The misogynistic, right wing reactionary bigots of #GamerGate are still at it. And this time, they've taken a page from our progressive playbook. The Washington Post reports that the lynch mob has organized a boycott campaign against all who "oppose" them. Write an article critical of #GamerGate and you may find yourself on the "Operation Disrespectful Nod" boycott list as well. If you are male, or a large corporation, that is. If you are a woman, LGBT, or person of color, you'll likely be threatened with rape and death, and have all your personal information released online.
Obviously, this is not an unbiased article. I'm a straight(ish) white male gamer who has been playing video games since the late seventies. But, first and foremost, I'm a feminist, anti-racist progressive, or as GamerGate would call me, a "Social Justice Warrior." I'm writing this diary as a call for help in defending an art form I love from vicious attacks by a small minority of violent, lawless bigots.
For those of you unfamiliar with GamerGate, I'll provide the background as I understand it. Some time ago, a relatively unknown independent female game developer named Zoe Quinn produced a little game called "Depression Quest" exploring the affliction of depression. Because the content and game play of "Depression Quest" is very different from the standard macho video game, it got some good press, even though it is, quite frankly, not a very good "game." It is really more of a piece of interactive art.
A few reviewers and fans liked it, while other gamers were angry that it was getting any attention at all. Their anger intensified into attack when the game was released on Steam's Project Greenlight. Mostly, it was ignored. That is, until an ex boyfriend of Ms. Quinn, Eron Gjoni, released a rambling hit-piece accusing his ex-lover of multiple infidelities, exchanging sex for positive reviews, and emotional abuse.
This was a "shot heard 'round the Internet," and the attacks on Zoe Quinn began to spill over into real life: naked photos and personal documents were released, and she began receiving vile, and credible, rape and death threats. Around the same time, Anita Sarkeesian released a video critical of misogyny in video games. She was also targeted for attack, and was eventually forced to flee her home.
Adding fuel to the fire, Zoe rekindled an old fight with another feminist gaming group she had previously worked with, The Fine Young Capitalists. They claim her supporters hacked their website, and her online attacks resulted in partners pulling out of The Fine Young Capitalists productions, as well as cancellation of a planned event promoting women in gaming. Zoe Quinn had her own, competing event replace theirs. This fight led to further attacks on Ms. Quinn, and helped fuel a firestorm of bizarre and discredited conspiracy theories.
More articles critical of "Gamer Identity" as being white male centric were written, including a piece in Gamasutra, a widely read gaming industry web site owned by Gawker Media. GamerGaters felt like the gaming press was now attacking them directly, and they fought back, through a boycott campaign aimed at advertisers. Any article they felt was critical of gamergate earned its publisher a spot on the "Operation Disrespectful Nod" boycott list. Gamergaters succeeded in getting Intel to pull all advertising from Gamasutra. More recently, Mercedes-Benz has pulled all advertising from all of Gawker Media's websites.
This is now a full-on culture war. GamerGate supporters would have us believe that this is all about "ethics in video game journalism." But GamerGate is a leaderless, anonymous mob. Anyone can claim membership, and can perform vile acts in the group's name, without being called out by other members. Analysis by Newsweek shows that tweets with the #GamerGate hashtag are far more likely to be attacks on women than critique of ethics in journalism. Men who speak out against GamerGate are rarely harassed, even when they viciously mock and attack Gamergaters, as NFL punter Chris Kluwe did.
Because the GamerGate movement has no leader, and GamerGaters refuse to self police their worst members, we can only fairly judge the movement by its actions, rather than by what any one supporter claims GamerGate is all about. And the actions of GamerGate paint a frightening, violent, misogynistic picture.
Are there actually ethical problems in gaming journalism? Yes, of course there are. But the "ethics violations" that gamergaters focus on are all about "Social Justice Warriors" (their term for progressives like us) taking over video game journalism and telling them what they should like, and why they are bad, misogynistic white men for liking the games they do. No mention of actual corruption, which is so commonplace in the gaming industry it boggles the mind.
Journalists and game magazine editors routinely shill for gaming companies at industry events like E3. Gaming journalists are showered with gifts and flown on expensive junkets. But as long as those editors and journalists shill for the "right" kind of game, i.e. violent games where women are sex objects, minorities are bad-guys, and gays are either a joke or non-existent, gamergaters have no problem with their ethics.
I love video games. I see them as one of the most revolutionary new art forms, ever. Video games could be used as a medium to express art unlike any the human race has experienced before. Instead, they have become a cesspool of consumerism. Video games are not generally seen as art, but more as a toy, an amusement, much as comics were originally seen. Something for children and man-children. Now, comics and graphic novels are a fairly well respected art form.
Video games could become a well respected art form. But GamerGate has set that time back by decades. I remember a time when we gamers were trying to convince Jack Thompson that video games did not cause school shootings. Now, some of us are online, literally saying, "I'm going to rape and kill this woman, because, video games."
If you are a progressive gamer, please do not be seduced into believing the lies and misinformation coming from GamerGate. Stand up to misogyny and racism in gaming, wherever you see it. And please call Intel and Mercedes and tell them not to kowtow to hate groups.
EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that Gamasutra is owned by UMB, while the gaming site that Gawker owns is Kotaku.