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Simon Steele

Gamergate? Toxic masculinity? Ready Player One?

108 posts in this topic

I've seen this article making the rounds: The Ready Player One Backlash, Explained. For me, this is a difficult subject. I grew up in the 80s, I love video games, I'm white, oh, and I love 80s trivia. Somehow, I missed the cultural milestones that were Ready Player One (the book) and Gamergate--so, I get a sense of what those two things are now, but I still have trouble seeing how they link together after reading the article. 

After kind of ripping apart the book, the author writes, "But the main thing Ready Player One is doing is telling those ’80s-boy-culture-obsessed gamers that they matter, that in fact they are the most important people in the universe. That knowing every single goddamn word of Monty Python and the Holy Grail can have life-or-death stakes, because why shouldn’t it? (Yes, that is a crucial step in Wade’s battle to save the OASIS.)" This seems a fairly big leap in logic to me as most fantasy is about the little, non-existent one saying to the that they matter: gender removed. 

Gamergate I didn't understand at the time, and I largely just ignored, but with hindsight, I see the significance of it. In many ways, it signaled America's current cultural predicament, but to say this MRA behavior is unique to gaming culture seems odd. I feel like it's an undercurrent of every aspect of American society. It lingers everywhere. It lingers in American cinema, in comedy, in our schools: anywhere diversity is changing the landscape. This creates pockets of resistant white men, some bigger than others, but I find it extremely problematic to take something a trivial as a love of the 80s, and try to turn that into gate keeping. 

Any time social media (and anonymity) is involved, the graphic threat level from what we suspect to be white males tends to increase. So, whether you work in gaming, education, or high level government positions, if you drawn the ire of this specific group of hateful men--you'll be targeted. And make no mistake, this specific group is large. I suppose that's my point, and the point I feel like so many of these articles tend to miss. People want to label and categorize groups of people as emblematic of cultural problems, but this is far too reductive for us if we want to make valuable judgments. This problem of angry, hateful men has infected us as every level, and you cannot point at and remove entire sections of what defines people to try and excise those festering underneath. In fact, this is not the first time nerd culture has been demonized: Satan worshippers when they role played, Satan worshippers when they listened to heavy metal, if they played video games they had more in common with the Columbine killers than the rest of culture. It's kind of obvious why so much of nerd culture centers on Ready Player One's central thesis: that nerds can be big shots too. That they do matter. But not that they are the center of universe. They're just role playing as they've always done. It's great.

Ultimately, who gives a shit? Plenty of gamers aren't in it for the "lulz" or whatever. Some of us really care about changing the current state of our culture. What do you all think? Often your perspectives help set me straight. 

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I dunno, I hate Read Player One for lot's of listed reasons but linkign it to MRA and Gamergate seems a bit extreme. I do dislike intently how in the book at least

Spoiler

the main character pretty much stalks the love interest til she likes him.

Actually, yeah, there's a lot of toxic masculinity in the book when I think about it.

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26 minutes ago, Darth Richard II said:

I dunno, I hate Read Player One for lot's of listed reasons but linkign it to MRA and Gamergate seems a bit extreme. I do dislike intently how in the book at least

  Hide contents

the main character pretty much stalks the love interest til she likes him.

Actually, yeah, there's a lot of toxic masculinity in the book when I think about it.



I dunno if it relates to the toxic masculinity angle at all but I also really hated how

the book made this huge deal of how appearances don't matter and it's what's inside that counts and that's why the Oasis is so cool and etc, but whereas he adjusts to the radical notion of his best friend being a black girl, the only difference with the love interest is that she has a birthmark that doesn't make her less pretty in his sight at all.

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Hell, you don't even want to get me started on Scott Pilgram.

 

You know my first instince was to defend and say gamers aren't actually that bad and the gamergate problem isn't that big...but yeah we are and yeah it is :/ It's just not a gamer only problem. Shit, see Star Wars fans lately. (Not knocking you people who don;t like Episode whatever, thinking of the people who don't like Rose cause she's fat and wanted to see a film about her sister cause she was hotter).

Ohh I'm going to go off on a tangent, so I'll stop.

I feel like this is something @Kalbear would have a lot to say about.

