Gamergate and the New (Old) Rules

I realize that I’m a little late to the game with Gamergate. Because I was traveling, I had to read from my phone as the Internet exploded. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have something to say. I know that it’s a little odd for me to write a serious post. I hope you bear with me.

While this is a post that appears to be about Gamergate, it’s about something much bigger than that. Read on to see.

I’m a gamer. At this point, I’m a pretty old gamer. I started with an Atari 2600. I plunked quarters into Pac Man and Pole Position. I remember the robot that came with the original NES. And yet, I still prefer card and tabletop games to video games, especially DnD. You can say that I’m a well-rounded nerd. That’s why Gamergate hurts so much. It’s a failure of the community that I’ve belonged to all of my life. You might even say that my generation was the founder of the gamer community. So what have we become?

Why?

The Evolution of Gamergate

I think by now most of us understand what Gamergate is, was, and has become. Although the background around it comes from the portrayal of women in games, it sparked with a rumor about an affair between a female game designer and a video game journalist (I’m not going to use names, because they’ve had their names dragged through the Net enough, and it’s not important to my argument).

Let’s just say that it’s true. This could have been a great chance to discuss ethics in journalism within the gamer industry. I’m a former music journalist, and I know that the relationship between artist and reporter can be muddled. Free tickets, free albums, and free swag. You sometimes become friends with the artists. It’s hard to stay unbiased. It’s a big part of the reason I left. I refer you to the movie Almost Famous for a more visual example.

It could have been that, but it morphed into something very ugly. Death threats, rape(!) threats, accounts hacked and personal information spread across the Net like trash on an interstate. There was even a terrorist threat of a school massacre if a certain female journalist (again, no names), spoke. Yes, threatening violence to stop someone from speaking is terrorism. It might be a perfect example of terrorism.

A great, misogynistic beast broke loose from its chains like Donkey Kong and laid waste to the Internet. It may only be a small group, but that group has become representative of the entire community. And there I was, watching without voice as the gamer community decomposes.

What really gets me are the rape threats tossed around like they mean nothing. There is nothing more disgusting than threatening someone with rape, especially when they’ve been doxxed. Rape is the lowest common denominator; apparently death and torture aren’t intense enough threats. Worse, it’s the kind of threat made specifically toward women. It’s the trump card of misogyny, the “I’m going to hurt you and demean you in a way that shows the dominance of my gender.”

The Symptom, not the Cause

As bad as Gamergate is, it’s a symptom of a larger problem. There’s a lack of empathy within the Internet. People attack each other as if they’re only blips on a screen, Koopas to be squashed or Space Invaders to be shot down. I read one tweet that said (and I’m paraphrasing here) the way people respond to the other side of Gamergate is like in Double Dragon, where the entire town wants to fight you.

People say things on the Internet that no decent person would ever say, and certainly wouldn’t say face to face. It’s the distance between. It creates the illusion of anonymity, and that unleashes the beast.

I know all about this. As a teen, I went to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show every Saturday night. If you’ve never been, you won’t understand. The audience–all in the dark–shout some of the foulest things you’ll ever hear at the screen. The darkness and anonymity equals freedom. I shouted things I’d never say in the light of day. But we never tried to hurt anyone, and that’s the difference.

This doesn’t even include my love for Cards Against Humanity, which should never be played in public.

Meet the New Rules…Same as the Old Rules

I think we need, as a community, review the rules of discourse. The Internet is still a brave new world, and without reeling in the vitriol, we’ll poison ourselves.

If you only remember one thing from this blog, it’s this.

1) Don’t post anything on the Internet that you wouldn’t say in person: This includes certain jokes, naked pics, and sharing too much information.

2) Don’t say anything on the Internet that would get you punched in the face at a bar: This includes insults, Net Muscles, and threats of violence.

3) Before you say something on the Internet, ask yourself “what if someone said this to one of my loved ones?” If the answer is “smash their balls with a hammer,” don’t say it.

4) Don’t hack or doxx anyone, no matter how much they deserve it: That’s not going to get your point across. What it will do is bring governments down on the Net. Is that what you want?

5) Don’t feed the trolls: If someone trolls, don’t take the bait. No one wins an argument on the Net, and it makes everyone looks bad. If it gets threatening, report it, but don’t feed the troll. Remember, what you say on the Internet stays there FOREVER.

