This is a project created by Liam Mennig for ENG 238 African-American Literature, Pre-1945 at Elon University (Spring 2015), taught by Dr. Crystal Anderson. It is a conversation between two African-American writers who discuss a contemporary issue. This dialogue gives students an opportunity to engage in close reading and relate literary texts to contemporary ideas.
W.E.B. DuBois: My friend David Walker, I assume you have heard about the latest gender related controversy to hit the internet called #GamerGate. But this is just a new manifestation of the kind of unwarranted discrimination we faced and that people in America have been facing since its creation. As it turns out, gaming is very gender charged and many people don’t feel that women are welcome. However, this is also an industry that has seen its cultural status escalated of late partially due to the introduction of women. It seems to me the gaming community doesn’t really know what they want. As I have said in, “The Damnation of Women:” “All womanhood is hampered today because the world on which it is emerging is a world that tries to worship both the virgins and mothers and in the end despises motherhood and despoils virgins” (761). What’s your opinion Walker?
David Walker: Well DuBois, let me just start off by saying that you know how I feel about any sort or form of discrimination. It needs to be choked out from this world with the grip of progress and the strength of change. That being said, I am familiar with the #GamerGate controversy that is the talk of the entire gaming community. The main female game designer that found herself in the center of all this after creating the game Depression Quest, Zoe Quinn, has been receiving rape and death threats as a result of what was seen by some in the gaming community to be an unwarranted good review of her game. Since the start of this backlash on the internet, it has gained the public eye quickly being tweeted about over 50,000 times a day in the month following the incident. Do you have any more information DuBois?
W.E.B. DuBois: In fact, I do have some more recent news on the topic relating to the root of the entire controversy. Apparently, Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend made a statement online that she had been sleeping with journalists in order to get better reviews for her games including the extremely personal game, Depression Quest. This caused an explosion of misled hatred stemming from the questionable ethics in gaming journalism today. Gamers took to 4chan, an online forum to voice their thoughts about the topic but while it started off questioning the relationship between certain game journalists and designers, it quickly spun out of control leading to misogynistic banter by gamers and even trolls who were oftentimes misinformed about what had even been the start of the discussion. Zoe Quinn, feminists, and even academics have tried to combat the gender based discrimination that has resulted to little avail. What do you think their response should be?
David Walker: My opinion is that Zoe as well as all females involved in the gaming community need to take action and make their voices heard rather than hiding behind their computer screen and reading death threats. It is as I stated in my “Appeal:” “How we could be so submissive to a gang of men, whom we cannot tell whether they are as good as ourselves or not, I never could conceive” (Walker, 170). Put plainly, gaming is a community based on how good you are, not what gender you are. The whole reason this backlash started was because of the questionable relationship between game journalists and designers, not between the men and women of the gaming culture. Zoe Quinn and her followers need to start an aggressive campaign to fight back, and I would start by exposing the men in gaming the way the internet has tried to expose her.
W.E.B. DuBois: I agree with you Walker that something must be done in response to what is happening to these women due to #GamerGate. However, like I have said in, “The Damnation of Women:” “Women must have a life work and economic independence. She must have knowledge” (761). By this I mean that if something is done too rashly it could cause backlash that would be extremely detrimental to the women currently working in the industry that have dedicated their whole lives and economic independence to gaming. Do you want the discussion to all of a sudden critically turn on the women of the industry when they are truly the victims? You must remember what kind of world it is today. Gaming is an industry controlled by professionals like Intel who would not like to affiliate themselves with useless slander. I know it’s not your strong-suit, but thinking first is critical.
David Walker: Oh DuBois, you never did quite understand what it truly takes to make a change in society. It doesn’t take a quiet voice pleading to make progress happen, it takes a martyr who is willing to sacrifice him or herself to make their people’s voice heard. I state what I mean by this in my, “Appeal:” “I am fully aware, in making this appeal to my much afflicted and suffering brethren, that I shall… be assailed by those whose greatest earthly desires are, to keep us in abject ignorance and wretchedness” (161). If the women of the gaming industry want to combat the ruthless discrimination that has been caused by #GamerGate then Zoe Quinn must set a strong and resonating example that they are not going to take this kind of unwarranted hate. If you do recall, Martin Luther King Junior, the face of the civil rights movement died a martyr.
W.E.B. DuBois: Yes David, I am very aware that Martin Luther King Jr. died as a martyr fighting for the rights of men and women like us. However, I don’t think that this is at the scale that someone needs to sacrifice themselves, their job, or their reputation to fix. You must understand the implications that could go along with Zoe Quinn and her followers attacking gaming culture and it’s members. It could cost her her job and her well-being if she ends up being extradited from the gaming community and after all that she has already been through do you think it is fair to ask that? I still agree with you that something needs to be done in response to make sure that women can be comfortable and respected in the gaming world, but I’m not quite sure it is worth the possible destruction of Zoe Quinn. Do you see my point?
David Walker: No DuBois, I do not see your point. Pride and respectability are things that need to be fought for to protect and Zoe Quinn along with females in the gaming community everywhere need to stand up for themselves. They need to take to the forums like 4chan where they are being torn apart by the male gamers and fight back. They need to work harder than ever to prove that they are not inferior in the gaming community. In my opinion the way to do this is by starting a web campaign and going at the neck of any and all male game programmers who have ever had a questionably good game review. If they are able to show the same weakness that is being projected onto them in their male counterparts, then I believe a difference can and will be made giving women in the industry back the position they deserve.
W.E.B DuBois: Well Walker, it seems like you may be onto something with your idea. While I obviously don’t agree with mindless retaliation, some of what you are saying has merit. If the female game designers of the world are able to show that their male co-workers have been given the same kind of falsely positive reviews also then it could be a great counter to the discrimination by getting back to the root of the controversy. However, if they resort to making unsupported critical claims at their male counterparts then they will ruin their whole. As I have explained in, “The Souls of Black Folk:” “Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched… this is the soul of democracy and safeguard of modern society” (696). This simply means that honest criticism of the males by the females will be much more effective than imprudent action.
David Walker: While we both see eye to eye on many things including the fact that discrimination has no place in society; one thing we have always differed on is the way to respond. Maybe there is a necessity for both of our tactics in making true headway against discrimination. I know looking back on what we accomplished for civil rights that both of our styles of protests were used toward an end result. As it is #GamerGate is still an ongoing topic of discussion within the gaming industry and even just within the general culture. It really goes beyond gaming at this point and alludes to our tendencies as a society towards conflict. Whether it was us fighting racial discrimination back in the civil rights days or women in the gaming community today fighting to preserve their image and hard-earned spot in the industry, there is always discrimination. We just need to learn the best way to combat this for all of society’s sake.
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