Friday, October 03, 2014

Intel Pulling Ad From Gamasutra - Result of #GamerGate

I’ve been sitting on this news for a few days because I don’t know how exactly to respond to it: Intel pulled a current ad campaign from gaming website Gamasutra on Wednesday because the company was flooded with e-mails with threats of boycott. That had to have been a lot of messages over a 2 month period to create enough concern for Intel to remove the content. Intel is one of the largest chip developers in the world. A few hundred people threatening to not buy their products will not make a single dent in their profit margins. A few thousand, maybe .001%. A few hundred thousand? That would make me raise an eyebrow, but not necessarily remove an advertisement. And why, pray-tell were people boycotting? Well it has to do with an opinion piece written by Leigh Alexander published in August. It has nothing to do with the content of the ads, but the content of Alexander’s article. She criticized and examined the white-male gaming audience that dominates the community and why their lifestyle of internet memes and getting mad at everything is not culture – the concept of “gamers” is dead.

So the boycott is not about the content of the advertisement, but to push Intel to stop paying money to Gamasutra in response for Alexander’s article. No really. Apparently enough people were upset at her words that, instead of going through the gaming site, they went to the sponsors. It would be similar to a movie reviewer writing an opinion piece on why he hates Star Wars, and instead of readers actively engaging him or her in a constructive dialogue, they whine and complain to the newspaper’s biggest advertisers in hopes of shutting down the paper. Without money, the paper can’t run – it’s a similar premise with the website. 

Gamasutra is one of the few gaming websites out there with content for critical thinking and open discussion. It promotes and encourages people to use their brains and think about what they are playing. I mean this as more then solving puzzles in Resident Evil, but actively exploring the themes and context of the product to expand our understanding of the piece. Video games have a lot to show us beyond their cartridge walls.

I’m not entirely sure what the boycott is attempting to accomplish. Alexander is the Editor at Large for Gamasutra and I doubt she is going to step down from that position. She has no reason to. Her piece was properly labeled as an opinion. People are allowed to have them. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but last I checked we are in the United States of America…people are allowed to have their own thoughts and feelings just as you have the right to choose to not listen or read them.  

The difficulties in formulating a response to all of this is because I had hoped that society, businesses, and people were better than this. Letting a few speak for the majority never resolves conflict; it creates more. Intel is, in a way, saying that they don’t care what side of the debate they are on. Profits are the bottom line and if having an advertisement on a site will lose them potential dollars, they would rather remove themselves entirely and gain a few customer’s back.

I don’t believe that Intel received such an immense amount of feedback to warrant pulling the advertisement. For the number of people who support #GamerGate and want to stop progression with gaming, there are 1,000 others who want to see equality in gaming – not only in the games themselves but from the players as well. I admit that I’m half-assing that figure because I don’t know the numbers. People tend to focus on the negative posts before all others are included. I am speaking from personal experience at this point – when I read these types of articles regarding gaming “culture” and the spurn against women, most comments either support the writer or actively promote critical thinking and engage in a productive dialogue to verify or contradict the writer’s piece. While yes, there are comments such as “go back to the kitchen” they do not make up the majority. So I’m surprised to read that Intel was inundated with boycott protests. I’ve seen a lot in my time at GameStop. A lot. I read thousands of emails and listen to hundreds of phone calls daily. We ignored the protests and boycotts and you know what? The company is still in business. I don’t know what Intel was sent, but they have given a very clear message back: intimidation tactics clearly work. And they’re anti-feminism. That latter is probably not true, but by giving in to the few radicals, they are telling the overwhelming majority that their interest is to not support women or minorities.

Not to throw around the t-word that holds an error and ends with -ism, but this is how the ‘thing that ISIS does’ starts.

Intel…there’s nothing I can say to make you change your mind. You have made your decision and, obviously, you’re going to be getting a lot of flak in return. You caved in to a handful of people spamming your call queue and emails to get it to stop. In return, you have lost the respect of a lot of people who use your products.

I don’t know what’s going to happen from here. I doubt Alexander is going to be removed from Gamasutra. She’s an integral part of the community that wants to improve gaming, gamers, and how we view video games. No announcements or press releases have been made. I hope that Gamasutra does the right thing. Address it or not, I hope they continue to back their writers. The blow from Intel will hurt some of their ad dollars, but it shouldn’t stop them from producing the content we expect of them.

I wonder if a boycott of the boycott is possible? Maybe force Intel to turn it around again? Though that stems a whole flurry of legal issues and contracts to run through between Gamasutra and Intel.


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