Authors Note: Before reading, please note that I am not associated with #GamerGate nor do I have any hostility or disapproval about any names mentioned within this article.
When looking into the term #GamerGate many people will reflect upon attacks on personalities such as Anita Sarkeesian, Leigh Alexander, Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, and a multitude of other people, but the question is – are they really #GamerGate or a bunch of troublemakers using the hashtag to feel protected? This week is where I will be diving into what could be considered a darker side of gaming, but one that needs to exist, and does bring some rather valid points to the table.
As a journalist that is still up and coming, it’s hard not to take a possible misstep and ruin your career, which is not my intent here, but instead it’s to shed some light on a very misunderstood conglomerate of gamers that feel that the ‘gamer identity’ is being threatened if not slowly smeared by mass media. The past few days I found myself watching a lot of videos, reading a lot of articles, going through forums on Reddit to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. In there I found quite a bit of slander and anti-GamerGate information until I stumbled upon a few folks who seemed to actually be legitimately concerned about equality, ethics in the industry, but also the value of the consumer. When it comes to other voices I did find a darker side of it. I did find a voice that was anti-female gamer, I did find a voice that found women a ‘stain’ on gaming, but even hate towards other non-elitist gamers. Granted this was a very select few people it does exist.
So what is GamerGate exactly? For those unfamiliar, there is a deep history where this starts, but a rather dark one at that. GamerGate was a hashtag that was originally tweeted by actor Adam Baldwin when he tweeted about two videos which are critical of developer Zoe Quinn, whom is a feminist blogger that had actually gained a bit of track when she had supposedly had relations with a writer for Kotaku by the name of Nathan Grayson. Shortly after this ‘scandal’ came to rise over him having “written articles and information” about her game Depression Quest, the editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo came out and finally debunked the whole debacle. Because of this, however, there has been other issues to arise out of it. According to Zoe Quinn, she had received threats that pertained to death, rape, beating, and even calling out for people to intentionally hurt her. Though none of this happened, it still has occurred to several others. Though it came to question – is #GamerGate really responsible for this or was it a group of users using a hashtag to protect them?
After doing as much digging as possible I did find moments where I cringed, wanted to wash my eyes, and not even be associated with people within the gaming community that could be as critical as these people that flew #GamerGate. After digging for a few more hours I did see a brighter side to it all. This ‘lighter side’ called upon ethics in gaming journalism, sexism, and even a voice for the average gaming consumer. Though that still doesn’t answer what #GamerGate is. For some? #GamerGate is finally a form of identity where both male and female #GamerGate members feel safe and able to freely express themselves without fear of being shunned. Others use it as a shield to harass, victimize, and even tear down members within the industry or each other.
Though as a gamer it is hard for male and females alike to find a identity as a gamer, which #GamerGate has provided gamers with. As gaming began to blossom, gamers have always been labeled as just “gamers”. With a term that targeted a culture that primarily targeted a male audience, a young one at that, it was hard to see products that didn’t target young gamers that wanted games that would draw them in. As the times changed, so did the target audience and those who would join. as women began to join in, we began to see the terms “male gamer” and “female gamer” begin to explode. Something that anyone, even myself, can relate to in order to help express my gender as a gamer. Though, gaming began to grow more, we began to see the Nintendo Wii, tablets, smartphones, and even consoles began targets that did not conform to the ‘traditional’ and ‘hardcore’ gamers. This lead to a rather diverse population as gamers began to unit and fly under one flag as gamers enjoyed playing games, which have become viewed as an art rather than a product, which lead to more creative and graphically appealing games to grow. As the perception of this viewpoint began to grow, so has the stance of a ‘cultural divide’ within the gaming culture as the hobby of gaming grew.
