My 2 Cents on Gamer Gate

While contemplating whether or not I should even write this article I dropped it and picked it up multiple times. One one hand I’d like to share my opinion on the subject as a gamer, as a woman and as a journalist. On the other had I have already written this entire article, I already shared my opinion and I already discussed Gamer Gate. The only problem is that I was bullied out of ever publishing it by the supporters of Gamer Gate and deleted it months ago.

That’s where I am on the issue of Gamer Gate, one side feels the need to express my opinion about and talk about it with others but the other side is afraid to even mention the words “Gamer” and “Gate” in the same sentence. It would be easier if Gamer Gate wasn’t so aggressive their harassment campaigns, if Gamer Gate actually had morals and if Gamer Gate had a purpose that wasn’t simply bullying anyone and everyone who disagrees with whatever their goal is that day – especially if they are a female, a minority of any kind or someone aiding the aforementioned groups of people. But they are none of those things which makes this difficult. I’m afraid, as I type this my brain is constantly telling me to delete this before I even continue but this time I’m not going to do that. This time I’m going to just say what I feel because I think it’s important and necessary to discuss these issues here, even if I am the only one who feels this way. My opinion matters just as much as anyone elses, so I’m going to state it.

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Let’s start with a basic description of what Gamer Gate is. The movement began in August of 2014 when a game developer named Zoe Quinn and a Kotaku journalist named Nathan Grayson were accused of having an affair by Quinn’s ex-boyfriend Eron Gjoni. This affair allegedly took place so that Quinn’s game Depression Quest would receive a better review from Grayson. The allegation led to a massive outcry about journalistic integrity and ethics in video game journalism, after all it’s not ethical for a developer to receiving a higher score on their game in exchange for sexual favors. In reality though Grayson never reviewed her game and never wrote any articles pertaining to her or her game after he and Quinn began their personal relationship. The allegations were false on the journalistic integrity front and while the involvement of Grayson and Quinn should have stopped there and the focus shift to further improving the integrity of video game journalism, it didn’t.

Zoe Quinn as well as her family and her friends were bombarded with extensive, misogynistic harassment for months after Gjoni’s original blog post about the alleged affair. This wasn’t the your average internet harassment bred out of anonymity and too much time on ones hands, these people were subjected to death threats, doxxing, rape threats and more under the banner of “Gamer Gate” – all with Zoe Quinn receiving the brunt of this aggression. The term “Gamer Gate” was coined by Adam Baldwin on Twitter and has served as the movement’s title and hashtag (#GamerGate) throughout most of their existence. Baldwin first used it in a tweet that linked to videos of Quinn while critiquing the media for pushing social justice “agendas” on everyone. In a rapid whirlwind of events, Gamer Gate continued to use their hashtag to harass Quinn, other women in the industry and any man or woman who defended any of their targets publicly all while standing by the party line of “ethics in journalism”. It became apparent to most people that the movement had shifted from one about ethics to one about bullying and harassment, even though the members of Gamer Gate denied that claim. Since the beginning of Gamer Gate there have been numerous chat rooms and message boards set up around the internet that serve as a place for Gamer Gate supporters to get together and plan attacks as well as further harass their perceived enemies. *Editors Note: I will not be providing links to these chat rooms and boards as I don’t feel comfortable. A quick Google search will lead you there if you so choose.*

Gamer Gate gave birth to another sub group shortly after its creation which is called “Not Your Shield”. This group seems to be mostly made up of women who support Gamer Gate to an extent and who criticize anyone who called Gamer Gate out for their bully tactics as well as having a social justice “agenda” that they believe is being forced upon them. Basically, they don’t like being used as a “shield” to deflect criticism of those who are dubbed “social justice warriors”; which is a demeaning title cast upon those who support feminism and equality in video games. Both groups tend to work together, one being the main aggressor and the other being the outside defense of the aggressor. It’s basically a bully and his/her lackey on the school yard of gaming culture. It’s been about eight months since all of this began and while “Not Your Shield” seems to have merged more fully into Gamer Gate, the whole of Gamer Gate is still going relatively strong. They have taken to invading conventions, furthering their harassment of women and minorities and even going as far as to be labeled as a legitimate hate group.

