This is a pretty complicated(and controversial topic), so let’s keep discussion here civil.
I’ve been working on this post for a long time but I didn’t have time to publish it until now(and it still feels very unfinished but I don’t have much longer to work on it). I’m hoping I can offer a less slanted summary of the movement. I am very passionate about this topic, so if you want to ask questions or (politely) discuss it, leave a comment.
1) What is #gamergate?
A consumer-movement created in reaction to years of abuses and ethical violations.
The movement launched after Eron Gonji published “The Zoe Post“, detailing an abusive relationship between him and videogame developer Zoe Quinn. In it, he discloses Quinn’s relationship with 5 men, one of which was her boss and another being journalist Nathan Grayson, who has given Quinn and her game positive press. For a good number of gamergaters, the post opened eyes to the unusually close relationship between journalists and the people they were covering without disclosure. Typical internet chaos ensued, causing Quinn, Grayson and Gonji to receive death threats and vitrol.
During the fallout, gaming sites initiated a blackout and refused to allow any sensible discussion. It is this action that drove the wedge between disappointed gamers and the media. Journalists rushed to defend Quinn in aggressive anti-gamer editorials without acknowledging the ethical violations, accusing gamers of being misogynistic and entirely responsible for and a Reddit moderator revealed to be a friend of Quinn censored the Reddit #gamergate thread with over 25,000 comments. A journalist collusion group called gamejournospros released 8 articles across different sites proclaiming “Gamers are dead” starting with Leigh Alexander’s now infamous article. Having been attacked by the press that should have defended them, a large number of gamergaters took up the title #gamergate(thanks to Adam Baldwin’s coining of the term) to discuss gaming journalism ethics and violations.
2) Wait, isn’t it all about harassment?
This is the biggest argument against #gamergate, and also the biggest lie. To claim that #gamergate is a hate group or hell-bent is to associate the worst side of a movement as representative of the entire group(a great comparison would be the negative portrayal of movements like Occupy Wallstreet or #blacklivesmatter).
Even some basic math can help disprove it. There are over 33,000 subscribers to r/KotakuinAction, one of two large #gamergate headquarters. Last week, Brianna Wu claimed she had over 90 individual threats from #gamergaters as well as the largest number between “primary targets” her, Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn. Multiplying her number by three and assuming these threats all came from a different person completely associated from #gamergate(which is incredibly unlikely), they would represent .006% of the group. Including the supporters of #gamergate in other forums, it would be even less.
It is entirely possible to be pro-#gamergate and support women in gaming. Almost all of us do (and many of the group are women in gaming). I can say I have personally never sent a threat to anyone, nor have I ever thought to do so. I’d also add that I am a staunch egalitarian and support both feminist and men’s right campaigns when I can.
3) So then why do most gaming sites say #gamergate is bad?
When a consumer revolt is going after the press, wouldn’t it make sense for the press to attack the consumer revolt as something else? Essentially, major press outlets have made it impossible to discuss the topic rationally. They censor discussion and attempt to brush anything that disagrees with their agenda as #gamergate and misogynistic.
Major non-gaming outlets(CNN, NBC etc) have been pushing anti-gaming messages for years because they grab attention easily. Most of them have not researched the movement well and are simply skimming details off of sites that #gamergate is against. The Wikipedia article on #gamergate is also used for references and is incredibly biased against the movement.
4) Why are you pro-#gamergate?
I have over 10 years of experience in print journalism. I began writing for one of the nation’s most prominent newspapers at the age of 9, and was instilled with a love for free-expression. Even for a kid, the biggest rule of journalism was to be ethical. If you knew someone, got something from or were related to the topic you were writing about, you mentioned it in a disclaimer. It was better to simply be hands off, because the trust of viewership is always more important than pushing an agenda.
When I first learned about #gamergate, I was neutral. I could see why people were upset towards Grayson, and why threats may be out of control. I published an editorial for the Amherst Student about my opinion. And the results were not pretty. Simply because I was willing to admit that the gaming press had a problem. Our newspaper was sent harassing emails, people were spreading rumours about me (a stupid first-year in college who is not important at all) online, and people over three times my age tried to tarnish my image. In this time, the only people who reached out to me for support were pro-#gamergate. Some wanted to make sure that I was safe, others to make sure my article was not in jeopardy. Some of these people did not agree with my editorial, but still wanted to let me know that I shouldn’t be intimidated by the anti-gg movement.
