Many people have noticed the #GamerGate hashtag floating around but still don’t know what it’s all about, so I’m going to try and distill it down to the very basics.
1. What is #GamerGate?
#GamerGate is the hashtag around which video game consumers have rallied to:
- Demand an end to unethical behavior, corruption, and overt politicization in the video game industry, particularly among video game journalists
- Boycott outlets that have attacked gamers with accusations of misogyny and sexism in response to the above demand
- Share research on and evidence of corruption in the industry
- Support websites/causes that support gamers and inclusivity in the industry
- Support each other against accusations of misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc.
While the tag was coined by Adam Baldwin to reflect the Watergate scandal, it has since become synonymous with a gaming consumer revolt, as “supporters” of #GamerGate see themselves as a barrier to the corruption in the industry. It even has an unofficial mascot called Vivian James.
2. What started #GamerGate?
Gamers have grumbled about corruption and politicization in the industry for years, but the sudden furor we are witnessing today stems from two major sources.
A. Widespread Censorship of Discussion
Like most big stories, it starts with a sex scandal. The inciting incident of this controversy was a blog post by the ex-boyfriend of a female independent game developer. In it, he revealed she had slept with several members of the industry who were in a position to advance her career, one of whom was a writer for a popular gaming website.
When gamers took to the web to talk about it, video game websites and normally open Internet forums like 4chan and reddit banned discussion and the users who attempted to bring up the subject. This created the Streisand Effect.
B. Gaming Media Attacking Gamers
Undeterred by the attempts at censorship, gamers took to Youtube and Twitter to discuss and investigate these relationships, uncovering further evidence of unethical/corrupt behavior. In response, gaming media went on the offense.
In the space of approximately 24 hours, some dozen articles appeared across various gaming websites declaring: “Gamers” are Dead, “Gamers” are Over, and that the controversy was simply the death rattle of a white male misogynistic culture unhappy that the industry was growing beyond them.
Naturally, gamers were not amused by the accusation, and the #GamerGate ranks swelled accordingly. They have since begun boycotts of these sites and their advertisers with some success.
3. Why would the gaming media attack its consumers like this?
Investigations have shown the gaming media has serious problems maintaining professional distance with the developers they cover and holding to ethical standards, if they have them at all. They tend to operate in closely-knit cliques of friends and support each other financially, making them highly susceptible to “group think”, if not outright collusion.
That echo chamber prevents them from recognizing their behavior as problematic, and it amplifies the influence of progressive feminists who have entered the industry to push their political ideology. These particular feminists use their gender as a shield against criticism, paint the industry with rampant sexism, and perpetuate the stereotype of gamers as awkward white male virgins upset with the presence of women in gaming.
Thus the gaming media continues to deflect criticisms with accusations of misogyny and harassment.
Gamers will often refer to these people as “social justice warriors” or SJWs. You may see the #NotYourShield tag used by female/minority #GamerGate supporters to refute the above stereotype.
4. What about all the threats and harassment?
Yes, many people opposed to #GamerGate, including some of these prominent feminist figures, have received harassment and threats. Like most threats on the Internet, they have come from anonymous individuals whose actual agenda is indeterminate. The media has showcased these threats as evidence that the #GamerGate movement is a hate group targeting prominent women in the industry.
However, #GamerGate supporters have been abundantly clear they do not support this behavior. They can be seen condemning harassment and threats on Twitter, in blog posts, Youtube videos, and images created to support the group. They report it when they see it, and in some cases have taken the time to track down the offenders, such as discovering one such person may be a journalist in Brazil.
#GamerGate supporters have also received threats and faced harassment, but mostly they follow the best practice for these situations, which is to quietly report it to the proper authorities rather than draw further attention to it. In addition to anonymous threats, #GamerGate supporters have been subjected to comparisons to ISIS and other such ridiculous hyperbole by members of the video game industry and its media.
5. How does this affect me, and why should I care?
In the past two decades, the video game industry has grown enormously, and it is now a $90+ billion industry cutting across social, economic, and national borders. If you are under the age of 35 or have siblings, kids, grandkids, nieces, and/or nephews under that age, chances are somebody you care about plays video games and does so frequently.
Like all media, video game media has significant power to control the narrative. That includes giving certain games attention so that you and your loved ones play them, as well as trying to convince you and your loved ones how you should feel about them.
#GamerGate has also begun to reach mainstream media outlets such as CNN and MSNBC, which have largely adopted the position of their brethren in video game media, so even if you still consider the video game media irrelevant, the big guys have joined in now.
For conservative/libertarian readers, I would add that you should already be aware of how damaging this underlying progressive ideology has been to other industries, such as politics, television, and movies, and therefore should be very concerned about it planting its flag in this one.
Moreover, many of you have watched as mainstream media has smeared you in the same way, and this is an opportunity to stand with people who face the same hardship. It’s also an opportunity to show a sizable group of largely apolitical, left-leaning young people that the preconceptions they may have of you as a result of that media influence are not accurate. Simply presenting an unbiased look at this controversy has the potential to win over many new readers and hopefully friends. For example, many gamers have been seen saying things like “I thought I was a liberal, now I’m not sure” and “I can’t believe I’m reading Breitbart!”
For those reading this who may be sympathetic to the social justice argument, I would point out using accusations of misogyny et. al. to cover corruption and graft severely undermines the fight against actual examples of sexism, racism, and homophobia the world over.
But beyond that, I believe this is a cultural tipping point, wherein we can decide if we will continue the spiral down into splitting people up into groups of victims for the benefit of a few corrupt leaders, or head back towards valuing the individual on his or her own merit.
Video games are a wonderful hobby that promote inclusivity, friendly competition, and independent thinking. Let’s not allow them to become another political message board dictated to by unscrupulous narcissists.
All of the artwork for this post was created by Sarjex. Check out her store!
We’ll be discussing #GamerGate tonight on the Their Finest Hour radio show at 10 PM ET on Vigilant Liberty Radio. Tune in!