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By 3 October 2014 | Categories: news

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A great deal has been written about #GamerGate, the current controversy raging in the videogame community. I don’t have the space to go into great detail about how it all started, but in a nutshell #GamerGate touches on two major points: The treatment of women in the gaming industry and the ethics of videogame journalism. 

As is always the case on the internet, people are completely calm and rational in discussing this sensitive topic. Ok, we all know that’s not true. Or at least anyone who has any experience with the internet and social media knows better. Of course there has been a fecal storm of epic proportions, primarily centering on the harassment of women in the gaming industry and the idea that the only way indie developers are getting good scores are through bribing (via a variety of ways) corrupt journalists.

Whether that’s true or not, the integrity of videogame journalism has been called into question, and coupled with the misogyny that has persistently plagued the gaming industry in both gaming development as well as journalism, we find prominent female journalists such as Jenn Frank removing themselves from the industry because they can no longer deal with the constant harassment. 

This is sad because no one should have to fear for their life or their livelihood. We can, of course, immediately place this in a South African context which on so many levels is still an emerging market in the gaming arena. 

Not only are we in a space that has an almost exclusively male gaming media contingent (I’m pretty sure I can count the number of South African female gaming journalists on one hand), but the gaming media is almost exclusively a part of the white demographic.

And while I’ve written about the representation of colour and gender before, and while many tell us that we’re being overly sensitive, it’s a problem that we close our eyes to because honestly we love videogames and we all want to keep playing them.

This can’t continue however if we simply pretend that it will go away. You might think that black people don’t play games, but even after The Verge has been off air for two years, I still get messages on social media from teenagers wanting to find out about the latest releases – the racial divide for that generation has fallen away, and the racial mixture of kids contacting me is incredibly varied.

At some point more people are going to sit up and say, “Hang on, this doesn’t represent me”. And what are you going to say? “You’re being over sensitive.” 

Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to fly for very much longer. We should be united in our love of videogames, not exclude others based on their race or gender, and allow for much needed criticism where it’s appropriate.

Article first published in TechSmart 133 (October 2014)

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