The events opened my eyes to the reality of the situation- most anti-gamergate supporters are not interested in dissenting opinions and preferred to silence anything that doesn’t fit their narrative. The people sending death threats were not just #gamergate, but also anti-gg trying to ruin the movement’s image. In contrast, most #gamergate supporters were eager to share their opinions and almost always hold a rational (albeit, sometimes rough) conversation. The loudest members of the anti-gg movement judged your opinion on the basis of the color of your skin and would decry you as a misogynist, racist or bigot without listening to what you said.
3) Really? What examples are there of harassment directed towards #gamergate?
During the height of the conflict, there was an entire tumblr blog dedicated to chronicle the everyday harassment of #gamergaters. Like I said, I have been the victim of this harassment and very passionate about exposing it. It goes unnoticed by the unsympathetic media.
This harassment spills over the real world. Journalist Milo Yiannopolous received a loaded syringe in the mail, as well as a dead animal. Mike Cernovich, a pro-freedom of speech lawyer, was SWATted (filing a false police report to cause them to send a SWAT team to a home, has a high risk of injury). A cosplayer dressed as a #gamergate mascot, Vivian James, faced both online and in-person harassment for her costume.
The Honey Badger Brigade, pro-gg and egalitarian group, was recently chased out of a con after spending $1000 for a vendor’s booth. One member was bullied into tears, and when the Honey Badgers held a gathering in a local park for their supporters, the police were called by con organizers(the police claimed that the call was a waste of time over trivial political disagreements). Reasons for their expulsion have been inconsistent, but most stem from the group’s public support of #gamergate.
Even a few weeks ago, a #gamergate meetup with 2 prominent members and over 100 attendees had to face a bomb threat and let the police sweep the area for explosive devices. If anything, it proves that the violence cited as #gamergate cause is actually coming from every side.
5) Why should I care about this?
It’s a common argument that #gamergate is a waste of time. For that, I disagree. Gaming is a hobby with a revenue of over $70 billion. Our press should reflect the professionalism found in the rest of the hobby. As a gamer, you should also want a press that watches your back and protects you from the big business side of the industry.
For many gamergaters, it’s also a matter of representation and pride. We love our hobby, we love the people in it, and we want to break the illusion that gaming is accessible. When gaming sites like Polygon or Kotaku to attack us and call us dead, we are obviously offended. I don’t like it when my closest friends and I are likened to a “petri dish of people who know so little about how human social interaction and professional life works…”(a quote directly from Alexander’s “Gamers are Dead” article.)
Likewise, the negative press associated to #gamergate is only going to scare women and minorities away from the hobby. It’s one thing to highlight a problem in gaming culture (even if this one is a smokescreen). It’s another to turn it into a witch hunt that attacks anyone for having a different opinion. Games were finally achieving a level of respect with the modern media, and we’ve returned to the era of Jack Thompson and the concerns that videogames cause violence and sexist attitudes. Worse yet, the dramatization of #gamergate by media is causing members of our own communities to make the unwarranted accusations. When we turn on what we love and try to censor or silence it, we only lose.
6) What good has #gamergate done?’
A lot, actually! #Gamergate has done quite a bit in multiple realms.
By far, our proudest work has been achieved through digging and unearthing cases of “games journalism.” The discovery of a private journalism collusion group featuring writers from Polygon, Kotaku and other sites, GameJournosPro. The online group was responsible for blacklisting a writer from the industry and initiating the Zoe Quinn blackout. Additionally, we have uncovered a large collection of conflicts of interest in games journalism(current count is at 120+).
One of our primary methods of pressure is writing to advertisers to express dissatisfaction that they are buying adspace from publications that are unethical and attack their audience. Gawker lost over 7 figures because of this technique alone and no longer qualifies for Google AdSense thanks to the work done by #gamergaters.
Since #gamergate arose, PCGamer has created an ethics policy. Other sites, like eurogamer, have updated and revised their policies as well. Most Gawker subsidiaries have started putting disclaimers in their articles(although they have not admitted it was #gamergate’s pressure, it’s fairly obvious that they started doing so right after the movement gained traction). Numerous sites with undisclosed affiliate links have also been forced to change their policies.
