Gamers take themselves way too seriously

Matteo Paciotti/Flickr (CC-BY)

A SonicFox tweet has gamers up in arms. Again.

We regret to inform you that the gamers are at it again. Some are being homophobic, and they are being made fun of on Twitter with memes. That’s because gamers take themselves way too seriously—much to the internet’s delight.

It all started with Dominique “SonicFox” McLean, whose loud and proud identity as a queer Black furry angered quite a number of Twitter users after he was crowned best esports player at last year’s Game Awards. SonicFox is no stranger to firing back at his detractors, and he regularly uses his Twitter presence to dunk on conservatives and homophobes. But this time around, the only thing SonicFox did was tweet “I’m gay.”

YouTuber Pkrussl was upset by it and turned to Twitter on Jan. 12 with a two-minute video criticizing SonicFox for how he talks about his sexuality.

In the clip, Pkrussl browses through SonicFox’s Twitter account and lists over two dozen instances in which SonicFox says some variation of the phrase “I’m gay.” Afterward, Pkrussl, who is also gay and a furry, proceeds to complain that SonicFox’s out and proud behavior is “the reason why there’s still homophobia that exists, literally.”

“If you were just a normal freaking person and stopped talking about being gay all the time, and talked about normal things, you know, bring up your gayness when it’s meant to be brought up […] But if you just out of no where say ‘I’m gay!,’ ‘I’m gay!,” people are not going to like it because it’s annoying as hell,” Pkrussl said in his video.

In response, SonicFox fired back by quote tweeting Pkrussl’s rant and writing a two-word response: “im gay.” In light of the video, SonicFox’s fans made the hashtag #IMGAY, defending the esports star and criticizing Pkrussl’s bizarre hot take. The hashtag subsequently went viral Sunday and trended “worldwide.” according to esports consultant Rod “Slasher” Breslau.

When reached for comment by the Daily Dot, Pkrussl stressed that he did not expect his video to blow up. He still believes SonicFox behaves in an “immature” and “careless” manner that, he argues, is de facto associated with the gay and furry community.

“The point of the video was to show that gay is not a personality, it’s one part of a whole person, and continuously saying ‘im gay!’ is just gonna drive people away, just like when straight people make everything about their straightness,” Pkrussl told the Daily Dot over email. “The #IMGAY trend was pretty funny I’ll admit, but it just further proves that [his fans] missed the point entirely.”

When reached for comment, SonicFox said Pkrussl has repeatedly attacked him because it’s “free clout” and that Pkrussl “enjoys criticizing people.” More specifically, he believes the YouTuber “tends to read things out of context and criticize in bad faith.”

“I’ve determined that no matter what, people who are bigots/homophobic tend to not change their ways, so I move on without them,” SonicFox told the Daily Dot over email. “His claim that I am the cause of homophobia is [incredibly] laughable!”

As for gamers, SonicFox argues that there’s nothing inherently wrong with being a gamer, but rather that certain bad behavior is regularly enabled within the gaming community.

“I don’t think people identifying as gamers is to be like a criminal thing or anything,” SonicFox said. “You like video games a lot, so you’re a gamer! [It’s] just that there tends to be such a toxic behavior from how big people in the community say toxic things and people continue to support them. Hopefully what I do on my platform slowly changes that stigma. They attack me because they don’t like that I feel hahaha!”

https://twitter.com/Slasher/status/1084731703485177856

While Pkrussl mostly uses Twitter to “shitpost,” or post surreal and bizarre humor for the sake of itself, his rant against SonicFox seems to be fueling outrage from a notorious online group: “gamers.” Self-identified gamers have long criticized SonicFox for his out and proud identity, and backlash ramped up after his win at the Game Awards. Case in point, one Twitter user created a viral meme referencing Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, arguing that gamers can’t stop complaining about SonicFox’s queerness for weeks on end.

“Gamers,” the meme jokes, “this is the seventh week in a row you’ve said you don’t care about SonicFox’s sexuality.”

For the record, this isn’t the first joke about “gamers” to go viral on Twitter, and it probably won’t be the last either. There’s a lengthy history of memes, shitposts, and one-off tweets making fun of gamers. But in order to understand why gamers are the butt of the internet’s jokes, one must know why gamers are so defensive about their, err, “identity.”