While it all seems terrible yet mostly cut and dry, it’s more complicated than it seems. From what I can see there are three different types of people who all use the Gamer Gate label or state that they support Gamer Gate.

The Bully:

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The bully is the typical Gamer Gate supporter, the one who harasses people and attacks all who oppose him/her. These are the people who make up the most vocal portion of the movement and are the ones we see sending death threats, rape threats and threats of other kinds to people they consider to be their enemy, such as Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu. They also are responsible for doxxing their enemies, which is the posting private information such as phone numbers, home addresses and other sensitive material publicly, which has led to more serious/accurate threats and individuals having to leave their homes. They have also been blamed for starting up a sickening trend called “swatting”, a practice which involves calling the police on someone and reporting a serious crime or threat (such as terrorism, murder, attempted murder, bomb making, etc.). It typically happens to people while they are playing games online or streaming a game online and ends with the police busting down the front door and possibly injuring others due to a false threat. Practices like “swatting”, sending serious threats, doxxing and other forms of harassment and bullying are all things that these supporters of Gamer Gate do, for whatever reason, and are mostly why the general population is so adamantly against Gamer Gate regardless of any good others the movement are trying to do. You’ll hear claims that these types of people are few and far between, just “a few trolls” but it doesn’t take long with a simple Google search to see screencaps and articles that prove this is more than just a small group of people.

The Loyalist:

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The loyalist is the person committed to the original cause for the movement: ethics in video game journalism. They are hard to pick out in the masses of people who rally under Gamer Gate’s banner, but they are out there. These people don’t typically partake in any of the harassment or bullying campaigns and seem to want to genuinely improve the state of journalistic integrity within the video game industry. Their cause is just yet they continuously choose to use the term Gamer Gate to describe themselves. The issue with the loyalists is that they are typically swept up in the harassment politics of the rest of Gamer Gate, which makes them hard to find. They are blamed and bullied by anti-Gamer Gate groups for things they didn’t do personally, though they support by proxy via the use of the same banner as the bullies. It’s a sticky situation for the loyalist, no matter how positive their intentions they will always be cast as bullies as long as they continue to use the title of Gamer Gate.

The Blissfully Ignorant:

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They say ignorance is bliss, and these folks know what that means all too well. The blissfully ignorant portion of Gamer Gate is very small, but every time I come across one of them I want to slam my head into my desk. These are the people who either play stupid or are genuinely uninformed about the practices of Gamer Gate. They aren’t always aligned with the loyalists or the bullies but they seem to want to support Gamer Gate regardless of having no idea what it even is. You will see them online stating that there is no harassment or bullying going on within Gamer Gate and that if you say you were harassed by a Gamer Gate supporter you are obviously lying because there is none of that going on. They also have no idea what journalistic integrity means and when the subject is brought before them they freeze up. It’s as if they just saw the name “Gamer Gate”, thought it sounded cool and decided to support it. It’s almost laughable how diluted these people are, how out of touch they are with a movement they choose to align with. I only wish these people would take the time to learn and make an informed decision.

There are also plenty of combinations of all of these types of people, but for the most part these are the main factions of mindsets within Gamer Gate. Of course, this is all my opinion based on my personal experience. I don’t claim to speak for everyone and I don’t claim to be one hundred percent accurate or unbiased because at this point it’s difficult to be accurate about all things Gamer Gate and I have plenty of bias. While I don’t align with the group, there are a lot of people who consider themselves anti-Gamer Gate. These anti-gaters, as I call them, tend to be no better than the bullies of Gamer Gate. They seek to harass those who support Gamer Gate and while I’d like to think that harassment of others draws in harassment on yourself, meaning that the bullies of Gamer Gate tend to get back what they put out and should expect no less, there is no justification for harassment or bullying of any kind. As they say, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind and seeking to bully someone for being a bully makes no sense. It’s not setting a good example, it’s not taking the high road, it’s not being the bigger person – it’s stooping down to the aggressor’s level and being no better than the initial bully. I am not against ethics in video game journalism but I am against Gamer Gate as a whole, their ways of going about things are deplorable.

