Considering the general focus that this site plays in my life, this post seems misplaced. I wasn’t entirely sure where to write it, because it doesn’t really fit anywhere and I certainly wasn’t going to create a new site for the sole purpose of hosting a single post.
Right now, I am only updating two sites, and it certainly doesn’t belong on my legal site, so it goes here.
This post is about #GamerGate.
For the uninitiated, #GamerGate is hashtag activism directed at “corruption” in the game industry, centered around gaming journalism. It all began when a jilted ex of indie game developer Zoe Quinn wrote a lengthy diatribe about how she may have cheated on him with various and sundry people in the game biz, including a writer at Kotaku, Gawker’s game site. Vox has posted a mostly neutral piece about the debacle.
Frankly, that was dirty. Move on with your life. You live, you learn, etc etc etc.
A small part of The Zoe Post — very small, by comparison — concerned the connections between developer, reporter, and others in the business. Quinn had developed an elegant and affecting game called Depression Quest, a text game about daily living with depression (I assure you, as someone with longterm clinical depression, it is accurate in the utmost). One of her alleged sex partners was a Kotaku writer who contributed to the crowdfunding for the game; another was a judge at a competition of independent games where Depression Quest was honored.
The game press didn’t report on the alleged collusion, which led to cries of “censorship” of the truth.
Having been “silenced” by left-leaning journalists hiding the truth and Social Justice Warriors (which somehow, the gamers behind GamerGate see as an insult?), a vocal and aggressive minority took matters into its own hands.
What happened next was sadly predictable. Quinn was slut-shamed, capable only of sleeping her way to success. Also caught up in the wake was Anita Sarkeesian, a game critic who chronicles in a fairly matter of fact way the manner in which women are depicted in games. She is a frequent target of gamers who feel threatened by her criticism, and was recently forced into hiding because of some very specific death and rape threats. (And Cory Doctorow isn’t having any of that nonsense.)
While Sarkessian may have fled her home, Quinn isn’t shutting up.
.@Blackwind121 I’m not going anywhere or shutting up or vanishing. I’m a terribly inconvenient woman, I know.
— Zoë ʻTom-Kunʼ Quinn (@TheQuinnspiracy) September 7, 2014
The vitriol behind the assaults led to a number of “death of gamers” type trendpieces in both the gaming and mainstream presses.
The official narrative is that the gamer community is sick and tired of being assailed as misogynistic white men, and these self-identified gamers want the press to report about gamers and gaming differently. The #GamerGate hashtag (and it’s sister hashtag, #NotYourShield) were therefore created to confront this journalistic imbalance, and to represent gamers in a more positive light. This has nothing to do with sexism or misogyny; it has nothing to do sex; and it doesn’t even have anything to do with Zoe Quinn — it is all about integrity.
That, in as few words as I could state it, is the official line.
Of course, the official line is utter bullshit.
Beginning at the beginning, the #GamerGate tag first appeared on August 27, in a tweet by actor and right-wing activist Adam Baldwin — one day before any “end of gamers” articles appeared. Therefore we can conclude that #GamerGate is not a reaction to the “death of gamers” pieces.
Moreover, Zoe Quinn herself has been lurking in IRC chats, tracking the #GamerGate strategy sessions — it’s all manufactured, specifically designed to harass her, complete with the jilted ex coaching them. She storified it complete with screencaps, and has also been tweeting videos of the chats in real time.
oh wait what? logs aren’t enough? ok cool I have video too. http://t.co/BsMvnVFqRB
— Zoë ʻTom-Kunʼ Quinn (@TheQuinnspiracy) September 6, 2014
So if #GamerGate isn’t about journalistic integrity, what is it about?
#GamerGate is overwhelmingly a reaction to the idea that games are serious works of art, worthy of deep cultural criticism. This position is bizarre — video games will soon be a $100 billion industry. By comparison, Hollywood brought in $88.3 billion in 2013. Something that big is not only worthy of serious criticism, it demands it — games exist within the larger culture, and the content of games say something about society.
For a certain kind of core gamer, these critics, these reporters, these indie developers, and all these new people claiming the mantle “gamer” are pissing in their sandbox. What was once a pejorative tag — gamer — has become bigger, more inclusive.
And that scares some people.
Others, like the 4Chan jerkoffs, are simply Agents of Chaos manipulating those who may legitimately care about what it means to be a gamer.
And that is ultimately what this is all about — what it means to be a gamer. I remember watching the XBox One launch, with its emphasis on interactive television and sports gaming, and watching gamers explode on Twitter over having been abandoned.
Well, sports gamers are gamers too. As are people who use their consoles only with Kinect games. As are tabletop gamers, mobile device gamers, and even people who use their consoles to watch Netflix more than they actually play games on them.
Two final thoughts — I cannot imagine why anyone would think “Social Justice Warrior” is an insult. I am an activist, and also a lawyer, and I use my position and privilege to fight for social justice everyday. If you are not a Social Justice Warrior, you are on the side of injustice.
Lastly, many of the people involved in #GamerGate are anonymous accounts specifically created for the limited purpose of promoting the hashtag. Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, even someone as insignificant in this debate as I am, are all out there by name. Anonymity lends the #GamerGate people no credibility, no history. It is hard to know precisely how many people are actually doing it. It is hard to take the arguments credibly, when so few people making it have no investment in promoting their own credibility.
And that is all I have to say about that….