Miscalibrated Internet Receptor Stalks

This Essay Could Just As Easily Be About Misogynistic Fanboys

From Dan Golding's "The End of Gamers":

Taken in their simplest, most basic form, a videogame is a creative application of computer technology. For a while, perhaps, when such technology was found mostly in masculine cultures, videogames accordingly developed a limited, inwards-looking perception of the world that marked them as different from everyone else. This is the gamer, an identity based on difference and separateness. When playing games was an unusual activity, this identity was constructed in order to define and unite the group (and to help demarcate it as a targetable demographic for business). It became deeply bound up in assumptions and performances of gender and sexuality. To be a gamer was to signal a great many things, not all of which are about the actual playing of videogames.


On the evidence of the last few weeks, what we are seeing is the end of gamers, and the viciousness that accompanies the death of an identity. Due to fundamental shifts in the videogame audience, and a move towards progressive attitudes within more traditional areas of videogame culture, the gamer identity has been broken. It has nowhere to call home, and so it reaches out inarticulately at invented problems, such as bias and corruption, which are partly just ways of expressing confusion as to why things the traditional gamer does not understand are successful (that such confusion results in abject heartlessness is an indictment on the character of the male-focussed gamer culture to begin with).


This shift is precisely the root of such increasingly violent hostility. The hysterical fits of those inculcated at the heart of gamer culture might on the surface be claimed as crusades for journalistic integrity, or a defense against falsehoods, but—along with a mix of the hatred of women and an expansive bigotry thrown in for good measure—what is actually going on is an attempt to retain hegemony. Make no mistake: this is the exertion of power in the name of (male) gamer orthodoxy—an orthodoxy that has already begun to disappear.


Whole thing's worth your attention. I wholly recommend it.

But it is an interesting parallel with the recent shitstorm over MRA fans and "fake geek girl" panics. In both cases you have a culture that was, as Golding puts it, based on "difference and separateness," represented mostly by single guys who were antisocial and/or poorly socialized, and who found belonging — if not exactly community — in partaking of entertainment that was, if not necessarily "other," definitely outside of the mainstream — comic books, SF and fantasy novels, video games, RPGs, etc. Now that those activities have themselves gone mainstream, that identity is no longer special. Being an expert on formerly obscure Marvel characters or the oeuvre of George R.R. Martin no longer carries a unique authority, because lots of people who wouldn't self-identity as fanboys enjoy those things.

In both cases, we're seeing what Golding frames as an attempt to retain the cultural orthodoxy that allowed geeks (read: geek guys) the arbiters of what made that culture special. That the rage isn't against the movie studios or game companies but the new audiences those industries have attracted to their products, — non-male, non-straight, non-cis, probably non-white while we're at it — reveals the depth of their irrelevance and powerlessness. When comic books and video games are for everyone, not just a handful of adolescent and post-adolescent loners, the illusion of being a master of the universe is gone.


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