It seemed unreal at first. An entire episode of Law & Order SVU dedicated to video games. Well, not really video games but rather the controversies surrounding them. The episode itself shares all of the trademarks of SVU complete with cheesy video game puns. The entire episode lacked nuance and was incredibly disrespectful of the problem and the people facing them. Make no mistake, these are real problems.
The show opened with a woman standing at a booth promoting a new video game at a video game tournament.
A man approached the booth, “Go home Gamer Girl.” He said with contempt. When asked what the problem was his friend answered, “You and your boss. Raina Punjabi only got this feminazi game made by being a slut.”
The reply by the woman was, “Really? You’re one of those?”
She goes to the bathroom a bit later and is sexually assaulted by the two men. “Get out we don’t want you here.” One of the shouts pushing the woman to the back of a bathroom stall while she screams. “Amazonian Warrior huh? Is it true you have only one breast?” The woman saying only, “Stop, Stop, Stop.”
This is every woman’s worst nightmare. Given the threats so many women and received of rape and sexual assault this is the worst case scenario. It’s certainly within the realm of possibility, which is why these threats are taken so seriously.
“These guys, they just can’t stand women in gaming.”
“What did they do to you?” the detective asks.
“They leveled up.” The victim replies.
Yes that’s right; they start the episode off by making sexual assault into a gaming joke. Yeah we’re off to a great start.
The episode never explicitly says the term GamerGate, but is heavily implied. The show was blunt, perhaps too blunt. This issue is real for people. It’s not something that is watched for entertainment in the comfort of your living room. This is a real battle for many women being raged online.
Many GamerGate supporters are not so blunt to say “I hate women in gaming.” Instead they hide behind the veil of fighting “Social Justice Warriors” or “ethics in journalism” to keep social opinion and critique out of the video game conversation. This is of course a front people use so it seems benign on the surface.
This is a group of gamers who made it their mission to harass and berate people on social media and in games. Women, people of color, LBGTQ, and others simply for speaking out have found themselves in the GG crosshairs on social media. They will spam twitter feeds with sometimes hundreds of tweets demanding your time and attention, when you cannot or will not give it to them, you’re the harasser, you’re in the wrong, you’re the bigot, and you’re censoring opinions. Block them only to have them make new accounts, always remaining anonymous hiding like cowards behind names on a screen.
This is the reality that people are facing now. It has ruined lives, forced people from their homes, cost people their jobs, and even in the worst cases putting their lives at risk just for speaking out. If you find yourself a target they will scrutinize everything about you, send harassing emails, phone calls, letters, tweets, text messages, they will assault every aspect of your life. People’s families have even been targets.
This isn’t because they hate women, they want ethics, they don’t want to be called misogynists, and they don’t want a media that doesn’t represent them. This is the wall they hide behind. As if reading from a script this is the response you’ll get if you engage members directly.
In reality legally there is very little recourse for these online harassers. People are stalked and threatened both online and off. Police are often called and informed but nothing is done. We have woefully out of date laws that do not explicitly cover online harassment, coupled with the anonymous nature of the harassment, it makes it very difficult to take meaningful legal action against anyone.
These people do not revere developers as gods and they certainly know the difference between fantasy and reality. They are people who feel their hobby in under attack, it isn’t but that doesn’t matter. It’s a classic tale of cognitive dissonance.
If you disagree with GamerGate, you could be painting a target on your back. GamerGate is a callous and corrupt hate group. This episode did not bring attention to the issues; they did away with nuance in favor of drama for the purpose to entertain. The reality is much scarier. We don’t have Ice-T to take out the bad guys. These people often act with impunity under the cowardly hood of anonymity.
The most egregious thing is that GamerGate started in August. Yet it goes on. A movement built on and perpetuated by lies, misinterpretations, and taking things deliberately out of context. This was portrayed as an isolated incident. The reality is that some in GamerGate spam people’s inbox with graphic pornography and vile threats. This is not isolated. This is the new normal in our community.
Since airing, GamerGate created a Twitter account taken from the name of the victim in the show, and adopted the name “Red-Chan-It” (cross between 8chan and Reddit where some of the more vile stuff comes from) as their own. That’s right. Even when they are literally portrayed as rapists and kidnappers their ego still goes into defense mode. They think it’s funny. They do it for the lulz, even if that means literally terrorizing people.
This is a big issue right now. NBC knows it and tried to profit off of it. In doing so, they painted targets on the backs of everyone who has ever found themselves a target in the past. It did not bring attention to harassment in gaming; it gave the harassers more resolve and amplified it. At the end of the episode, the bad guys go to jail, and the developer who was kidnapped and raped left the industry. At the end of this episode, the harassers, kidnappers and rapists push a woman out of the industry. They win.
“Women in gaming what did I expect?
“You didn’t deserve this.” The officer replies
“Whatever. I’m out.”
“You said if you gave up they win.”
“They already did.”