It’s not a game anymore

Pictured: Zoe Quinn.

The GamerGate fiasco has engulfed the video gaming scene for much of the year. Last Wednesday, the absurdity reached a new climax. Zoe Quinn, the game developer at the centre of the debacle, tweeted every minute non-stop for hours posting screenshots from 8Chan, the 4Chan spin-off, revealing all her personal details, which turned into this weird meta ping-pong of posts in 8Chan of her tweets about the posts in 8Chan. A particularly haunting post was of an anonymous user finding Zoe’s current address and every other address she had ever lived at. A more distressing post was one which literally, and calmly, suggested that killing Quinn would be the easiest way to win GamerGate.

If you only just started following GamerGate, you would have little idea how it escalated. Adam Baldwin, an actor from Firefly, was the one to actually start the hashtag #GamerGate, supporting the harassment and vindictive ‘doxxing’ (when someone’s personal details are leaked) in tweets alongside ones like “What hard evidence is there that Obama doesn’t want ebola in America?”. Fun fact: tweeting with the hashtag will cause you to be inundated within seconds by supporters harassing and insulting you. I dropped out of the conversation once Seth Rogen got involved. You can’t make this shit up.

GamerGate started with the criticism of Zoe Quinn’s alleged relationship with a game critic. People, incorrectly, assumed that Quinn had used this ‘relationship’ to garner positive reviews for her game Depression Quest, even though the journalist in question never actually reviewed the game. Since then, Quinn has had to leave her home, and has of yet not returned. Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist game critic, has also been doxxed, as have other female game developers. Sarkeesian was supposed to give a talk at Utah University this week, but had to cancel when there were terror threats and the University said they couldn’t promise gun control. Huffington Post also jumped in and tried to co-opt Quinn into a panel debate with the people who were sending her death threats, without telling her.

The problem with GamerGate is that, as it stands now, the people in support of it are arguing that it is coming from a place of fixing ‘journalism ethics’. And that, other than the ones who are directly involved in the harassment of women within the gaming community, these supporters are, sometimes unwillingly, participating in the hate mob under the guise of exposing corruption.

Despite what supporters might try to say, GamerGate is not about fighting corruption or bad ethics. You can’t handpick values from a movement and deny association when the same movement threatens to kill people. As some game critics have pointed out, there are conversations to be had about questionable ethics in the field. For example, Polygon now requires contributors to disclose any donations made through the site Patreon, which is commonly used to fund indie developers, after one of the editors was found donating to Quinn.

GamerGate, however, is not about ethics. It is about mostly straight cis-men getting defensive when people interrogate their community. The increase in indie companies has meant that games no longer have to submit to the male-orientated paradigms and the desire for this diversity in games, and the criticism of lack-thereof, has injured the egos of those who have benefited from the exclusivity of gaming in the past. With everything this has come to, from bomb threats to having to leave your home for two months, it is helpful to keep in mind that this whole thing started because a female developer wanted to make a video game.

  • Il Capitano

    Why do you feel a perpetual finger pointing & targeting of ‘straight cis-men’ is somehow always the appropriate response to every scenario? Furthermore, where is the rigour in your arguments when they can almost all be applied straight back at the counter-party involved? You mention “games no longer have to submit to the male-orientated paradigms” as some sort of progressive movement, which it is and it’s great the indie community can offer that. But it’s interesting you also mention Anita Sarkeesian, whose goal through her videos is basically to enforce a female-orientated paradigms upon ALL games, based on her subjective perceptions of what signals they give and what implications these have in society. So what is it that you want? For there to be games aimed at satisfying both men and women? From removing male fantasy structures such as female sexuality from games because you feel they ostracize women? How about other things that make people uncomfortable? Where do you draw the line? Is your view consistent, and do you hold these critiques to both male oriented and female oriented video games alike? How about other mediums? What if I feel uncomfortable reading romance novels, and I feel they cater too much towards women and their fantasies?

    Why isn’t there ever leveled debates on these situations? Is it so hard to admit there is conflict of interest on all sides, whether its the feminists who will take the default defensive when a women is involved, or game reviewers who will attack and discredit in anyway they can that they are somehow breaching ethics or that the situation is even about ethics at all, or the men who may very well hold the positions against women you claim them to.

    When it comes to addressing the death threats received by women in these situations. Yes, this is an issue, whoever does it are fucking idiots. But death threats are not the arguments being put forward by Gamer Gate. If a prominent right-wing mouthpiece receives death threats because of something the left perceives as highly insensitive is said about homosexuality for example and death threats ensue, do you feel that those death threats come from a blind hatred of Christianity and that’s all there is to it? Do you feel that the counter-arguments to whatever was said are now invalid because of the death threats?

    And sorry, what’s with the fedora tag? Yes, gamers of the past have historically been the dejected social rejects, have used games to create alternative reality etc. You feel that you should somehow shame these people some more because they mostly compromise white-cis males so they deserve only your disgust and spurn? Even if we decide that somehow your white-cis hate microcosm is the only place worthy of criticism, why is there a constant targeting of weak males, rather than say rugby jocks who would hold significantly more sexist views and would propagate much, much, more problems for women in general? It seems to me like there is a power dynamic involved for people like you that motivates this type of activism.

    Want to know why I ask so many questions? It’s because there is a monopolistic culture of critique that exists in this paper that is unbalanced, unfair, dishonest, one-dimensional…