On Gamergate: Loose thoughts

What a fuck up this all is.

Despite it touching nearly all bases of what I write on – online harassment, game criticism, ethics in media – I’ve not done much on Gamergate itself. Gamergate and harassment of women in gaming has made the front page of the New York Times; it’s had mainstream outlets examine gaming culture. One of the main reasons I’ve not targeted my problems with Gamergate is simple: It’s nothing new.

At least to me.

This doesn’t diminish my support for those facing harassment and abuse from those using this bizarre, leaderless collective. Indeed, why would it  – since I’ve been opposing harassment, writing about sexism in various domains, for years.

Gamergate is simply all these voices that so many of us who are not white, straight, male, etc. have faced poured into one megaphone. They can point to their more odious sides and claim those people “don’t speak for us”, while remaining leaderless. As Chris Grant highlighted in Polygon’s official opposition to Gamergate:

There can be no dialogue with a leaderless organization that both condemns and condones this behavior, depending on who’s using the hashtag.

I have friends and respected colleagues who attempt to salvage and dig deep into the consumer fatigue that is meshed with various strands of Gamergate. Their concerns of corruption, nepotism, sexism, etc., are all warranted — yet I fail to see why they require the collective at all. Indeed, moderates who condemn the harassment still maintain the hashtag collective – despite it being inherently entwinted with a backward, slut-shaming, antagonistic, sexist view of women. You can’t escape its origins – a mixture of lies and sex-shaming, of a woman’s personal life, of manipulation and nudges, letting those who exist to yell in comment sections take their baton forward.

How do you form a collective targeting corruption of the biggest industries in the world alongside mandating what constitutes creative criticism of that industry’s products? These two disparate and highly complicated areas require nuanced perspectives, which shows up the inherent immaturity and misguided rage of the collective.

No one denies corruption occurs in massive, billion-dollar industries; no one undermines the impact gaming and corruption has on lives and livelihoods. That’s why game journalists have been examining and rooting out and writing on corruption and bad business practice for years. Any media publication that allowed its members to be swayed because of sexy times would soon be found out. Yet, no evidence worth supporting has arisen – despite Gamergaters constantly saying Zoe Quinn slept with four, or five, or six, or a million journalists to get a higher score on her free – free! – game.

I want people using this hashtag just to let it go, but maintain their concerns for actual problems – like bad business practice, like better game journalism. Those are good things I want too.

But too many of my friends have told me they’re afraid to just use the hashtag, to even talk about related issues, for fear of harassment and abuse. I’m able to make light of it, due to my immune spell of being a male mostly. I’ve also seen women studying game development reconsider their career options.

In my personal experience with gamergaters, I’ve been bullied, belittled, harassed, since the first. A few have maintained civil discussions with me and even follow me – calling out abuse where they see it. But they still use the hashtag. They still keep under the banner, despite it burning up in their hands. There’s nothing to fear of letting it go – if your concerns are legitimate, are worth pursuing, you don’t need to join at the hip with sexists, racists, homophobes – who are using the cover of legitimacy, of “ethics”, to prop up their bigoted worldviews. Is it any wonder that conservatives and anti-feminists and respective groups – Erick Erickson, CH Sommers, Breitbart news – with large platforms are using this opportunity to talk about a demographic they’ve never given a fuck about before?

Indeed, its unethical to claim ethics when the guys next to you scream about women having an opinion. As someone who writes and cares a great deal about ethics, I am more than disappointed at the level of immaturity and ignorance surrounding those claiming “ethics”. I’m sad and angry that people who genuinely are concerned about the same things I am remain under the banner’s shadow; I want them to be with me examining ethics, looking at corruption. So far, I’ve seen nothing really worth celebrating and everything worth opposing.

What the hell is this and why remain? There’s nothing to salvage here. It’s time to give up this banner and take the concerns of corruption – or whatever – to their respective domains. How can you ask for free speech yet mandate what gaming sites may write on their reviews – purely because you decide graphics matter more than sexism? How can you call for corruption’s end, yet offer nothing that even indicates corruption (there is corruption and poor journalistic practice, folks. But gamergate’s concern isn’t it, especially when so much is not bloody true!)

There are no “sides” to this discussion: or rather there are many – Gamergate itself isn’t a side so much as it is a confusion: one part hating women, one part threatening charities and targeting unrelated people, one part condemning that part, playing the No True Gamergate Fallacy (what more do you need except to use the hashtag positively and claim support?). Those opposing aren’t a collective – some are targets, some are people who have dealt with these same issues for years and will continue to do so (like me), some are people horrified by harassment. Indeed, if anything it’s Gamergate against the world.

No, not all in gamergate are harassing, hating, abusing. But as John Scalzi points out (can’t find link!), gamergaters with legitimate concerns are surrounding by a moat of shit and screaming monstrosities, that makes us not want to make the journey. Indeed, seen from the outside, your collective looks kind of shit and monstrous; oh we catch hints of genuine concern, but why remain? Grab those golden rays of concern and leave. Start something new and specific. Gamergate is big and loose and weird and toxic, poisoning the legitimate discussions good people want to have – and it seems those who aren’t sexists, homophobes or harassers spend more of their time distancing themselves from those also using the hashtag. Why not use that time to actually defend those concerns you care about, in their own avenue? It simply makes no sense to remain.

(The contrast to what’s happening in the atheist movement is pretty astounding – and it’s little wonder the same folks who think criticism of Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, Sam Harris, etc. amounts to blasphemy are supporting Gamergate. I’m so bored by the atheist movement nonsense, that I’m not going to be the one who writes that piece, though.)





  1. Kelseigh says

    Not sure if you heard the latest, but you might want to look into GG’s encouraging a suicidal rape victim (Chloe Sagal) to kill herself for the crime of saying she was a feminist, and the harassment of Anil Dash, who is neither a journalist or gamer, and had never written about GG, because he wouldn’t help them attack Gawker Media.

    Meanwhile as many as eight women have been driven from their homes, and as Stephanie noted over on her blog, a lot of the anti-FtB crowd is getting in on the act.