Gamergate, and the corresponding Twitter hashtag #Gamergate, refers to a collection of debates concerned broadly with two controversial issues in the world of video gaming: A perceived lack of journalistic integrity, whereby journalists and developers exchange deals and have too close a relationship, and a perceived element of sexism in video games, whereby games often use women in negative ways and do not properly represent them. Here is a concise history of how the controversies arose and what the consequences on the industry have been.
– In August 2014 Eron Gjoni, the ex-boyfriend of game developer Zoe Quinn, published a lengthy WordPress blogpost in which he launched multiple accusations against Quinn, including that she had slept with numerous people during their relationship and crucially, had slept with Nathan Grayson (a journalist for Kotaku). Many readers of the post made the conclusion that Quinn slept with Grayson in exchange for favourable exposure for her upcoming text adventure game, Depression Quest, prompting readers to launch a campaign to combat these sort of dealings. Gjoni claimed he never intended to make this assumption and only posted the rant to “warn” future boyfriends of Quinn’s about her behaviour.
– As August drew to a close, further accusations were made against Quinn, including that she purposefully attempted to shut down the website of The Fine Young Capitalists. As the accusations gained momentum, 4chan users published Quinn’s personal information and intimate pictures of her. This caused Quinn to leave her home out of safety concerns. Shortly after, Adam Baldwin used the hashtag #Gamergate in a tweet about Quinn, which officially got the debate going between two groups: The group that is critical of Quinn because of what they perceive as a problem with journalistic corruption in the gaming industry, and those who support Quinn on the basis that she does not deserve to have her personal information leaked, her character defamed, and her life threatened.
– Conspiracy theories began propping up on the internet, linking support or criticism of Gamergate (where supporting Gamergate places you in the “concern for journalistic integrity” camp and criticism of Gamergate places you in the “feminist criticism of gaming misogyny” camp) to things like Ebola, the Federal Reserve, and cultural Marxism. Around this time, renewed criticism of other feminist gamers began sprouting up, most notably against Feminist Frequency creator Anita Sarkeesian, who received death threats and rape threats by anonymous users.
– Some time after, #NotYourShield Tweets began trending on Twitter, apparently used by racial minorities and women in the gaming community who wanted to combat the perception that the gaming industry is sexist and wanted to discuss journalistic corruption instead. On September 6th, Zoe Quinn released a series of screenshots that proved how #NotYourShield was not a genuine, grassroots attempt at combating journalistic corruption, but a manufactured campaign by 4chan and other forums to distract people away from discussions of gaming industry sexism.
– In mid September, 4chan creator “Moot” announced that forums dealing with the isssue of #Gamergate would be banned. 4chan users reacted with outrage and moved to a similar site, 8chan, to continue the campaign. Pressure from Gamergaters (supporters of the journalistic integrity movement) caused Intel to pull advertising from websites that unfavourably viewed Gamergate support, a move widely condemned by the other side.
– Throughout October, a campaign of terror began against feminist gamers and women’s rights advocates. The most notable event at this time involves Anita Sarkeesian (who previously had to leave her home after repeated threats) had to cancel a Utah lecture after an anonymous person (using the moniker Marc Lépine) threatened to “massacre” the venue with an automatic weapon in what he called the “deadliest shooting in American history”. Rape and death threats were also made against other women in the game industry at this time.
– This has split the internet into roughly two camps: Those who claim that criticism of Quinn is justified because the gaming industry is battling with journalistic corruption (pro-Gamergaters), and those who claim that criticism of Quinn, and subsequent gamer women, is part of a wider problem that men have with women being in the gaming industry (anti-Gamergaters).
Gamergate represents nothing more than a collection of misogynists using concerns about “journalistic integrity” as a cover for expunging women activists from the world of gaming. Why? To get back to the good old days where nobody questioned the tiresome use of female stereotypes in video games and never so much as thought about having a social conscience where violence against women is concerned. For Gamergaters, video games represent one of the last so-called safe havens of industry that is not subject to the supposedly tyrannous rule of having a fucking conscience and not treating women like shit. Given the massive diversification in gaming consumers we have seen in the last twenty years, white male users can no longer divorce themselves from questions of social justice, equal representation and progressivism. But they’re trying.
Just look at how they’ve responded to the numerous women who have criticized sexism, rightly or wrongly perceived, in the gaming industry.
– Game developer Brianna Wu had to go into hiding after death threats ensued after she mocked Gamergaters with a harmless meme.
– Dina Abou Karam was condemned and accused of spreading a radical feminist “agenda” into the game she was a community manager for, after it was revealed that the main protagonist is female (despite the fact that she does not control the genders of the characters).
– Felicia Day had her personal information leaked, moments after expressing fears about getting involved in Gamergate in case her personal information was leaked.
– Anita Sarkeesian, who had to leave her home after repeated threats, had to cancel a Utah lecture after an anonymous person (using the moniker Marc Lépine) threatened to “massacre” the venue with an automatic weapon in what he called the “deadliest shooting in American history”, one incident in a long list of bomb, rape and death threats against her.
– Zoe Quinn, the developer which this controversy began with, has received a cornucopia of threatening messages and phone calls, including a letter in which the writer described how he wanted to rape her in great detail.
Even if there was no sexism in the gaming industry at the time these women spoke up about it, there sure is now.
Supporters of Gamergate have repeatedly shown themselves to be repressive and violent when dealing with criticism of their movement. While they may try to mask their blatant misogyny under the thin guise of “journalistic ethics”, the way they have dealt with opposition to their movement has proven them to be using journalistic corruption as an excuse to target and silence women in the gaming industry. As one user who would like to remain anonymous told me, “If [Gamergaters] are obsessed with the ethics in journalism, but not the ethics of driving women out of an industry where they are valuable players, then they are misguided”. Even if the gaming industry is facing a journalistic ethical crisis, combating violent, practically terrorist anti-feminist and anti-women death and rape threats is far more pressing. It’s time the gaming community expunged these violent misogynists.