I do believe that the ethics in journalism conversation needs to happen. There are plenty of examples of unethical behavior amongst the ranks of video game journalists and it needs to be remedied in some way, these people need to be held accountable. I just don’t think that Gamer Gate has collectively gone after a publication that is actually guilty of unethical behavior because having a “social justice agenda” isn’t inherently unethical. Aside from talking about it amongst themselves or lash out violently and in an unproductive way, I’ve yet to see them ask the right questions of websites that are paid in some way to produce positive reviews of big title games or other kinds of unethical behavior. Aside from attacking those who are perceived to have a “social justice agenda”, Gamer Gate also put heavy focus on journalists who had contact with others within the industry. This move showed a blatant lack of understanding of the gaming industry, or any industry in general, as it’s not uncommon for journalists to know developers personally and vise-versa. Being in contact with a developer doesn’t mean that a review of the developers game will be bias, any journalist worth their salt knows better than to write a bias review based on friendship. It’s unreasonable to expect people within the industry to have no contact with one another or to shun each other because someone may or may not be bias later down the road. Any blatant bias is on an individual basis and should not be assumed of all journalists simply because they know a developer personally. How do you think interviews and private demos are set up? Without this contact journalists would have a harder time bringing us news and information about upcoming games.

There are integrity issues within the ranks of video game journalists, though Gamer Gate has done next to nothing to actually solve these issues in the eight months they have been active aside from a few websites publicly posting their guidelines and stricter rules on disclosure. Of course I don’t mean to say that this progress, however small, is insignificant but rather that it’s a tiny amount of progress for a group that claims to be working to solve ethics issues which has been around for eight months. Also, bullying these people into posting their guidelines is hardly something to be proud of. It’s hard for anyone in the industry to take Gamer Gate seriously when that title is generally associated with some of the most vitriolic hate in the gaming community. Shortly after Gamer Gate began a variety of editorials were published claiming that “gamers are dead”, basically stating that the sexism and misogyny within the gaming community which basically led to Gamer Gate itself is killing the culture of gaming. This infuriated many supporters of Gamer Gate though I was indifferent about that statement for some time. As of late, I have to agree that if things stay how they are for much longer, or get worse, gaming culture will die. This community is being ripped apart from within thanks to all the infighting, the inability for some to accept change and of course the blatant sexism. If people can’t get it through their head that there is no malignant “social justice agenda” but rather a cry for equality and better representation of women within this community and video games themselves then the community is doomed. No one will want to be a part of it, I don’t even want to be associated with the term “gamer”, and the community will become something else, something worse.

Overall, I find Gamer Gate to be a blight on the culture of gaming. The movement has caused the world of video games to take the spotlight in the worst of ways, making the nightly news for harassing people and making violent threats on their lives when it’s bad enough that video games are still attributed with causing people to commit murder. While some members of the group are well-meaning and have good intentions, they are drowned out by those who use the banner of Gamer Gate to fuel their misogynistic hate campaign. I hope that the title of “Gamer Gate” dies in the near future and that those who actually want to work towards better ethical standards can crawl out from under its carcass and accomplish something positive. Gamer Gate constantly tries to shove the “it’s really about ethics” line in everyone’s face without realizing how transparent their intentions are, it doesn’t take a genius to realize this isn’t the case. Maybe instead of calling everyone else uninformed or liars they should realize what they are, the well-meaning folks can separate themselves and then the reality of what this is can be made apparent to those who support it. I’m tired of seeing people further dissociating themselves with the gamer community due to fear and loathing of what it has become. I’m tired of friends telling me that they are to afraid to really get into games, I’m tired of personally being afraid to play games online and I’m sick of these people constantly trying to make me and others afraid of them, to silence us. Gamer Gate needs to end, the harassment needs to end and those who chose to harass others because they are simply not willing to share this medium with women need to grow up. Gaming should be about having fun not about being afraid or bullied. I hope that one day we can all have fun again as gamers united instead of hiding in our segregated corners as gamers divided.

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One thought on “My 2 Cents on Gamer Gate

  1. Pingback: TalkBack Challenge #1: How GamerGate Affected Me #NBI2015 | Me Vs. Myself and I

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