As gaming began to grow ever-more popular, so did the need for some studios to split away or develop games without the help or interference of publishers restrictions that could be imposed upon the creative teams that develop it. With games becoming more appealing and accessible to gamers of any gender, ethnicity, and upcoming, females began to help diversify gaming more-so than before as games became more appealing towards the female gender. With this happening, the ESA did a 2014 annual survey which lead to showing that women consist of almost if not more than 48% of the gaming culture compared to the 52% of males, which is a much larger proportion of females compared to the years before. With this also came a new audience that began to question some of the industries assumptions and tropes that were used by game developers towards the female gender. Because of this, critics, even myself, have been found discussing issues regarding gender representation in games, which lead to feminist critics such as Anita Sarkeesian to give a ‘voice for women’ against basic stereotyping and sexism in video games with her ongoing series called “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” project, which has caused her to be the receiving end of hostile commentary, hostility, and even harassment from gamers who have found her videos threatening to gaming as we currently know it. Though Anita has disabled comments on her videos and has begun to filter comments on her Twitter, it’s hard not to see that there has been a very real issue within the gaming culture as a whole, and with an identity. Though according to writers such as Leigh Alexander whom writers for both Gamasutra and The Guardian, she stated that, “‘Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience. ‘Gamers’ are over” and argued that, “Developers and writers alike want games about more things, and games by more people,” and continued on to state “We will get this, because we’re creating culture now.”
But what if their claims, arguments, and even disagreements with big media is very real and should be nipped in the butt? As a gamer, before I became a journalist, I felt myself silenced and hiding behind the shield that websites such as Kotaku, IGN, Polygon, Game Informer, and even Polygon gave to help protect me against games that were just not worth the time. Over time I found myself beginning to question why only big name titles were getting coverage and even reviews while games such as Call of Duty were racking up coverage, high reviews, and yet games such as Singularity were getting the back burner with lower scores, limited coverage, and little to no press time. The question at hand would come down to, where is ethics in journalism if big name titles are covering the smaller ones that may or may not have had the same production costs? This is something that could easily be questioned by supporters who want ground to argue upon as it is harder to find reviews regarding smaller games that may or may not have hit big time publishing sites and tempt to show a form of biasing that may or may not be there.
Though what does GamerGate really target? According to a multitude of studies and statistics sites support, denounced, and even provide that #GamerGate is mostly about harassment, threats, and even misogyny. Though what about those of #GamerGate who are females within the movement and are trying to build an identity and even call out weaknesses within the industry, but also the community that supports such issues. After having watched a Huffington Post Live stream with Jennie Bharaj (@jenniebharaj), Georgina Young (@georgieonthego), and Jemma Morgan (@Shuluumoo) where they easily, quickly, and accurately shot down the stereotyping that shot down the sexism, threats, and issues at hand that #GamerGate had become known for. So what should be understood about #GamerGate?
So why does #GamerGate matter? When it comes down to it, GamerGate has become a rather large yield of people who now have an identity outside of “gamer”, one that has brought in hundreds, if not thousands of people to unite and stand together against multiple issues that stand tall. After having listened to the debate that Morgan, Young, and Bharaj gave, it was hard for me to not sit back and relisten to their arguments when it came to corrupt journalism, biasing, and even filled their coverage based upon personal preference and favoritism. GamerGate has allowed many gamers who want an identity, a voice, and a walk to talk to have a stance against the gaming industry.
As a gamer, I can’t say that I am on one side of the fence as another, but as a journalist I can assure that ethics do matter, that ethics do have a place to stand, and gamers have to truly take a voice and stance to show who they are, what their identity is, and to overcome odds that a movement has undergone, and in a chance to actually support it with a positive. Til then gamers should not be scared to show that they are a gamer and to allow their identity as a gamer to stand there. This is why in ways the gaming industry does need something to brace against them as a whole, needs an identity, and a voice that does stand unwavering.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, MMO’s, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable and can’t be softened by even the biggest names in the gaming industry. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. To follow Dustin, hit him up on Twitter over at @GamingAnomaly, find him on his Google+. Wanna game with him? You can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.