An arm pops out of a woman's computer screen and chokes her. (Illustration by Catherine Uy/ XPress Magazine)
An arm pops out of a woman’s computer screen and chokes her. (Illustration by Catherine Uy/ Xpress Magazine)

The “gamer” label has always been peculiar to me. A tag like that only pigeonholes a person through one aspect of their life. Besides that, it does not have the best image that gets associated with it.

Especially now.

Anita Sarkeesian, the host of the successfully-Kickstarted Feminist Frequency YouTube channel, came under fire, which she is not a stranger to. It is hard to even say that this new step has gone too far because any abusive step here is too far.

Sarkeesian was supposed to give a talk at Utah State University that was being organized by the campus’ feminists. That was until this anonymous email was sent to the staff of USU:

How delightful.

Her plans were to go through with the speech, even with some neckbeard threatening a massive school shooting, but she could not find an agreeable solution with campus security. Utah’s open-carry law is responsible for that. The talk was canceled because of the ease of sneaking in a firearm and the police’s lack of control over a possible massacre.

This awful situation is just another recurring nightmare in the Groundhog’s Day of hateful horseshit that just keeps happening over and over again. It is fucking tiring. But the Internet easily enables this extensive harassment through its ability to allow cowards to cover their tracks and hide. But harassment is a tame word. This is terrorism, plain and simple. You instill fear from a distance through a threat, even if you never intend to act upon it. But now, you can do it from your own home if someone so much as slightly disagrees with you.

Terrorism like this festers in the confines of the Internet for those who are afraid of change. Afraid of being acceptable to different groups of people. Afraid of letting more individuals into the hobby they love (or at least claim to), or that is at least a poor cover up, which has been perpetuated by the increasingly-stupid “#GamerGate” hashtag, which came to light after the whole Zoe Quinn scandal.

The hashtag has some commendable intentions: to raise the ethical standards in gaming journalism and to create a sense of transparency between game publishers/developers and writers. That much I am behind. However, this has also led to the eye-rolling movement of trolls using this as a means to ruin the lives of “Social Justice Warriors” or just women in general. Because that is how narrow-mindedly they see justice. Gaming is already sort of a boy’s club and these toxic pricks are planning to keep it that way by attempting to drive out the few unique voices of the industry, be it developer or writer.

The Internet allows people to gather around something they like and discuss from the safe confines of sitting behind a monitor. But it also lets people form a digital mob and rally around something they hate, which is where most people tend to focus on. Good or bad. Love or hate. Extremism is all too prevalent on the web and this whole damn mess is the thesis statement.

We cannot disagree with Anita. We have to yell, scream, and threaten to rape or kill her. We cannot agree with only some things she claims. We have to wholeheartedly back her no matter what and fiercely lash out at the slightest disobedience. Each side offends the other, each side gets defensive, and each side further cements themselves in their respective stances.

Anita is not infallible either. She has been accused of stealing game footage without permission, lying, faking some of her own threats, and manipulating game footage to prove a point – her point. I do not condone those actions (if true) and, frankly, it drives me nuts when I see this sort of deception by her. Her Hitman: Absolution section in this video in particular really rustled my jimmies, but I do not threaten her in any way. I do not smash a keyboard in anger. I act like a normal human being and I am able to continue living normally despite a slight disagreement on a branch of a greater overall message.

Disagreement is healthy and the discussions that a level-headed debate brings is good for the mind. But that takes time and self-control and some assemblance of empathy. Those aspects are in short supply on the Internet. It is all too easy to shout than to actually reflect and critically analyze the situation. Instead of taking the humane route, these Internet gremlins would rather start a hate campaign that exclusively targets different genders and races under a twisted guise of “keeping games the same.”

Hostility and hate campaigns do not even seem to be working too, which is the extreme irony in all of this. Anita has been doing more interviews, gracing the front page of the New York Times, and been on sites that would never cover anything related to video games. All of this hate is only publicity for her and furthers her message of equality and also subsequently enforces the negative stereotype that people who play games are a less-than-stable, unsocial group. It is a double-edge sword. Her proposition of equality spreads but so does the toxic harassment that sadly comes installed with the culture.

I write this (mostly) not as a person who plays video games and engages in the culture, but as a human. Witnessing abuse like this is sickening and seeing it happen to people in a medium that I hold dear makes it exponentially more depressing. I love how video games are finally starting to be mature enough to tell unique stories and spark debates, but this surrounding garbage is not what I wanted to come part and parcel with the aforementioned maturity. We want to claim that video games do not cause school shootings, yet some people have to threaten to shoot up a school to stop a person from talking about video games – now that is irony.