Sometimes, I wonder if it’s possible to create a schmuckbait-to-thinkpiece conversion ratio. It plays to both sides of the cultural political debate: Just find one thing that triggers a person, and they write some longform piece that is all about “THIS IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH EVERYTHING.” Sometimes, they even throw in some intellectual criticism as though to settle the score in a smart way. It’s fun, fascinating, and you can probably make a drinking game or bingo or both about whatever cultural tragedy du jour is a meme. And really, that’s what memes that trigger emotions are: Schmuckbait. We’ll be getting to our colleague and latest victim to this in a moment.
Given that I’ve recently acquired a Nintendo DS and have been playing the Zelda games on there with some enthusiasm after having been consoleless since 2007, you might think I have some opinions on #GamerGate/#GameOverGate/Zoe Quinn. I actually don’t, really. Been too busy living off Twitter lately (though a rebirth is in order). But more importantly, I’ve come to understand that once you bring gamers into an argument, you might as well take your ball and go play elsewhere before they start calling you a faggot who likes to be fudgepacked by niggers in the ass (redundancy intentional) or a camwhore slut who deserves to be raped and murdered (and lord help you if you’re non-white or TG). Why? Simple:
A group gathering on the Internet + anonymity and/or lack of consequences = High chance someone’s going to act like a fuckwad.
We who have had enough experience in the gaming business refer to this as the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, or the GIFT. Supposedly devised either by Jerry Holkins or Mike Krahuliak (I think the former, since the latter just seems to have intellectual Tourette’s), it explains why most Internet discourse ends up turning into a shitstorm, more than anything else. Gamers just happen to be specialists at this because, well, hormones + competitiveness + overstimulation = mental vomit. While this matter has long been limited to the forums and other dank locations of the Internet, Twitter and Tumblr and other social outlets have caused the GIFT to be amplified by 1800 decibels. It’s enough to punch out a black hole the size of the Solar System. Why? Our inane propensity to share things as though they were shiny. Even if it’s our own dick pix.
Thus, we have the rise of schmuckbait memes, and the expansion of intellectual bankruptcy. Rather than thinking deep on a comprehensive scale on matters of actual relevance, or even trying to explain things with little meaning, there is this underlying tendency in the political spectrum to react aggressively to every twig that gets stepped on in the woods. Again, no political faction is immune to this. Nobody with individualistic tendencies is immune. Why else would Social Justice Warriors or the neoreactionaries exist? Our Robert Mariani has proven to be an exemplar on this as well.
It’s interesting that of all the times that people talk about the lack of ethics in gaming journalism, the thing that gets a rise out of Mr. Mariani and others is…this. Has there been serious ethics problems in gaming journalism? Here’s a better question: When hasn’t there been? Think about it: You have games that break very easily getting ridiculously high scores. You have close-to-slave labor practices that get swept under the rug and even made fun of after the first outbreak. You have implicit and explicit payola going on between media publications and game publishers that would make the music industry envious. The list, it goes on like a broken TAS of own goals. And forget criticism, since that has always been a joke: I always feel like I’m reading a bleachy Consumer Reports review more than I’m reading Ebert or Christgau.
So what drew our intrepid writer to the mix? Was it really about ethics? Or was it that this whole story was perfect schmuckbait to him? We got a feminist (first trigger) here who is being victimized, deserved or not irrelevant. We got a very complicated backstory where blame could theoretically be thrown everywhere and anywhere (second trigger). We have two equally large forces of self-entitled fuckwads fighting each other over who was right (amplificiation), who was the victim and who was being irresponsible. Then there’s the added bonus that said feminist is earning money off the project that caused the controversy in the first place (third trigger). The amount of trigger warnings that you could place on this for a sensitive political type, social radical or social conservative, would cover the telephone pole next to the punk venue. The GIFT is powerful, for it twists everything into something it isn’t. Thus, a list of B-writers (one of whom backed the intellectual Tourette’s guy as his boss a couple years back when he ran his mouth yet again) who happen to know how to social network in a private setting suddenly becomes an Elitist Conspiracy™ in Gaming Journalism.
Of course, that’s just small fry in the grand scheme of things. Many more have come since then. What makes schmuckbait so potent is that it’s manipulative. It manipulates you, it manipulates some other dork, and it intentionally draws in people that have nothing to do with it because it triggers. We so easily forget that words are dust, photons projecting outward or chemicals hardened on tree fiber. Instead, with the loss of tone and the distortion of context most importantly, we take everything at a sort of internalized face value. We have a hard time questioning the legitimacy of a statement or the reality behind it, because we know it to be true. The chemicals in our head had made it so.
So every hoax, every dox and complaint goes wide, and someone always take the bait and presses share, firing off invective in the process. And, seeing how this is the Internet, there’s no containment. It becomes marketing. There’s a reason marketing departments survive corporate purges.
Of course, you’ve eventually forget #GamerGate now, much like you’ve forgotten about the Fappening or that dude from Nevada who got bitchy because he’s still a cattle rancher with a bunch of guns. You’ll likely forget the decapitations that started a war. You’ll forget about Ebola too, until it breaks out the next time. That’s what marketing does. Eventually, everything becomes a blur. It’s more convenient that way, liberty and/or justice be damned.
But then, this was a thinkpiece, wasn’t it?