Problems with the Gamergate Movement

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Today I came across an article by Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart about the success of Gamergate and how it isn’t being covered by the “liberal media”. If this is one of the legitimate Gamergate voices, the phrasing Yiannopoulos uses in this article is problematic.

“Perhaps it won’t surprise you to learn that microchip manufacturers and car companies are pretty sympathetic to the concerns of male consumers.”

“One thing I can tell you, though, is that when claims about gamers being woman-hating or abusive start to unravel, because journalists didn’t check them properly before running these ‘bleeding heart’ editorials, it’s very difficult to win people back from there. So God help Kotaku and Polygon if any of these women are shown to be making stuff up.” (quote from an unnamed video game developer)

“Rather than apologising and resolving to make amends to readers, dug their heels in and spread further lies about the people who put bread on the table.”

This article concerns me. It reinforces incorrect beliefs that video games are for men. Several journalists have written well researched responses to the Gamergate movement, including Jesse Singal and Deadspin’s Kyle Wagner (who, I would like to point out, are two men.) The anti-Gamergate movement is not just a bunch of “man-hating women”, as the excerpt claims, that are “making stuff up.” Phrasing like this is incredibly problematic. It doesn’t help the arguments being made on the pro-side.

That is the main issue with the movement. They claim journalistic ethics, but then write articles, like the one mentioned above seething with anger toward women who disagree with them. The best argument the pro-Gamergate movement has is the potentially close relationship AAA game developers have with journalists and a lack of universal ethical code within the gaming press. But this wasn’t what started the movement. It was an attack on an indie game developer Zoe Quinn, who suffered unsubstantiated accusations of sleeping with journalists to get good reviews for her game Depression Quest. This is where the movement starts to veer more in a “woman-hating” direction. The movement might not say directly they hate women and the legitimate people involved in the movement are probably not misogynists, but language is important and the language being used reinforces arguments against Gamergate supporters.

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In response, Gamergate advocates point out the recent actions by Gawker media journalist Sam Biddle, who encouraged Twitter followers to “bring back bullying” and “to reaffirm what we have known for years: that nerds should be constantly shamed and degraded into submission” were disgusting. Following the remarks, Gamergate allies gathered together and petitioned several companies to pull their sponsorships from Gawker. Bullying and antagonism are not the way to respond to people who do not agree with you, just like bomb and rape threats are not the appropriate way to respond. He is not the voice of anti-Gamergaters, just like 8 Chan is not the voice for pro-Gamergate followers. Media should be held responsible when its representatives make inappropriate comments in a public forum. However, in this particular instance in my opinion it feels more like censorship than anything else — . A group, Gamerate , going after a media outlet that speaks negatively of their movement. The best way to make critics disappear is to silence them.

As Jesse Singal wrote in response on Gamergate hub Reddit’s r/KotakuinAction:

“I think Gamergate is primarily about anger at progressive people who care about feminism and transgender rights and mental health and whatever else (I am not going to use your obnoxious social-justice warrior terminology anymore) getting involved in gaming, and by what you see as overly solicitous coverage of said individuals and their games. And that’s fine! It’s an opinion I happen to disagree with, but “at least it’s an ethos.”

Journalistic ethics is important. It is critical to separate corporations and journalism. It is why, which John Oliver explained perfectly, I have issues with native advertising. Corporations should not have influence over the people who critique them, especially in an industry like video games where critiques are essential to the livelihood of the developers. I would love to join a movement who pushes for establishing an ethical code of the gaming press. But that isn’t what Gamergate has become. I chose not to join a  movement that refuses to critique  the failures of the industry’s representations of women, minorities, and the LGBTQ community. I am not saying Gamergate is misogynistic, racist, or homophobic. But I am claiming that their  arguments about the “politicization” of video games are wrong and prevent the medium from evolving. Wanting to discuss representation in games is a good thing for journalists, game developers, and the people who play them.

Ed.: For more thoughts on sexism and representation of women in the media and gaming industry, check out Angie’s post on the celebrity hacking scandal.