Encyclopedia Dramatica explains Gamergate as one seedy game designer’s dramatic exposure of “wide scale collusion in the indie game industry, benefiting developers, reviewers, journalists, and everyone else involved. That is, everyone except for you, the gamer.”
That’s an adept description of the incident, and in short gives the reason why the discussion began and continues. It’s also a good summary of most of what is being said, which leaves me free to talk about something which is not being said, but is highly relevant.
To get there from here, I’m going to have to start by explaining what I experienced growing up socially awkward, being a nerd as a teen, what I learned from those experiences, and what I’ve learned from other nerds.
“Nerd” and “geek” don’t have universal meanings. To be a nerd or a geek does not mean the same thing to every individual. There are different levels, different rungs on the social ladder, and those rungs have been becoming more starkly defined in some ways over time.
When I was in school I wasn’t really part of any group at all. I wasn’t exactly a loner, but I didn’t connect strongly with any group. Not the nerds, the preppies, the jocks, none of the cliques. Instead, I was on the fringe of a lot of cliques with overlap in a small school, and as I got older I maintained the ability to live on the fringes of various social groups, so I have been able to do some observing.
In a way the social ladder is a caste system, and nerds are no exception.
You have your full-on nerds, who for whatever reason, are at pretty much zero in popularity, and who have no hope or prospect of changing that. Some are just so socially inept and so deprived of any way of learning not to be that they’re just not going to fit in outside their own small circle of friends. Some can learn the behaviors that get one socially accepted, but for whatever reason, can’t adopt those behaviors. Some just don’t care to try, because they’re focused on and satisfied with their own interests.
Some are like me, a very little bit less socially inept and a very little bit more possessed of some knowledge of what is socially accepted/popular; capable of navigating human interaction enough to get around a bit, but still far enough off the mark to never quite make it beyond the fringes of most groups in most social settings.
My social problem growing up and as an adult has been that I’m spectacular at missing the mark by at least a little bit (often more) on everything that makes people identify and connect with each other. If it’s wearing the right clothes, I have them but pair the wrong things together, pick the wrong color combo, or wear them to the wrong occasion. If it’s using the right slang, I know it but use it under the wrong circumstances, or in front of the wrong people, too frequently, or slightly off of the commonly accepted meaning. It’s like a dance where I’ve got all the right moves, but I’m doing them to the wrong song. It’s this way with everything about social interaction. I can fit in where there are clearly defined, easily understood rules but am often very off-putting to people in an unscripted social situation.
So… I can kind of chameleon myself into general society enough to not be completely rejected, but not enough to avoid receiving a lot of disdain from those who are more socially adept than I am. I’m like Eliza Dolittle at the horse races. It is to my benefit to know that, accept it, and adapt to it, because that knowledge keeps me from being the horse race version of Eliza Dolittle at the Queen’s Ball. It took me 20 years to figure out and accept my social handicap. Along the way, I learned as a second-rung social nerd how things are on the other rungs.
The bottom rung nerd/geek has a very different risk/reward system than for those higher up the social ladder. They don’t have overall social acceptance as an incentive, or rejection as a threat, because they’re always rejected by the majority of the social ladder, and among their own ranks there’s a level of acceptance that comes from banding together under the safety-in-numbers, survivors’ huddle kind of bond. You can’t manipulate someone’s opinions or beliefs by making them appear popular if popularity is not a motivating factor for him. You can’t manipulate someone’s behavior by making certain beliefs or actions appear unpopular if he’s already accepted being unpopular.
There are aspects of that on the second rung as well because there’s a huge difference between fitting in enough to functionally interact with people and being genuinely accepted. At the same time, having any ability to fit in makes you less trustworthy among people who never could because they are so used to being bullied by those who totally do that fitting in at all is a red flag. There is also an issue of some – sometimes many – second rung outcasts throwing bottom rung outcasts under the bus in social situations due to the flawed belief that climbing the ladder is a worthwhile pursuit, and that doing so will help them move up.
Being a social reject vs being socially successful is largely determined by one’s grasp on various aspects of pop culture; popular TV shows, popular music, popular clothing styles, popular pastimes, etc., and the ability to use any kind of small talk or common ground to connect with the people in a given group. Every rung on the social ladder has computer nerds and gadget geeks, academic nerds, hobby nerds & geeks (like gamers, skaters, any hobbiest whose interest is really offbeat… collectors, artists, etc) and topic nerds (people embroiled in an interest in info on a topic like war history, the automotive industry, medical technology, etc.) What really determines which rung you live on is your ability to navigate the social environment on that rung, not how invested you are in the aspects of yourself that make you a nerd. It can’t really be sorted into “computer geeks here, history scholars there, engineering geeks here…” etc. because in each group there’s variation.
