Imagine, for a moment, that the top twelve websites devoted to libertarian thought– including LewRockwell.com–all decided to run a series of articles, on the same day, without any admitted cooperation. Imagine these sites each released material carrying the same general theme–that “libertarianism is dead,” and “there’s no longer a reason to write to, or about, libertarians.”
If you can understand the resentment that such an event might cause, then you might begin to understand the core trigger of Gamergate. Perchance to Scream Check Amazon for Pricing.
It all started with a sex scandal…
In mid-August 2014, a programmer wrote a blog post detailing how his ex-girlfriend had cheated on him with a series of other men. While such a post would normally have passed without notice, this one triggered a firestorm of debate–because the woman in question was a game developer, and several of the “other men” were game review journalists.
Immediately, many gamers began asking the obvious ethical question. If a restaurant owner were caught in bed with a restaurant reviewer, surely that would challenge the objectivity of the reviewer in question? And if that same restaurant owner were caught out with three restaurant reviewers, the owner of the magazine that prints the reviews, and a restaurant venture capital investor, surely that would call into question the ethical standards of the entire restaurant review industry?
However, the gaming journalism community did not want those questions asked. On nearly every site and forum where the topic was raised for discussion, forum moderators quickly deleted the posts, and in many cases, banned the commenters, all in the name of protecting the programmer involved from “doxxing”–that is, having her personal information released to the public.
One side of the debate wanted to discuss the ethical standards of journalism. When a journalist has a friendship or relationship with the subject, surely that fact should be revealed as a matter of course. There is a difference between giving a game a positive review on its own merits, and giving a friend’s game a boost in popularity (and profits) with a positive review. They felt that game journalism needed an “ethical review” and that game journalists should be held to similar standards as other journalists.
The other side of the debate was convinced that her sex life should have remained private; after all, there was no proof that her game had received any positive reviews due to the relationships. This faction wanted the entire incident to blow over and be forgotten, and considered all of those still asking questions to be misogynist sexist trolls.
While the silencing of discussion was reaching full swing, Anita Sarkeesian at Feminist Frequency released the latest in a series of videos called “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.” She made the claim that in many video games, the sole purpose of the woman was “wallpaper”–to be kidnapped, held hostage, and “objectified,” solely to be rescued by the player, and could just as easily be replaced with a magic item or other object. Among those who believed in the “gamers are misogynists” thread, Sarkeesian merely strengthened what they already knew.
Many gamers saw it as a conspiracy–that the game sites and game forums were actively cooperating in efforts to prevent the discussion–and it finally reached a point where it earned a name. Actor Adam Baldwin created the #Gamergate hashtag on Twitter to define the conspiracy.
The day after the hashtag was created, the conspiracy was on full display. On August 28th, 2014, more than a dozen different websites all carried articles that appeared to be written from the same script–a script that tied the “gamers hate women” concept into the existing “there’s no ethical problem in gaming journalism” view.
- Riding the Red Horse Check Amazon for Pricing. Gamasutra – “Gamers” don’t have to be your audience. “Gamers” are over.
- Gamasutra – A Guide to Ending “Gamers”
- Kotaku – We Might Be Witnessing The “Death of An Identity”
- Polygon – An awful week to care about video games
- Ars Technica – The death of the “gamers” and the women who “killed” them
The feud even slipped out of the game world., with “Sexism, Misogyny, and online attacks: It’s a horrible time to consider yourself a gamer” in the Financial Post, “How to attack a woman who works in video gaming” in The Guardian, and “It’s Dangerous to Go Alone: Why Are Gamers So Angry?” in The Daily Beast.
Gamers considered this to be a coordinated series of insults, and they responded accordingly. The daily number of messages posted to Twitter with the #Gamergate hashtag reached nearly fifty thousand by August 30th, and remained above thirty thousand per day for months afterwards.
A Throne of Bones (Art... Best Price: null Buy New $7.99 (as of 02:20 EST - Details) The “Gamers are dead” articles were a blatant attempt to control the narrative, and to get gamers bickering among themselves over “who’s more misogynist,” thus deflecting the attacks on gaming journalism. They were also a spectacular failure, alienating and insulting the very audience the gaming sites relied on for their readership.
A “Gamer” is a person who will spend ten weeks breeding virtual animals out to twenty-seven generations in order to find that one rare and elusive purple-and-gold Chocobo–the one that completes the collection and raises the game completion stats from 99.6% to 100%. With that level of focus and intense determination, is that really an audience you want to alienate?
Milo Yiannopoulos, at Breitbart, was one of the first mainstream writers to clearly see what was happening:
Instead of addressing allegations of corruption, examining their own prejudices and giving consideration to an industry-wide failure to provide any kind of acceptable service, the games press rounded on its own readers, accusing them of bigotry and misogyny and refusing to acknowledge that the community was sick of being lectured to and guilt-tripped on a daily basis by hypocrites and liars.
Watching the fallout on blogs, in forums, and on Twitter, it’s tough to understate the extent of the shockwaves from all this, or the rift that has opened up between writers and readers as a result of Left-wing journalists War To The Knife (Lare... Best Price: null Buy New $2.99 (as of 11:25 EDT - Details) reflexively defending their ideological allies. Gamers have uncovered evidence of such widespread corruption and conflicts of interest that the gaming blogs may never recover from it. The response from reporters – for the most part, denial and dismissal – is akin to mass professional suicide.
The #NotYourShield hashtag appeared on September 3rd. Female and minority gamers used it to point out that they were being grouped in with “all gamers are white male misogynists” as a means of deflecting criticism.
Gamergate supporters organized charity drives and email blasts, successfully convincing multiple advertisers to drop their support for the sites that ran the “Gamers are dead” articles. Gawker openly admitted losing seven figures in advertising revenue due to Gamergate. And despite a continuing “Gamergate is dead and buried” message from gaming journalism, the Gamergate community is still going strong, with an average of twenty thousand tweets per day on Twitter.
The anti-Gamergate side has consistently complained about harassment from the Gamergate side, and yet, an FBI investigation found only one credible incident–the bomb threat called in on a Gamergate meeting in Washington D.C.
Plus, the Society of Professional Journalists has weighed in:
And if that wasn’t enough, this week, the Society of Professional Journalists has agreed to hear the case made by #Gamergate supporters that the entire field of gaming journalism has been turned into a hotbed of cronyism and ideologically motivated deceit. This mark of legitimacy was sensibly conferred after a particularly conscientious member of the SPJ quite reasonably pointed out that an accusation of unethical behavior deserves a hearing, no matter how unfashionable its exponents.
Gamergate has moved well beyond the spark that originally set it off. Gamergate supporters no longer see themselves as merely highlighting issues of “ethics in journalism.” They now see themselves as holding the line against the left-wing politically-correct “SJW” incursion that has already taken over education, publishing and television.
GamerGate does not consist of fascists. It is not an ill-informed mob. It is not limited to teenagers, to men, or to white people. It does not deserve to be treated with contempt and flippancy. GamerGate is a broad spectrum of the gaming community, including players and developers, and consists of men and women of all ages who wish nothing more than to simply continue to design, develop, and play the games that we wish to design, develop, and play without being attacked by professional political activists, corrupt game journalists, and publicity-seeking independent game developers.
Gamers, and Gamergate supporters, come in all makes and models. Both sexes and all colors and creeds are well represented, as the #NotYourShield hashtag revealed, and practically every notch on the political spectrum is covered. But the overwhelming message of Gamergate is a purely libertarian one: “Leave us alone to make the games we want to make and play the games we want to play.”