If you’re a gamer you have probably heard the term GamerGate at least once over the last couple of months. At the time of this writing, the #gamergate hashtag on Twitter has well over two million total tweets! The debate between GamerGate and so-called “Social Justice Warriors” has become so convoluted at this point that it is difficult to separate fact from fiction.
A psychological technique called gaslighting has made GamerGate into quite a big mess. On Wikipedia, gaslighting is defined as “a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.” In relation to GamerGate, opponents have used gaslighting tactics to make it nearly impossible for your average person to determine what is actually going on through the dissemination of literally books worth of misinformation.
I have been following GamerGate since it erupted so I hope this article will help provide a relatively concise summary of events to better inform you, the reader, on what GamerGate is.
A quick disclaimer: this is not an exhaustive history of GamerGate. One article cannot cover the entirety of two months of events without inadvertently leaving something out. This article is merely meant as a means to get you acquainted with some of the facts of what’s happened that thus far the mainstream media has refused to properly report on. I encourage you to take to Twitter, search up the hashtags, and do more research into the matter for yourself.
Actor Adam Baldwin, known to many for his role as Jayne Cobb on Firefly, created the #GamerGate hashtag on August 27th but that is not actually when the problems began. GamerGate says they are fighting for journalistic integrity and to keep video games about gaming and not about pushing political agendas on unsuspecting gamers.
Adhering to journalistic ethics has been a problem that has plagued the gaming industry for years. Everybody remembers that picture of Geoff Keighley sitting glassy-eyed next to Doritos and Mountain Dew (it’s worth noting the fact Geoff is a man didn’t immunize him from being strongly chastised as a shill by gamers). For years it has become apparent that video game journalists have gotten far too close with those in the industry such as public relations, developers, and publishers.
It is important to realize that GamerGate isn’t a new problem, it is just the name given to the somewhat more organized movement fighting against this type of corruption.
The straw that broke the camel’s back involved indie gaming developer Zoe Quinn. Quinn allegedly had sexual affairs with video game journalists in exchange for positive reviews of her game Depression Quest. This served as a striking example that journalists and developers were too close and fired people up. It has since been realized that these “positive reviews” actually do not exist but Depression Quest did receive some questionably earned awards.
There’s a lot more to this part of the story but it really doesn’t have anything to do with GamerGate at large other than the fact it served as the impetus of gamers’ outrage into corruption. If you want to read a history of events pertaining to Zoe Quinn, sometimes called “Quinnspiracy,” check it out here.
Zoe further drew criticism, however, after she undermined a Game Jam project by The Fine Young Capitalists which aimed to get more female game developers into the industry by potentially funding a game pitch. The project allowed only female contestants. It seemed strange, then, why Zoe would have attacked it as oppressive. You can learn more about that here.
With gamers now starting to worry about ethics in the video game industry more than ever before, Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos published several pieces in September further highlighting the extreme lack of journalistic integrity in the gaming press including “Exposed: The Secret Mailing List of the Gaming Journalism Elite” and “The E-mails That Prove Video Games Journalism Must be Reformed.”
These articles exposed leaked information he received about a secret mailing list called GameJournoPros in which journalists from various top gaming sites including Kotaku, Polygon, Ars Technica, and WIRED to name a few would collude with one another about what they should be reporting and what they should not be reporting.
Milo points out that this is especially troubling in the messages where they discuss the Zoe Quinn incident. Quinn had started getting a lot of accusations about using her sex life to further her career and the messages show various gaming journalists talking about how to best defend her and even a plan to send her a signed card to show support. Milo states how this indicates there is pretty much no boundary line between the reporter and the subject being reported on in their eyes.
“…I don’t think we, as games press, should support furthering the story by commenting, editorializing or even allowing others to ruminate on it,” said one journalist.
The GameJournoPros mailing list isn’t a conspiracy theory. Those involved in the list have admitted what Milo exposed was real but that they simply see no problem in what they did. The list’s founder, Kyle Orlund, who is also the Senior Gaming Editor from Ars Technica, tweeted out “I regret nothing” immediately after the list was exposed by Milo. He later apologized for the tweet.
