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I’m actually sincerely proud of myself. I’ve been able to overcome a lot of bullshit in my life, but the month of November was really hectic and absolutely dismantling. Yet, somehow, I managed to surpass any expectations I had set for myself. I let a lot of things drag me down but powered through anything setting me back and forced myself to stand tall. Now, I’m back on track, working out again, traveling, and literally making a name for myself as only I can.

This past week has halted incredible results. Last Thursday, I managed Austin Bradley at Evolution Pro Wrestling in Clarksville, Indiana. The match was a “Loser Gets Pied” match which ended in me getting pied in the face to the fans’ delight. Then on Friday, I managed Kyle Maverick at Rockstar Pro Wrestling where he defeated G-Force after I flashed my camera in his face. Fantastic evening filled with a lot of noise from the crowd which led to me unleashing some of my best one-liners. Sunday, I was booked by Ian Rotten himself to be a part of a huge benefit show from Evo Pro and IWA Mid-South, where my boys in Spotlight will be taking on Ian Rotten himself and his son, Johnny Sixx, going by JC Rotten for one night only.

Wednesday, I traveled again to Dayton, Ohio for Rockstar Pro and managed Kyle in his match against Matt Taylor. Kyle lost, but I got some great advice from some of the guys there. The Crist brothers (Irish Airborne) have been very helpful and very complimentary about what I’m doing out there. I also got to see my friend Amanda who I haven’t seen since like 2006.

This Sunday is going to be big for me and the boys. Ian Rotten is a guy who can help elevate all of our careers, and I truly hope that he sees something in us and is willing to give us a chance in IWA Mid-South. I guess time will tell!

An explanation of GamerGate for Non-Gamers

Someone asked me for this, and I realized that there’s no simple explanation in existence. So I’m going to write one.

#GamerGate refers to a twitter hashtag and the activities surrounding it. Here’s a brief, by-no-means-complete, summary.

Once Upon A Time, there was a dude. I’m not going to say the dude’s name because he’s been through enough crap. He got hurt by a girl and wrote a blog. Because this dude believes in “social justice”, he framed the blog in that terminology. His point: his social justice crusading ex-girlfriend was not what she appeared to be. He wanted to “warn” people about what she was really like.

Now, unfortunately one of the ex-girlfriend’s “crimes” was fairly rampant promiscuity. (Edit: the actual issue was cheating, but it got conflated with promiscuity by many.  Thanks Reddit!)  This is where the whole thing gets exceedingly tricky. Promiscuity is like a flame that attracts a lot of moths. It’s generally considered a greater social crime when women do it than when men do it. So the thing blew up. If it had just been a personal thing, it would have, most believe, died out quickly.

But this ex-girlfriend was an independent game developer who had made a game about depression that many people thought wasn’t very good. (Personally I liked it as a web-based interactive quiz.)  The belief was that the subject matter and the developer’s personal biography got the game more praise than the game itself. Furthermore, one of the guys this ex-girlfriend allegedly cheated with was a video games reporter who had written about her.

Everyone involved got harassed and trolled.  Badly.

Some other journalists, some male, some female, wrote some things about the harassment. It turned out that some of these people were personally friendly with the ex-girlfriend and this was not disclosed. Sometimes the non-disclosure was the author’s fault. Sometimes it was the publisher that determined that the association was too minor to be relevant.

Then feminist game critic Anita Sarkeesian got harassed. Again. This was the catalyst for the thing that really made the powder keg blow: a bunch of articles on August 28th, 2014 rallied against the harassment of two women in video games in a short span of time. The headlines involved rhetoric that it was “A bad time to be a gamer”, and “gamers are over”, and focused on the stereotype of gamers being fat, white, misogynist neckbeards.  These articles came to be known as the “gamers are dead” articles.

Unfortunately, a lot of gamers are fat white dudes, and many do have neckbeards. So they got upset that this description was equated with misogyny. Others who identified as gamers but were not male, white or overweight objected to the generalization. A conspiracy theory also sprung up that the sheer number of the articles was too large to be coincidence. There must, many reasoned, be some form of collusion. A raging debate about ethics in games journalists began.

Have you ever seen nerds get angry on the internet? It’s not pretty. But again, this in and of itself would have died down quickly.

What really got people incensed was the sudden mass censorship of any discussion of what had become known as GamerGate on “Wild West of the Internet” sites like Reddit and 4chan. Reddit is infamous for destroying people in AMAs, but suddenly certain people were off limits. And 4chan’s reputation was undeniable, but suddenly the owner, Christopher moot Poole, proclaimed that 4chan had always been against harassment and kicked out GamerGate.  It’s okay to think that’s a crock of crap, because it is.

