Editorial: The fine art of discourse, and its impending demise

Trent Ernst, Editor


Over there on the Internet, there’s a new conflict a-brewing, and it’s taken the title Gamergate.

If you want to go looking for yourself, be forewarned, it’s pretty ugly business, but here it is in a nutshell: some people who play videogames (“gamers”) think that their masculinity (because, of course, the only people who play games are guys, right, basically every female I know who are gamers, too?)

This whole thing started a few months ago when a game maker (also female, natch) broke up with her psychotic boyfriend, who then went to online forums to libel her, accusing her, amongst other things, of sleeping with a video game journalist in order to get her game a better rating. (The fact that said journalist never actually reviewed the game, of course, is irrelevant.)

Actually, this whole thing started a long time ago, but the whole Zoe Quinn (the aforementioned game designer) thing has caused it to blow up.

In the past few years, you see, video games have grown out of a subculture of geeky teenagers and into a cultural phenomenon.

As a result, people who didn’t originally play video games are now doing so … and noticing that the portrayal of women in mainstream games is often a little … shallow, to put it mildly. Most didn’t, calling out the game developers as misogynistic and sexist, using women merely as sex objects.

It’s a fair criticism, and one worthy of debate. But instead of discussing it, the Gamergate folks have tried to say this is an attack on them as people, while at the same time threating to rape and kill several prominent women in the debate.

One such women is Anita Sarkeesian, who looks at tropes in video games through a feminist lens. Needless to say, most video games do not fair too well through this lens, and, as a result, video gamers threatened “the deadliest shooting in American History,” if her scheduled appearance at Utah State University were to go ahead as planned.

Which says a lot about many of the people involved in this whole Gamergate thing. As is most often the case, what you say and how you say it more often reveals more about you than the person you are talking about.

The trouble is, when one person starts spewing hateful, nasty things about another person, tribe, culture, faith, sex or race, there are often a group of people who gather around to support what’s being said. It’s ugly, it’s messy, and it reveals the character of these people.

We create the society we live in. And we create the social networks that we are a part of. If, in disagreeing with someone, we engage in civil discourse and the fine are of persuasion, chances are, the people we surround ourselves with will be the sort to engage in heated, yet intelligent and civil discussions.

However, if we become the sort of people to tell people See You Next Tuesday, or threaten violence upon people when they disagree with us, then we are also creating the social norms of the space we inhabit.

It’s a good thing that this sort of thing doesn’t happen in Tumbler Ridge….

Just a correction to a story we ran last week; I used the word “fired” to describe how former Lake View branch manager lost his job. Officially, he was “laid off. We apologize to anyone who might have found that language inflammatory; it was just a conflation of issues.