Gamers + Utah = Creepiness

A disturbing story:

Prominent feminist video game critic Anita Sarkeesian has officially canceled a speaking engagement at Utah State University after a threat was emailed to the school promising a mass shooting targeting her and anyone who attended the event.

The email said there would be “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if Sarkeesian’s speech was not canceled by the university, and goes on to detail exactly how the attack would be carried out.

“If you do not cancel her talk, a Montreal Massacre style attack will be carried out against the attendees, as well as students and staff at the nearby Women’s Center. I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs.”

Originally, despite the threat, Sarkeesian was still planning to go ahead with the speech, but after learning from campus law enforcement that Utah’s concealed carry laws meant it would be possible that guns would indeed be at the event, she changed her mind.

Utah is a weird place. And Utah’s universities are even weirder. We once had a job candidate from Utah who gave the most hilarious talk on Lorca anybody can even imagine. The whole point of the talk was to communicate to the audience that Lorca was gay (something that everybody knows and doesn’t find extremely fascinating as a topic of discussion) without actually saying it. 

And gaming, of course, is a pursuit for people with serious psychological impairments and trauma. So if you implement the formula “gamers + Utah”, something very scary will result. Sarkeesian is a very brave person.

23 thoughts on “Gamers + Utah = Creepiness

  1. The story is terrifying. What kind of disturbed person could write such an e-mail?

    On another note, why are you against gamin? I thought your husband was a gamer too. 🙂

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    1. No, I’m not in the least against it. Allow me to quote myself: “Contrary to popular wisdom, people who play video games are the opposite of immature. Video games are a powerful compensatory technique for people in stressful situations. Those who play video games engage in psychological hygiene that allows them to release their anxieties and frustrations onto a game instead of onto their family members.” https://clarissasblog.com/2011/11/30/husbands-and-video-games/

      It is crucial to see gaming for what it is: a compensatory strategy for psychological problems. My husband had a serious gaming addiction but, as a highly intelligent person, he was always aware that his gaming was a way for him to keep the misery that was eating him from the inside at bay. Then, he found a psychoanalyst and hasn’t done any gaming for 8 months. Feels no need for it either.

      Any addictive behavior is compensatory. Psychoanalysts sometimes refer to a cigarette, for instance, as “a kind tit.” They know that smoking is a way for their clients to work out oral traumas. Of course, the goal is to get to the point when the wound is healed and you don’t need to medicate it with smoking, drinking, gaming, overeating, etc. any longer.

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      1. My husband is an avid gamer, and hisses at me whenever I mention that perhaps it’s too much. He does his chores diligently but spends most of his free time online (he plays World of Warcraft). He plays probably 4-5 hours every day, at the expense of sleep.
        I honestly think it’s stupid and don’t understand the attraction, and I certainly don’t understand a grown man willingly depriving himself of sleep so much that he’s like a zombie at work, but whatever. I do agree that it is pure escapism.

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        1. “I honestly think it’s stupid and don’t understand the attraction, and I certainly don’t understand a grown man willingly depriving himself of sleep so much that he’s like a zombie at work”

          – That’s precisely the goal. Gamers deprive themselves of sleep on purpose because lack of sleep dulls sensations, especially those of anger or pain.

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      2. That sounds about right. I currently work the night shift as a warehouse guy who lifts things, and the only way I’ve been able to do it consistently is by numbing myself by only sleeping 3-5 hours a day. I do not necessarily game, but fill my time with other low-intensity activities, such as watching youtube videos, or, well, reading through a billion blog posts. 🙂

        I do get lots of sleep on weekends, and then I instead get restless thoughts and frustrations, and, in order, become very angry at my place in the world, feel contempt at myself for the anger, sorrow for the contemptible self, and then again the anger of the pitied. When I was with someone else, she’d essentially join in the cycle, lagging one step behind – I’d feel contempt for myself when she was angry, feel downright depressed when she showed contempt, and furious when she decided I was worth pity me.

        Also, plethora of accumulated minor bodily pains make themselves known all at once, which makes any kind of movement or exertion a pain – so again, you’re more likely to do things that don’t require moving.

        Basically, being dead to the world is a net gain.

        Now, even so, World of Warcraft is an odd game to use for these purposes at this point in time. It’s old and the creaks are showing, which means it’s no longer really all that useful at distracting your mind with a stream of colourful images. Since WoW is an online game, I’d wager that what’s happening instead is that all of his support network is there – the people who he has known for a long time and can talk, or even just bitch, about difficult matters without judgement. We’re using an online platform to communicate as we speak, so the part about having a support network be online instead of in the flesh is hopefully not that surprising. A game being a game also provides a kind of conversational smoothing – like having food at a party, seeing a movie with a date, or having a drink with your buddies. It’s not the point of the enterprise, but it helps.

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  2. Of course the freak that wrote the email should go to jail.

    Of course Sarkeesian should be allowed to spread her message to all who want it.

