State of the ‘Corn: My 2014 in Review

A drawing of me by the wonderful AppleCiderMage of the Justice Points podcast (where I appeared this year for a chat). The background of my hometown was added by one of my partners, Rachel.

For regular readers of this blog it has doubtlessly not escaped your notice that I’ve been a rather infrequent presence here this past year. Much of my writing lives elsewhere these days; I’ve been a frequent contributor to RH Reality Check, I have a regular column at Feministing, and I have contributed features to Bitch Magazine. 2014 has been one hell of year and, especially in light of the hells and furies wrought by its final quarter, it’s quite fashionable now to, Festivus-style, air one’s grievances in any attempt to look back on the year.

Having stood in the midst of GamerGate I certainly have plenty of cause to want to turn the book on this year and be done with it. But the year does not belong to them, and if I were to look back on 2014 I would say that on the whole, what will endure for me is the fact that this year has been tremendously good for my growth as a writer and scholar, and that it was the first year that I have truly been able to live the professional life I want to.

While it is popular these days to, for one reason or another, lament the state of the video gaming world, I remain very optimistic. Although a number of challenges remain, the recent backlash has a lot more to do with the fact that the changes made in the world of gaming are here to stay, as are the people who are the faces of that change.

The wider world of politics is something I’m a good deal more concerned about for reasons that should be obvious to anyone following the news. I’ve written extensively this year about different manifestations of racism and police brutality.

Without further ado, however, here are some of my favourite pieces of my own writing from this past year:


Perhaps the most cited piece of writing I’ve done this year about games has been “We Will Force Gaming to be Free,” a lengthy and unexpectedly popular essay I wrote for First Person Scholar about how GamerGate quickly came to resemble classic examples of out-of-control revolutionary movements and had fully given itself to violent, “ends justify the means” thinking.

I’ve written a lot for Bitch Magazine this year, but the most fun I had writing for them was this feature on erotic roleplaying subcultures in the world of gaming, both video and pen-and-paper. The artwork they commissioned is also my favourite.

Amy Martin's incredible depiction of ERP is both artful *and* accurate.
Amy Martin’s incredible depiction of ERP is both artful *and* accurate.

Another widely read piece was this (now tragically prescient) editorial I wrote for Polygon about how a “terror dream,” spawned by past censorship battles, wracks the gaming community, making it vulnerable to perceiving any criticism as an attempt to “take our games away.” Also in Polygon, I wrote about the tragedy of how violence is the “idiom of progress” in too many games and that developing gaming as a medium requires coming up with new ways to win (and with thinking beyond the idea of “winning” in the first place).

I wrote extensively about GamerGate as many know. I was one of the first to cover it for a non-gaming news outlet, writing an editorial essay for RH Reality Check about what it revealed about the silencing of critical women (many commenters rushed to buttress my point). My writing on the matter mostly lived on Feministing: I took on the (thankfully rescinded) decision by Intel to pull advertising from Gamasutra, how GamerGate polices the meaning of “gamer” in a deeply exclusionary way, and interviewed Revolution 60 game developer Brianna Wu.

But thankfully I got to write a bit about games themselves as well. Here, for Polygon, I compare Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri to Civilisation: Beyond Earth and find the latter wanting due to its inability to tie its mechanics into a wider narrative. Meanwhile, in one of my very few blog posts here this year, I wrote an essay about Hate Plus’ stealth villain, Oh Eun-a, and what she reveals about the impossibilities of womanhood amidst the stalled gender revolution of the modern world. I also wrote for Feministing about how fantasy RPG religions make for interesting moral exploratory tools and how newer games like Pathfinder are taking this to the next level.

Also, the delightful Jonathan Mann of Song-a-Day fame actually wrote a song inspired by my Polygon “terror dream” essay that distilled its message into a catchy diddy:

Everything Else Political

Since so much of my writing is about day-to-day gender politics, I’ll be a little bit more parsimonious with which essays I put here. I’ll be celebrating my first anniversary as a Feministing columnist very soon, so you can simply see my year in letters at my page on the site, as well as everything I wrote at RH Reality Check this year.

Online Toxicity

If you heard of me prior to GamerGate it was as the author of Words, Words, Words: On Toxicity and Abuse in Online Activism, the unfortunately named essay that helped frame a larger discussion among feminists about whether we were being too extreme, aggressive, and, yes, toxic in our interactions with one another. I added a postscript to address common criticisms of the argument I advanced.

In the wake of this, Nation writer Michelle Goldberg wrote a feature in that magazine about toxicity in online activism that featured quotes from me and my essay. Regrettably, however, she used the feature to frame the discussion almost entirely in terms that scapegoated black women for said toxicity and racialised the issue in a way that dramatically oversimplified (and dare I say, toxified) the points I and others were making. My response to that, and to the ensuing activist furore (which did little to help matters), can be found here in another unfortunately titled piece (I like to think I’ve gotten better with those!)

On Violence, Racism, and Masculinity

This has been a terrifying year in a number of ways. I wrote here about the oft overlooked misogyny of the far right, including neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Here, at RH Reality Check, I responded to the horrifying misogynist mass shooting committed by Eliot Rodger. I also wrote extensively about how police violence against black communities is a reproductive justice issue, and how the violence of our society grows out of an alarming veneration of violence as the solution to all our problems, which I argued leads to the “militarised mind.” I wrote several articles about the tragic case of Jane Doe, an incarcerated trans girl who was failed by child protective services, in Connecticut, but one of the better essays I wrote on the subject can be found here.


The Jane Doe essays could easily fit here as well. But I will just highlight the writing I did about the Grantland feature early this year that exploited the death of Dr. V, a trans woman who committed suicide as a result of the author proposing to out her in the piece. I also replied to the apology by Grantland’s EIC Bill Simmons.

On a happier note, I wrote a feature for this season’s Bitch Magazine that took a broad survey of the recent efflorescence of trans women’s literature in recent years. This has been an unparalleled time of growth for independent writing by, for, and about trans women that transcends traditional narratives.


It’s been an indisputably hard year, so much so that there are Fuck 2014 shirts that one can buy to express their middle-fingered displeasure with it. There’s good reason to be outraged at this year’s events– another futuristic sounding year chock full of terrifyingly retrograde happenings. But there is always reason to be optimistic about what lies beyond tomorrow’s veil, and I think that one of the best things I wrote this year was a gentle reminder to others, especially my fellow feminists, that all is not lost. Cynicism remains our worst enemy, and we cannot let the perfect haunt the good we do at every step.

And I think that’s a good way to wind up this increasingly prodigious overview. In conclusion, I wrote far too much. Happy 2015 to all!

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