Above the lower rungs on the social ladder of the intellectually focused are a few rungs of career focused people who either have or have learned more effective social skills or in some cases just have more accepting attitudes toward other people. That kind of manifests in an ability to schmooze, I guess. They’re still nerds and geeks, but they’re nerds and geeks whose clothing choices are acceptable, who use popular slang correctly, under the right circumstances, and in front of the right people… who are familiar with and versed in the information involved in common social interaction (what other people are superficially interested in, on television, radio, internet sites, etc.) and whose overall presentation of their intellectual focus isn’t so heavy as to be the only thing people see about them. In the higher up social rungs, they might even downplay their intellect by complaining about the difficulty of their intellectual pursuits.
In high school settings in the 80s and 90s that’s what the preppies were. They were students who had in common an academic focus on preparing to attend college and obtain a higher degree. They took sets of classes designed to boost them forward in that goal in various ways – stuff they could test out of and not have to take in college, or stuff that was prerequisite for stuff they’d have to take for their majors. There was a fashion style for them that was more serious looking than the clothing worn by jocks, popular kids, party kids, regular joes, or anyone except pen-protector-wearing nerds. In my high school days penny loafers were an identifier. Brand name polo shirts were an identifier. Khakis were another identifier, even though preppies also wore jeans and tees.
Among preppies there were individuals who weren’t necessarily nerds, but just wanted to have good career prospects when they got out of school… but there were also very nerdy people who adopted the fashion and social standards of a preppie to fit in. In other words, among preppies were nerds who were to the social ladder of intellectually minded individuals what house slaves were to the social ladder of slavery.
Some of them were real assholes about it.
Some were the type to throw old friends and classmates with whom they had common ground under the bus for social cred. Others were the type to lord their social status over those below them on that ladder.
That’s the social aspect of journalists vs gamers in the gamergate controversy.
That social aspect is where the Bertha better-than-you attitude comes in. Preppies aren’t all like that, but those who are consider themselves a superior breed of nerd. They’re the civilized nerds, and the rest of us are the unfocused, uncouth rabble.
Throw in politics, particularly the politics of elitist social justice war mongering, and you now have “socially responsible” house nerds looking down on the independent, uncouth, and unfocused or undisciplined field nerd as socially irresponsible and in need of wrangling.
It’s pretty much the same attitude that SJWs in established media have overall toward the general public – that attitude that leads to “If you don’t accept my worldview it’s because you’re stupid and immoral, not because I might be wrong.” It’s an entitled attitude of intellectual and moral superiority that comes from a very bad place and is threatening to take us all to that place, except that those bottom rungs are never going to make it there because we can’t.
I will never be socially adept. I don’t have it in me. I can be a salesman, and I can tread water in unscripted social situations, but I will never, ever really swim or really climb up that ladder, and I don’t want to. I would go so far as to say that when it comes to the upper rungs, I don’t give a flying fuck. I did once for a short while, but I got over it. I think there’s a rather large group of people who have had that same epiphany, a group whose experiences and the resulting attitudes SJWs aren’t taking into consideration.
That’s a part of the conflict that I think is being overlooked in some ways.
On one side, you have the elitist, snobby house nerds flat out DEMANDING that the rabble they look down on invest themselves in an alien, largely (to us) meaningless worldview and trying to use threats of social rejection to enforce that demand. On the other side you have a group that really doesn’t give a shit about the social ladder, looking at that demand and wondering what the hell the SJWs smoked before coming up with that idea.
Journalists reporting on games and game design are basically just doing what it takes to continue to be accepted higher up on the social ladder. They’re fitting in. In the 80s, it was talking about Saturday Night Live sketches and sitcom characters, going to the right parties, wearing penny loafers and Izod shirts. Now, it’s touting the social justice warrior victim-cred caste system and social engineering as a solution to the “problems” of people with the higest victim-cred.
Being an SJW is how an intellectual fits in to modern pop culture and maintains his or her spot on the social acceptance ladder. It’s not really about justice or morality. Those concepts are just methods of worldview enforcement. It’s 100% about fitting in for these people.
And just like back in the 80s and 90s, they have no problem stepping on the rungs below them to get to and hold their position.
THAT is what is going on with the journalists in gamer gate. They don’t give a rat’s ruddy ass about girl gamers, misogyny, violent games, tropes, or the social attitudes of the unshaven masses of the gaming community.
They just don’t want to lose their position as house nerds.
To explain how this is a men’s rights issue, though, relies on something that I heard Alison Tieman explain first.
Women control the social order of things, and because they do, that bottom couple of rungs is largely made up of men and boys.
