Community Piece: The Humanity of #GamerGate – 11/5/2014
By Lo-Ping - Wed Nov 05, 5:30 pm
Ben “OathAlliance” Corum
My name is Ben Corum. Feel free to look me up, there aren’t many people out there with that name so it should be easy. Feel free to contact me and we can meet and talk about any number of things. I am writing about my history: Why I enjoy video games, why I care about them, and why I support #GamerGate. So, without further ado let me dive right in.
When people talk about “privilege” they seem to enjoy making it out to be some fantastical power or special honor that people are born with. As a cis-gender, heterosexual, white male I should have been on the receiving end of a lot of it. Sadly, someone failed to tell the rest of the world of my special “privilege”. I was born into a relatively happy home. Sure my parents had their problems, but at least they were together right? Well, until the age of three. Then my dad was arrested and sent to state prison. My mom divorced him, and now there I was in a broken home.
That’s kind of a sad opening, but it must have gotten better quickly right? Well, maybe not. Sure I was a brilliant kid, but I was always challenging authority or building worlds in my mind. I went to private school to start with. My mom worked very hard as a nurse and I didn’t see her very much at all. Elementary school doesn’t hold the fondest memories for me. My good friends went to other schools and I was always the odd kid out. No one really wanted to play with me at recess because I would wander around, building worlds and fighting battles. I would be chosen last for sports because I was weak. The other kids would call out, “Easy out, easy out.” Whenever I stepped up to the plate. The school also didn’t know what to make of me. I was emotionally fragile and perhaps a bit unstable. But I found one outlet, video games.
Games were amazing. Honestly they took me places that I could have only dreamed of. We had an old E2600 which provided some entertainment, but my friends were the ones that had the game systems. I was enthralled by video games. I’m honestly not sure why. But for whatever reason I’d love to watch my friends play. It was like watching people do tricks on skateboards. You’d never risk them yourself and are content to simply watch them do their thing. That changed though when we got an N64. It was a fight to get my mother to allow me to play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, however with a few well placed arguments, a check of my cleverness stat and some sneaky manipulation I succeeded. That game is what truly drew me in to video games.
However even after that I played video games for various reasons. Some I played for things I could obtain, like RuneScape. Others I played for their story, such as The Sword of Mana. Now and then a few for pure enjoyment, MarioKart 64. Video games were great, but even then I wasn’t able to play them too much. I would like to segue for a moment and talk about Sword of Mana. That game was beautiful. It was also horribly sad. I cried a lot while playing it. The person that you thought was evil, was not and the people that weren’t evil, a lot of them died. In the end the main female character had to die. That was terrible and heart breaking. To fight for so long, to fight so hard and still have to lose her. But I learned a lot about me and about other things. That story was important because it had meaning for me. I put in something and I got something out of it.
I digress and return you to my previously scheduled monologue. I finally got a computer in my room. That’s where I finally graduated from a game player, to a game enthusiast. So much so that I wanted to make games. I had channeled my creative abilities into writing, but writing a book is long and boring. Making games is fun and fast right? Well I learned my answer when I attended a Game Developers Conference. That’s when I learned that I didn’t want to make video games. I learned how much work goes into games and that was not for me. However it game me a greater respect for game developers and video games as a whole.
Later on and many games later I, for various reasons, got a job. This was not a normal job however. I was a member of the phone support for Xbox Live. That’s right, if you called in and lived in the US you could have talked to me. Anyways, lots of stories from my year of working there. Eventually I quit due to various work and life reasons. This led me to being able to finish writing a book that had been on hold for quite sometime. Now it’s on it’s way to being fully published (I have the proof copy on me right now). So finally this year I spoke at the Game Developers Conference I mentioned before, it was a good experience. Then I became moderately aware of a specific female trying to “criticize” video games. I watched some videos on it and that led me to more videos and then eventually I stumbled upon some #GamerGate videos.
