Inside Gaming’s Latest Revolt Against The Social Justice Left

Inside Gaming’s Latest Revolt Against The Social Justice Left

Just one day after the #VoxAdpocalypse, tech journal CNET used similar tactics to go after The Quartering’s advertisers in a shockingly pointed hit piece, and got many of them to drop.
Joel Kurtinitis
By

Jeremy Hambly has a foot in two worlds, and a YouTube channel for each. The bearded, bespectacled YouTuber has become popular for his pointed commentary on gaming and entertainment, published daily on his main channel, The Quartering.

He analyzes gaming news, delivers blistering critiques of game publishers and game journalists, and even dives into the occasional Hollywood drama. His content is edgy, sarcastic, informative, fun, and ferocious. He also maintains a second channel, called Midwestly, in which he analyzes a different kind of game: politics. The topics often aren’t as far apart as he—and many other gamers—would like.

To combat the blending of the worlds, Hambly launched Exclusively Games, a site dedicated to gaming and escapism, without the contrived social justice narratives and political nonsense he sees as having fractured the broader gaming world. He says the response so far has been incredible.

“With no industry to support, essentially nobody covering the project, we raised almost $150,000 and put together a site that is growing in traffic consistently every single week. We’re adding additional new features every single week, the forum’s growing every single week, the Discord’s growing every single week,” Hambly said of the new site.

One purpose of the new site is to present an alternative to agenda-driven journalism from mainstream game sites pushing a one-sided political narrative.

“I believe strongly we can drive more engagement and have more visitors than Kotaku, Polygon, and all these other sites combined, without ever touching a single bit of their audience. I think their audience is very narrow, and they’ve built it over ten years, you know, many years building these things with huge marketing budgets,” said Hambly. “I think the market for actual content like this is far more vast, and I think we’re proving it with YouTube. YouTube is dominated by a dude in front of a camera. My channel, The Quartering, consistently gets more views than some of the mainstream shows on CNN in a day.”

The numbers back it up. The Quartering boasts more than a half-million subscribers on YouTube, and strong support from legions of loyal gamers. But the success has come at a cost. Hambly’s channel is frequently targeted, both by non-gamer social justice warriors (SJWs), and by the game and tech journalists who carry their water.

And the hammer came down this week. Just one day after the #VoxAdpocalypse perpetrated by Vox journalist Carlos Maza, tech journal CNET used similar tactics to go after The Quartering’s advertisers in a shockingly pointed hit piece, and got many of them to drop. Predictably, the piece took time and space to finger-wag Hambly’s comments on forced diversity, SJWs, and feminism, in a stunning validation of what the content creator has been saying all along.

“I think a lot of the editorials that you read… they’ll call people toxic. And you can only call people toxic so long before they’re like, ‘No, wait a minute, I’m kind of tired of hearing this. I’m tired of being blamed, being used as a marketing tool,’” said Hambly. “It’s the whole reason the media still brings up Gamergate, five years after anyone has cared about it. It’s because they continually need a reason to dump on people, and I think people have had enough of that.”

Gamers Just Wanna Game

The CNET piece is a case study in bad journalism and classic projection that spends 3,000-plus words accusing gamers of the same things critics have thrown at them for years: ragebaiting users and mining hateclicks. But anyone who regularly watches the named content creators can easily identify a theme missing from their tech-and-game-journal counterparts: leave us the bleep alone.

The popularity of these YouTubers, which CNET and other popular publications attribute to “YouTube Radicalization” and general bigotry, has a much simpler explanation: with nearly all major game sites run, and often funded, by lockstep leftists in Silicon Valley, YouTube is the only place people can go for alternate perspectives.

That’s part of why Hambly started The Quartering in the first place: “I felt like there was a hole and an opportunity for more voices in the conversation that, at least in my opinion, more accurately represented the community,” he said. “There were so many voices that clearly, in my opinion, have ulterior motives; these are like the mainstream video game journalism outlets. And even among my fellow commentators, there are many of them that are bought and paid for.”

In another corner of the web, another YouTube powerhouse agrees. Kelly Van Achte, a.k.a. The Act Man, is a popular game reviewer and self-styled epic gamer who boasts nearly 600,000 subscribers and regularly reviews the good, the bad, and the ugly in mainstream games. While he wants to focus on gaming and reviews, he frequently finds himself dragged back into political debates by the social justice elements Hambly also decries.