    On the other hand, I can’t imagine who would want it. I’ve yet to see a single original or interesting point in any of (not that many) videos of hers I’ve seen. I’ve yet to be remotely convinced there’s a problem in gaming that needs her solutions.

    I play a few free online games (mostly as mini-breaks from work) but I don’t think that makes me a ‘gamer’ (I hope not, I get bored with them pretty quickly).

    And to the extent that active gaming (as a lifestyle) is self-medication then of course they’re going to freak out at someone who wants to take their medicine away (or alter it so much it might stop working).

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    1. “And to the extent that active gaming (as a lifestyle) is self-medication then of course they’re going to freak out at someone who wants to take their medicine away (or alter it so much it might stop working).”

      – Of course. Gaming is an escape from the symbolic Mother. This is why gamers freak out so much when an authoritative woman tries to enter their world of escape. I haven’t seen Sarkeesian’s videos or read anything by her. I know all I need to know about gaming and am not expecting any fresh insights. But, as you say, people who threaten her should be prosecuted.

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    2. So the bastard who made the “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian” video game just wanted to “self-medicate” himself? Well, I think he should be medicated in a completely different way, perhaps in the mental ward tied to his bed.

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      1. I agree with you completely, aglaonika. This person isn’t managing his dysfunction successfully, and he needs to be isolated from society until such time when he becomes healthier.

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  3. The whole GamerGate movement is disgusting, and this woman has been threatened and harassed everywhere for years in the most horrible way, not just in Utah. I think by now she has just got used to it. The misogyny of these hyperprivileged GamerGate guys is shocking.

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    1. “The whole GamerGate movement is disgusting, and this woman has been threatened and harassed everywhere for years in the most horrible way, not just in Utah. I think by now she has just got used to it. The misogyny of these hyperprivileged GamerGate guys is shocking.”

      – Hear, hear!!! I agree completely.

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  4. One thing I’ve noticed in the gaming/tech community is there is a lot of resentment against outsiders, and by that I mean people who they think haven’t ‘earned’ street cred (presumably by not spending thousands of hours on games and gadgets). The community is very quick to size you up, and if there’s even a hint of you not knowing what you’re talking about, the backlash is brutal.

    One possible reason for this backlash is that being a nerd is now considered cool. Nerds rule the planet. They have all the best jobs, they make more money, almost ALL of pop culture (TV/Hollywood) is devoted to telling their stories, and so on. Yet, they’ve still not been able to get over the trauma of the 80s or 90s when the puny nerd got sand kicked in his face by the popular kids in school. Now the same popular/beautiful kids are flocking to *their* culture, claiming to be nerds, stealing their thunder. I’m not a gamer, but I’ve seen a couple of Sarkeesian’s videos. It’s embarrassing how superficial her analysis is (if you can call it that). Same old cliches about male privilege yada yada. But it’s a great industry now, going to colleges and doing these kind of talks.

    And the nerds can’t deal with it.

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    1. Mi favorite critique of Sarkeesian begins with some nice quotes from Jos Whedon about how important what she’s dong is ….. and then shows how Whedon’s work is full of exactly the same tropes that Sarkeesian criticizes.

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    2. When I first watched her videos I didn’t like them and thought to myself that maybe I should write a blog post critiquing her approach. Now whenever I see one of these “gamergate” people mention her I get a sudden urge to send her all of my money.

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  5. I don’t know almost anything about Anita Sarkeesian, I guess I’m from another generation. But this immediately made me think of Kathy Sierra. Here is a summary of the incident: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Kathy_Sierra_incident. And here is a recent article by herself that mentions it in more detail: http://www.wired.com/2014/10/trolls-will-always-win/. I used to read her blog, but then after the 2007 incident she virtually (and understandably*) disappeared from the web.

    * and when I say understandably I don’t really mean due to fear but due to disgust with the existence of such creepy human beings.

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  6. I guess it’s the university’s response that troubles me the most. Sadly, there will always be misogynist, potentially violent people existing at the fringes of our society. But institutions of higher education should be spaces that guarantee _non-violent_ exchanges of ideas. I am floored that Utah State didn’t declare this a “weapon-free” event. (Actually, I would argue that ALL university events should be weapon-free.)

    I am so disgusted and troubled that it’s gun ownership rights– not safety, civil discourse, freedom of speech– that are so sacrosanct in contemporary American society.

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  7. Ever driven through Utah?

    My advice: don’t.

    There are “flyover states”, and then there are Please Fly Faster Over Here states …

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      1. you people have such one sided minds… I don’t understand how you can think the way you do without hearing yourself first.

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        1. “you people have such one sided minds… I don’t understand how you can think the way you do without hearing yourself first.”

          – Yes, based on the quality of your writing I believe you when you say that you can’t understand.

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  8. It seems that this lecture should now be offered as a podcast, or maybe a youTube video so that anyone who wishes can see it and hear it safely at home.

    (I never expected to suggest this under any circumstances at all. Things change, I suppose.)

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