but the tweet is real

I don’t know when I crossed from being an Outlander fan to a shipper. Don’t get me wrong, I’m both, but I’m identified as a shipper in this fandom. I can’t pinpoint when or where it happened; all I know is at some point I crossed some threshold and I’ve never been able to turn back.

One of the things that bothers me as a shipper is when people call us crazy. I’ve taken a couple of strolls around Datalounge and I’ve seen that word used: crazy shippers. Friends send me tweets from other Outlander fans or sometimes people in other fandoms about the Outlander shipper rabbit hole. I’m always offended by this; the people who think Sam is gay and bearding think WE are crazy?

But then I take a step back and realize that to someone who isn’t on the shipper side of the fandom - the nitty gritty shipper side - we DO seem ridiculous. They don’t follow tweets and likes and follows and locations and REAL locations and fan sightings and…the list goes on. They don’t deal in the day to day, they deal in the general picture of things.

I deal in narratives. When you piece together all the things we get to see that happen, they start to paint a picture. Of course, that picture, that narrative, is open to interpretation. For instance, people think shippers are crazy because some think Sam and Cait got married in secret. Of course that sounds insane, but when you look at what happened around that time - the weekend their friends were in London together, Luke saying Sam would disown him if he commented on hosting a bachelor party for him, the matching pictures of land posted at the same time on Instagram with a heart emoji comment by one of Cait’s besties, late night celebratory macaroons, and two gold bands on Cait’s hands in a Christmas video, one clearly being a man’s ring, doesn’t it become less “crazy”? Improbable, maybe, but crazy? No. Because piece it together and you have a narrative.

Or take the holidays around that time. Sam went off to Thailand, Cait went off to Costa Rica with her friends. There was a missed flight from both of them, which meant they both missed the PCAs were they were expected, except the only missed flights were out of CR. A figure on a boat that seems to have Sam’s broad shoulders and man bun sitting next to a leggy brunette. Super flirty, happy interviews together, a journalist saying she’s going to use a pin to keep them together, and then BAM, a crushing interview with powerful people in the room. Again, paints a narrative.

Or the time Sam cancelled a con because he had a work commitment. The man works himself to the bone: Outlander, MPC, Barbour, charities. Seems reasonable. Cait was off on a vacation at the same time. Only Sam wasn’t filming Outlander when he cancelled this con, he never showed up to the gym leading to being called out on instagram by his friend, he and Cait kept showing up online at the same time, and then he posted a weird stock photo of Edinburgh that Cait liked so fast Instagram couldn’t even refresh. Maybe all coincidences. Or maybe it’s a narrative.

There was a weekend last fall that Sam had another con in London. He and WCC followed each other on Twitter that weekend. Then WCC followed me, Jess and Julia at the same time. They started liking a LOT of blatantly shippery tweets and Instagram photos. Cait opened up their WIWY campaign and Sam finished it. Later, of course, she auctioned off her dress, Sam got the ball rolling on that and then personally thanked the winner. Interesting.

We could even talk BAFTAs last year. Terry was so excited to go, fans were so excited because both Sam and Cait were nominated. We expected great things. Then an anon pops in and says seating arrangements were changed last minute and Sam wasn’t happy about it. No Terry. But adjacents and one miserable looking Scot at the table the whole night. The first acting win for an actress who always keeps her cool but became misty eyed and flustered talking about her partner everyday on stage. A small part of a bigger narrative at play.

I could also talk about Golden Globes 2017 week, Cait’s birthday, the story that’s been spun for a year and a half now that has crater sized troll holes in it to those who are actually looking and watching. We could talk about all the many, MANY shipper tweets that have been liked, the shipper pics liked by their friends, the same online times when they’re time zones apart, the countless pictures where it looks like one of them are in the background. There are so many maybes. So many coincidences. As a fabulous friend said to me the other day, all of these coincidences are a pattern.

My point isn’t to try and prove anything here because it’s pointless. We all have our own sides and beliefs and nothing will change that. But when you sit back and look at the small intricacies of what has gone on for four years now (!), is it fair to call a group of fans crazy because they’ve strung words and images and actions together and see a painted picture? Of course we are responsible for choosing to still ship, those who still believe choose to do so, but can we acknowledge how most of us got here? We didn’t pull any of this out of thin air.

