Okay, gonna be upfront about this, this is a ranting response article about as useful for society or worth your time as any other internet response, but hey, a bunch of inarticulate YouTubers still make a living off that crap, so obviously there’s a market there. Specifically, I’m responding to Sargon of Akkad’s “The Gauntlet is Down, MovieBob”
A few disclaimers. Firstly, I am, and have for a long time been, a big fan of MovieBob, aka Bob Chipman. Secondly, while I can’t recall anything about Sargon of Akkad prior to this, I’m sure I recognize the name, and based on a quick glance of his video library I’ve probably been pissed off at him before, not that any of that matters, as I’m not responding to him in general, but just the positions put forth in this particular video. And finally, yes, I’m totally doing this because it’s an easy way to get an article up, and if I didn’t do it here I’d be wasting my time bothering someone on Skype with it anyway. I’m not proud of any of it, but give me a break, I’ve got a busy week and gotta post something.
Here’s the format, I’m gonna post a direct quote from the video, along with a time stamp, and then respond to it. You want the original audio to confirm I’m not misleading anyone as to what Sargon’s position is at any point, click the long already provided in the first paragraph, and use the time stamps. Okay? Good. Let’s get this crap over with.
0:05-0:18: “Bob was a contributor to The Escapist for about six years, I think, until, mysteriously, he was let go, which, apparently, has nothing to do with any hashtag consumer revolts, but he won’t tell anyone why he was let go.”
First off, some basic factual stuff. Bob joined The Escapist on December 31, 2008 (Escapist>Profiles>MovieBob), and his earliest video there, at least that I could find, is a movie review of Up! from May 29th, 2009 (Escape to the Movies). His last work there was an article on the Amazing Spider-Man, posted February 13th, 2015. So, yeah, six years is about accurate.
As for the reason the Escapist let Bob go, here is an excerpt from a blog post Bob made on the issue, the day it happened, “And for those wondering: No, this has nothing to do with hashtags, “consumer revolts” or any other such nonsense – not that I expect that will keep the chattering class at bay in that regard, but facts are facts” (MovieBob’s blog).
Bob did make one other post, answering the most common questions on the subject, which can be found here. But really, his word here isn’t relevant, because as a freelancer contracted by The Escapist, and not an actual employee working inside, he doesn’t what kind of internal discussions were had here. Basically, he knows something all of us know as well, that traditional gaming sites like The Escapist have lost a lot of traffic with the rise of intendent content creators, largely on YouTube. Bob wasn’t the first person let go from these kinds of sites, and certainly wasn’t the last. In fact, while I’m not a big Escapist goer (Bob and Jim “fucking” Sterling “son” were two of the only three reasons I ever went there), looking at their weekly content schedule now looks a lot different from how I remember it. The only thing that hasn’t changed, as far as I can tell, is Yahtzee’s Zero Punctuation spot, and you’d have to be allergic to money to fire him.
And, of course, there’s the problem of the type of content Bob made. Not the substance, not his opinions, just the type. He did two weekly video series for The Escapist, Escape to the Movies, a movie review, and The Big Picture, a series dealing with current events and cultural history in cartoons, comics, movies, politics, and of course gaming. But that’s really not a whole lot have gaming content for a website primarily dedicated to gaming, and while this isn’t YouTube and I can’t just pull view numbers, I can’t imagine that was big money for The Escapist.
As for Bob not telling anyone why he was let go, I think it’s clear from his posts on the subject that he isn’t entirely sure why- like I said, he wasn’t actually an employee there, and wasn’t in the know about everything they did- but he probably believes it wasn’t for anything related to GamerGate or his personal opinions. Immediately post parting, Bob shows professional respect and gratitude towards The Escapist, which isn’t quite how most people would respond if they had any inclination that they were being fired for unpopular opinions.
So, yeah. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to take people at their word on this. Geez, we’re only eighteen seconds into this twenty-three minute video.
0:24-0:26 “…Bob has been reduced to his YouTube channel.”
