I don’t play videogames. I tried once and I just spun around for twenty seconds while explosions went off all around me and then I got killed. After a few tries, I managed to run a few steps and then I fell off a cliff and died. It didn’t get any better than that so I figured videogames are not for me. Not anymore.
I used to play videogames, back when they were housed in giant wooden cabinets and cost a quarter apiece. I was awesome at Spyhunter and Galaga and Karate Champ and Gauntlet and a bunch of others. They went beep-boop instead of MURDERMURDERMURDER.
So I didn’t care about Gamergate until I did. [The Short Version – some butt-hurt dude had a bad break-up and decided to smear his ex-lover, claiming she slept her way to the top. An ugly collection of miserable freaks then leapt to his unnecessary defense and harassed her and anyone who defended her, while muttering something about “ethics” under their breath, in between uttering death threats. It ballooned, it snowballed, it festers still. It is, without doubt, one of the greatest shit-shows I have ever seen, online or IRL.]
Gamergate fully exposed something, something ugly that had always been there – the Dark Side of Fandom. The rampant sexism and vile misogyny of a lot of ‘Nerd Culture’.
Look. I hate-watch the Big Bang Theory. (I have a crush on Penny. Don’t judge me.) I hate it but I watch it. A lot of people call that show “Nerd Blackface”, which I don’t really agree with. I’m sure the writers love comic books and sci-fi* as much as the average fan, for sure. But one of the unfortunate go-to jokes on that show is the idea that liking comic books makes you unattractive to women and that women just don’t GET comic books and science fiction and perhaps they can’t. They get a lot of mileage out of jokes like that. Which is ironic and doubly funny when you consider the fact that you wouldn’t have Star Trek without Dorothy Fontana and that the very first science fiction novel, FRANKENSTEIN – A MODERN PROMETHEUS was written by Mary Shelley who was, last time I checked, a woman. (*Pedants and purists HATE when you call it ‘sci-fi’.)
“Fake” Geek Girls. Booth babes. Spider-Woman and her contorted and pornographic anatomy. The sexualisation of everything, up to and including My Little Pony. The stripper-riffic costumes on practically every single female character ever. Women in fridges. Rape threats and flame wars and stalking and doxxing. And now, the Sad Puppies.
I don’t read science fiction anymore. I used to so I know all about the Hugo Awards, named for Hugo Gernsback, a pioneer of the genre. Anyway, a bunch of pathetic fucking jackasses hijacked the Hugo Awards this year and decided to rig them so that their particular flavour of sf* (* THANK YOU FOR USING THE PREFERRED TERM FOR THE GENRE! No problem, ya fuckin’ egghead.) came out ahead. Conservative, “traditional” sf, not that pansy crap about women and faggots.
It is at this point that my head explodes. And I look at what I love – what I used to love – comic books, science fiction, videogames – and I hate it. I hate what it’s become and I hate what it has always been, a cesspool of sexism that pretends to be inclusive to the lonely and the wayward and the painful and the strange, the awkward nerdy kids that read a lot and have rich imaginations because their aptitude lies in literacy and not on the playing field. Science fiction is all about understanding the different, not being afraid of change, identifying with the outcast, sympathizing with the underdog or the ugly or the misunderstood, transcending above the shabby limits of the worst of our animal natures. To see these fine ideals shat upon by a bunch of whining crybabies and ridiculous man-boys makes my blood fucking boil.
When I was a kid, scouring old used bookshops and making weekly pilgrimage to every comic book store on Queen St., I never thought of fandom as a boy’s club. I thought of it as a refuge from the cruelty of the world. A place where everyone was welcome (ESPECIALLY GIRLS!) because we all had something in common – a rich imagination.
I’m not a kid anymore (No Kidding). And comic books and superheroes are everywhere these days, they’re big business in a way that I couldn’t even imagine when I was a kid. In the same way that we all know that “you don’t win friends with salad”, you also don’t encourage participation in fan culture by threatening to rape somebody and then chop off their head. It just isn’t done. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening.
I’m a Comic Book Evangelist. If you’ve never read a comic book before in your life, I can find one that you will love and cherish forever, no matter who you are. Comics can be funny, shocking, thrilling, poignant. They can be mindless entertainment or Great Art. They can be unforgettable and an ongoing inspiration to be better than the worst of your animal nature. Comic books (I hate calling them Graphic Novels, I really fucking do) have something for everyone, EVERYONE, absolutely everyone. It’s a big tent. It’s a big table. There’s room for everyone.
There’s no room for death threats. For Chrissakes. And you don’t get to decide who’s allowed inside the tent, you don’t get to deny someone a seat at the table. No, sir. Noway, nohow. No No Nanette, you do NOT.
The one ‘good’ thing to come out of this? Discussion. People speak their minds, which can be a good thing. Maybe they hear a different point of view and they grow, even if just a little bit. And we get different perspectives and ideas that we hadn’t thought about and that enriches us all. (Picard always liked to talk.) Plus, the people who refuse to change, who act horribly and without remorse? They’ll show their ugliness so blatantly and so proudly that all good people will shun them. I don’t want them to die in a fire. I just want them to grow the fuck up.