If events as of late have taught us anything, it’s that there is a polarization of gamer culture. On one side, we have normal everyday people, but on the other we have people who use gaming as a medium to exploit, bully and harass others, most often because of gender or race. Last night, Gamers Against Bigotry was hacked. The non-profit had garnered 1500 signatures from people pledging not to use “identity-based slurs in online gaming.” All pledges were lost and the signature pages were replaced with grotesque NSFW images. There is no way to get the pledges back, so GAB launched an Indiegogo campaign to earn $700 to become an incorporated non-profit, advertise the cause and pay a developer to tighten up security.
This isn’t the first attempt to hack the site. Since the non-profit launched last month, hundreds of attempted attacks have been made on the organization’s website. What’s bothersome is the nature of the attacks versus the message. This is what people are pledging when they sign their name to Gamers Against Bigotry’s petition:
“As a gamer, I realize I contribute to an incredibly diverse social network of gamers around the world, and that my actions have the ability to impact others. In effort to make a positive impact, and to create a community that is welcoming to all, I pledge to not use bigoted language while gaming, online and otherwise.
Bigoted language includes, but is not limited to, slurs based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.”
It is upsetting how aggressive the attacks are against a campaign designed to change this exact thinking. It’s is GAB’s goal to work with developers to establish concrete ways to deal with bigotry in gaming beyond the current and relatively dysfunctional muting/blocking/reporting systems. They want to develop tools that identify trolls and revoke communication privileges.
Beyond this, Gamers Against Bigotry has taken a vocal stance against using the word “rape” in a casual context within gaming. In a blog post, GAB founder Sam Killermann made a case for this based on an article that appeared in Escapist Magazine. A male rape survivor wrote the article to dissect the fallacies of people resolving rape in video games down to a feminist issue. He says, “I, as a rape victim, identified with a lot of the parties feeling upset about these topics, and I think there’s been a disconnect. See, this isn’t about feminists being offended, this is about how the ill-use of sensitive topics can hurt people.”
It’s a powerful and visceral read, one GAB brought to the forefront because it shows the total lack of understanding within gaming culture. In Killermann’s blog post, he wonders about the difference between violence and rape in video games and asks his friend Alex Duffy to comment further. Duffy says, “The difference between rape and murder is that there is no murder culture. By that, I mean our society has fully accepted murder as absolutely horrible crime. It’s (almost always) fully investigated and afterwards there are pretty much no questions like ‘Were they asking for it?’ ‘What were they wearing?’ ‘Did they ACTUALLY not want to die?’ It’s always taken seriously. There is rarely victim blaming or objectification. Rape is a different story.”
Rape culture is but one problem in gaming, but it’s a good place to start. After Toronto Standard posted an article about a Torontonian tweeter who spoke up against a misogynist video game creator, she began receiving death and rape threats almost immediately. These threats continued in an effort to silence her, just as the hacking of GAB’s website is an effort to silence them.
What the hackers and haters fail to realize is that these attempts at silencing only fuel the mission to stop it. However, we need legal intervention, large-scale social support and increased consequence such as total communication banning to prevent these efforts from being for naught.
Sheena Lyonnais is Toronto Standard’s Tech and Business Editor. You can follow her on Twitter at @SheenaLyonnais.