Ehh, yes and no. In May of this year, three month after parting ways with The Escapist, Bob started producing content very similar to (I mean, totally original, and not at all meant to be continuation of) his Big Picture series on The Escapist, for Screw Attack. He also brought with it a new and cut down version of his Game OverThinker series from his own YouTube channel. He’s contracted by Screw Attack to make these, so it’s a pretty similar arrangement to what he had going on The Escapist, though it’s noteworthy that he’s doing a gaming related series for them, rather than movie reviews (sorta demonstrating my point from earlier). (Here’s one of his Screw Attack vids)
I won’t give Sargon much grief over this, because this started in May, and Sargon posted his video in April, but you should know that in this kinda business, you don’t just get fired and suddenly your career is over. People know who MovieBob is, a good number of them will watch his content, so someone was going to pick him up.
Sargon goes on to talk about The Adventures of the Game Overthink series, as it has been on Bob’s own channel, and he gives a pretty accurate description of it, so I’ll use his words. 1:30-1:40 “So, this series is a framing device, in which Bob plays every single character in a universe where morbid obesity is the norm. …he has chosen this as his framing device to make his commentary on the modern game industry,” Other than the jab at the man’s weight (which, face it, when we’re talking about gamers, isn’t really the best move) that’s a pretty fair description.
Alright, this is where the format gets complicated, as Sargon plays clips form the Game OverThinker, then reponds to them. I’m not going to include the quotes from Bob himself, that would get confusing to read, and this is already time consuming to write; instead, I’ll describe the topic he’s on, include the clip in the timestamps, and just quote Sargon’s response. Kay? Kay.
2:38-3:00 Bob talks about the initial spark that started the GameGate boom, [female game designer who I’m not going to name], and the post her boyfriend made when he found out she had been cheating on him with some game journalist(s?). Bob ties the outrage over this, to the blowback Anita Sarkesian has been getting. “No mention of the fact that she had been having an affair with [I’m not including anyone’s names in this] of Kotaku. A journalist who has covered her game, and is even mentioned in the credits.”
Look, I’m gonna try to skip over this part as much as possible, because no one needs GamerGate dug back up, and I’ve already stared in pervious posts that I’m not talking about that shit. But seriously, how is that still the explanation? This mess went on forever, and is still going on. And it’s really all because of one indie developer, and one game Journalist? Of course not, and we’ll get to other stuff it’s about, but why is this still something that’s supposed to matter?
Was there a pretty glaring ethical error? Yes. Was the response proportional? No. What makes up the difference? Well, a lot of things, and the crowd of gamers who were already angry at feminism in gaming is one potential cause for that. Note, I didn’t say they were anti-feminist, or that sexism was the sole issue at play, or that everyone involved with this clusterfuck was in it for that reason. But to say that there wasn’t some element of that, or that every single ounce of backlash was from pure-hearted idealists who just thought gaming journalism should or could have immaculate standards, is bullshit. It’s not that case that gaming, unlike everything else, manages to repel any sexists from its membership.
3:30-3:35 “No mention of the factual, documented collusion between the big video game websites?”
Source please. And I’m not just saying that to be an asshole. I didn’t follow this stuff much at the beginning, and I only looked into it after the fact because, as a gamer, it’s important for me to understand what’s going on. But I never found anything like this, and while Sargon does list a ton of sources in his description… well, there’s a reason were have APA and MLA formats for this stuff.
I can’t figure out which, if any, of these links is supposed to lead to this documented collusion, and I’m not clicking on every single one to find out. This is academically pathetic. I’m not asking for a rigorously crafted bibliography here; I mean, look at what I’ve been doing, just throwing links up when I use them. But you’ve got to organize these is such a way that a person can actually find the source to back the claim they’re looking for.
