By now, if you haven't been living off-grid, you've heard of Gamergate. It's been mentioned in connection to recent school massacre email threat made to Utah State University, who were clear on that they "determined that there was no threat to students, staff or the speaker, so no alert was issued", prior to Anita Sarkeesian's scheduled lecture. Ms Sarkeesian decided to cancel anyway, and in the NYT profile on her she makes some points about Gun Control, since Utah is a concealed carry state. The NYT article also has no problems connecting the threats to #gamergate. Many other newsoutlets followed suit, similarly headline about the threats Brianna Wu recently received discuss the problem of "women in gaming" being threatened all the time. Meanwhile, three gamer-ladies who identify as pro-gamergate and neutral had a chat with Huffpost Live about what #gamergate is, and the tumblrfied gif-set with Jemma Morgan stating "the real issue is we have a terrible problem with nepotism and cronyism" is currently trending on Tumblr. Jemma also says "the word misogyny always comes up, why do you think it does?" Because it's an easy way of deflecting criticism, it's a “Trump Card” Argument, to stop all dialogue dead in its tracks. And this exactly why gaming minorities and ladies posted photos of themselves in #notyourshield. If you're interested in that see Tits or GTFO: An Editorial on #GamerGate and #NotYourShield (Googlecache) and KnowYourMeme's page. On the one hand you have publications stating that #gamergate is a hate group, other saying it's a consumer movement, and in the meantime we have Australian #gamergates "shitposting" (posting rubbish) all night long to keep certain peoples personal information from being top item on anonymous bulletin board, saving her from "being doxed". It seems doxing these days simply means posting someones address - already listed somewhere - to the wrong place, in which case Wikipedia has been doxing me for years. Now, everyone go hate on Jimmy Wales. Nononono, I'm kidding. It's a seriously disturbing scary feeling when people post your address in front of a lot of eyeballs, absolutely abusive and very effective in terrorizing victims. Speaking from experience. It should always be stopped.
Now, I already gave a quick rundown about the problem affecting us professionals in advertising in insulting consumers shrinks the market. Since then Intel pulled ads from Gamasutra and just today Gawker Media lost Mercedes as their advertiser. In a world where yellow journalism has respawned as clickbait journalism in an effort to draw the ad-dollar when our news outlets financial support relies on CPM, it seems we're now peddling outrage rather than a dedicated interested readership an advertiser would want to target. The discourse in 140 chars and microwave mentality only serves to amplify the ugly. Moral panic brings a lot of clicks. Won't somebody think of the (insert woman, child or minority here).
And suddenly, I'm having flashbacks to the 90s.
You see, when I was a teenager I didn't want to work in advertising at first. I had my heart set on becoming a comic book artist. I studied under Ken Landgraf at Parsons School of Art and Design and I have a degree in Illustration. I practiced inking, daydreaming of a steady job at DC or Marvel, while I was sending my own comics to adult comic publications and collecting rejection letters that helped me get better at my craft. I went to comic meetups, swapping photocopies of my work with other budding artists, and I was never the only young woman in the group. Not even once. One day I got the phonecall. Horst Schröder, the godfather of Swedish adult comic book scene and publisher of Epix and Pox wanted to publish my comic in Pox. It was the moment of my life where I thought I had a shot at a career in comics, and it was a Big Deal™ to me.
For a background of what happened to his publishing company you can google translate Sundblom's blog moralpanic the police and legal action - comics for adults are not welcome in Sweden. Be aware that the pictures in the blog have sexual content, and do not represent Epix and Pox publications multi-facetted output as a whole. A specific issue of Pox magazine (for adults!) was reported to the police by Bo Bertilsson, chairman of The People's Organisation against Pornography, a feminist organisation whose stated goal was to save children from sexual exploitation. This got a lot of attention in the press.
Comics by Gilbert Hernandez, Altan, Art Spiegelman, Rick Geary, Bill Griffith, Neil Gaiman and feminist underground comic queen Dori Seda were painted in the press as sexually deviant, morally abhorrent, misogynistic violence propaganda, which of course would only ruin our children. Comics were terrible for women too, and the industry itself was painted as awful since the small market of Sweden only had a handful of women working in the industry. This sounds familiar, doesn't it? So while the press rallied around the topic, because if it bleeds it leads in yellow journalism even back then, upstanding citizens including uniformed police officers took it upon themselves to go around shops and ask them to stop selling these comic books. An innocent man, also named Horst Schröder, lost clients to his riding school because people thought he was the bad pornography-peddling Epix-förlag owner. Konsum, the consumer cooperatives supermarket, were the first ones to remove the magazines from their stores which was announced in every newspaper. Please note that this was after Horst Schröder and Epix förlag was freed in court from all accusations made against the comics. The moral-panic machine didn't care, and nobody wanted to associate with the comics anymore.
I watched all of that in realtime, which was much slower then as it was not powered by twitter. I boycotted Konsum, I went to stores asking for the comic every day as a way to encourage them to stock it again but it was all too late. People didn't want to be associated with Epix&Pox anymore, comic book fans withdrew (all except the hardcore ones) and the market shrank. The last issue of Pox was printed in Hungary but never made it to market as the entire publication house collapsed under debt in 1993. My budding career as a comic book artist was stopped before it even began. Since I was still in college, I re-saddled and changed my aim so that I would now work in advertising instead of in the male-dominated awful world of comics where I previously felt so welcome. When the market vanished overnight, I couldn't join it. So I joined the sexist woman-hating industry known as advertising instead. You've heard of that, I'm sure.
Now, if you're sensing a pattern here, it's because there is one. By painting gaming and gamers, developers and fans as a large group of violent misogynistic creeps, you are shrinking the market, there's no doubt in my mind. And right at this very moment, there might be a young gamer-girl in College who is getting a phone call telling her that her internship won't happen because a dev is closing shop. By painting anything said about three women as threats and misogynistic violence and then attaching it to all gamers & the game-dev industry, the media may very well have poisoned the well for all other women.
The video game industry took in 25.1 billion in 2010 according to the ESA. That industry employs our help in the PR, advertising and marketing departments and spends top dollar for it, often buying award winning work like Halo3 and are known for being brave clients pushing the creative envelope, like Playstation. When formerly respected newspapers like the New York Times ask leading questions to the web at large like "Have You Experienced Sexism in the Gaming Industry?", you can see we have a problem. People who haven't, won't answer. People who did, will.... And on top of all of that thousands of random trolls might join in just because it's the shiniest toy right now.
Advertising is in symbiosis with both publications and clients. It's high time we step in, before the playground is ruined for all of us.
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