Some gamers unfortunately bought their excuses, claiming it’s perfectly normal for people with the same interests to talk to one another. But the problem is they weren’t just talking to one another about innocuous things. I previously wrote an article explaining exactly why GameJournoPros mailing list is important here.
These revealed messages and emails proved that game journalists were not only too close to people inside of the industry but also colluding with one another in order to push their political agendas to readers as well.
Gamers began to suspect more and more that there was feminist agenda being pushed into video games. That’s how feminist speaker and game critic Anita Sarkeesian was also dragged into GamerGate because of her “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” series on YouTube. In these videos she tries to show why video games are sexist against women and need to be changed. For example, she claims the new Hitman game is sexist because in one mission players are able to murder a bikini-clad stripper, then drag her body around the room and hide her corpse in a box. Anita claims that this is meant to give gamers a perverse sexual thrill of power and control over a woman’s dead, sexualized body.
What critics of her video quickly pointed out is that she ignored the fact 99% of every other character you kill in the game is a male and that dragging and hiding corpses to avoid detection is a major game mechanic. Also, you are actually penalized in-game by killing the stripper because she is considered an innocent – not your target. Therefore the game doesn’t want you to do it so how does this prove the game is sexist?
So Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian began drawing a ton of criticism from gamers angry that Quinn and her journalist friends would violate the perceived integrity of the gaming media (or what little was left of it) and angry that Anita would misrepresent gaming to push an agenda. As you might imagine, some of this criticism was more acerbic than others. Both women allegedly started receiving death threats which they went to the police about.
YouTubers Jordan Owen and Davis Aurini, who are working on a documentary about the situation entitled “The Sarkeesian Effect” then released that during their research for the film they contacted Anita’s local police department and found out she had never filed a police report. Anita started getting called out for lying on Twitter. She countered this by soon revealing she instead went to the FBI and the FBI has supposedly confirmed they are investigating the threats. There has been no update about the findings of the investigation as of this writing.
Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) and “Third Wave Feminists” defended both Zoe and Anita by claiming gamers were only attacking them because they are women. SJWs began to call gamers misogynists, sexists, and sometimes even racist despite the fact Zoe and Anita are both white. Around that time the #NotYourShield hashtag was created by another Twitter user to state that he does not want to be used as the shield for Social Justice Warriors to hide behind while they push their agenda.
Leigh Alexander, a writer for Gamasutra, made things worse when she published an article at the end of August titled “Gamers don’t have to be your audience. Gamers are over.” Her article declared hardcore gamers were dead and developers should stop pandering to them. This sentiment, that gamers were “dead,” was echoed on numerous other game media sites at the same time.
The strange fact so many sites published such similar opinion articles at the same time seemed to imply they had colluded a push specific narrative – which got exposed a few weeks later by Milo Yiannopoulos on Breitbart as mentioned above.
It turns out gamers don’t like to be told they are dead so GamerGate started accusing Leigh Alexander of hating gamers. Intel even ended up pulling advertising on Gamasutra after they were flooded with complaints from gamers over Leigh’s article. SJWs then began calling Intel a bunch of misogynists seemingly oblivious to the fact Intel’s current president is a woman named Renée James.
Leigh, who is a woman, began to fall back on the standard strategy that had thus far been utilized by SJWs to defend Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, which is to say that gamers were only attacking her because she was a woman and they are misogynists. We’ll get into whether or not GamerGate is full of misogynist men more in the next section. The actual reality is that gamers went after Leigh because of the absurd things she wrote both in her articles and on Twitter. Take for example some of her tweets where she threatens people, promotes doxxing, makes racist statements, and brags about her power to ruin careers:
As GamerGate began to gain more and more momentum, Social Justice Warriors began turning to less ethical means to stop them. GamerGate supporters started to get “doxxed” where their real life information such as name, address, phone number, and work are made public and then they are harassed.
Many GamerGate supporters reported that SJWs had called their place of work and tried to get them fired by telling their employer they were sexist, misogynist, racist, etc. A few well known GamerGate supporters that were doxxed include Boogie2988, the lovely Shoe0nhead, Adam Baldwin, and even Milo Yiannopoulos.