#Gamergate has held fundraisers and charities to support different causes. One of the most successful fundraisers helped The Fine Young Capitalists,a feminist media production group, raise over $65,000 for a kickstarter. Other fundraisers include Child’s Play, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the PACER Center of National Bully Prevention. As the group began to expand to cover freedom of speech and anti-bullying, it has also helped house a safe space for victims of harassment and social censorship.
7) Where does #gamergate fall politcally?
We don’t have an exact statistic, but according to poll given to over 1500 gamegaters, the largest portion identify as left liberal. About half identify as libertarians, 24% specifically as left-libertarian. I identify as left-libertarian as well.
Opponents have labeled #gamergate as a conservative movement, but that is false and mostly used as an attack on the people supporting #gamergate. Certainly, we have our share of right wingers, but we are not inherently right wing(nor is there anything wrong with being right wing). We simply want a media that protects the audience it claims to represent.
8) And in terms of diversity?
#Gamergate is incredibly diverse. We boast a large number of supporters from all over the world, with people of different races, sexualities and backgrounds.
Sometimes, people identify #gamergate as a collection of white, straight men against minorities. In response, minority gamergaters created the hashtag #notyourshield, arguing that they didn’t like anti-gg trying to speak for them (literally not the shield of anti-gg who would dismiss opinions on the assumption that the speaker is a white male.)
9) Who represents #gamergate?
The movement is mostly a consumer revolt and has no true head. There are some figures that are highly regarded in the #gamergate community.
- Totalbiscuit, a youtube game reviewer, has been one of the most outspoken proponents of #gamergate.
- “Factual Feminist” Christina Hoff Summers, who produces videos discussing the pros and cons of modern feminism, also supports #gamergate.
- Journalist Milo Yiannopoulos, who writes for Breitbart and has switched to specifically covering #gamegate issues.
- Boogie2988, a borderline neutral/pro-Gamergate youtuber who makes both serious and comedic videos relating to consumer protection.
Because we have no leader, the group can be chaotic and sometimes difficult to understand. But the structure has worked thus far, and makes most gamergaters feel they have an opinion that matters. Many gamergaters will disagree on certain movements/topics and feel safe that they won’t be ostracized from the group.
10) Is #gamergate aligned with anyone?
For the most part, no. You may find an overlap between members of #gamergate and other groups, but we pretty much stick to games journalism and anti-censorship discussion. It’s a trend of the media to associate us with other groups (shirtgate, sad puppies, metalgate, etc), but those are attempts to drag us through the mud with guilt by association.
Two groups that are seen consistently in the history of #gamergate are the Fine Young Capitalists, a feminist production studio and Honey Badger Radio, a anti-censorship and egalitarian group. I won’t get into the details too much here, but they are worth exploring on your own time, if you are interested.
10) Where can I learn more?
Great! That’s the first step to forming an educated opinion.
knowyourmeme: Has a pretty objective writeup of the events that caused #gamergate.
kotakuinaction: One of two primary hubs for #gamergate discussion and planning. A very rational area of discourse.
against-gamergate: Essentially the anti-gamergate version of KiA, good for looking at the counter-opinion.
gamergatewiki: Tells the side from perspective of #gamergate, but does not deny it’s intentions. Good for finding pro-#gamergate sources that typically fall through the cracks.
Forbes Writer Eric Kain’s Articles: Offers very objective write-ups of the event and is generally respected by both sides of the debate.
David Pakman: Very neutral reporter who covers the issue from both sides with great interviews and knowledge.
More biased sources
Milo on Breitbart: A pro-gamergate site that can sometimes stray into over-conservatism. Usually a reliable source, just be careful.
Ralph Retort: An extremely pro-gg site that most Gamergaters have disowned as being too radical for it’s own good.
gamerghazi: the radical sect of anti-gg, a subreddit specifically made to attack and make fun of #gamergate
The Mary Sue: Sharply anti-gg news source, responsible for some of the biggest lies about the movement. Still, worth looking into.
Jezebel: Same as above, particularly for being a Gawker subsidiary(Gawker being the umbrella corporation that owns repeat offender Kotaku)