek to eliminate from our social discourse, whether it takes place in meatspace, on the internet, or in League of Legends..

Yes, anybody can be harassed: man or woman, white or black, straights or gays. But there is a distinct difference between the sort of harassment that minorities face, and this can be seen in two ways.

Personal Harassment

Yes, everybody can be harassed, but for the most part, it is only minorities who are attacked for *who* they are. This can be seen in the numerous racist, sexist, and homophobic slurs that dominate our culture’s lexicon of insults. However, these insults mean vastly different things depending on their intended recipient. A misogynistic slur used against a man attacks him for being like a woman, but that same slur used against a woman attacks her for being a woman. They may be the same slur, but against the right targets, they’re super effective.

Systemic Harassment

However, much like smoking, harassment carries collateral. The toxic player spewing homophobic slurs against the support in his game isn’t just insulting that player. He is also saying to any gay players in game “there is something wrong with what you are”.

In addition to the regular harassment that everybody faces from time to time, minorities face the fact that the harassment that is directed at them is actually specific to things about them, while harassment directed at others carries with it an implicit attack back on those same minority groups.

Default: White, Straight Male

One of the first responses I hear whenever harassment discussed is “if people don’t want to be attacked for being female/gay/black, all they have to do is not bring it up”. This sort of logic only makes sense with the implicit assumption of the default human being as straight, white, and male. After all, my name is “Gentleman Gustaf”, and nobody attacks me in game for having the audacity to identify as male. This is not to say that I’m never harassed, just not for my gender.


Over the past three weeks, we have seen a number of public attacks on women and feminists in the gaming community, followed by an extremely virulent backlash by MRAs on Twitter. While these people are a huge minority in the gaming community, their vocal nature created a deluge of negative voices, and a number of gaming critics attacked them, singling out “gamers”. Their choice of words could not have seemed worse to the community. But in reality, it was quite apt. We should not be focused on telling harassment victims how to avoid inviting the ire of gamers, because victim blaming is never the answer. That is not to say that all gamers harass people – in fact, it is likely a vocal minority. However, it is still important to shift the burden away from victims.

Is that fair? No. But it’s also not fair that people are being harassed for who they are in the first place.

Where are we to shift this burden? To an extent, we can shift it to perpetrators: educate people that it is wrong to harass people. However, the large burden should fall on the community. As a community, we should call people out for harassment. And when the community is criticized for its misogyny/homophobia/racism, we should acknowledge that those issues belong to all of us, not just the perpetrators. We may not be the ones who shit in our backyards, but the shit is there, and when our neighbors complain about the smell, we can’t simply say “it wasn’t me!” It may not be our fault, but it is our problem. Is that fair? No. But it’s also not fair that people are being harassed for who they are in the first place.

So when victims speak up about their harassment, we should understand that they aren’t accusing us of harassing them. They are seeking support from their communities. And the best way that we can demonstrate that gamers are not all bad – that our image is spoiled by a few bad eggs – is not with our words. It is not to say “why are you complaining to us? We didn’t do it!” By doing nothing and washing our hands of the problem, we ensure that the vocal minority is the only one that is heard, and the one that has effects.

It is to lead with our actions by offering support, and ensuring that we stand against that minority of perpetrators by calling out harassment and bigotry when we see it.



If you want to know what this vocal minority looks like, here are some choice bits:

As well, Anita Sarkeesian has saved a number of choice bits here.

One Comment on “#GamerGate: The #NotAllMen of Gaming

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