So a group of trolls angry at Reddit and a group of trolls angry at 4chan flooded the internet with nowhere to go, so they beat up random people because they were angry. They ended up taking out anonymous twitter accounts and opening up an /gg/ board on another anon service called Infinite chan or 8chan.  8chan is a free-for-all, and is, on the whole, GamerGate agnostic.  It’s just the motel people are crashing at while they get back on their feet.

Meanwhile, Something Awful, Poole’s alma mater before he was kicked out, saw an opportunity to ragingly troll the competition. Something Awful has a level of patience and cunning that 4chan lacks, and epic lulz ensued. It’s hard to say when SA really got involved. Whether it was before or after the mass banning of people from Reddit and 4chan. What’s known is that someone on SA crowed about “goon started drama” reaching the front page of the New York Times. That New York Times story was on the harassment of women in gaming.

But while the trollling was raging, more organized things were happening. A group started organizing email campaigns to sponsors of the sites they felt had wronged them with the “gamers are dead” articles. The biggest win for them was when Intel backed out of an ad campaign on the Gamasutra website.

The anti-Gamergate crowd then deluged Intel with a backlash response saying THEY would no longer buy their products.  It’s impossible to count all the backlashes at this point.  There have been far too many.

By this point, an undeniable culture war had formed between the left-wing gaming press and some right-wing tech press. Unfortunately, some, but not all, of these conservative pundits were dyed in the wool misogynists and/or anti-feminists. They attacked “feminists” who were “ruining video games”.

Too many GamerGaters turned a blind eye to this bad behaviour because they believed no one else was willing to help them. Unfortunately, these misogynists drove off most people willing to help, because misogyny was now synonymous with what most participants saw as a consumer revolt. The mass exodus of moderates due to harassment from both sides further polarized the debate. The legitimate concerns took a back seat to personality politics.

The left dismissed the GamerGate movement as a conservative hate group akin to ISIS, the KKK, and Ebola. Again, the smear that everyone involved in GamerGate is fat, white, heterosexual, and cisgendered rose up. This led to a new hashtag, #NotYourShield, which spotlighted the minorities and women involved in GamerGate.

The GamerGaters are not trained speakers, professional protestors, or especially efficient communicators. They made a lot of mistakes, said a lot of terrible things out of hurt, and did some thoroughly horrendous stuff.

People’s personal information got spread online, a process known as “doxxing”. The thing is that people’s info on all sides got released, making it impossible to know whether the culprits are pro-GamerGate, anti-GamerGate, or some third party trolls. One particularly abusive Anita Sarkeesian hater turned out to be a tabloid reporter from Brazil looking for a big bump of shameless self-promotion.

The GamerGaters tried to clean up their image by policing harassment and donating to various charities. This was dismissed as cynical “weaponized charity”. GamerGate paid dearly for its early mistakes, but by this point, some of the problematic personalities were so powerful that people were afraid to oppose them.

But mistakes were made on the game press side as well. Instead of encouraging dialogue, many video game sites dismissed the complaints. Some even openly mocked them on twitter. A few sites did review and revise their ethics policies, and the Escapist reopened their forums so that people could discuss GamerGate in a place that wasn’t an anonymous troll site. Some game journalists responded by taking nasty, unprofessional swipes at the Escapist.

Other journalists behaved very badly in other ways, most notably Sam Biddle from the Gawker-owned family of websites. Biddle went on a multi-tweet tirade wherein he said “bring back bullying”, which horrified many but apparently amused his boss. The email campaign shifted its focus to Gawker, and was much more successful this time. Multiple sponsors expressed concern about condoning bullying. I understand five sponsors backed away from Gawker products, but I can’t confirm that.

There were also some cruel comments made on the anti-GamerGate side about people with autism and “disgusting aspies”. Aspie is a term for people with Aspergers Syndrome, now seen as high-functioning autistic spectrum disorder. (Edit: this comment is apparently now attributed to a troll using a fake account.  Thanks Reddit!)

People on the anti-GamerGate side have had to flee their homes. Anita Sarkeesian cancelled a university speaking appearance because of a threat, then blamed GamerGate. As of now, there’s no proof someone from GamerGate made that threat.

When the shooting in Ottawa happened, trolls photoshopped fake tweets from Sun News Network and The Globe and Mail saying that the shooter was wearing a soiled GamerGate T-shirt.

GamerGate supporters have been mailed syringes, knives, and been told to kill themselves. There have been calls on the anti-GamerGate side to try to get GamerGaters in trouble with the law.

In short, there’s a lot of anger here and very few heroes.