Maybe we are wrong. We’ve been told enough that we are. But maybe, just maybe, we aren’t. I think the fact that there is constantly a push and pull is why so many shippers stick around to discuss and speculate. Nothing is simple here. It’s a giant puzzle with so many pieces. It’s a bigger mystery than any plot on the show. And something about it isn’t right, which is part of the reason I stick around. That may make me a masochist, but not crazy.

thoughts on revisionist history and fascist narratives in videogame commentary

hey, so i wanted to get down some things i’ve been thinking about a lot lately real quickly. these are inspired by a tweet thread made by @rainworlds on twitter: https://twitter.com/rainworlds/status/932350899720253440

i think it’s pretty safe to say that commentary about games (both writing and in video format) is driven by novelty. it’s hard to trace any sort of through-line or establish a solid conversation in talk about games. instead, talk about games tends to function as a vessel for personality on the part of the commenter and a narrative about their own personal experience. because of this, there tend to be so many different game writers/commentators who think they’re the first to come up with an idea - either because they’re simply not aware someone else has come up with that idea, or they don’t care. why would they not care? well, research isn’t really encouraged or necessary at all, because the personal experience of the game is the default language for the culture. and so it’s hard to trace any context. we know little about who made games, and what we do know tends to just be the same gamer platitudes that get repeated over and over again. and there is no real pressure to challenge that.

basically, the game commentary landscape tends to be just a bunch of people playing to their own disparate audiences. and it’s often a survival of the fittest - where those who know how best to play to an audience consistently talk over (whether or not they get that this is what they’re doing) people who might actually understand the context and have something new and insightful to add. youtubers who might have something insightful to say have a fraction of the following that someone who repeats the party line about games. the culture is defined by what’s new, and it’s defined by signifiers and personal gamer cred instead of trying to a need to find some sort of deeper insight inside the experience. gaming is presented another kind of lifestyle brand - that aggressively tries to argue for itself as more than just a lifestyle brand. this is especially ironic when people who present themselves as “outsiders” and normal people e.g. Penny Arcade, PewDiePie, TotalBiscuit, etc have a tremendous amount more power in that landscape that anyone else. 

the games landscape is also huge. it’s spread across so many different outlets and avenues. and there tends to be very little interest, both from institutions and from audiences, in trying to bring those conversations together and draw a larger picture. 

why is this? well, games academia tends to be very new, and driven by the demands of what’s already popular. because of this, most games academics and people more seriously engaged with games don’t want to risk alienating the kids who are coming into their programs by challenging the notions of the media that those kids identify with. they want to be a part of that culture, not against that. and because of that, they are pretty content to just let the wisdom of the market decide what commentary is generated about games. there’s no real way for them to challenge that, because there’s no resources or institutions interested in talking about games that aren’t highly market-driven.

this just means that any gaming personality who can speak the right language and market themselves in the right way has a tremendous amount of power and advantage in driving the conversation about games. of course, they can hide behind the lens of personal experience, or their gamer cred as a way to justify it. and that will usually be enough - even if they are being challenged by factual claims, games are a realm of fantasy. people don’t care much about who actually made them, or all the things that went behind them. they’re a vessel to talk over. 

this one of the things that fan culture and a cultural landscape of games built so much around personal consumer choice has wrought. something outside your sphere of interest might as well not exist, and there’s no reason to engage with it if it doesn’t check your boxes, and it might as well not be made by real people with real experiences and feelings.

i shouldn’t have to say that this is a VERY BAD THING and i wish more people like, understood that and tried to do anything to bring it to light and acknowledge it. it’s a big reason why we have loud, ignorant mediocrity gaining so much of a platform in game culture. most people who seriously follow games have some awareness of this now, but there seems to be a larger attitude of powerlessness about trying to change any of it.

if you want to fight against your medium being used as a way to recruit fascists, you have to fight for establishing a solid, consistent narrative that is based in truth against all the strains of revisionist history that dominate the commentary sphere around games. you have to fight for all the voices that have gone unrecognized and crushed by corporations and media outlets that serve as mouthpieces for those corporations. you can’t let the conventional gamer wisdom decide when the conventional wisdom is highly toxic.

the fact of the matter is game culture is NOT okay. it’s really fucked up. and something better needs to be fought for. if you look at something like gamergate and trace its role in our current political climate - and pretend that there still isn’t a disease at the heart of games culture, i’m sorry, but you’re out of your mind. we can’t let what’s popular decide the culture, especially when what is popular is so toxic. we have to fight for what is right, and complicate that narrative in any way we can.

it’s not even that people aren’t doing that too! i’ve found so many interesting and unusual games have come out this year alone that challenge the usual game conventional wisdom - particularly in the indie space, but even outside of that to some extent. hopefully i will have a chance to talk more about that in the future. the point is that it seems like the culture has a potential to shift in a different direction. but it won’t do anything if there isn’t a consistent, strong, and powerful effort put behind bringing these conversations together. like listening to the people who actually worked on games and giving them a voice. and challenging the gamer conventional wisdom of pro-corporate revisionist history with something better and more factual, that can’t be used as a venue for reactionary right-wing ideologies.