On Friday June 29th, Ryan Perez’s true nature became public knowledge.
After he admittedly had a few too many shots of liquor, Perez, a writer affiliated with popular gaming website Destructoid, took to Twitter to air out some controversial opinions. Pounding out a series of Tweets addressed at Felica Day, Perez questioned the internet celebrity’s contributions to the video game industry at large. Perez alleged that Day did not contribute anything to the collective gaming culture beyond a superficial personality.
Nothing on the internet happens in secret. As soon as Perez’s Tweets hit the public domain, the gears of the internet lynching machine began turning. Over the next few days, Perez would gain 450 additional followers on Twitter, receive anonymous death threats, and face the wrath of thousands of commenters, both in and outside of the gaming community.
Misogyny has always been a sensitive issue for the gaming industry, which is admittedly dominated by males. Game developers, journalists, and celebrities alike risk stirring up the ire of the geek subculture whenever issues relating misogyny and gaming are brought to light. Unfortunately, the gaming press has become so highly attuned to any controversy over gender that it has a tendency to blow these issues out of proportion. In Ryan Perez’s case, what started as a drunken rant was turned into a misogynistic tirade.
The amount of hate flying around the internet for Perez’s decidedly unpleasant persona has obscured the true story. Perez had a legitimate gripe with an aspect of the industry he was involved in. He could have raised some valid arguments. As a member of the gaming press, Perez could have published an opinion piece questioning the validity of Day’s fame. Perez does make a few good points; although Day is the creator of web series The Guild, an award-winning comedy series revolving around an MMORPG, Day’s primary product is her personality, not an actual gaming product.
What exactly is the problem with that?
Day is but one of many internet celebrities who market their personality as a brand. She appears as a guest character in music videos. She’s no different from what many other celebrities do. If Perez’s gripe is that Day doesn’t directly contribute to the creation of video games, he’s mostly correct. Being an actor, Day’s contribution to the creation of video games has been limited to several small roles as a voice actor. Day’s contribution to gaming culture, however, is undeniable. The Guild has become a massively popular web series, focussing on the human element of gaming as a social activity. As a human being, Perez entitled to have an opinion. If his opinion is that another internet personality does not contribute to their shared subculture, he’s allowed to voice it.
What is completely unacceptable is the way Perez actually approached his rant. Instead of voicing his opinion with well-reasoned, logical arguments, Perez decided to attack Day on a personal level. He didn’t offer a critique of her work, or why he thought her contributions to the culture weren’t valid. Instead, he decided to compare Day to a “booth babe,” which is ultimately what set off the firestorm of detractors that claimed Perez was a misogynist.
Some commentators have remarked that had Day not been a woman, she probably wouldn’t need to defend her position in the industry. That’s fair, seeing as men criticize each other within the confines of the industry every day. Usually, it’s not big news. In their rush to defend Day and demonize Perez, people have lost sight of the true argument that Perez was trying to make. It may not have been appropriate or sound, but he shouldn’t have his opinion distorted into something he didn’t intend. On the flip side, Perez’s comments were completely out of line and inappropriate, and as a professional, he should have offered a properly written critique rather than a drunken series of slightly sexist, mostly offensive lines on Twitter.
When the dust settles, neither side will emerge as a winner. Perez will be forever labelled as an ignorant sexist. When people stop holding up Day as a victim, they’ll begin to question the true impact of her role in the industry. The culture of internet spectatorship has completely blown this incident out of proportion. Giant spectacles such as the Perez-Day incident will be discussed for months to come, not as an intellectual debate regarding misogyny or artistic merit, but as emotional battles waged over ideas of hate. Destructoid’s decision to sever ties with Perez was a wise one- not because Perez might be a misogynist, but because he’s unprofessional. As a gaming journalist, he should have behaved with much more professionalism, regardless of his personal views. As for Day, the ever-vigilant gaze of the Internet is scrutinizing her more than ever. When Perez finally issued an apology to Day via Twitter, she had no choice but to accept. She could no longer voice her true opinions of Perez, due to her obligation to keep up a public façade of professionalism. Anything else would have been caused a raging inferno of hate on the internet. In the end, there will be no winners, and nothing will be reaped from the entire mess. Ultimately, the uncomfortable issue of misogyny will remain unaddressed in the industry, and the cycle will rumble on until the next lynching.