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Why #GamerGate Has To End

If you haven’t heard of #GamerGate in the past few weeks, or months if you’ve been with us from the start, I am extremely jealous of you. Your head probably doesn’t hurt from watching this bizarre debate unfold before your eyes. But it never hurts to bring us all up to speed with a short version of what #GamerGate is all about.

Back in August a game developer, Zoe Quinn, the mastermind behind the award-winning free game Depression Quest, was accused of sleeping with a Kotaku gaming journalist, Nathan Grayson, in an exchange for a favourable review. These allegations, (made by a scorned ex in a nine paged diatribe) were later proven untrue, as the review in question never existed. Due to this controversy Quinn began to receive a tirade of misogynist threats, that built on earlier harassment she had received after the game’s release in 2013. Later these gamers united under the hashtag #GamerGate, after some celebrity endorsement courtesy of Adam Baldwin, and began calling for the reform of journalism ethics in gaming.

Thus, #GamerGate is a movement consisting of many of the online personas responsible for harassing women in games. The group uses the guise of ethics of gaming journalism to harass and attack female developers and critics including Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, Leigh Alexander and Brianna Wu. Quinn and these other prominent women in games received various rape threats, death threats, and were doxxed (the act of getting your personal information hacked and posted online) because of their “corrupting” influence on games.

Various sources have come to light that prove many of the accusations against these women were manufactured. Quinn and Wu have both released chat logs showing the orchestration of these large scale hate campaigns coming out of a small group of users, typically originating from 4chan, 8chan, or miscellaneous IRC channels.

Quinn Logs

Just one of the few tweets that Quinn made to show the true colours of GamerGate [1].

One would think that when the basis of your cause is proven to be false, apologies would be made and the misogynistic behaviour against women in the industry and community would stop. That’s the professional and ethical thing someone would do, no? Even after another hashtag, #NotYourShield, was revealed to be fabricated to distract people from finding out the truth, people are still calling #GamerGate a movement about ethics in gaming journalism. Instead of looking at what it is really about: allowing a group of misogynists to get away with atrocious behaviour, such as sending rape and death threats and doxxing those who dare to oppose them. But even among those who speak out against #GamerGate, those who are attacked by people within this movement are women. A large amount of the people who fall under the #GamerGate banner have a history of harassing women. A published list of gamergaters (that has since been DDosed) included Ben Spurr, the man who made the violent game where people could beat up Anita Sarkeesian after she announced her Tropes vs Women in Video Games web series in 2012. It is also important to note this harassment has transcended the virtual realm, several women have been forced out of their homes because of the rape and death threats they received. [2],[3]

This movement #GamerGate must stop. It has been acknowledged by several gaming news outlets that there exists a conversation to be had about ethics in gaming journalism, however #GamerGate is no longer the place to do that. The movement has become so toxic that sources like Polygon, Kotaku, and Game Informer recommend it’s abandonment.

We implore all involved to let “GamerGate” go, because GamerGate is not an issue. It is a nebulous term that has served no master, but has been misused by those who wish to divert us from the real issues that the game industry faces as it evolves from its humble beginnings to a place where gamers of all types are accepted. [4]

Right here you have one of the largest magazines in the industry telling people to knock it off. Why? Because the longer this so called movement remains active under this banner, which is supposedly all about making the gaming industry and community better, is actually making it worse.

I was originally supposed to write about #GamerGate last week but held off because I was optimistic that this debate would cease to be an issue when #StopGamerGate2014 emerged. It emerged as a response to Sarkeesian cancelling a lecture at Utah State University because of a threat of mass shooting.

I thought to myself, this new hashtag is great! We ladies don’t have to be afraid about speaking out against this movement. I felt really good going through all of the tweets where support was strong. It made me feel like the gaming community I knew, where we are all a band of misfits that don’t fall into mainstream popularity, was coming back because ladies and allies were banding together. Women have been in games since the beginning and are now finding their confidence and voicing their desire for inclusion in games due to the rise of supportive gaming communities we find online. Adult women are now largest demographic in games, considering we make up 36% of the gamer population [5]. Personally, I’ve played Duck Hunt on the NES when I was four and moved on from there to Pokemon and other various WRPGs and JRPGs and whatever else Steam sales tempt me to buy. I finally felt at home when I found other women online who loved games as much as I do. However, the feeling that us gamers will get out of this wacky circus unscathed only lasted a couple of days because #GamerGate attacked another woman who is a public figure. Shortly after speaking out about her fear of even talking about #GamerGate, Felicia Day got doxxed.

Tweets

These are the only tweets I’ve found that Day gets involved in, that are related to #GamerGate, since it began and before she got doxxed.

What’s disturbing about Day getting doxxed is that on the same day that she merely voiced concern about speaking about the issue, Chris Kluwe, a retired NFL player and an avid gamer, published a scathing article on how toxic #GamerGate is [6], [7]. Yet they went for the person who was afraid of the movement, who didn’t speak ill of them, just because she is a woman. I am pretty sure the same thing could happen to me.