After a week of doing research and watching the hashtag on Twitter I finally decided to dive in. Games Journalism has been a breeding ground of corruption. It’s really not that hard to see and most people actually capitulate to that point. The things said about us(gamers) is unacceptable. This is the kind of stuff I got when I was bullied by kids in middle school. That’s what these people have become, simply bullies attempting to hide their corruption with slanderous lies. The pure injustice of all of this is that they have the audacity to act as if they are the heroes in all of this. The brave news people weathering the storm of adversity known as #GamerGate. But they aren’t. They are the villains, they’ve been had. The jig is up. If I have to be their villain, if I have to become their “black knight” in order to fight for what’s right, I’ll do it.
In the end I just really hate lies, corruption and injustice. These people have built it into their lives. It’s time for that to end. I didn’t want their heads, nor their sites or their jobs. Sadly many of these sites heeded not the warning they were given. Instead they attacked like a wounded animal. Perhaps it is time for the old things to be broken down and for the new to be erected. Just as a forest destroyed by fire finds new life in the wake of the calamity, maybe this is the fire. Whatever this is, whatever it does I am better for it. I have learned a lot of things, met a lot of great people and have fought some good battles. If there is any hill I’d be willing to die on, it would be this one, with these people.
That’s why I am for ethical journalism. That is why I’m with #GamerGate. And that is why I will not be silenced or stopped. This story isn’t over yet, not by a long shot. I guarantee that.
I started PC gaming a long time ago, so long ago in fact that I can’t exactly pinpoint how old I was at the time. This was the era of Eye of the Beholder on early Macs’ and Commodore systems before moving on to my first actual personal computer. I was too young at the time to understand the specifications of the PC but it forced me to learn how the computer worked; how to clean and maintain it and what you needed to do to upgrade it. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the systems and games I played on them helped me take a critical approach to life and even if I couldn’t fully comprehend how something worked, I could learn as much as I could.
My early games were RPG’s in some way or another, the earliest I can fully remember was “Eye of the Beholder” on DOS, moving on to whatever games I could get on a PC such as Hexen which then moved on to my MMO experience of Ultima Online (which I still hold as the best MMO of all time). I grew up loving fantasy and horror games which was majorly influenced by my father’s collection of books, from Terry Pratchett to H.P Lovecraft and Clive Barker. Later I discovered there was a reason outside of simple taste why I loved fantasy games, I discovered early on in my life that I was gay, well mostly.. It’s complicated. Call it escapism but games were a place where I felt comfortable and was allowed to be myself even though the characters I was playing weren’t gay themselves. Even when talking to other people at school we would always find common ground in things like video and tradition games.
The more I opened myself up to role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, werewolf and Call of Cthulhu the more it let me experiment with narrative fiction which also helped me to see the story in games during a time where the technical limitations of games didn’t allow much of a direct presentation of the story to the audience. Not only that, but playing with people lead me to learn more about them and different points of view. I have had gaming groups with people from different genders, different sexualities and races even a nationalist and a reformed Neo-Nazi who had covered up his Swastika tattoo’s, later I learned his stance was a violent reaction to his own bisexuality that he tried to hide. The fact is, gaming has opened me up to so many people with different ideas and like my old PC, I ended up learning how they work and how gaming forced them to upgrade themselves.
The current attack on video games is nothing new, we’ve seen it happen to movies from the Anti-American board to the Comic Books Code and even the Heavy Metal panic, I’ve also seen where it comes from. I’m a gay, vegan moderate and I’ve seen radical people come up through the LGBT movement, the vegan lifestyle and so forth. We tended to ignore them back in the day mostly because we couldn’t and shouldn’t stop them doing what we do because of what they believe. The times have now changed. They are now the ones telling us how to run everything, co-opting every movement and destroying the people who make real change. From experience I can tell you; you don’t get people to stop killing animals by screaming, you don’t get political ideals about sexuality to change because you shout and you don’t get more minority characters in games because you have a tantrum.
All in all, I hope cooler heads and reason prevail in this.