#GamerGate has been one of the most controversial hashtags in the past year. What started as a movement dedicated to unveiling problems with gaming journalism has quickly been derided by critics as misogynistic and hurtful, claims gamers were using Anonymous-like tactics to attack those who disagreed with the movement. And I’m going to defend it.
Now, before you stop reading this, let me clarify. I am not defending those within the movement who have used misogyny and general hate speech to silence dissenting opinions of the Gamer Gate movement. I will, however, defend the movement’s original goal of exposing corruption in game journalism.
To begin with, I do not consider myself a gamer. I play video games, sure. I’ve played quite a few, actually. But I don’t feel I play enough of them and not often enough to be considered a “gamer”. However, I’ve definitely come to respect the medium as a format for telling good stories, just as other art forms like literature, film, and television are respected.
How the whole Gamer Gate controversy was started is when an indie game developer named Zoe Quinn released an interactive, education-based browser game called “Depression Quest” in August 2014, which was met with scorn from the gaming community, particularly those using the PC gaming service Steam. While these attacks were harsh in nature, and I don’t defend them, it’s what happened next that caught my eye.
Soon after this debacle, Quinn’s ex-boyfriend Eron Gjoni released a blog post on Zoe, claiming she had cheated on him with several prolific gaming journalists, namely Nathan Grayson of Kotaku. Interestingly, Grayson had published a positive review of “Depression Quest” around the same time. Kotaku’s editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo confirmed that the two had a relationship, but claimed Grayson had not released any reviews of Quinn’s work since the relationship began, although that still didn’t answer if Grayson and Quinn were friends during the publishing of that review. Point is, the damage was done and the flood gates had been opened, and soon people all over Twitter were using the Gamer Gate hashtag, trying to call more attention to this situation.
Gaming websites and magazines everywhere began to shame anyone using the hashtag, claiming that they were misogynists trying to start a harassment campaign against Quinn for being a woman in the gaming industry. Intrigued, I decided to do some digging of my own. I found that every major Gamer Gate “leader” (mainly just semi-popular YouTubers such as ‘MundaneMatt’ and ‘SargonofAkkad’, and the now-defunct channel ‘InternetAristocrat’), while taking controversial standpoints on most topics, were not advocating for harassing Quinn or her associates or any other critics of the movement, as many gaming sites (such as Kotaku and even non-gaming sites like Wikipedia) would have me believe. Then I noticed how many gaming journalism sites were basically echoing what each other were saying: that Gamer Gate supporters should be shunned and the hashtag should be stopped somehow. It seemed as though that the major gaming journalism sites were all simultaneously trying to distract from the fact that they had been found out as corrupt.
I think when people say that the Gamer Gate movement is sexist, I think they are focusing on the few bad apples who like trolling or harassing people, and not on the overall message. People who truly cared about the movement were not upset that Quinn made a bad game or that she slept with Nathan Grayson, they were upset that when Grayson was called out on his ignoring of conflict-of-interest policies, he and his fellow journalists tried to cover it up and divert attention by making it seem as though the attacks were solely focused on Quinn.
I think this affects more than just gaming journalism; it affects journalism as a whole. If the standards for journalistic integrity are lowered to a point where people can write clearly biased or peer-influenced articles on a supposedly non-biased site, pass it off as real journalism, and get away with it without any penalty, then we need to step back and rethink our standards and practices. Gamer Gate, even with its’ lack of a focused leader and its’ major flaws, could have the potential to extend beyond just criticizing gaming journalism and become an example of how people should raise questions about the journalism field and reassess the way news sites and magazines are run. Unfortunately, the movement has slowly died over the past few months, and it seems everything’s just going to go back to the way it was before: biased and potentially corrupted games journalists still writing for major publications, and gamers still frustrated and upset at a gaming industry that is slowly starting to mock and reject them.