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I’m also kinda out of the loop on gamergate, but from what I read previously, rather than just being a symptom of a broader truth, weren’t a lot of the gamergate attackers specifically and overtly being gender-territorial because they identified the gaming sphere as a kind of established enclave immune to the dreaded ‘political correctness’ making headway elsewhere? And by that I mean kinda no dogs or girls allowed, and if they are allowed it”# got to be down to political correctness?

That’s...a bit more extreme than the broader dynamic, imo, and more in line with dynamics from decades ago. 

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Yeah I never payed much attention to it cause I'm not a misogynist dickhead, but a great example on the double standards is when Felicia Day and some NFLer whose name I forget put up two posts about GamerGate on the same day at about the same time. Day's was very thoughtful and respectful and very not trying to piss anyone off ish, and the NFLers was basically a rant telling all the gamergaters to fuck off and die. Felicia was doxed within minutes. Nobody said peep about the NFL guy.

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Gamergaters sabotaged any legit arguments they had (and they had some) with the tantrums, attacks, bigotry, misogyny, and prejudice the worst of them perpetrated and the best of them didn't condemn near good enough.

Now there's a comicsgate thing going on too. :rolleyes: 

Again with some legitimate grievances all around, and this time there's some really bad and inexcusable mud being slung by both sides (and this isn't Charlottesville, there really are good people and bad people on both sides here).

With Ready Player One, I'm not going to be ashamed of loving what I love, the nostalgia of the 80's, pop culture, and whatever. Anyone who wants to join me, glad to have you, those who weren't there or didn't have a happy time back then, I get it, and I respect that, but don't shame me because I was and I did. Also, I'm not going to dislike it because it's missing this point, is seen as sexist or not diverse enough. Maybe another book or movie or TV show will come along and do it better but, for me, what's good about this one is good enough that what's bad about it either didn't bother me or I didn't notice it.

It's fine to criticize Ready Player One, maybe make people like me see your point in what's wrong with it, but it's really not OK to criticize the people who like Ready Player One just because they like it.

And the people who like it don't need to get their hackles up for people only criticizing the book or movie.

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Nope, stopped reading the instant you said gamergaters had legitimate grievances.

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I haven't read the book, the excerpts I've seen from it online just seem so poorly written that it destroys any interest I might have had. I like badly written things at other times though, so that's a judgement of the book not those that enjoyed it.

The piece linked in the OP did quite a decent job of detailing why these things have been linked and why that concern is there, I'm not sure I can do a better job if you're not getting it from that. If you're a guy and you managed to miss the front row seat on gamergate and the malignant growth of the alt-right following the path it laid down then it probably is a lot harder for you to really get it. Every woman I know that has any significant presence has been shaped by these movements of abuse. We stop and think about things we say, we self censor to avoid drawing focus, we reword our tweets to avoid people searching for keywords and identifying us for an abuse train, and so on. So things that seem related to that culture get a lot of side eye and caution.

I guess the way I'd try to say it is this: Ready Player One is not itself endorsing gamergate, it may not even be explicitly gate keeping, but it is celebrating the same culture that gamergate claimed to defend. A culture that has seen a storm of abuse surrounding the gate keeping of said culture. So when you get this story that is so thoroughly celebrating this culture that has been claimed by some to be inherently exclusionary, and this story fails to challenge that exclusionary nature while framing knowledge of this culture as being of world shattering import - knowledge which those who have been excluded are less likely to possess* - it can feel like the story itself is, at best, accepting that exclusion if not perpetuating it.

*Let me know if you're not following this part, its pretty central to the point and I don't think I'm expressing it very well.

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2 minutes ago, Darth Richard II said:

Nope, stopped reading the instant you said gamergaters had legitimate grievances.

There are legitimately problems with ethics and corruption in the video game reviewing process. I never saw a single gamergate proponent that was actually raising them, they in fact seemed to go in the opposite direction, but the heading "Ethics in games journalism" does cover genuine problems - that's why it made for a somewhat effective shield for abuse. I'd give drawk some benefit of the doubt here and assume that's what he is referring to rather than gamergate itself. He can feel free to correct me on this point if I'm wrong.

The problems are related to the business model being entirely reliant on the largesse of developers, both directly through being given access to games to review but also indirectly through reliance on game advertising for revenue. This is a bigger issue than video game journalism itself, and is more to do with the collapse of traditional media generally but the conflict of interest is more pointed and clear in this case.

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I'm probably being unfair, I just have strong, uh, emotions about the whole thing.

