There have been some explosively dramatic developments in the world of geek culture as of late. We find ourselves in a unique situation as geeks. We are present to witness real change in our world, culture and hobbies. Sadly, it isn’t all uplifting as that sounds-we’re also present to witness death threats, ogre-like behavior (one level worse than trolls) and general thuggishness towards those who are perceived as different to “us”. Why is this? What can we do about it?
For those of you who are unaware, the events that I am alluding to- commonly known as “gamergate”- have been going on for some time. If you are unfamiliar with this particular series of events, an excellent article detailing them can be found here. I had been ignoring these goings-ons (hoping in vain that they might just resolve themselves) until recently when Emma Watson became the latest target. If you would like to know more about that particular tragedy, you can read about it here.
Why are people behaving like this? Since when have our fellow geeks stopped being the friendly community that we all know and love and turned into this terrible, vicious beast of cruelty and ignorance? I recently had a discussion with a dear friend of mine about this very subject over a game of X-Wing Miniatures. The conclusion that we came to (with various embellishments by yours truly) is this:
Ever since the beginning (and lo- the Gods saw fit to bestow humanity with the power of Atari in the year our lord nineteen hundred and seventy-two, signaling the rise of the Geeks- there was much rejoicing) we geeks (or nerds, as we were known in the old days) have been a reclusive bunch by nature. Bullied by jocks and misunderstood by parents and teachers, we retreated into the world of our choice- of our passion- as a way to escape and feel safe, unchallenged. Whether that passion was comic books, video games, D&D;, fantasy or sci-fi novels- it doesn’t matter. We found our passion and we escaped into it. We thought that we were the only ones who loved our passion and in our minds, we not only owned it, but it was part of us-an integral component of what made us who we are.
What I’m trying to point out is that these passions had a very personal connection to each of us. Unfortunately, many of these passions were solitary affairs. We hid away from the world to escape and as an unintended result, some of us became more isolated. While there were those of us who went out into the world, socializing, lighting up the town, making new friends and exposing ourselves to the wide world and all the different types of people out there- some of us did not. Some of us just stayed home, trying to beat just one more level, read just one more page, watch just one more episode. Over time, some of these people’s social skills withered and died- or even worse- never developed at all. These people never figured out (as they grew older) how mature adults are supposed to talk to each other, how they interact, how they can function as a collective whole, or community.
With the advent of the Internet and the ongoing development of the digital world, they suddenly found themselves part of a huge community that had grown up around them, seemingly overnight. Did these geeks embrace this opportunity to learn about their fellow geeks of different creeds, cultures and genders? No, they did not. They declared that thiswas “too gay” and that was “for chicks” (or as they soon started calling them, “fake geek/gamer girls”) and secluded themselves even further. But unfortunately (for both us and them), these geeks then proceeded to surround themselves (in an online environment) with fellow geeks who shared their same opinions and strict view of the world (“us” and “them”). Whenever another denizen was unfortunate enough to attract the attention of these individuals, their own views were squashed and they were bullied into silence. Thus, the internet troll was born.
But now these trolls have evolved into ogres- they send death threats to the point that internet personalities need to go into hiding, and why? Because that individual had the gall to suggest that maybe since video games are enjoyed by women, could we have some games that respectfully represent women… please? Because here is what the ogres will never understand- we weren’t the only ones that enjoyed our passion. Our passion was shared by millions of other people of a myriad faiths, races, creeds, genders and cultures. That whole time that we thought we were alone, we weren’t- we just had no way to reach out to others that shared our passion. This isn’t a case that suddenly there are all these people who share our passion, but that now these people who have stood quietly in the corner feel that they can speak up. And you know what? When you tell those people to shut up or go away, you’re acting exactly like those people that didn’t understand you.
Okay, I’m going to stop myself before I get too preachy (too late, I know.) But I want to just leave you with this: more people sharing your passion does not change your history with it. In other words, it doesn’t change you. Embrace it, move forward and for God’s sake, please, for all our sakes- grow up.
Do you have any experience with ogres and trolls or do you have some ideas as to how we can move forward as a community in light of these events? Why not share them in the comments below?