He’s right. It’s very much worth your time.
For people who have never been real outsiders, who have never known what it’s like to sit in a room full of humans who treat you alternately as invisible and a target for nasty harassment, it’s hard to understand why the gamer identity matters so much. I was a comic book nerd in high school, and I was a horror nerd, and I was a movie nerd, and these gave me identities. In the real world I would get beatings and be teased and ridiculed, but in private these identities offered solace. The whole world of normal socialization was a club to which I couldn’t belong, but these communities – and later punk rock – offered me places where I could be among people who thought like me and often looked like me. They were safe places for me, and as the tide of geek chic rose I was horrified to see that the kind of people who had abused me for my fringe-interest identifiers were now co-opting them.
I’m not saying this is the right way to be, but I get it. I get that panic of finding the one place where you felt at home suddenly being overrun with exactly the kind of people who made you feel like you weren’t at home in the regular world. And that panic makes people act poorly, and to lump others who are actually just as much of an outcast and a weirdo and a freak as they are in with the bad guys. This is how women get abused in geek circles. This is how the powerless prey on the other powerless.
I don’t know what GamerGate is but I can take a guess from this article. It’s no secret women and really, anyone is a target when playing games online. But it’s so much worse if you have a slightly feminine voice, avatar or profile.
I grew up an outcast. I’ve always been tall. I topped out at 6’5″ but I got there very quickly. I was the tallest person in my school from nearly the time I entered elementary school. I had one teacher in middle school was 6’8″. Besides that, I towered over the other kids and I had a good six inches on many of the teachers
I went to a small school in a small town. My graduating class was 168. My entire high school (grades 9-12) was about 550 students. I didn’t play football. I quit the basketball team late in a season to attend and run our literary magazine’s coffee-house / open mic night.
I’m a freak and an outcast.
I didn’t have broadband internet until college and barely had dial-up in high school. (26.4kbps!) Online gaming was limited to Command & Conquer over Westwood Online. Usually played with my brother, we would work as a team to build units with the mouse and spam the chat with text to confuse our opponents and hopefully make they think we were busy typing instead of building.
Until the tanks would rush in.
There was no voice chat. I had no idea who was on the other side of the screen I was playing against. Talking to other people was limited to text. Not voice. With video a distant dream, I talked smack but nothing hateful against the other person. I used juvenile jabs like “You Suck” or “I’m coming to get you sucka!” I didn’t spew racial epithets.
I grew up in a different time. Looking back, it feels like a world alien to today.
I had a lot of anger growing up. Much of it poured into angry music and notebooks. I was always writing. I poured my feelings onto paper and let them grow there. Instead of keeping the rage inside, I let it out. I wrote it out. I shouted it out. I would take long bike rides and listen to Nine Inch Nails.
What would have happened to that young man if I had a cable modem and Xbox Live today? What if I had Halo and Call of Duty at my disposal? To play in those worlds means being inundated by hatred and insult. Would I have volleyed a vitriolic return? Probably. I was good with words after all.
As Devin Faraci says in his post,
I’m not saying this is the right way to be, but I get it. I get that panic of finding the one place where you felt at home suddenly being overrun with exactly the kind of people who made you feel like you weren’t at home in the regular world.
It’s not right. But I get it.