That is not to say there aren’t female nerds. There are plenty of us, but we have a benefit men don’t. We’re female. Even if other females reject us, we’re still going to be somewhat pedistalized by men and boys as being part of the group that controls social acceptance. It’s also considered cooler for a girl to be intellectually focused than it is for a guy. Because of that, being female is an automatic boost on the social ladder that pretty much guarantees us a slightly better chance than a guy of being one rung up.
What I described of myself wouldn’t put me on a second rung if I were male. I’d have to be more socially adept than I am. As a woman, I’d have to be more socially inept than I am to drop a level. I’d have to have bad hygiene, or do things that give people the heebie-jeebies. Even if I were abusive I would still not hit bottom.
This is a men’s issue in part because women have a degree of exemption from it, women have a degree of control over it, and women have a degree of benefit from it. Individual results may vary depending on which rung of the social ladder we occupy, but they’ll be proportional to our position. On the other hand, men have no exemption but are instead targeted by it, and their control in it varies from less than women to none at all. Any benefit that groups of men with any victim cred can garner from this is mitigated by the impact being male has on that cred.
That makes the group I’ve called field nerds, the group with no reason whatsoever to tolerate bullying from the disdainful house nerds targeting them with shaming, demanding diatribes, mostly men. It also places an onus on women to stand against the SJW invasion if we have any sense of decency toward our fellow human beings at all.
That does not mean that men in the gaming community have no power. On the contrary, there’s an aspect of this that provides gamers with a weapon against this invasion: Game design is a consumer driven industry, and gaming media requires readers to draw advertising. All gamers have the power to push back against the social justice narrative by simply refusing to fuel it and fund it.
What we’re seeing here is the same thing that’s happening everywhere. It’s more obvious in this community because this is a community that does not have the social camouflage others do. This is where nerds and geeks have ceased to care about being social outcasts and just decided to be themselves.
That shaming, demanding diatribe game journalists are targeting gamers with right now exists in pretty much all aspects of established media, but everywhere else it’s having at least to some degree the intended impact. Social justice isn’t just an attack on free speech. It’s an attack on the right to control one’s own interaction with other people. It’s an attack on an individual’s right to determine his or her own relationships with and to others. Under the social justice onus, you don’t have the right to decide what you will or will not do, like, accept, engage in, or allow to be done to you. The community decides that for you, and if you object the community will smack you down and put you right back in your place.
It works because most people value their position on the social ladder enough to fear falling from it. The general public mostly occupies the rungs between the mostly rejected and the social elite. They care just enough about maintaining their position that the threat of being accused of social impropriety is enough to keep them in line. That’s the risk/reward system that social engineers in the media are accustomed to dealing with.
The only people who are equipped to fight off that rushing tide of manipulation and control are those for whom potential social rejection doesn’t constitute a threat.
That, gamers, is why gamergate is not about any one of the damseling drama queens receiving the coverage in gaming media that is now spilling over into other news sources. It not about the media themselves, either, or the companies supporting the industry.
It’s about us.
We’re not under attack because we owe anyone anything we have refused to give, or because we’ve done anything we shouldn’t have done. We’re under attack because we’re one of the last shields that human individuality in western society has.
It’s absolutely vital that gamers continue to reject the shaming and demands being launched at us by elitist social engineers in journalism. We’re the line they can’t be allowed to cross, the last bastion of intellectual freedom. Out of everyone, we have the one factor that can stop them from owning the social landscape of the western world. Out of everyone, we have the power of immunity to their weapon of choice. We have the ability to turn that very same weapon around and use it against them by not only refusing to adopt their narrative, but making our rejection of it hurt them financially.
This is how we’re going to hold the line and begin pushing back. It’s going to be ridiculously ugly. The beast that is social justice elitism is not going to go peacefully, nor is it going to change its tactics. We’re going to see that monstrous, flailing attempt to shame us into compliance continue. We’re going to see the accusations and whining, damseling and demonization all accelerate as the elites try to smash the resistance without understanding why it exists. And then hopefully we’ll see like-minded individuals joining the ranks of resistance as they realize they don’t have to be adopt the victim narrative to be part of a community. If we can achieve just that one thing by standing our ground and defending our territory, we can push that bullying force out, take our community back, and get back to gaming in peace.
If you like what you read, please consider becoming Hannah Wallen’s patron. The Brigade runs on donations by readers like you.
Latest posts by Hannah Wallen (see all)
- Title IX: The changing dialogue | HBR Talk 81 - April 18, 2019
- Frailty, thy name is accountability gap | HBR Talk 80 - April 11, 2019
- Uncle Joe and the secret of the double standard | HBR Talk 79 - April 4, 2019