And yes, that means we need to talk about Gamergate.

In late August 2014, a series of articles hit the gaming journalism world, arguing that the “gamer” identity is hostile and exclusionary toward women and other marginalized people in games. These articles, which were published one day after the hashtag “#Gamergate” was coined by actor Adam Baldwin, were responding to a two-week controversy surrounding game developer Zoë Quinn, allegations of cheating and emotional abuse by her ex-boyfriend Eron Gjoni, the gaming community’s response, and harassment that Quinn and other women in games suffered as a result.

The articles, which appeared everywhere from Kotaku to BuzzFeed, criticized the “gamer” identity and how the gaming community responded to Gjoni’s allegations. Leigh Alexander at Gamasutra, for instance, argued “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.”

In response, huge swaths of video game fans rallied against these posts and criticized them as if their very existence as gaming fans were under attack.

Some began identifying openly and proudly as gamers. Others feared their identity as gamers would be stamped out if gaming grew any more progressive and inclusive. Many (albeit, not all) of these gamers were white, cisgender, male, middle-class, and straight. They also took their identity very, very seriously, as if their ability to look at anime titties in 4K was the difference between life and death.

Over four years later after Gamergate’s inception, gamers continue to hold up their identity as if it was on the brink of extinction. VG247’s Deputy Editor Kirk McKeand shared one tweet in which a Gamergate supporter tweeted “gamers don’t die, we respawn.”

At times, pro-gamer rhetoric can become outright racist. Twitter user @tonyterwey defended YouTuber PewDiePie’s use of the N-word, arguing it’s merely a “gamer word” and thus its use in-game shouldn’t be considered offensive. (That Twitter user denies being a gamer, but defends the slur as “a word used in online gaming.”)

There’s even a word for people who don’t like gamers: an anti-gamer. World of Warcraft’s former team lead, Mark Kern, called Kotaku’s Jason Schreier an “anti-gamer reporter” while discussing (and ironically enough, praising) an article Schreier wrote on Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo franchise. Kern is a popular figure among Gamergate and is regularly posted to the Gamergate subreddit r/KotakuInAction.

Perhaps the best and most hilarious example of gamers taking themselves a little too seriously is an October 2016 post from redditor u/Ssilversmith on r/KotakuInAction. Scoring nearly 400 points and earning the user some Reddit gold, that comment calls so-called anti-gamers “just another boss fight.”

“They think calling us racist, mysoginistic [sic], rape apologists is going to change us? We’ve been called worse things by prepubescent 10 year olds with a shitty head set,” that user proudly proclaims. “They picked a fight against a group that’s already grown desensitized to their strategies and methods. […] The worst thing you did in all of this was to challange [sic] us.”

Then there’s the iconic phrase “gamers rise up,” often used to mock gamers’ intense belief that they are marginalized and oppressed by the outside world. Niche Gamer Editor-in-Chief Brandon Orselli used the term in a Sept. 5, 2018 piece, fittingly titled “‘Gamers Will Never Die, So Stop Trying to Demonize Us.” In that piece, Orselli quips “gamers rise up,” arguing the consumer “is the victim” of “outsiders scapegoating video games” and that they should only engage with “places worth your time and your views.”

While Orselli didn’t originally invent the phrase “gamers rise up,” and he has since removed it and argued it was merely “a joke,” Orselli’s post is just a reminder that there’s a blurry line between parody and reality for gamers. Merely criticizing the gamer identity will most likely land this reporter another r/KotakuInAction thread calling her a traitor to the gamer cause (for the record, she has appeared multiple times before on the subreddit, much to her amusement).

https://twitter.com/SpaceDoctorPhD/status/1084677588075905024

Twitter makes fun of gamers because they set themselves up for a punchline. They want to tout the same oppression that marginalized people face without actually experiencing housing discrimination, limited access to healthcare, police brutality, the cotton ceiling, a wage gap, sexual harassment, or virtually any other form of oppression levied against society’s most vulnerable peoples.

For as much as gamers complain about women in gaming or queer representation in esports, it’s gamers that can’t take a joke at their expense. And it’s pretty funny to watch them get upset when you inevitably point that out.

This story has been updated.

Ana Valens

Ana Valens

Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.