In a more recent incident, game developer Brianna Wu attempted to create a new meme called “Oppressed GamerGater” which depicted GamerGate advocates in a negative fashion using the image of an autistic child. For obvious reasons she started getting a ton of backlash from GamerGate and others who instead flooded her with insults and memes mocking her.
Brianna, much like Anita Sarkeesian, said she started getting death threats which forced her to flee her home and contact the police. She connected these threats to GamerGate and used it as “evidence” that GamerGate was full of misogynist, vile, woman-hating gamers who wanted her dead simply because she was a woman speaking out on sexism in video games. Gamers have countered this assertion by pointing out she wasn’t speaking out about anything, but mocking people with a highly offensive meme.
At 2:24 PM on October 14th, Brianna apparently tweeted out to someone to “leave me out of your mentions, you gross fucking aspie” (aspie being a slang term for someone with asperger’s syndrome – a form of high-functioning autism). She quickly deleted this tweet then claimed her Twitter account had been hacked and it wasn’t her who really said that.
The claim her account was hacked didn’t add up with the fact she legitimately retweeted other tweets at 2:24 PM and 2:26 PM. She didn’t delete those, which indicates she was indeed in control of her account at the exact time the insulting message was tweeted.
Update 10/30/14: Since this article was published, it was learned that the “aspie” tweet seen above was actually made from a spoof account that used an uppercase i instead of a lowercase l at the end which on twitter looks identical. This exonerates Brianna of responsibility for that hateful tweet but also shows that she lied when she claimed her actual account had been hacked.
Is GamerGate Misogynist?
Let’s perform a thought experiment. If you were being personally exposed by GamerGate and you wanted to kill the movement, what would be the best way to go about doing that? The answer is you would want to make GamerGate into the villain rather than yourself. Perhaps the best method of accomplishing this these days is to make GamerGate seem like a hate group.
Nobody wants to seem like they are racist or sexist so if they think GamerGate is a bunch of racists or sexists, they would be less likely to support that movement even if their goals of fighting corruption in games journalism are seemingly agreeable.
One of the best methods of actively turning people against GamerGate would be to stage a false flag and blame it on GamerGate. For those unfamiliar with the term, a false flag is when an attack is carried out and made to look as if a certain group is responsible for it when they are actually not.
The purpose of a false flag varies from being used as a pretext for a military attack to a tactic to undermine a certain political group. There is a long history of real life false flags which you can read about on Wikipedia. It is not simply a “conspiracy theory.” False flags are real and are even considered war crimes prohibited from being used in wars today by the Geneva Convention.
As we have already discussed in the previous section, many of the Social Justice Warriors such as Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, and recently Brianna Wu have reportedly received numerous death threats which they then blamed on GamerGate. Anita even canceled a talk she was scheduled to give at Utah State University because of threatening messages claiming they were going to go on a shooting massacre if they let her talk. Because of Utah State’s gun laws, police apparently couldn’t prohibit guns from entering the venue so out of fear for her safety she canceled the talk.
This seems horrible. Obviously nobody should be in fear for their life and safety no matter how disagreeable their ideas are. Freedom of Speech is a fundamental right in America to be cherished and protected. But it is important to note that there is absolutely no publicly available evidence any of these threats have been made by legitimate “GamerGaters.”
In fact, Utah State University officials along with several law enforcement agencies including USU police and both state and federal law enforcement experts investigated the threat made against Anita Sarkeesian and found it to not be credible and made a statement the day before Anita’s scheduled talk that there was no risk to students, staff, or the speaker (Anita).
Many of the violent threats allegedly being made have never been proven to have happened at all and those that have been shown publicly were made from what looked like sock puppet accounts created specifically to threaten that person. For example, Brianna was threatened by someone whose name was “Death to Brianna.”
Even if the pathetic criminals making these threats were to expressly claim they were GamerGate supporters, that doesn’t necessarily make it true. For a threat to legitimately be traced back to GamerGate, it would have to come from someone who was well-known within the movement and had a lengthy history of supporting GamerGate. This has not yet happened. In fact, many GamerGate supporters are actually among the first who condemn and report these threats to Twitter when they see them.