In one video bluntly titled “Stop Politicizing Video Games,” The Act Man unloaded both barrels on game developers and game journalists who seem more interested in politics than in producing and reporting on things gamers actually care about.

“There’s this growing concept that if you make a game based around war or any part of politics in the past, present, or future, there’s this growing expectation that you have to make a statement with this game. As in, the developers have to put their beliefs and agendas in the game and talk about them,” a frustrated Vanact said. “It’s just kind of this growing social justice agenda that’s really sinking its claws into everything… Gaming has become so big, so popular, such a big industry, that these parasites just want to latch onto it and create issues where none exist because they have nothing better to do with their lives.”

He has also been targeted by the outrage mob, and observes that the cost of insufficient fealty to social justice orthodoxy is often exclusion: “There’s this dynamic within game developers and the way they look at content creators, even people like me: you either stay out of it completely, or you take their side…because if not, well you might not get invited to events because you don’t think the same way that they do politically.”

‘Hijacked by People Who Just Want to Complain’

Game enthusiasts like Hambly and Vanact aren’t looking for people to conform to their political views, they just want people to stop injecting partisan politics and cultural preachiness into one of the last, crumbling refuges from an increasingly polarized society. Vanact sums ups his frustration with the death of escapism this way:

Video games for a long time have been a sort of haven for all sorts of people: social outcasts, people with disabilities, those who don’t have many friends. Video games are a way for people of all walks of life to just come together and enjoy something and be able to play it, and discuss it, and just have fun and enjoy life. But in these last few years, the glory days of simpler times are starting to slip away, and what we’re starting to see is the politicization of video games… Meaning that when a new game comes out, there are people who will write articles, or complain, and say this game needs to make a point about racial issues in the world today, and then there’s people that just want to enjoy this product for what it is. It seems like the game industry, and a lot of people who work in it, and a lot of journalists, a lot of people who write about it, it’s being hijacked…It’s being hijacked by people who just want to complain, bicker, and moan, and want to be right about something.

Meanwhile, the push to politicize gaming continues on all fronts. While game journalists and developers continue to foist narratives from their platforms, some politicians have taken a more direct approach.

In January, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) made an appearance on a gaming livestream to discuss transgender issues, and mainstream tech and game journals gushed. Hambly compared the stunt to the popular “How do you do, fellow kids?” meme, and doesn’t think it will do much to sway the game community to her political brand.

“Above all it has to come from a place of sincerity. And the gaming community at large, the one I try to speak to, can smell a fake from a mile away. So while AOC got some positive pub from being on that stream, most people in the gaming community were making fun of her,” he said.

Still Waiting for Their Moment to Take the Stage

But at least the left is trying. The traditionally tech-challenged political right has yet to begin sowing in the highly libertarian soil of the game community. As early as 2012, Democratic candidates and causes were running ads on platforms like YouTube and XBOX Live. The outgunned Mitt Romney campaign was nowhere to be found.

But with the far-left declaring war on gamers, there’s an opening for the libertarian right to swell their ranks with the passionate, influential, and tech-savvy activists who make up the gaming resistance. Hambly sees opportunities to make gains with “new conservatives” by focusing on issues gamers care about: internet freedom, unfair lootboxing practices, and big tech censorship.

The longer these issues remain unaddressed, the more gamers will be pushed to temporarily shelve online escapism and engage in more direct political activism—a (tactical) nuclear option for which the left may not be prepared. With solid online infrastructure, broad influence, and fundraising experience under his belt, Hambly has seriously considered running for office, and joked that the only thing keeping him away is hesitance to part with his signature wild-man beard.

In a nation that elected a reality TV star president in 2016, it’s not a reach to suggest that today’s YouTube influencers could be the representatives and governors of tomorrow. But until that influence is translated, gamers will continue to flex their online muscle in this boss battle, defending escapism and working to ensure companies that peddle social justice narratives instead of real game content meet their expected end: Get woke, go broke.

Joel Kurtinitis is an opinion columnist for the Des Moines Register and host of the Constructive Interference Podcast. Joel and his family live in Des Moines, Iowa. Follow Joel on Facebook and Twitter.

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