Some Thoughts on Gamergate

Take a look at the Wikipedia entry relating to Gamergate below.

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The article tells us the movement stemmed from a “harassment campaign”. That it “targeted several women”. That people falsely accused Zoe Quinn of entering a relationship with a journalist for positive coverage. That Gamergate’s attempts to dissociate themselves from misogyny have been “insincere and self-serving”.

This is clearly far from impartial, despite Wikipedia’s stated goal to be neutral as possible – Wikipedia even has a page dedicated to helping contributors understand neutrality:

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However, even the most partisan observer would have to admit that the language used in the Wikipedia entry is biased on the anti-Gamergate side.

Have a look at this post on the Kotaku In Action subreddit:

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Kotaku In Action describes itself as “the main hub for GamerGate discussion on Reddit” and “The almost-official GamerGate subreddit!” At the time of writing it has 80,092 subscribers. The post above was upvoted 2,320 times.

The post claims that Gamergate has been “smeared and wrongly vilified in the media”. Is this true? Well, Google “Gamergate” and the first opinion piece you’ll get is Gawker’s What Is Gamergate, and Why? An Explainer for Non-Geeks, which is unashamedly anti-Gamergate.

After this is RationalWiki’s entry: “Gamergate is a distillation of the worst of the worst of the Internet, taking the form of a 2014 4chan raid that went on for far too long; showing everyone how reactionary, virulently misogynistic, and frankly stupid the cellarian underbelly of the video gaming community can be. Nintendo has officially referred to GamerGate as an “online hate campaign”.” RationalWiki purports to be a “a community working together to explore and provide information about a range of topics centered around science, skepticism, and critical thinking”, but nothing about their definition will strike the reader as balanced.

Also on the front page of Gamergate results is a Guardian article entitled “What Gamergate should have taught us about the ‘alt-right’“. Observe the opening lines:

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Gamergate “thrived on hate”. Women and minorities were “living in fear”. Gamergate was just angry dudes masquerading as victims. He goes on:

Gamergate was an online movement that effectively began because a man wanted to punish his ex girlfriend. Its most notable achievement was harassing a large number of progressive figures – mostly women – to the point where they felt unsafe or considered leaving the industry. Game developer Zoe Quinn was the original target. Anita Sarkeesian’s videos applying basic feminist theory to video games had already made her a target (because so many people have a difficulty differentiating cultural criticism from censorship) but this hate was powerfully amplified by Gamergate – leading to death threats, rape threats, and the public leaking of personal information.

For decades, gamers and programmers were stereotyped as geeks, nerds, losers. And they were almost always white men. From NBC:

The perception of video game players as inactive, maladjusted nerds has persisted for years…

The ’80s image of a gamer, which was influenced by the fact that early gaming consoles like the Amiga and Atari were in fact early personal computers aimed at, well, nerds. Add to this the people associated with “Dungeons & Dragons” and, later, the marketing of video games as children’s toys, and the popular picture of gamers is easy to understand.

This is probably what a lot of people think of when they imagine gamers.

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This is what the industry wants us to believe modern gamers look like.

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Like a United Colors of Benetton commercial: men and women, attractive and colourblind. Also not very realistic.

This essay does not come with a value judgement. But it isn’t hard to understand where Gamergate came from. The liberal media wants us to view Gamergate as a group of straight white men (i.e. a group with a lot of power in society) playing the victim. Note the words in the Guardian article: dudes masquerading as victims.

But gamers typically haven’t been jocks, handsome lacrosse players who hoovered up all the attractive girls at frathouse parties. Gamers have been stereotyped as dweebs, basement-dwellers, virgins with micropenises.

So is it any surprise that when intersectionality and social justice and critical theory arrived in video game journalism and started telling these geeks that they sit atop the pyramid of privileged groups that they lashed out? The world of gaming – as with Dungeons and Dragons before it – was one traditionally occupied by guys with little or no social power. The world they built for themselves – and let’s not pretend the vast, vast majority of the gaming industry in America was made up of anything except socially challenged white men for the longest time – was broken into. And yes, lots of these nerds turned misogynist in their tweets very quickly. But the battle between left and right has always been bloody, and this one is no different.

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