3:20-3:48 Bob says that the Gamers are Dead conspiracy theory (that is, the conspiracy theory that game journalists are colluding against gamers, was pushed and propagated by right-wing hacks. “… to dismiss that as a ‘conspiracy theory’, and then present your own crazy conspiracy theory about evil, right-wing people…”
A conspiracy is, by definition, an organized effort or secret plan of two or more people to some end. So a conspiracy theory is the belief that such a thing is occurring in some specific way or by some particular group (no citation on this, because I’m not using the old bullshit of just pulling a definition from the diction; that’s not where the meaning of words comes from). So, Bob’s use of the term here is correct, and Sargon’s is wrong.
Bob is saying that there is a conspiracy theory that games journalists and websites collude, which Sargon has pretty much demonstrated exists, and he’s a believer of it. Now, not all conspiracy theories are Truthers or Birthers; sometimes conspiracies do really exist, and theories are justified; I’m just explaining the term.
What Sargon accuses of being a conspiracy theory, is Bob’s point that right-wing hacks helped push the Gamers are Dead conspiracy theory, in order to attack feminism, and try to make a name for themselves in gaming journalism while knocking out those already there. But there’s no conspiracy in this theory here, because Bob never suggests they were colluding. He’s saying a bunch of in depended right-wingers did this shit, independently. Which pretty much describes Sargon’s videos on the topic. He’s attacking feminists, has made something of a name for himself among some gamers, and he’s doing it entirely independently. It just so happens that a bunch of other people are doing pretty much the same thing.
And please note, I’m not suggesting any motive here, particularly not any malicious one. I think Sargon earnestly believes what he’s saying, and isn’t just disingenuously presenting a position because he sees some gain in doing so. He’s basically doing what I’m doing; replying to someone he disagrees with, using his genuine beliefs, and yeah, probably thinking he can get a post out of it and generate some traffic. Nothing malicious about that, hell, that’s free speech at it’s best.
Also, I’m not entirely sure I agree with Bob’s use of the term “right-wing” here, but I’m not sure exactly what he means by it either, so I don’t really know. In my experience, this hasn’t really been a right versus left thing, at least not in the normal political spectrum. I’m left-wing, I’ve pretty much always been left-wing, and I used to be very much an anti-feminist.
4:00-4:19 Bob says, sarcastically, that the articles from these “right-wing” hacks has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton’s running for president. “Bob, are you suggesting that people are anti-feminist because they’re worried about Hillary Clinton becoming president…”
No, he’s suggesting that part of the motivation behind the articles from people who are already anti-feminist is to catch the attention of people who already have slight leanings that way, and convince them that anti-feminism is the position that they should take, because the people writing these articles don’t like Clinton. It’s not really an unreasonable claim, considering that’s pretty much what all journalism is these days. Fox news exists mostly to convince people to vote republican. The Daily Show exists largely to convince people to vote centre-left. These articles, at least some of them, are written partially to convince people to vote not-Clinton. Even if that’s an unconscious motive, I don’t doubt it.
And just to be clear, I’m not a fan of Hillary. While she is too far right for me, ultimately, looking at policy, there are republicans who I would pick over her, so it’s not just a right-wing left-wing thing.
And, oh thank Christ, we are done with the GamerGate stuff.
4:40-5:50 Okay, next up we start with a clip of Bob actually criticizing modern feminism, from about 6 years ago. His criticism is largely grounded in the idea that any highly aggressive behaviour, even when justified at the time for some cause (in this case, women’s suffrage), tends to go wrong once the initial goal is met, but people are still aggressive over the issue but have no organized focus or goal. This leads to, well, people like Sarkesian who use the same righteous drive of the suffragettes to complain about things like female presentation in videogames.
Sargon seems to think Bob has moved away from this view, but I’m not so sure that’s actually the case.
Bob obviously still believes in this general philosophy. In the final episode of the Game OverThinker (prior to moving to Screw Attack, also this episode) he talks about pretty much the exact same problem happening in gaming. Gamers got into a justified fighting mindset back when there was a real threat of government censorship over games, and now they keep fighting things that aren’t real threats.