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3 hours ago, Simon Steele said:

I've seen this article making the rounds: The Ready Player One Backlash, Explained. For me, this is a difficult subject. I grew up in the 80s, I love video games, I'm white, oh, and I love 80s trivia. Somehow, I missed the cultural milestones that were Ready Player One (the book) and Gamergate--so, I get a sense of what those two things are now, but I still have trouble seeing how they link together after reading the article. 

Ah, a Vox article, explained.  I'm pretty sure if the Grand Unified Theory is ever achieved, they would find a way to boringly explain it using a LaTeX format.  Count me as one who is wholly out of the loop on Gamergate or any version of Ready Player One.  I'm also not a fan of Steven Spielberg, the 80s, or gaming in general in spite of my age.  But the Vox piece doesn't even seem to indict Spielberg or RPO in toto, but rather seems obsessed with gamergate as an inflection point the film must address:

Quote

And in a pre-Gamergate world, the sheer glee and fun of moments like that were enough to make the dark underbelly of the fantasy disappear and carry Ready Player One to the heights of cultural phenomena. But post-Gamergate, the dark underbelly has become all too apparent. The fun isn’t quite enough to carry the book anymore — so now the onus is on Spielberg’s forthcoming movie to overcome its Gamergate baggage.

I'd wager quite a bit if you asked Spielberg about the movie's "Gamergate baggage," he'd have no fucking idea what you were talking about.  Frankly, neither do I, and I don't think that's a bad thing.  I don't see why anybody has to be "woke" about a subculture that's apparently misogynistic.  Really, why would I want to be knowledgeable about this subculture?  Shouldn't I continue to avoid it (which I was already doing in the first place)?  The whole thing seems ass-backwards to me.  I also strongly agree with your point in the 4th graph - angry white males are everywhere - certainly not just nerd culture, and when I teach I have to combat them in everyday life.  So that's a big part why I really don't want to know what the hell they're doing on the internet.

If mythologizing 80s pop culture and making a bad movie out of an old book now means you're "part of the problem," then yeah, the internet has lowered the bar once again.

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37 minutes ago, karaddin said:

There are legitimately problems with ethics and corruption in the video game reviewing process. I never saw a single gamergate proponent that was actually raising them, they in fact seemed to go in the opposite direction, but the heading "Ethics in games journalism" does cover genuine problems - that's why it made for a somewhat effective shield for abuse. I'd give drawk some benefit of the doubt here and assume that's what he is referring to rather than gamergate itself. He can feel free to correct me on this point if I'm wrong.

The problems are related to the business model being entirely reliant on the largesse of developers, both directly through being given access to games to review but also indirectly through reliance on game advertising for revenue. This is a bigger issue than video game journalism itself, and is more to do with the collapse of traditional media generally but the conflict of interest is more pointed and clear in this case.

Thank you very much, you got it.

Gamergaters could have took the moment to form a solid platform for what they felt was wrong in the industry but instead allowed it to be used as a tool for ignorant, misogynistic, and entitled babies. Anyone involved who weren't like that could have walked away from Gamergate, then maybe try to rebrand themselves,  but instead they enfolded all the toxic elements into their camp and embraced them. 

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Grady is seriously overthinking it. She could just have stopped at Armada and the fact that it led a lot of people to simply re-evaluate Ready Player One because it seemed that what they had thought fun and energizing was the work of an author with limited talent, a one-trick pony. Just look at the Armada reviews she quotes: no references to Gamergate, toxic nerdism, etc., save the one piece written by a writer who is now an editor at Vox Media sister-company The Verge (and who, when I searched to see if her piece was really often cited, seems to be enjoying the very modest limelight that taking digs at Cline's books has brought her.)

Now, in 2017 and 2018, you have writers all nodding their heads sagely about Gamergate and RPO, but this is to some degree just the same tendency of critics to align themselves along roughly similar takes. 2011: First review of note: "Hey, RPO is fun." Chorus: "Yes, it's great!" 2015: First review of note: "Hey, Armada kind of sucks and Cline's not a very good writer." Chorus: "It's terrible!" 2017: First pre-film commentary: "Yeah, I think RPO actually sucked because Gamergate." Chorus: "It was always terrible because of toxic nostalgia!"

Finally, the fact that the film is rocking a 76% critic score / 80% audience score seems to strongly suggest that the "backlash" among cultural critics and woke reviewers is  both limited and seems really only effectively limited to Cline's writing and not their larger notions on gamers, masculinity, nostalgia, etc. which all largely remain in the film. There's not much market penetration, so to speak.