I had a long debate with myself and a few close friends on whether I should shorten my name to Al instead of Allie, so it appears I’m a man. In that case, I might get a possible pass if, by chance, someone who disagrees with my opinion reads this. If #GamerGate truly was about ethics in gaming journalism then I shouldn’t be afraid of revealing I’m a woman gamer, no one should be afraid about speaking out on an issue! The reality is that a lot of women are afraid to speak up because of the misogynistic death and rape threats that #GamerGate throws out to attack the women who don’t agree with them.

The fear of speaking out is something all women gamers and women in the industry feel whenever we encounter #GamerGate. Brianna Wu flat out tells us that “every women [she knows] in the industry is terrified that she will be next” if they voice their opinion on #GamerGate [8]. She lists off three more women, Jenn Frank, Mattie Bryce and Samantha Allen, who have become victims to the hate that is stemming from this movement, because they dared to speak out. Wu speaks of how this type of hate we see in #GamerGate is also seen in the overall gaming environment where it has prevented women from entering the field as game developers. Both Wu and Quinn have folders dedicated to the letters they received from young girls who dream of breaking into the industry but are afraid of what they see. Right now? What they see is hate and an unwelcoming environment where people are supposed to have the freedom to create and express themselves freely.

So, how do we move on? Well for starters, the people who are associated with #GamerGate and who are promoting the harassment of women and harassing women themselves need to cease their activities. We need to find a way to move on, just like Game Informer said about a paragraph or so ago! I know I am repeating myself here but the #GamerGate hashtag has to be left behind and if people are truly concerned about the ethics in gaming journalism then they need to show it. They can do this by supporting the women who have been driven from their homes by harassment. They can support the women who are too afraid to speak out because of the fear that’s been generated by the vocal misogynist gamergaters. They can heed the advice of Polygon’s editor-in-chief Chris Grant by moving their discussion of ethics in gaming journalism to see if it actually goes against the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics that’s mentioned in Grant’s article.

And the first step in doing what I outline above would be leaving #GamerGate behind.

1. https://storify.com/strictmachine/gameovergate
2. http://kotaku.com/another-woman-in-gaming-flees-home-following-death-thre-1645280338
3. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/08/29/gaming-vlogger-anita-sarkeesian-is-forced-from-home-after-receiving-harrowing-death-threats
4. http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2014/10/20/game-informer-on-gamergate.aspx
5. http://www.dailydot.com/geek/adult-women-largest-gaming-demographic/
6. https://medium.com/the-cauldron/why-gamergaters-piss-me-the-f-off-a7e4c7f6d8a6
7. http://thisfeliciaday.tumblr.com/post/100700417809/the-only-thing-i-have-to-say-about-gamer-gate
8. http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/10/20/rape-and-death-threats-are-terrorizing-female-gamers-why-havent-men-in-tech-spoken-out/?TID%20SM_FB

4 Comments

  • jon
    October 30, 2014 - 9:38 am | Permalink

    Of course Gawker, Kotaku and the like want it to stop. They are being called out on their massive corruption and hypocrisy. They are degenerative rags that gleefully ruin lives, dox every legal gun owner in New York, slut shame, and bully “nerds”, but scoff at the idea that they can be criticized.

    If you stand up for those publishers I quite frankly question your morals, and argue you are not better than the people you are pointing your finger at.

    There seems to be no representation of the harassment of gamergate supporters, many of them women.

    There doesn’t seem to be any problem with your particular brand of moral authoritarianism. What if we could still all have books, but they all had to be based on the Bible?

    Would you have a problem with that?

    I bet you would, yet many people seem fit to have an entire media scrutinized through the lens of the holier than though 3rd wave feminism movement, because them, and they alone are the only ones fit to be critics.

    This entire situation is bullying and hypocrisy at its finest, and the media industries actions has certainly opened up a lot of young peoples eyes.

    • October 30, 2014 - 3:25 pm | Permalink

      I have heard the claim that gamergate supporters have been harassed, but I haven’t seen any indication of who or by whom or the nature of the harassment. Whereas harassment of women in gaming is a simple matter of public record.

      I am categorically opposed to harassment, and fully aware that any large enough group of people will have bullies.

      I am categorically in favour of calling out assholes in public, though. That is not harassment. That is free speech.

      If you would like to have a discussion about ethics in game journalism, please feel free to point me to a post about that. But do make sure it’s not polluted by the sexism that is empirically rampant in the gamergate hashtag.

    • SarahBeck
      October 30, 2014 - 3:33 pm | Permalink

      I think it’s also important to acknowledge the data proving the majority of conversation in the tag is directed at women who are the targets of harassment. http://www.newsweek.com/gamergate-about-media-ethics-or-harassing-women-harassment-data-show-279736

      • October 30, 2014 - 4:11 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. There are really clear empirical facts relating to the #gamergate tag.

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