This amounts to pretty even-handedness. Bob thinks gamers and feminists are essentially guilty of the same thing, only they happened to choose each other as targets (well, feminists shot first, I’ll wholly concede that). Does this also mean he thinks both sides are wholly wrong or unjustified? No. Just that they are both disproportionately aggressive and angry, relative to how big a deal any of this really is. And if you’re concerned that I’m suddenly jumping into assumptions about his motive and mindset now, just realize that “he”, in some ways, has essentially become a proxy for “me”, but I honestly don’t think he and I differ much on a lot of this stuff.
Now, the perception that he has significantly changed his opinion, or is on the “feminist side” must come from somewhere. I expect that in that video six years ago, he wasn’t saying he wholly disagrees with the position that chicks don’t get the best representation in games, just that it’s not a big deal, and it’s overblown. In terms of his position changing, based on a lot of stuff in the past two years or so I’d guess he thinks it’s a slightly bigger deal and he understands why some women might be uncomfortable with it, but is still far from the Social Justice Warrior (and fuck anybody who uses that term un-ironically) that some people think he is.
No, the real source of this perception of Bob as a pro-feminist or feminist (slight difference), is probably his defending of Anita Sarkesian, even though he’s started multiple times that he doesn’t necessarily agree with her. From my own stance, I can say I greatly disagree with Sarkesian; yes, she’s misleading, prays on non-gamers’ ignorance about games, and has lied (not gonna criticize her video format though, which most people call too dull and academic; I honestly have no problem sitting through every one, and her ones covering Beyond Good and Evil and Sword and Sorcery were genuinely good gaming pieces, and I recommend watching them if you want to not hate her for a bit).
That said, the amount of outrage around her, that shit goes too far. And no, you can’t chastise someone for feeling threatened when threats are thrown at them, even if it is on the internet. Especially not in America, where you never know who’s serious, and who has a fucking gun.
But this isn’t about Anita, this is about Bob’s defending her, and ultimately about this picture.
That’s right from Sargon’s vid, and I think its presence here pretty much sums up the confusion that MovieBob is an SJW. Because he’s able to properly socialize with people, even people he disagrees with, and smile for a damn picture. What would you prefer he do when the camera comes out? Flip her off? Maybe give her a nice punch to the face? No, adults can disagree vehemently, but still get along. Hell, it’s not uncommon for children to do that.
6:16-621 “I think that back in the day, Bob was actually pandering to his gamer audience.”
Yeah, back when hardly anyone was watching he needed to pander, but now that he’s big on the internet and every move he makes is scrutinized he can finally be himself. No, and fuck you for saying this. If you’re going to say someone is not expressing their genuine opinion, you need evidence. Otherwise, you’re just making up a position for them, and that’s setting up a straw man fallacy. And the Game Overthinker has been known to kill strawmen… and then get hunted down by their ninja sons with the powers of ice and fire… I miss those narrative elements.
6:30-7-51 Bob outlines the complaint of feminists about the Damsel in Distress trope, says it’s largely bullshit because there are tons of badass female characters in games, but points at the Mario, who is still the icon of gaming in the eyes of most people, and is a cornerstone of gaming from which so much evolved, is one of the games series that falls into this, a lot. Even still does mostly, though in the latest instalment Peach was placed among the protagonists, which seems like Nintendo actually listening to people, until you realize that the point is still to save essentially damsels in distress. Seriously Nintendo? Do you just have some kind of principled stance that there must always be female characters that need saving? Take a page from Freddie Fish and just make it kelp of something; no one really cares.
Anyway, back on track, he says that, while he does disagree with the feminist position here, he thinks it must be admitted that it has a leg to stand on, a weak leg… like, Krew from the Jak games.
“As you can see, the seed of Bob’s betrayal of gamers was sewn long before Anita Sarkesian turned up…”
Okay, THAT isn’t going to go unchallenged. While I’m as big a fan of dramatic flair as anyone, the way that was just presented would sound like a satire of criticism of Bob, had I not been watching the rest of this video. A “betrayal of gamers”? I’m a gamer. I don’t feel betrayed. You disagree with Bob, I get that. But how has Bob actually “betrayed” gamers? By thinking that some of them are wrong on an issue? So, what, do you think everyone who thinks the official Zelda timeline is bullshit “betrays” the Zelda franchise? I’m sorry I’m worked up here, but this is hard to deal with, because it means you’re not engaging in this as an adult. You says disagreement is “betrayal”. Meanwhile Bob, who does disagree with Anita, recognizes that her views are held genuinely, and can actually have a conversation with her about them.
