This is probably a surprising headline coming from a guy who writes a blog about his plastic wardollies, but lately, there have been a lot of things that have made me consider whether I should identify with the gamer community, or rather, just be a guy who plays games.
First off, I feel like “gamer” is kind of an odd identity. I’m many things, and in my average day, I do plenty other than playing games. I spend a lot more time in the average week being an economist and civil servant than I do playing games. I also enjoy live theatre, music, food, watching Murdoch Mysteries, writing, non-gaming modelling, beer, and many other things. I like to think of myself as a well-rounded individual, and I’m not totally comfortable collapsing that entire identity down to one label. Further, it seems odd to me that so many gamers make that a cornerstone of their identity in a way that many other fandoms don’t. People who like to watch TV in their spare time don’t introduce themselves as TV-watchers.
Further, as someone with some rather left-leaning political beliefs and a healthy suspicion of the whole capitalist shebang (did I mention I was an economist?), there is something that doesn’t quite sit right about basing my identity around the products I consume. There are other, more important aspects to people’s lives than simply the amount of plasticrack they buy, and while there may be communities devoted to said plasticrack, it feels weird to identify so strongly with it that it becomes your whole identity.
Finally, I feel like the “gamer” identity has gotten a negative connotation as of late, and I’m not sure I don’t want to be associated with those stereotypes. Now, I’m not talking about the stereotype of the cheeto-fingered, Mountain Dew swilling, basement-dwelling nerdlinger. That’s a stereotype that I can handle. What I am referring to are the gamergaters, MRAs, and other alt-right fucknuts who are trying to turn gaming from something inclusive into a quasi-fascist boys club.
(Note: I will say that this is something that I’ve found rears its ugly head on the internet more than in real life. I suspect part of this is because I’m a white male so I may not notice it, and part of it is because it is far easier for these jerkwads to threaten women on the internet than to express their vile opinions in real life)
Gaming has a problem. In fairness, our whole society has a problem when it’s 2017 and we can’t all agree that women are people and Nazis are bad, but it feels like gaming is a place that is particularly bad for this sort of thing. I could speculate as to the deep-seated psychological reasons why so many gamers end up being misogynist jerkwads, but I’ll just say that in certain segments of the community, you can’t throw a stone without hitting someone whining that “SJWs” are ruining everything by asking to have their identities included and validated in the fiction of our shared worlds, or that having one badass female character in a story is proof of a systematic global conspiracy to oppress white men.
Want proof? Just look at the response to the creation of the days-old Feminist 40K group and all the trolls who came out of the woodwork on that one. Or the anger from some members of the community when Privateer Press removed the juvenile, needlessly sexist, Page 5 from the Warmachine Mk.III books and replaced it with something a little more welcoming. Or just spend some time on the internet and you will come across people complaining that “SJWs” are ruining everything they like and that certain aspects of their hobby should remain stuck in the 1980s because they can imagine all kinds of fantastical creatures and races like dragons and dwarves, but somehow aren’t creative enough to conceive of a strong female character.
Now, I’m not trying to paint everyone who plays tabletop games with this broad brush. And you might say that it’s not fair for me to write off all of gamerdom as horribly sexist. You might have a point, but it’s also not fair for female gamers to face additional barriers to get into the hobby, and occasionally be harassed and terrorized out of the gaming community.
Gaming should be a welcoming, diverse community. Our games themselves must be inclusive, or else we have a problem. Given where the community is at right now, while I’m still going to play games and I’m going to try to welcome people to and interact with the community, I’m not sure I feel comfortable calling myself a “gamer” anymore and placing myself in the same category as the gamergate doofuses.