In light of the controversy that has been extending back for more than half a year at this point, something extremely depressing has come to light.
Not too long ago, Totalbiscuit, a popular games critic who is supported by GamerGate (though he claims to be neutral), wrote a lengthy Twitlonger questioning the theory of media influence, particularly in video games, asking “where are the scientists?”
In response, an actual social scientist posted a lengthy explanation of media influence. It’s a very good read, and I suggest anyone who’s interested read it. However, what was most important was what was added at the end.
[added on reflection] Let me also say on other thing. There are a number of us in academia who love games, care about games, and believe games are important. We have been working for years to make games a legitimate tool for education and for study, and we were making progress. People were starting to take games seriously. And then came GamerGate. I have seen the careful progress of a decade come crashing down, and now, when I go to talk about games to industry groups or fellow academics, GamerGate always comes up as an example of how terrible and immature people who play games are. It will take years
and years to repair the damage, and it is absolutely devastating to the
serious study and application of the power of games to real problems.
We are going to have trouble getting grants, getting foundations to fund
games, and getting people to take us seriously. It is devastating and
makes me very sad.
For many years, people have been fighting for games to be recognized seriously as an art form. GamerGate, as it seems, has caused serious damage to that. Social scientists have been studying the influence of games, not just because of their negative effects, but because of the potential positive effects as well. Games could potentially be a powerful tool to help teach empathy, and increase satisfaction and happiness.
But now that GamerGate has shattered public perception of gaming in academia, we may never be able to fully understand how to allow games to reach their full potential in this regard. But it’s not just media studies in video games that have suffered.
Rebecca HG, also known as 8BitBecca, is a video game archivist. Her work is vitally important to the future of video games, as the passage of time guarantees that physical storage media degrades and becomes unusable. Within decades, many out-of-print games may be lost forever, outside of illegal ROMs.
But now, thanks to GamerGate, video game archiving as a professional practice is all but dead.
To any reasonable person, this would be devastating. Nobody benefits from this. Academics refusing to take games seriously means that games can never be realized as an art form. Even worse, without academia the task of preserving, understanding, and maintaining the cultural history of games becomes a daunting task. Half of all American films made before 1950 are lost forever, and were it not for the work of archivists and academics, it’s likely we would never have been able to preserve even that much.
So what happens to video games when academics don’t take them seriously at all? What happens when people refuse to archive games or study their cultural significance?
To put it bluntly, video games will have no future. If we do not take care to study the cultural history of games, it may forever disappear to us when cartridges and CDs inevitably die, emulators become obsolete, servers shut down, manuals are lost, and the publisher history fades into obscurity.
This should make any gamer uncomfortable, but unfortunately, this is not the case. GamerGate has not been shy about their disdain for academia in video games, as evidenced by the popularity of anti-academic figures such as the Youtuber known as “Sargon of Akkad”, who is one of the most widely-praised supporters of GamerGate. Just reading the title of one of his videos tells you all that you need to know:
GamerGate is killing video games. And that’s exactly what they want.
gamergate more like FAILUREGATE