Those who have been browsing the annals of Twitter over the past few months have likely come into a recurring hashtag: Gamergate. Many are touting this hashtag as part of what they see as a movement in the gaming industry. Often it is claimed that Gamergate is about journalistic integrity and the protection of gaming as a hobby. The -gate suffix, with its history, evokes the notion that a great scandal has occurred, and dramatic action must be taken to prevent such scandals in the future. But what is this supposed scandal? What is Gamergate?
To answer these questions, we must go back a little ways. On the 16th of August, a furious 9,000-word blog post was written about Games developer Zoe Quinn. Her ex-boyfriend Eron Gjoni, in this lengthy series of accusations, made one particular claim that stood out in the typical post-breakup rage. According to him, Quinn had slept with a writer on the popular gaming website Kotaku. From here the floodgates of accusation opened, and Quinn was continuously harassed by people claiming she had breached journalistic integrity. On the 22nd of August, a conspiracy video emerged, taking Gjoni’s claims at face value and attacking Quinn over her alleged corruption. On the 27th, a link to the video was shared by actor Adam Baldwin, along with a single hashtag: #Gamergate. Under this new name, the movement solidified, and is still being used alongside countless death and rape threats to women all over the industry.
It goes without saying that this is inexcusable behaviour. But are the perpetrators just a (very) vocal minority? Is this movement, at its core, all about integrity in gaming journalism? Sadly that’s irrelevant: whatever one may protest, it has become the latest vessel for misogynists to do awful things, ranging from harassment to full-blown criminal activity. While the aforementioned death and rape threats are bad enough on their own, they’re made far worse when coupled with the obtaining and publishing of these women’s personal information. Industry women – Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Jenn Frank and most recently Brianna Wu – have had to flee their homes and call the authorities at various times. Some, like Jenn frank and Mattie Brice, have chosen to leave the industry altogether. In explaining why, Frank had the following to say: “My unabashed love for video games, my colleagues and my work have a conflict of interest with my own terror.”
To top this all off, the very accusation that was Gamergate’s initial rallying cry – that Quinn slept with a Kotaku writer for the sake of a good review – is a falsehood. Upon investigation, the writer was discovered to have never even reviewed any of her games.
The consequences of harassment are real, and damaging to the industry that Gamergate’s adherents claim to be protecting. A movement founded on falsehood and predominantly linked to illegal, abusive activities is incapable of doing anything but destroy. Zoe Quinn, in one of her impassioned Twitter tirades, said it best:”how do you think you can get rid of corruption in journalism when you can’t rid your own movement of it?”
By Jesse Young