Recently things have been quiet on the Mash Those Buttons front and I wanted to address that topic since I’ve been getting messages from friends and readers about it. A few things have happened over the past few months that have attributed to it. First off, Joel Couture went to go work for Indie Game Mag toward the end of July. Joel did an excellent job doing reviews and covering the indie beat for us, so losing him definitely had an impact on our content since it had just been Joel, Nick, and myself for quite some time now.
Second, I experienced a few instances of hardware failure throughout August that resulted in the loss of some major content. Podcasts, videos I was working on, and a few other things. Recently the only content we’ve really been pushing out has been WoW! Thoughts!, but those are once a week at most because Nick has a life, too. Besides all of that, though, the Gamersgate incident had a lot do with a decline in site activity, and it’s not something that I thought would affect MASH so much.
During Gamersgate I watched the games media turn on its fan base. I’m not talking about the people that wait for posts to show up in their Facebook or Twitter feed, but people who go to Joystiq, Kotaku, Polygon, and that like – scanning them daily and participating in the community. The games media was quick to stereotype all gamers by calling them misogynists and sexists, by saying they feel entitled and threatened by the growing number of women in gaming, and even by proclaiming the “gamer” dead. Here’s a quote from Leigh Alexander from her Gamasutra article “’Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience. ‘Gamers’ are over.”:
“’Games culture’ is a petri dish of people who know so little about how human social interaction and professional life works that they can concoct online ‘wars’ about social justice or ‘game journalism ethics,’ straight-faced, and cause genuine human consequences. Because of video games.”
Way to rope everyone together there. It’s not like gamers are a diverse array of people from different backgrounds, cultures, ages, and have different life experiences. Would she also say that all black people steal, that all white people are racist, or all Muslims are terrorists? Probably not, since besides being politically incorrect, those statements themselves are FALSE. Her words reflect the gamer stereotype that the vast majority of gamers have been fighting for decades at this point, and the one place that the gaming community doesn’t expect to be subjected to such stereotypes is on gaming websites that they visit.
The bigger problem was that it wasn’t just her. The games press turned on the same propaganda machine they used during the “gamer entitlement” siege of Mass Effect 3. They used the actions of the relative few to slander gamers as a whole, scolding gamers like adults scolding children. Over the past few years it feels like the games press takes every opportunity to criticize gamers, roping us all together like we share a hive mind, and uses the actions of a few to serve as justification to push social and political views — treating us like we are basement dwellers that have no social experience.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not a Gamersgate denier. There were definitely more than a few bad apples (sizable from a numbers perspective, but still relatively a minority) that harassed Quinn and Sarkeesien, making real life threats to both. That was very real and shouldn’t be swept under a rug. It’s an issue that should be addressed immediately, but the way it was addressed left gamers who did nothing wrong to defend themselves and their culture from the assault of the games press. Some say that if you did nothing wrong you should have nothing to defend, but if being a gamer is a part of your identity then you would be foolish to allow a negative stereotype about gamers to go unchecked. Try to do that in this instance, however, and you were labeled a misogynist by the games press.
The games press owed it to gamers to handle that situation properly, calling those who harassed and threatened exactly what they were: misogynistic and sexist. They shouldn’t have associated misogyny and sexism with the gamer existence as a whole. Are there misogynist gamers who are afraid that women will dilute and ruin their favorite past time? Absolutely. Just like there are gamers who are racist, homophobic, and bigoted . Gamers are a diverse lot, and whenever you deal in diversity you are guaranteed to run into negative, or even bad, people.
It’s true that you will run into some of the more negative aspects of gamer culture, and depending on what game you’re playing it may be more often than most. I’ve been playing games for almost 30 years at this point and I’ve run into a lot of racists, homophobes, and generally unpleasant people. But in all honesty the vast majority of people I deal with are just everyday normal people. Many people will use the anonymity of the internet to cast their hateful views at others, but most gamers are just people looking to have a good time playing their game, whether it be solo or with a party. It’s unfair to place the onus of the few on the many. The games media should have been responsible and made the clear distinction by not roping us all together. But why do that when they can make flashy, clickbait headlines by making it seem that gamers as a group are harassing women ?
So to come full circle, what does this have to do with the lack of content on MASH lately? Well, the entire situation has got me thinking. When we started MASH we wanted it to be different, but over the years we started to conform to the same standards and practices of other games media. I think it’s time to hit the reset button and get back to the core principles that MASH was built on. We wanted to be a site that represented gamers, that helped build communities and tools for gamers, that didn’t deal with the same bullshit seen on all the other games websites. It’s easy to say that before you actually start dealing in games media, but now that I’ve got close to 5 years under my belt I have a much better understanding of how we can accomplish our initial goals.
The transition won’t be quick, and I’m way more concerned with getting it right than getting it out. Hopefully everyone who has supported us in the past will continue to do so, and I think they will. Our focus has always been on what has been dubbed as “core gamers”, and now that focus is even more… focused. I’m looking forward to the future, and looking for this thing to start being fun again.