The very much real-life #GamerGate war is a battleground that is tough to pass through, primarily because there is so much confusion as to what #GamerGate actually is. The massive controversy around #Gamergate conflicts with the two sides that don't even agree to what it is they're really fighting for.
Many would say #GamerGate is a debate about the perceived lack of journalism ethics by many game reviewers after game developer Zoe Quinn was outed for having intimate relations with a gaming journalist in exchange for positive coverage of her game, but the disturbing facts that have recently been coming out of #GamerGate pushed media focus more on the wave of misogynistic harassment.
It's not fair to denounce the entire movement because of one section of it being Internet trolls hiding behind a hashtag that was meant for something else, as #GamerGate members seemed just as outraged and condemn personal threats and harassment. According to /r/KotakuInAction on Reddit, "GamerGate is a consumer revolt triggered by overt politicization, ethical misconduct, and unprecedented amounts of censorship targeted at gamers." The main issue they are attempting to address is the unbalanced view of the industry by the media that project their political ideas as facts in their articles.
"We can't control what anyone says or does in the name of GamerGate, but we can send a clear message that we don't stand for it," Redditor "rhoark" said in a thread he started. "It does not represent us. If anyone feels unsafe about talking to gamers, it is because Gawker crafted that narrative."
But the ugly half of #GamerGate supporters—hellbent on the destruction of the traditional gamer lifestyle—are hiding behind the hashtag, sending death threats and doxxing anti-#GamerGate supporters, though they insist they aren't targeting women even if it seems that they are.
Threats of the "deadliest school shooting in American history" were sent to game critic Anita Sarkeesian prior to her scheduled speech on women in video games at Utah State University, prompting her to cancel the event. Others, like 28-year-old #GamerGate supporter, Erik Foreman, said he received an e-mail that included his home address and a threat to mutilate his body and attack his family, according to The Washington Post.
"There has been so much hate. So many angry words, so many accusations, over…what? Video games? Women in video games? People who write about video games? It would be absurd if it hadn't forced people out of their homes for fear of their personal safety," Kotaku's Luke Plunkett wrote.
The reason #GamerGate has received so much controversy is because it lacks formal leadership and denounces any harassment as not being carried out by "true" #GamerGate members, but members of the group have been tainted.
An analysis by Newsweek discovered that Twitter denizens using the #GamerGate hashtag have directed negative tweets at critics of gaming more than they do at the journalists who supposedly lack the integrity they are seeking to uphold.
In August, Kotaku writer Nathan Grayson, one of the "five guys" who were accused of having a sexual relationship with Quinn, received less than a thousand tweets using the #GamerGate hashtag as opposed to Quinn who received over 10,000 tweets in the same period. Even after it was proven that Grayson never wrote more than one sentence mentioning the game before their relationship even started, ethical issues in gaming journalism continued to grow after disclosures rose that some game journalists supported crowd-funding campaigns for games, but this is where it gets confusing.
To say #GamerGate is about journalistic integrity while female game developers like Quinn or Brianna Wu receive more outraged tweets than the male journalist is contradictory. If Chris Kluwe can write a profanity-filled tirade against #GamerGate without so much as a blink, yet Felicia Day is doxxed almost immediately for speaking up about it, the weight of the movement is no longer viable. As a journalist, I'm all for a movement to better the integrity of those in the field, but this is an irrational way of going about it.
It doesn't make sense to outright attack a non-journalist in a movement about the ethics in journalism, but after #GamerGate members convinced advertisers such as Intel to pull their ads from a gaming website after running a piece that argued video games are for everyone, it only further dilutes their core. However, thinking #GamerGate is about harassing women is far from the truth when many vocal voices of the group are women, and the #Notyourshield tag on Twitter will produce more posts from women that prove this isn't just male gamers talking about #GamerGate. Additionally, HuffPost Live held a #GamerGate conversation with three female gamers to get their views on the movement.
If #GamerGate's true mission is to convince game critics to adopt the same standards as "real journalists," they must make that a clear and concise initiative by focusing on the journalists themselves. The Society of Professional Journalists has been protecting journalism since 1909, outlining the Code of Ethics that all professional journalists, student journalists, and even bloggers should follow. It is the official code that is taught in journalism programs and enforced in the newsrooms of major media.
"GamerGate believes that journalistic ethics are important and we want nothing to do with journalists or publications who do not agree on those points," Gurney Halleck wrote on the website dedicated to #GamerGate. "We want transparency, we want to trust our news sources, and we want to make sure that a small and vocal minority of the gaming press will not try to smear their readers because we are demanding this."
However convoluted #GamerGate is, misogyny in gaming is fully prevalent, whether it is attached to this movement or not. I recently wrote an article about the harassment and bullying of females in comics and at conventions, and while those communities have made great strides in improving acceptance for fangirls, the gaming industry has taken a few steps back.
When Felicia Day finally spoke out against #GamerGate on Wednesday night after remaining silent for "self-protection and fear," just 50 minutes later she was doxxed by the username "gamerg8" with her address and personal email posted in the comments.
So seeing another gamer on the street used to be an auto-smile opportunity, or an entry into a conversation starting with, "Hey, dude! I love that game too!" Me and that stranger automatically had something in common: A love for something unconventional. Outsiders in arms. We had an auto-stepping stone to hurtle over human-introduction-awkwardness, into talking about something we loved together. Instant connection!
But for the first time maybe in my life, on that Saturday afternoon, I walked towards that pair of gamers and I didn't smile. I didn't say hello. In fact, I crossed the street so I wouldn't walk by them. Because after all the years of gamer love and inclusiveness, something had changed in me. A small voice of doubt in my brain now suspected that those guys and I might not be comrades after all. That they might not greet me with reflected friendliness, but contempt.
I went home and was totally, utterly depressed.
It is a familiar feeling that I know all too well. I grew up playing video games and reading comics and never felt unaccepted by those who shared in the same interests. But when I got to college, I realized exactly how females are treated in geek culture.
My college had a comic book club and gamer guild that was one of the reasons I chose it over a top university I was also accepted to that didn't have much of anything past Division I sports teams. At the orientation, the speaker went over the list of clubs, and I could easily see among the crowd of newcomers that I was the only one that cared. I went home and wrote on Tumblr my excitement about coming to a college with such a tight-knit community of people just like me—but they weren't like me. Almost instantly, before I officially became a member of the community, I started a war. Members from each group questioned my credibility in a heated debate over whether I was a "real geek" and if I "should be trusted" while others went so far as to find me on Facebook to quiz me on geek topics. And for what? Voicing my excitement of a few clubs where I can discuss comics and gaming and make new friends? I felt nothing but ostracized and unwelcome to a college I barely started at, and I graduated feeling almost the same.
I can't say my experience is unique, because it's not. Policing women and questioning their credibly to push them out and preserve male dominance is a phenomenon that happens all too often because females are no longer hiding that they're fangirls—and we shouldn't. We play video games. We read comic books. We are every part of the conversation that men are.
Felicia Day is right—it is depressing. To fear being harassed or doxxed for merely typing the words "Gamer Gate" is not what the gaming community is about, and it surely isn't what #GamerGate is truly about because any negativity stemming from #GamerGate has been torn down as the work of an anonymous troll. I will never put my controller down because of #GamerGate, and neither should you.
What are your opinions on #GamerGate? Are you for or against it? Let us know in the comments below.