If you’ve been paying attention to media the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard of something called #GamerGate. Unfortunately, you’ve probably been confused about what the entire point of it was. Even as someone relatively connected to the gaming news world, I’ve found myself getting lost.
So to get to the bottom of the GamerGate, we’ll need to start from the beginning. Please note that there’s just not enough room to discuss everything involved, so the following series of events isn’t completely comprehensive. It will, however, give you more than an idea about what the root of this ‘movement’ is.
GamerGate essentially began when an ex-boyfriend an independent game developer claimed that said developer had cheated on him numerous times – including once with Nathan Grayson, a writer for gaming blog Kotaku.
Accusations were almost immediately thrown around that the developer – Zoe Quinn, creator of Depression Quest – had slept with Grayson in order to get better coverage of her game. Sites like Reddit and 4Chan blew up, demanding that the “scandal” be covered by other gaming outlets.
The problem is that no such favourable coverage exists. The timelines for when Quinn allegedly slept with Grayson show the only one possible story written by Grayson after the incident occurred. The story was about Game Jam, a failed reality show that Zoe and other developers were upset about being on. At the time, Nathan and Zoe were most likely just professional acquaintances. In the story, Grayon quoted blog posts written by Zoe and others involved in the show.
Since then, Grayson has not written a word about Quinn for any of the outlets he works for – and has especially not written a “review” of her game, as some ignorantly claim.
But this is only the beginning. Following this incident, some people were incensed at the lack of coverage this incident received, despite not actually showing anything other than person issues between Quinn and her boyfriend at the time. In quick succession, many of those who supported Quinn’s right to privacy were severely harassed and some were even “doxxed,” meaning their personal information was found and spread online.
As the harassment continued, B-list celebrity Adam Baldwin got whiff of it and tweeted links to the Zoe Quinn “conspiracy,” adding the hashtag #GamerGate to the mix.
Once such a banner was given for people to rally behind, the harassment only got worse. They attacked people like Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist critic of gaming, and Brianna Wu, another game developer. The accusations were that they were manipulating game journalists into giving them favourable coverage. Again, there is zero evidence for this.
Also notice that those named are all women.
After a time, others joined in the movement, claiming that GamerGate was about “ethics in game journalism.” It’s a twisted warping of the movement’s beginnings, which were based entirely around invading a developer’s private life, harassing her, and making false accusations about a journalist. In fact, no journalists to this point were actually targeted. Pretty odd, don’t you think?
It was about this time that 4chan banned the discussion of GamerGate from the site. That’s right, GamerGate was too despicable for 4chan, the cesspool of the internet. Most who were still wanting to discuss the topic moved on to 8chan, a site where the owner refuses to keep any logs of those who visit it. Essentially, it’s a safe haven for those looking to coordinate attacks on people.
But, even after all of this, there are still people who cling to GamerGate, saying that it’s really about “ethics in game journalism.” They point to things like a mailing list called “GameJournoPros” where gaming journalists speak with each other about goings on in the industry, and sometimes ask their colleagues for advice. This was twisted to make a claim that they were conspiring, despite there being no actual evidence of this. Last time I checked, it wasn’t a “conspiracy” to ask others in your line of work for advice. I do it all the time, actually.
They also point to a series of editorials by different writers that claimed “gamers are over,” starting with an article by freelance writer Leigh Alexander for Gamasutra. GamerGaters claim this is more proof of the conspiracy, and that they were trying to shout down their audience. Of course, this is more baloney.
For one, the original article by Alexander, entitled “‘Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience. ‘Gamers’ are over.” wasn’t targeted at players; it was meant for developers. And the entire point of the article wasn’t to shun “gamers.” On the contrary, it was to say that the era of having to cater to a specific type of “gamer” in order to be successful was over – that everyone plays games now, so the title isn’t necessary.
And the articles that followed were either responses to or inspired by Alexander, something pretty common when it comes to editorials and the zeitgeist of any industry. Again, no wrong doing on the journalists’ parts.
Look, there are issues that can be brought up in gaming journalism. And if people want to start a campaign to have them addressed, that’s fine. But it doesn’t need to be attached to a movement and hashtag with such vile beginnings.
As is, the root of GamerGate is black, so any fruit that may come from it will always be rotten at the core.