(For my part, RPO and Armada are absolutely not my cup of tea, and I've no plans to see the film. And I'm a child of the 80s who is quite nostalgic about pop culture artifacts of the era -- part of why I adored the "San Junipero" episode of Black Mirror so much! Nostalgia used to help capture a _mood_, kind of like that Don Draper speech in "The Wheel", is great. Nostalgia to simply play pop culture bingo is boorish.)

 

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4 minutes ago, drawkcabi said:

Thank you very much, you got it.

Gamergaters could have took the moment to form a solid platform for what they felt was wrong in the industry but instead allowed it to be used as a tool for ignorant, misogynistic, and entitled babies. Anyone involved who weren't like that could have walked away from Gamergate, then maybe try to rebrand themselves,  but instead they enfolded all the toxic elements into their camp and embraced them. 

I disagree that the moment could ever have been used for that, because the "inciting incident" (to borrow terminology from the heroes journey) was explicitly an outbreak of misogynistic rage. For a movement focused on the actual issues to have come out of that would have required hijacking the abuse movement and drawing those that were actually concerned out of it and I just don't think that's something which can actually happen. As is the case on pretty much all subjects, toxic asshats destroy the ability to discuss legitimate problems. Any hope of addressing the systemic issues was lost as soon as gamergate exploded onto the scene.

Not that I think they could even be address by the gaming community anyway, as I mentioned earlier I think the problem is much bigger than that and requires a larger solution than a subgroup can bring to bear. And that's rather off topic for here!

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38 minutes ago, Ran said:

Nostalgia used to help capture a _mood_, kind of like that Don Draper speech in "The Wheel", is great.

First, it's not called The Wheel.  It's called The Carousel.  Second:

 

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41 minutes ago, karaddin said:

I disagree that the moment could ever have been used for that, because the "inciting incident" (to borrow terminology from the heroes journey) was explicitly an outbreak of misogynistic rage. For a movement focused on the actual issues to have come out of that would have required hijacking the abuse movement and drawing those that were actually concerned out of it and I just don't think that's something which can actually happen. As is the case on pretty much all subjects, toxic asshats destroy the ability to discuss legitimate problems. Any hope of addressing the systemic issues was lost as soon as gamergate exploded onto the scene.

Not that I think they could even be address by the gaming community anyway, as I mentioned earlier I think the problem is much bigger than that and requires a larger solution than a subgroup can bring to bear. And that's rather off topic for here!

This. The whole thing started cause some dude got butthurt that he got dumped so he de used to spread rumors that his ex was a whore. Not a good basis for anything.

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Also as a fat white guy who grew up in the 80s, I too feel zero for any of this. 

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1 hour ago, dmc515 said:

I'd wager quite a bit if you asked Spielberg about the movie's "Gamergate baggage," he'd have no fucking idea what you were talking about.  Frankly, neither do I, and I don't think that's a bad thing.

But it undoubtedly is. 

Ignorance is never a good thing. A lack of knowledge is what allows shit like Gamergate to flourish. The 'it's about ethics in games journalism' line? That doesn't stand up to a second's scrutiny, but it exists because most people don't give it a second's scrutiny. That's why it's useful. 

Sticking your head in the sand is not praiseworthy. If you exist in a nerd space, or anywhere else, it is a bad thing if you're not aware of the toxic people who share your space and are doing their best to exclude people who are not like them - or you. Particularly as it's only because you are a straight white male that you have the luxury of being able to ignore them, because you are not their target. 

And in my understanding, this is what lies behind a lot of the criticism of RPO. In the '80s, all nerds were to some extent looked down on. I was there, I know. But within that culture, some of us - straight white men - had privilege that others did not. And we failed to recognise that. We saw ourselves as the unjustly oppressed. And (not having read the book), my understanding of RPO is that it panders to that sense that straight white male nerds are the heroic underdogs in life. A sense shared, in a very toxic way, by Gamergaters. I agree that the linkage is something of a stretch, but at the same time it doesn't come from nothing. 

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54 minutes ago, dmc515 said:

First, it's not called The Wheel.  It's called The Carousel.

Hah. Well played.

54 minutes ago, dmc515 said:

  Second:

 

What a scene. Writing, performance, score, editing, all coming together.

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