In Defense of Gamers

Jacobin just posted a very interesting (and potentially quite controversial) article, “In Defense of Gamers,” by Peter Frase. An excerpt: “Gaming doesn’t have a problem; capitalism has a problem. Rather than seeing them simply as immoral assholes or deluded consumerists, we should take gaming’s advanced wing of hateful trolls seriously as representatives of the reactionary shock troops [that] will have to be defeated to build a more egalitarian society in the games industry or anywhere else.” What do people think of Frase’s thesis?


About Bradley J. Fest

Bradley J. Fest is assistant professor of English at Hartwick College. He is the author of two books of poetry, The Rocking Chair (Blue Sketch, 2015) and The Shape of Things (Salò, 2017), and has published a number of essays on contemporary literature and culture. He blogs at The Hyperarchival Parallax.
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5 Responses to In Defense of Gamers

  1. exelsisxax says:

    If this was written 10, maybe 5 years ago I would more readily agree with it. But for something so recent I don’t feel like it really captures the situation anymore. It’s 2014, so calling out gamers as anything close to a monolith is pretty silly. But I think he also makes a mistake when he tries to examine it from that particular economic perspective. The games themselves are not sexist (ignoring certain developers’ obsession with breast physics for now). He doesn’t get anywhere near to providing a connection between the industry trends in purchases to equality in the developer workplace – because there isn’t one. Gamers almost never know and when they do, almost never care who is making the games. They buy and play them. There are two separate and relatively non-interacting issues here. Many professional industries do in fact have a self-perpetuating system where women are diverted from entering, but it isn’t a gamer thing. It’s an american thing, and much more prevalent in other industries. For instance, women on fox news are not allowed to wear pants. I think that speaks pretty well for itself.

    The other issue is the question of whether or not gamers are more sexist than any other subculture. I’d claim a definite NO, but the article just goes along with the assumption that it is, without even a bit of an argument. Gamers have such a long-standing association with sexism that just doesn’t make sense anymore. Has he seen a music video lately?

    But I think his worst mistake is in thinking about those actual sexist gamers as actual obstacles, real barriers to any progress. This may be news to him – but they aren’t at all relevant. They don’t drive sales, they don’t build up meaningful feedback, and nobody except anita sarkeesian pays any attention to them. They aren’t like the tea party – they are like the american neonazi party. They don’t actually have a seat at the table anymore. If you stay off of reddit and 4chan, then turn off chatboxes in multiplayer games you won’t even be able to find them.


    • devilzadv0k8 says:

      I think Jacobin refers to gamers collectively only because that’s how we tend to think of them. He is very much aware that there are other subsets of gamers and spends the rest of the essay focused on one particular subset of right-wing gamers. Before you decide that sexist gamers aren’t at all relevant, consider his second to last paragraph:

      “Which isn’t to say that death threats are a great look for the suits at the top of the game industry hierarchy. The trolls may sometimes get out of control, just as the Republican establishment sometimes loses control of the Tea Party, or the industrial capitalists sometimes lose control of the Nazi brownshirts. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t part of one dialectically inter-related political project.” In other words, the army of trolls supports something much bigger than themselves: a system of sexism, racism, homophobia and other kinds of ignorance.

      If sites like reddit and 4chan become hostile places for certain kinds of people then we as an internet society have taken a step in the direction of inequality. By “turning off chat boxes” you are giving up the ability to use a certain part of the game. That means the trolls have already won. Your statement “They aren’t like the tea party – they are like the american neonazi party. They don’t actually have a seat at the table anymore,” seems to underestimate the importance of ideas and culture. Although the effects of an internet culture of sexism may not be obvious or tangible, it is important to remember that gamers are not just gamers. They have jobs, they vote, they raise families. Perhaps most dangerously they perpetuate ideas through the opinions they express on the internet.

      If video games are to be the dominant form of media in this century, it is especially important that the gamesphere is a place where all kinds of people are treated with respect. Likewise, we must take sexism, racism and homophobia in gamer culture just as seriously as we do when it appears in films and literature.

      Liked by 1 person

      • exelsisxax says:

        I don’t suggest that nothing be done to try and improve the situation. The trolls don’t have any real power, again like the neonazi party. They can’t do anything, but we still work to make them go extinct. That’s the problem with looking at them as an enemy, as the footsoldiers; getting rid of them won’t make much of a difference, and that’s what everyone wastes their time on. It doesn’t help anything, it’s just people being loud about loud people that suck. It would be like a movement to get rid of the colloquially termed “social justice warriors,” they already can’t do anything and dedicating so much of your time to them only encourages them. Thinking that real feminist tow the line for SJWs is as naive as thinking that gamers tow the line for haters of all kinds. It blinds you to the real problems present in society as a whole and keeps you from doing anything about it.

        I’m also getting really annoyed at the assumption that gamers comprise some sort of reserve of sexism, racism, and homophobia. Due to the ages of gamers alone, they would be more equitable than the country as a whole on every issue.


  2. Carson, first and foremost, I urge you to read much more closely and carefully, for not only are you misreading Frase (considerably), but if you did you read more carefully, you might find that you actually agree w/ his article. You note that the problem isn’t gamers, it’s US culture. That is exactly what he is saying, and that gamers resemble a giant aspect of our culture in their reactionary neoconservatism, and I am inclined to agree with him.

    I also urge you to ground your arguments a bit more in something concrete and specific, as though you are potentially making interesting points, your general level of discourse is fairly general, vague, and abstract, and at times seemingly has little to nothing to do w/ what Frase is actually saying (again, read more carefully). Perhaps looking at some of the articles that “In Defense of Gamers” was responding to in the first place might give you something concrete to work with rather than writing what are now some relatively incorrect overgeneralizations. Look at Daniel Carlson “The Insidious Rise of the Blockbuster Video Game,” and Ian Williams “On Geek Culture,” and (most importantly) “Death to the Gamer.”


    • exelsisxax says:

      “The gamer is threatened by women who share his tastes, and calls them “fake geek girls.””
      “It is not news that video games are often hostile to women, both as an industry and as a fan culture.”
      “But in their best-funded and most widely consumed commercial forms, they have especially catered to certain kinds of socially awkward boys and men, providing them with alternatives to dominant standards of masculinity.”
      “And yet these gamers cling to an identity as marginalized underdogs, even as they defend the game industry’s existing practices of sexism, racism, and class exploitation.”
      “They hate and fear a world where games are truly made by and for everyone, where women make up a majority of the gaming audience, where a trans woman dominates one of the world’s great eSports.”

      Generalizations of gamers, demonstrable false due to the fact gamers are in overall pairity in the US, and in some countries females outplay and outspend men, so the economic argument is irrational. Women and minorities make up the vast majority of growth in the industry, so to claim it as insular is outrageous.

      What we can agree on is this:
      “It’s a problem with our entire culture, and specifically with the attitudes and behavior of a rightist, predominantly white and male section of that culture.”

      and his general attitude towards the previous anti-gamer media blitz. However, he makes the same mistakes in his generalizations, just to a lesser degree. He also continues to perpetuate the idea that that gamers as a whole are shielding the radicals with their presence. Since he refers to right-wing ideology, I shall do the same. When ISIL started its attacks, united states corporate media let people like ted cruz cry out for the moderate muslims to denounce the actions of the radicals. However, they did, and they do. The corporate media simply gains nothing by disseminating this information, so they ignore it in favour of continuing to drum up views. It is the same in this circumstance, where all media resources are put towards only representing what creates a further sensationalization. Gamers are not permitted a speaking platform, only the selected twitter comments from nutcases.


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