The #GamerGate ‘movement’, for lack of a better term, has been growing in publicity, impact and toxicity of late and as ‘someone who plays games’ (carefully avoiding the term ‘gamer’) and ‘someone who respects the right of other humans to voice opinions without fear of abuse’, I feel obliged to put my position on it into writing (I think I just did).
Quick background on GamerGate (ok “quick” and “GamerGate” don’t really come hand in hand so bear with me)…
The current incarnation of #GamerGate started with an ex-boyfriend of a female game developer writing a blog post about their time together including accusations that she cheated on him with a gaming journalist; the implication being that she did so in return for favourable publicity about her game. This started the notion that there was a debate to be had about “ethics in game journalism”. Nothing wrong with that – the symbiotic relationship between developers and the games press that writes about and recommends their games is interesting and if there are conflicts of interest in existence, a discussion about these is of course justified.
However, instead of said debate taking place in an objective fashion, the ‘voice’ of the gamers instead turned hostile towards the female developer mentioned above, to the extent she received online abuse and hate that had real consequences to her offline life (threats against her family etc). This disproportionate hate towards her (none was directed towards the complicit male journalist or the ex-boyfriend and his wildly-inappropriate blog post) sparked a wave of commentary by other women in the industry, voicing their long-felt opinions about inherent sexism and misogyny that they deal with on a daily basis (as Charlie Brooker put it, if The Internet was a MMRPG, make sure you don’t pick “Female” as the character class as there is an instant difficulty increase). They too then became ‘targets’ of Gamergaters, again receiving death threats, abuse, ‘doxing‘ etc, for the sole crime of voicing an opinion that some people objected to. The irony of someone voicing concerns about free-speech, only to be forcibly shut down by those who apparently are fighting for free speech, should not be understated.
So at the time of writing we are in a position where any woman who dares voice their opinion about the role of the “gamer” in the current market, sexism in games or online abuse in general, can generally expect to receive the same treatment. All the while, the GamerGate supporters still justify the continued existence of the movement by dismissing the abusers as a minority who don’t represent the whole (while still benefitting from the atmosphere of fear they create), and that the issue of abuse is being used by the general media to divert attention from their true cause, which is of political interference with games and ethics in journalism.
What do I think?
My opinion is thus: while there is ongoing abuse of women, or anyone else, for any reason, associated with the “GamerGate” movement, any other discussion, warranted or otherwise, is irrelevant and inappropriate. The abuse must end, and that is the only discussion to be had. The Gamergate banner has been tarnished beyond repair, and to continue to attempt to justify support of it while real people are being forced out of their homes is intolerable, and supporters should be ashamed of themselves.
I also do not fully believe that the supporters who say they actually care about journalism and politics really mean it – I have suspicions that that they just think they mean it as it gives them what they feel is a publicly-acceptable facade to an otherwise childish attitude to equality and acceptance. The complete lack of sympathy shown by all GamerGate supporters in the face of the inexcusable abuse and harassment that is being carried out in their name, only indicates complicity with that activity. Saying they disagree with abuse is irrelevant if they continue to stand behind the banner.
Actions speak louder than words, and right now the only actions are targeted hate, justified by meaningless words.