FOR-FREAKIN-EVER

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist). Song of Simon currently has a 4.8/5.0 rating on Amazon, so it’s pretty damn good. If you’re looking for something FREE, you can read my serial (soon to be an expanded series of novels) The Watchmage of Old New York. Though it ended in February, it remains one of the most popular serials on JukePop OF ALL TIME!

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Better Writing Through D&D

Dungeons & Dragons turned 40 this year. Since its beginnings, over 20 million people have rolled a 20-sided die and failed their damn Saving Throw. I’m not sure if D&D was the first RPG, but it’s certainly the best known and most popular. It survived horrible mismanagement and many different editions (let’s never mention 4th Edition i.e. tabletop WoW), but it still remains my favorite hobby and the primary influence on my writing skills.

Do you find it weird that I credit D&D for helping me write well? Then you’ve never played.

Still Life With RPGs

It’s hard to remember exactly where I was first exposed to D&D. I suspect that it was the old cartoon, which holds up surprisingly well today. It might have been the board game Dungeon, which was so much fun. I wish I still had it.

I do remember the first time I played. It was 4th grade. I recently moved from the Bronx to Rockland County, a suburb of New York City. I was without friends and completely out of my element. I broke my collarbone just before school started, so while everyone else was at recess, I had to sit with the teachers. It was not a good way to make friends.

A kid named Marc was just as unpopular as me, but he has this really cool game. You got to make up a character and go on adventures and stuff. It was all in your imagination, and it was fun. I was instantly hooked.

And we need more Mountain Dew!!!

In high school, I found more gamers, and people got worried. I went to a special school for the “bad kids” and there were already rumors about how D&D made you worship the devil (assholes like Jack Chick didn’t help). I met a crazy bastard named Kevin there, and he got me back into the game. We used to play at lunch until the school banned the game. Fucking bullshit!

btw: Kevin is still a crazy bastard, but I love him like a brother. You better read this fucking article, man!

In college, I found the group that I still play with today. The game became less about smashing shit and more about character development. The world we play in, Aquerra, a creation of my (often referenced) friend Osvaldo, was rich in detail and complexity and like nothing I’ve experienced before. Even better, every character we created and adventure we went on added layers of detail to the already laden world. Aquerra is also where the term Watchmage comes from, though my version and Osvaldo’s have little in common.

Not only have these gamers become my closest friends, they are also very talented roleplayers and world builders. I consider them my mentors as I developed my own writing skills.

D&D: Writing Class With Mountain Dew

Every writer should play roleplaying games.  I don’t mean video games like WoW or Skyrim, I mean the good, uncut stuff: Dungeons & Dragons, World of Darkness, Champions…but mostly D&D.

I’m not the only writer that feels that way. Jon Favreau also credits D&D for honing his skills, and several creative types like George RR Martin, R.A. Salvatore, Stephen Colbert and Robin Williams were also players.

Role playing games teach you how to build a character the only true way: by becoming him. If you want to write a convincing character, you have to climb into his skin. Learn to think like him, act like him. Have him interact with other characters, before you actually start your story. You have to treat him like a real person. Only then will you know his heart.

DMing will make you a master world builder. For RPGs, you have to build a world for your PCs and NPCs to live in. If you can building a massive campaign setting for a game, you can build one for a story.

Running adventures teaches you about plot, pacing, and when to increase or decrease tension (an article from me about pacing is coming next week). With experience you learn when to ratchet up the drama, and when to ease up. You learn plot points, and if you really analyze it, you learn the Hero’s Journey.

Embrace Your Inner (and Outer) Geek

When I was young, playing D&D made you an outcast. I already had serious issues with bullies (ironic since I was so much bigger than everyone), so I hid my hobby. I played in basements with other outcasts like me. We were united in our game, and united in our persecution. But god forbid someone found out.

We’re in a geek renaissance right now, and it’s a beautiful thing. People love comics and scifi/fantasy. You don’t have to be embarrassed of your Star Wars toy collection anymore. Yet for some reason, D&D still gets mocked.

The horror…the horror…

Enough of this! OUT OF THE BASEMENTS AND INTO THE STREETS!

Ok, maybe I shouldn’t equate this to the gay rights movement, but until D&D is as accepted as other geek hobbies, no geek is free.

I think we need a sponsor…maybe Mountain Dew.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist). Song of Simon currently has a 4.8/5.0 rating on Amazon, so it’s pretty damn good. If you’re looking for something FREE, you can read my serial (soon to be an expanded series of novels) The Watchmage of Old New York. Though it ended in February, it remains one of the most popular serials on JukePop OF ALL TIME!