So, here are the issues as they stand right now (as I understand them. Others have different opinions. Don’t freak out if you disagree.)

-Ethics in Game Journalism.

Yes. Many Ggers do care about this. There is concern that the games press is more concerned with maintaining good relationships with the publishers than being consumer advocates. There is concern that the press is also too friendly with each other, and some major services are conspiring to blackball journalists that attempt to defy them. Gamers want to know who they can still trust to represent them.

- The Role of YouTubers

The popularity of Let’s Plays – Narrated game walkthroughs – has soared. There are some people getting pretty rich off playing games on YouTube. But it was revealed that some YouTubers sign contracts promising positive coverage in exchange for money. The question is, is this ethical?

- Methodology in Game Reviews

Gamers want to better understand what goes into the numbers assigned to games. They want to understand why there appear to be anomalies in scoring. Some also object to too much weight being given to social issues when reviewing games. Some would like to do away with numbered scores completely.

- The Politics of Indie Games

There seem to be a lot of horror stories of politics trumping product in independent game development. Is there already rot in indie gaming? Do organizations play favorites? Are some devs being unfairly ostracized because they’re not politically correct?

- Harassment

The specific focus is on harassment of women on the internet or in video game culture, but there’s also a greater issue of harassment of anyone. Should men be expected to shrug off harassment just because they’re men? Men keep quiet about some horrible things that have happened to them.

Furthermore, everyone seems to agree harassment is wrong, so why are so many people doing it anyway? Harassment currently seems to be this thing that’s excused when your friends do it, and that needs to change.

- Inclusivity in Gaming

Just how much inclusion is reasonable? Do game opinion writers need to be more sensitive to the literal interpretations of people with Autisim? Do we need to be “nicer” to women in video games? Do minorities have a right to demand inclusion?

- Women in Gaming

I made this one separate because it’s such a hot button issue. We’re going to have to have a discussion, very very soon, about clear boundaries when dealing with women in video games, as well as a clear understanding of clear boundaries for professionals in video games. Some sexism does occur, but many others are just terrified of being accused of sexism. Does this cause them to avoid hiring women? We don’t know.

And we can’t have a double standard regarding gender about anything, especially since there’s a growing transgendered community in gaming that throws binary gender into the garbage can.

Of course, that’s not even touching the depiction of women in games themselves. And that’s a completely different quagmire. And it shouldn’t be. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about this stuff.

- Talking about Hard Things

I’ve heard over and over again that twitter isn’t the place to have civil discussions about things. However, a lot has been accomplished through tweets, though mostly through direct messages, not public comments. The focus currently seems to be on debate, and not on dialogue. Many people have asked the question “how does this end?” No one currently even has an exit strategy or reasonable victory conditions. I described GamerGate glibly to someone as “A bunch of outspoken assholes pissed off that gamers got pissed off and became outspoken assholes.” Of course, I was lumping myself in with those outspoken assholes, meaning those of us with the privilege of a platform to talk about gaming and be heard.

Dismissing GamerGate as a bunch of misogynist assholes doesn’t solve anything. I won’t deny that there are a few very well-placed pieces of human garbage that derailed things really badly for a while. People got attacked that didn’t deserve it. People got misjudged quite badly. But does that make them any worse than the so-called Social Justice Warriors that swore at me, tried to shame me, and called me a liar and a fake just because I’m willing to talk to people?

Is calling someone a misogynist neckbeard without proof better than calling someone a feminist shill? No, it’s not. There’s as many bad people on the anti-GamerGate side.

No one, NO ONE, deserves to be driven from their home. I will never condone harassment no matter who does it. But this trial in the press has gotten out of hand. For this thing to end, both sides need to start talking to people that they disagree with. Both sides need to combat their most absurd, radical fringes.

When I talk to people one-on-one from both sides, it’s amazing how similar the goals are: reduced harassment and a continued supply of quality, diverse games. The only thing that seems different is the casting of the “dream teams” that will make that happen. Seems to me that the solution is to create an All-Star Team of people who can talk civilly with each other and not resort to ad hominem attacks. Slim pickings on both sides, admittedly, but they’re there.

The solution that heals this riff in gaming is not going to come from outsiders like CNN or the New York Times. It’s going to come from us gamers. That’s why I’ve been talking. That’s why I’ve been eating shit, and that’s why I refuse to dismiss GamerGate as a hate mob. That’s why I refuse to dismiss SJWs as bullies with no souls.

I’m asking you all not to dismiss me. This outline has been the truth as I see it. Yes, it’s in conflict with the news narrative. Yes, it says both sides have been right and both sides have been wrong, and that will not go down well with some on those sides. But understanding and healing need to start. I’m tired of people getting hurt.