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.