Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Get Out the Vote Twitch Stream Was a Watershed Moment for Inclusion in Gaming
As a lifelong gamer with leftist sympathies, I’ve always been uneasy about certain aspects of gaming culture. After years of spending time gaming in mostly white and mostly male spaces (Warhammer, Magic the Gathering, etc.), I’ve seen examples of the racism and misogyny many people attribute to “nerd” culture. These instances are usually no worse than the attitudes prevalent in broader society, but the traditional demographic at local game shops means that such perspectives can easily spread without allies willing to speak up. The gaming industry is currently undergoing a reckoning surrounding harassment in the workplace and the treatment of women, with all sectors of gaming affected including tabletop, streaming, and big game developers like Ubisoft. In Magic the Gathering, one of the more stereotypically male games, trans woman and winner of the Mythic Championship Autumn Burchett has been an outspoken voice for trans rights and against so-called Trans Exclusive Radical Feminists, or TERFs.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s successful Twitch stream on October 17th- in which she urged gamers to Get Out the Vote for the Biden-Harris campaign and played Among Us with Ilhan Omar and a selection of gaming luminaries- was a watershed moment in gaming culture. A subculture that was previously infamous for 2014’s #Gamergate, in which thousands of internet trolls launched death threats, rape threats, and doxxing against female game developers and journalists, extended a glowing reception to Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, the tribune of millennial and generation Z progressives. Two young female congresswomen of color felt secure to enter the gaming space on Twitch, opening themselves up to legions of would-be trolls, and defeated those trolls with a groundswell of positive energy from the gaming community. I doubt we would have seen that kind of reaction in 2014. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez exemplifies the kind of progressivism the #Gamergaters were trying to keep out of the gaming world.
As a feminist and an anti-racist, I am glad that it appears that for now, they have failed. The rise of a leftist and progressive online gaming culture has been one of the most significant developments in the gaming community in my lifetime. It is no longer considered the exclusive walled province of sexless young men, but has a new vitality coming from women, people of color, and allies who are committed to making gaming safe for everyone. In my view, this is a very good thing and reflects some of the best aspects of nerd culture. A culture that was created partially based on exclusion from mainstream spaces should be open and inclusive to eccentricity, difference, and diversity of all kinds. Replicating the exclusion and hierarchical structures of mainstream society will only lead to conformity and stagnation, and the joyful, positive spirit on display on AOC’s channel shows a better way forward for gaming. The gamergaters were right all along; the world of gaming is changing quickly, but we are better for it.