Gamechangers: From Minecraft To Misogyny manages something quite remarkable. Not so much in dissecting the Gamergate phenomenon,but in how it presents it in a comfortable, easy to read fashion for wider audiences to understand.
As someone with more than a passing interest in games, I’ve maintained an interest in the ongoing Gamergate issue, although as I’ve noted previously, I rather rapidly came to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth giving significant oxygen to a movement that relies on logical contradictions, doxxing and dogpiling en masse.
I’ve had my own very minor run-ins with the gator crowd over time, none of which did much more than waste my time and raise my blood pressure.
Then again, I’m male, so the harshest criticism didn’t come my way. I’ve seen what Gamergate does to female critics, and, rather predictably, I got much less scorn than they did.
So why write about it again? Because, while it’s rather obviously lost steam, not to mention totally fail to actually rail against ethical issues in gaming (say, for example, the influence of large gaming publications against games writers in some cases, because hey, that might interfere with the next Call Of Shooting Things In The Face game), it’s still sadly very much around.
Which brings me to Dan Golding and Leena Van Deventer’s Gamechangers: From Minecraft To Misogyny, which came out recently. I might not want to dedicate much oxygen to the Gamergate crowd, but analysis of it, especially well researched analysis is definitely of interest.
Golding and Van Deventer are both proudly Australian games writers/developers, and it’s very much that context that Gamechangers: From Minecraft To Misogyny works within. The style and tone are distinctly ocker, and highly personal, reading as much like the transcript of a cosy conversation as anything else.
Which is weird when you think about it, because it’s hardly a topic that you might think of as being easy to simply chat about. Gamechangers: From Minecraft To Misogyny walks calmly through a simple cultural history of gaming, definitions of where content may or may not be problematic, the birthing of the Gamergate movement by way of Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, but in every instance it’s given real world context by way of why the kinds of harassment inherent in the movement are such a real issue.
It’s also worth noting that a number of the less pleasant things that have been sent to the authors online are published in full, which means that there’s a certain amount of deliberately offensive language in there. Sometimes, as the authors note, coming from accounts with My Little Pony avatars.
Yeah, it’s weird, this whole Gamergate thing.
There’s even discussion about how and why it’s not a good idea to invoke the #Gamergate hashtag on social media; one of my favourite sentences in the book early on reads:
Fair warning: we advise that you don’t use the Gamergate hashtag on social media – if you do, you’ll immediately want to throw your laptop in the sea.
I laughed, and then realised immediately that while it was funny, it really shouldn’t be.
Quibbles? I do approach any review with a critical mindset (that’s kind of the point, no?) but they’re very minor.
There’s some slightly odd timing in some paragraphs conflating some 80s issues with more recent stuff, although that’s more of a layout question than anything else.
The latter portion of the book is entirely dedicated to referencing. Indeed, I don’t think I’ve read a tome that has more references in it since I left university, which certainly takes care of the whole [Citation Needed] attack that the Gator crowd loves so very much. Still, for the digital copy I was reading, it left me wanting a little more than was actually there. In some ways of course that’s a good thing. As stated, minor quibbles and all that.
Those are incredibly minor criticisms for a book that takes a very serious and problematic topic and presents it in a way that makes it seem like a fireside chat. That’s an incredible style feat in and of itself, because it opens up the core material, much of which is either troubling or significantly complex, to a wider audience in an easily accessible way.
That is, of course, the point. Antagonistic cliques like Gamergate can’t flourish under a spotlight, because the inherent values of the “group” (and yes, it denies being a group for its own benefit, but whatever) really don’t shine under a spotlight. If you’re interested in the topic, or even just a little confused about where it is and where it seems to be going, this is a highly recommended read.
Quick stupid disclaimer: I’ve conversed on and off with the authors online over the past few years. Make whatever stupid conspiracy theory of that you like. This review is based off an iBooks copy I paid my own money for.