This isn’t a post about Zoe Quinn
If you don’t know who Zoe Quinn is, that’s fine; this post isn’t about her. If you do know what happened recently, that’s good too. Although I’m using a very loose definition of the word “good” here, because what happened to her is another example of a problem that’s run rampant in gaming for years and just keeps getting more problematic. But she doesn’t want her personal life being dragged out for discussing something that’s completely unconnected to what she does for a living, and the fact is that asking that is beyond fair. Her personal life is hers. The whole “scandal” was, essentially, someone violating that boundary.
And there’s been a lot already written about it, many pieces within days of the event, and they all had the same tone to them. Hell, some of them had probably been written beforehand and were just sitting around ready for use as soon as something happened, because something was going to. It was inevitable. There was always going to be another one of these situations, and the same wave of “I can’t deal with this again” began to break.
Some people clocked out more or less as soon as it started happening. Because exhaustion had already set in.
Dealing with issues of gender in gaming means exposing yourself to exhaustion, constantly. Because gaming culture decided that everyone gets to have a voice, no matter how noxious and vile it might be, the people who are speaking for change are shouted down by the people served by and thus perfectly happy with the status quo. When one side of the coin has a constant uphill battle to just be allowed to exist on the planet and the other has an endless barrel of invective, it’s easy to understand why eventually the former side is going to cede the field to the latter just to make the noise stop.
Every single time I write an article on sexism, I get hate mail. I get people coming onto Twitter and screaming at me. And I am a straight cis white man. I’m not getting rape threats or death threats or even a full dosage of the simple harassment that some women get as part of being online, much less for saying that there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark.
I’m a tourist. I don’t live here.
When you get told enough times that you’re awful and worthless for simply existing, you begin to believe it even if you know it’s not true. You start to internalize it. It wears on you, and the fact is that there are always more people willing to shout you down than stand up and be at your side. That’s the uncomfortable nature of the beast. Those who push down are more willing to go to war than those pushing up.
Not to mention that the longer you spend in the game industry, the more you see it happen over and over again. Watching a round of people claiming that they won’t buy Dragon Age: Inquisition because the game is for “gays and women” produces laughs, sure, but they’re tired laughs. They’re the laughter of people who are seeing this happen yet again of being unable to have a discussion about a game because the signal to noise ratio is buried in people stunned that a developer’s intended audience would include half of the people who play video games. It gets old. Another female developer or pundit is being dragged out into a discussion of her personal life, and do we have to do this again? Is this relevant? Why does this keep happening?
You get exhausted. And you clock the hell out.
Because the fact of the matter is that a battle for hearts and minds isn’t as simple as “well, it’s a good cause, you just have to tough it out.” It’s an easy thing to say that you should just ignore the hate when you’re not the one up on the stage every day. Hell, you get a weak version of it just by being a game journalist, accused of corruption on a daily basis any time you have an opinion or an evaluation that doesn’t mesh with what the reader wants you to think, being charged with proving that something didn’t happen in the direct inverse of what any sensible legal system is based upon.
After enough time, it just gets to be too much. Standing up gets you assaulted. Showing your face is an invitation to have something aimed at it. Sooner or later you just say “fuck this, it’s not worth it.” And you leave.
When you see yet another sexist douche explosion in the game industry, your first instinct should not be exhaustion. This should not be something that’s so common that you find yourself thinking “well, what happened this time and why am I already angry,” it should be something that’s vanishingly rare. And when you can do the math and realize that this boils down to another month of angry shouting at you for daring to point out that this isn’t all right? You walk away. You have a life to live. What’s the point in screaming when nothing’s changing anyway?
A friend of mine, Jasmine Hruschak, does a lot of streaming, and she’s mentioned in the past when people ask her about her own ongoing exhaustion with the game industry that self-care is not “quitting.” She does her level best to run her stream chats as safe spaces wherein people can talk without fear of judgement or slings and arrows, and that alone is a crazy amount of work that I respect endlessly. We deserve to have “not a collection of asshats” as the default rather than the exception, and when you work overtime just to create that space – suffering endless amounts of exhausting bullshit simply for existing online – you run out of energy. You kind of want to just stop, especially if you’re not making money or getting anything out of it other than years off your life.
That’s how you lose. The people who are willing to stand up and say that there’s a problem get exhausted, for good reason, and they just stop speaking. The people in the middle or even those who agree with people speaking up stay silent, and we insist that everyone gets to have a voice rather than saying that you don’t get to keep using your voice if you’re just going to use it to be a hateful shit. The exhaustion sets in, and one side yields the court because it hurts too much to keep going.
This isn’t a post about Zoe Quinn.
But maybe it should be.