Angry Virgin Nerds

Note on recent media coverage of the issues in gaming…

Blaming this on ‘male virgin nerds’ is not only discriminatory, but flat-out deadly. Most of the people we dealt with when this issue cropped up in publishing were adult men with lives, significant others, families, etc. The most public face of Gamer Gate is Adam Baldwin, a successful actor and public figure in the extreme right-wing community. Both of the long-term harassers who personally stalked me were married, middle-aged, and extremely ‘normal’.

The stereotype of the angry male virgin takes focus away from the real problem:

This isn’t just men. It isn’t just virgins. It isn’t just nerds. It’s an endemic cultural problem that ranges from micro-producers in publishing and gaming to titans of corporate business and industry. It’s not a nerd problem, it’s a human problem.

Getting a date/partner/wife is not, despite cultural conditioning, your boss battle. Being in a relationship doesn’t automatically make you a good person, and being a virgin doesn’t mean that you’re a socially-wasted loser. But it’s spun that way, and perpetrates the image. Women get in relationships with bad people–and some women are the bad people, too.

Women aren’t the loot. We aren’t that thing you get when you level up. We’re not in some castle, we’re right in the trenches next to you, fighting the trolls and building the goddamned castle. Some of us are the trolls, the voices fighting to keep everything the way it is. We’re human, we’re imperfect, and we’re as weird and diverse and flawed as men.

We get spoiled, here in the creative fields, because everything’s a pressure-cooker. Because we all know each other, when there’s a rotten egg, it gets noticed a lot sooner. The pressure may take a while to build up, but when it does, it exposes everyone in the industry–as well as their ‘ripple-effect’ communities–to the problem.

This has its downsides. Everything looks like an apocalypse when it affects everyone you know. Long-time friendships, working relationships, and even romantic and family relationships can be destroyed.

On the upside, because it is such a pressure-cooker, we tend to have accelerated timelines. What might take years in the world at large can rise, mature, collapse, and evolve within weeks or months in a creative industry. Because we can see most or all of the effects, we’re able to create a more cohesive picture and work more effectively to mitigate damage and fallout.

But it’s still focused within the industry, with few ripples to the world at large. Again, the downside of that is that we can have some really progressive, awesome things happen without much notice from the world at large.

In a way, GamerGate may be the best possible thing to happen to the culture wars. It’s exposing the severity of the harassment that women face from colleagues, consumers, and media. It’s bringing out the fringes, and exposing their lunacy. And the women who are standing up to talk about it are taking their lives in their hands, but they’re also blazing a trail for other women.

Because this started in publishing, some years ago, and now it’s in gaming. If you look at some of the most vocal support for the game designers at the heart of the storm, it’s from SF authors and figures, because we’ve been there. We don’t have the ‘well, but’ issues, because we’ve lived out this timeline, and we know what will happen.

Once it’s done with gaming, it will move into the next industry, and SF and gaming will need to through their support behind those people. We’re the ground floor in a cultural evolution that isn’t just feminism–LGBTQ, POC, and progressive men are being targeted, too, and stepping up to help shape a better future.

It will ripple out from here, and the chances are that it will get a lot worse before it gets better.

But ascribing it to ‘angry male nerd virgins’ hamstrings that big-picture view. Look at the issues going on in Ferguson right now, or the women recently killed or assaulted for refusing men’s advances (both single women and the college group), the political movements to take away a woman’s most basic rights to health and safety, the rise of visible, nasty racism and prejudice across the country.

We’re making ground-breaking strides in human rights, and as we’ve seen in our microcosm of gaming and publishing, that’s bringing out the dinosaurs, dinosaurs with big, infected teeth and a lot of fear. There’s a mob mentality right now, a nebulous ‘us vs them’ that’s taking a lot of forms.

What’s going on in video games is template for what will likely happen on a world-wide scale in the next decade or so, and a trigger point for people rallying to fight hatred, fear, and bigotry.

But as long as it’s just ‘angry virgin nerds’, we’re still being sequestered in our little corner, and leaving everyone else able to stand back, gasping and pointing at the social amoebas squabbling over a girl in their corner.

Because that’s what the majority of the national reporting is coming down to: it’s the nerds. It’s the virgins. It’s the people who don’t have any social graces, who can be sort of forgotten because they’re just the weirdos who dress up on weekends or play hours of video games rather than being out partying on the weekends.

Nerd is the new chic. It’s also the new cultural catalyst for progressive social evolution.

But only if we stop blaming the issues on girl-problems.

(Seriously, I can’t believe I had to write that last sentence, because that’s SO WHAT THIS IS! “Oh, he can’t get a date, he’s a loser/he’s a loser, so he can’t get a date, but I’ve got a girlfriend/wife/whatever, so I’m not part of the problem’. DO BETTER, PEOPLE.)

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