To be sure, one doesn’t need to look far to find examples of people threatening themselves online in false flag attacks. A recent video by Thunderf00t details the case of how in 2013 a University of Wyoming student named Meg Lanker-Simons posted comment under a different name on a Facebook page that threatened performing violent sexual acts on her. She then condemned the comments as “disgusting” and “misogynistic.” After an investigation she was later forced to admit that she herself had posted the original comment and was issued a police citation for interference (source). She ended up pleading no contest to the charge.
It’s worth mentioning that Thunderf00t got suspended from Twitter for several weeks after mysteriously being mass-reported for for “harassment” when he tweeted out a video that was critical of Anita Sarkeesian.
It is conceivable, then, that someone trying to paint GamerGate as a hate group would stage a similar false flag by threatening someone like Anita and claiming to be with GamerGate when they are not. This could be anybody against GamerGate, a supporter of Anita, or possibly even Anita herself as in the example detailed above.
To answer the assertion that GamerGate is just a bunch of woman-hating misogynist nerds, you need only look at the diverse group of people that support GamerGate. Many of them are actually themselves women! GamerGate supporter and man with awesome sounding accent Sargon of Akkad recently made a YouTube video titled The Lie Heard Around the World #GamerGate #NotYourShield showing dozens of women and girls that support GamerGate.
Noted feminist Christina Hoff Sommers is even a supporter of GamerGate. In her Factual Feminist video “Are Video Games Sexist?” she talked about the controversy and concluded the evidence shows that video games are not sexist and the industry is actually more inclusive than ever before!
The Social Justice Warriors’ response to this? These women just have internalized misogyny and are so oppressed by the patriarchy they don’t even know it. SJWs even tried to smear Christina H. Sommers by falsely calling her a right wing extremist nut job and discredited “fake” feminist. In other words, Social Justice Warriors simply dismiss any women’s opinions who don’t agree with them as not mattering. Now isn’t that a bit sexist?
- The evidence shows that GamerGate’s main concern from the beginning has been about corruption in the gaming media, not keeping women out of gaming. Geoff Keighley is a man and yet he was heavily criticized anyway.
- There is no publicly available evidence the violent threats directed at Social Justice Warriors such as Anita Sarkeesian can be traced back to GamerGate supporters.
- GamerGate supporters have been doxxed and had their careers threatened by Social Justice Warriors. These claims actually have been proven by showing chat logs and forum threads of noted SJWs discussing doxxing them before it happened.
- The claim that GamerGate is a misogynist movement propagated by woman-hating men is unfounded and doesn’t hold up to the fact that so many women and even feminists like Christina Hoff Sommers support it.
- The currently available evidence seems to support many Social Justice Warriors hate gamers, hate men, have resorted to highly unethical activities (for example, doxxing), and have intentionally misrepresented facts in an attempt to kill the GamerGate movement and push their unwanted/unneeded feminist agenda within the gaming industry.
Polygon contributor Samantha Allen proudly hates men. Shouldn’t this sexism be frowned upon by progressives?
GamerGate is not misogynist and is not a hate group. The mainstream media has only recently started reporting on the mess that has become GamerGate. They unfortunately haven’t been very thorough in their investigation and have so far only reported that women are being forced from their homes due to threats against their lives because they “stood up against sexism” in the video game industry. As we have seen, that isn’t anywhere even close to the full story.
If you don’t know anything about the history of GamerGate, you’ll likely see such a report and think that GamerGate supporters are some of the worst people in existence. This might explain why Dell employee George Reese compared GamerGate to ISIS, a comment YouTuber “Syrian Girl” found to be extremely offensive.
GamerGate is a prime example of why one should not jump to conclusions without knowing the full story. Do your own research into the subject and never listen to just one side of a debate no matter how obvious things might look at first glance.
As with any group of people there are always those who take things to the extreme. There’s no doubt a few GamerGate supporters probably take things way too far but this is natural and to be expected of any group as large and as diverse as GamerGate is. The entirety of GamerGate or even just gamers in general shouldn’t be judged by the actions of a few random trolls.
Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this article are that of the author and may / may not represent views of the rest of RGN Staff / our audience. This article will not be removed and all takedown requests will be ignored.