It was a terrible Friday morning, I could feel it in my bones. I had woken up with tears streaming down my cheeks, but no memory of why they had been. After crawling from my bed, I had felt a bit ill as I shuffled downstairs for a wash. I had put on my suit-and-tie as well as formal shoes, which soon after I had managed to trip up thus scuffing said shoes. I then made my way to the WAJG’s office, one of those ???rustic??? (a word a property website would use to describe it) steel warehouses converted to an office. I had finally arrived at my news office, which still faintly stinks of strong industrial cleaners. Reinhold still assures me it wasn’t ever a janitor’s closet. It is clear he is lying to me.
I had to deal with the mail, which included Sonic’s crude picture of me. He had drawn a man in a suit, but replaced the head with a bell-end and drawn my hair on top. This was his ongoing grudge against me for being the only one in the company who insists on wearing a suit to a place of work. I got through sifting through the news stories to hopefully cover, only to find nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. So, with a heavy sigh, I went to Reinhold’s office.
At his point, I managed to catch him before one of his breaks. Despite being a boss, he tends to arrive with a bowling shirt, khaki trousers, tennis shoes and tea-coloured sunglasses. With the wild stare and strange grin, I’m still convinced he thinks of himself as a modern-day Dr Hunter S. Thompson.
??? Dr. Hoffman.???
???…Dr. Hoffman, I just looked through our news feed. There’s nothing there.???
???Buddy… There’s gotta be something, I mean it’s a news feed and there is always games news.???
I could feel vomit clawing up my insides like a gerbil trying to reach for freedom from a rectum at being called ???buddy???. Fuck, I hate being called ???buddy???. ???Unless you want to talk about a child climbing inside of a freezer after being influenced by the ice levels in Croc, there just isn’t anything. The well is dry.???
???Uh… Well you got to do something.???
???That I do.??? Subconsciously I looked at the scuff on my shoes.
???Do one of those opinion pieces.???
???But… The Daily Mail does those about immigrants, and they’re shit.???
???Then DON’T do one about immigrants, do it about games! I’ll let you have free rein! Go on! Get going! Chop chop!???.
Defeated, I left and sat down in front of my PC. Luckily the weather sucked or the thing would over-heat on all the dust built up inside it. After flicking through the news on other websites, I figured I’d talk about the trend for people to just panic about things they don’t like.
In 2003, Barbra Streisand’s home in Malibu was photographed by photographers looking to document the coastal erosion going on in the area, alongside 12,000 other California coastline photos. At that time, the picture was downloaded by six people. These six people included two by Streisand’s attorneys looking to sue for invasion of privacy. After the failed suing of both the photographer (Kenneth Adelman) but also Pictopia.com who hosted the pictures, the downloaded amount swelled to over 400,000 people in the following month. This led to the coining of the term ???The Streisand Effect???, to mean when efforts to hide information leads to publicising the information more widely than would have likely normally occurred.
Now let’s go 10 years into the future.
On the 7th of March 2013, Anita Sarkeesian uploaded the first video in her Kickstarted series Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games: Damsel In Distress. The Kickstarter had pulled a respectable $158,922 from 6,968 backers. The video, however, brought in over 10,000% of the backers in views which currently stands at 2,440,306. While it is understandable there are fans of the video, Anita Sarkeesian exploded in popularity/infamy due to what was seen as the controversial nature of her Feminist comments. What might have just run its course unnoticed under normal circumstances, instead was the spark to an explosion of popularity of the use of Feminist theory on videogames.
Over a year later, in August 2014, Eron Gjoni wrote a 9k word blog post about his relationship with game developer Zoe Quinn who also had a relationship with Nathan Grayson, a journalist at Kotaku. This in turn led to people offering commentary, ranging from critique of the breach of journalistic ethic to full on abuse, as well as defenders of Zoe Quinn.
Rather than dying down, it exploded outwards partially due to the heavy media coverage of not only the intense (and sometimes misogynistic) critique of Sarkeesian but also the campaign against Quinn. Looking for a name, the news articles found one in the form of a growing hashtag coined by actor Adam Baldwin: #GamerGate. This in turn has led a movement that some consider a worthy campaign looking to get rid of corruption in the games industry, and others think of as a destructive force that uses the weak excuse ???ethics in games journalism??? to justify sexism, homophobia and transphobia.
It seems to be common course to not only acknowledge things we disagree with, but also to flood them with as much attention as possible with no regard of what may happen by doing so. We’ll visit pages of journalists we disagree with, en masse, to post our disgust in the comments; meanwhile unaware that some websites pay based on the visits to pages you’ve written. We’ll do large campaigns on Twitter against someone, screaming about how they’re the worst person in the world; meanwhile unaware that people may just perceive the endless stream of insulting criticism as verbal assault and then rush to their aid. We’ll do media coverage of disgusting acts by a small group of, generally, horrid people; meanwhile unaware that a campaign that may have passed unnoticed has now become incredibly noticed and recruited more to their party.
In a similar style of voting with your wallet, as pro-consumer activists preach, we should also vote with our attention. As after all, the cruellest fate that can be afflicted on someone online, especially someone trying to get money for their work, isn’t a slew of insults and a bad reputation but rather the lack of notice. This is partially because a lot of money comes through ad-revenue but also because attention feeds their self-worth and perceived demand. There are many good and bad things that have died on their feet, forgotten by the stream of time, due to the lack of notice they have gotten. We have created our own heroes and villains thanks to the attention we have fed them with.
This pleading for voting with our attention is yet another argument for positivity within the community. After all, should we not dedicate our time, effort and sanity on the things we love rather than items of loathing? Should we not raise our own heroes to lofty heights rather than fuel the fires of our villains? Should we not avoid repeating the mistakes of our past, as represented by the Mods & Rockers/moral panic phenomena? I can only hope we calm down, cease the panic and enjoy more whimsical happy banter about the things we love.