Tell me, what harm has Bob’s “betrayal” brought upon gaming? He hasn’t endorsed censorship (and for the record, neither has Anita), he has just expressed his own opinion. If you think his opinion is wrong, that’s fine. If you think it’s wrong of him to express that opinion (ie, calling it a “betrayal”), that shit borders on censorship, and it’s definitely against free speech, and it ain’t gonna go without a heap of criticism. Not in my neck of the woods.
7:50-8:05 “As for the argument, ‘do video games sexualize women?’ Some do. What’s your point? Oh, feminists don’t like it? And that appears to be the full extent of the entire argument.”
No it isn’t. There is a vast amount of feminist literature and theory, much of it written by actual, well-read philosophers. It’s not like none of them actually delved deeper into this. There are many theories of why sexualisation is wrong, dealing with cultural perception, historical context, and the nature of sexuality on the whole. While I generally don’t lend these much credence, and am generally pretty natural on this who thing- I don’t mind sexualisation of women in games unless it takes away from the experience or is disingenuously defended (Kojima), but I always wouldn’t care if design philosophies changes and it just want’s a common thing anymore- I do find it intellectually reproachful for someone to claim, “that appears to be the full extent of the argument” when there is thousands of pages of material heavily expanding on the argument. Understand what you’re arguing against before you argue against it, or else your position deserves no respect. Read and book. Inform yourself. Don’t strawman.
8:05-9:10 “…but return to Bob’s opinion of gamers. Is Bob a gamer?” “Well, he used to be a gamer. Then GamerGate happened…” “Okay, so Bob’s having a crisis of identity because ‘someone’ is making it about something other than the games.”
Okay, there is actually a lot that could be unpacked with the whole meaning of “gamer” and identity ethics, and all that stuff. This ain’t the place for that one, at least not t’day it ain’t, but suffice to say that if anyone suggests a simple or shallow answer to any of that, they’re a simple and shallow person, and you can safely dismiss that whole thing. Yes, throughout the GamerGate thing Bob did talk about this in his videos, and he questioned whether he’s a gamer anymore or what that means, and ultimately he came to decide that this who existential mess for him, and others who really don’t like any of what’s going on, began when it stopped being about the games (I swear he said those exact words in one video, but I can’t seem to find it).
And so the idea that ‘someone’ is making it about something other than the games isn’t too far from the same thing. And yes, I’ve already agree, feminists started it, by making it about social justice. But you know, that much, Anita making her like biannual video, I could handle. Sargon making his responses, I can also handle. Whatever the fuck we have going on here, no, I can’t handle. I’d say I’m done, but we’ve still got over twelve minutes of this stuff. But if being a “gamer” means I’m supposed to care about this stuff, or worse, means I’m supposed to take a particular side that I don’t even agree with, fine then. Me with my shelves full of games, game consoles from four different major companies in the industry, spanning back two decades, several portable systems, Wii U gamepad sitting next to me because I’ve been playing Golden Sun in my off time, gaming PC I’m writing this on; I guess I’m not a gamer. I guess I’m also not an Otaku because I don’t have an opinion on RWBY, huh?
Okay, this has gotten a little mean spirited, which was never the intention, but to be fair I’m having trouble knowing exactly what I’m responding to at this point; that is, Sargon’s position isn’t very clear. And at this point we really have covered everything there is to cover, even if the video’s not done, and we’re really not moving any further away from GamerGate, which makes me cringe every time I type it.
There are a few more individual lines I would respond to, but nothing that would really contribute any further. Besides, I got my article out of this, so I don’t care anymore XD
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m go some Djinn to track down.