Wednesday, October 1, 2014

5 Indicators You’ve Been Misinformed About #GamerGate

[Editor's Note: This article was originally posted here, and was written by the excellent Jamie Butterworth. It has been reposted here with permission. I'll have my own article up in the next couple days.]

The GamerGate debate has raged on for over 5 weeks at this point, and that’s like, 15 internet years. Entire kingdoms have risen and been decimated since the hashtag came into existence. People have gone to war with one another, hurling endless piles of feces among the neverending stream of bullets. I held a dear friends in my arm as he lay dying. “Jamie...” he whispered to me with his dying breath. “Don’t...don’t let them sully our beloved hobby...” As the light left his eyes, I swore to him that I would fight to the end in his honor. Or that might have happened when we were playing Call of Duty together. I can’t remember since politicians and media critics tell me I’m unable to differentiate between reality and videogames.

#5: You think it’s about misogyny.

In truth, GamerGate has been brewing for a long time. Passionate hobbyists have been aware that games media has been in bed with publishers and developers for at least seven years since the Kane and Lynch: Dead Men debacle, where a reviewer was dismissed from his job after giving the game a negative (and deserved) review. Did I mention that the publisher of that game had been heavily funding advertising on the site during that time? Some of us have suspected for far longer than that that there were some seriously not cool things going on behind the scenes. We didn’t have a smoking gun though. I mean, how could you do something about something you see as a problem when you don’t have anything to hold up as definitive evidence? Sometimes a few sparks are all that’s needed.

No, not that one.

A spurned ex-lover of a small indie game developer wrote a blog post to vent his frustrations and anger over what seems to be a nasty breakup. Within this blog post accusations were leveled not only of infidelity, but infidelity with insiders within the gaming industry. One such lover who was accused wrote multiple articles about a game produced by this developer. Many have stated that these articles were never written, but not only were they written, but Kotaku in particular apologized for the breach of ethics and vowed to make changes. One such change was instilling a policy that their writers could no longer donate to Patreon to support subject they’re supposed to be reporting on. However, though this was a needed spark, it was not the catalyst.

#4: 4chan started the whole thing.

Let’s be honest here, 4chan has done a lot of things, the majority of which are far from positive. Tempers and keyboards ran hot after the exposure of the alleged affairs. The language choices on 4chan reflect a culture that’s been built over more than a decade, and often equated with hate speech. The homophobic F-bomb and racist N-bomb (among many similar words) are sprinkled through conversation as though they were simply two of the optional toppings at a Coldstone Creamery run by the Klan in the deep south.

Vanilla, just like god intended.

The thing is though, the racist, homophobic, and misogynist language that goes on within 4chan isn’t inherently malicious. Don’t think for a second that I excuse such language; the very thought of such words leave a sour taste in my mouth. Many feel that 4chan is nothing but a cesspool of negativity; that, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. They’ve raised large amounts of money for charities, and recently donated well over $20,000 to a group called “The Fine Young Capitalists” who had the goal of being more inclusive toward women, in order to help them break into the gaming industry.  

4chan wasn’t happy after the ex-lover’s blog post went live and all of this dirty laundry started to get aired, but they were abuzz with a fury unlike any have ever seen after the true catalyst of Gamergate. Nearly a dozen articles (there may have been more, but I think frustrated gamers lost count) articles were posted in a very short span declaring the identity of “gamer” dead. An identity, mind you, that these sites had previously embraced.and have catered to since their inception. Now, typically it’s a bad business practice to insult the very people you’ve spent years building a site dedicated to catering to, but many of these sites doubled down and continued to post articles within that same narrative.

Users of 4chan started to make YouTube videos expressing their anger over the situation, and as these videos started to spread through social media, Adam Baldwin (of Firefly fame, not Alec, the doughy 30 Rock star) picked up on it, and dubbed the movement “Gamergate”. The conversation gathered steam like a locomotive with no brakes on rails greased with KY lubricant, and people who saw Gamergate as a misogynistic and man driven movement out to harass and abuse women were calling every person that argued on the side of the movement were referred to as fedora wearing, neckbearded, angry white dudes. In response, the “NotYourShield” hashtag came about, first started by a black supporter of Gamergate. It was quickly picked up on as people were tired of being told they were just misogynistic white guys, when they lacked either the plumbing or melanin to qualify.

#3: You don’t think journalists from various outlets regularly communicating with one another to coordinate stories or narratives is a big deal.

If a large group of journalists were simply discussing what they did over the weekend, whose team won the big game, or general banter about the news, you would be spot on that it isn’t newsworthy. However, turned up an emailing list where journalists from numerous large gaming websites spoke regularly and discussed what should and should not be brought forth on their sites, as well as setting a narrative catering to a particular indie developer, some going so far as to say that they should come together for a “feel better” gift for this developer, even if it weren’t monetary. Someone afterward suggested that they had yet to review that developer’s game on their website, and that they should go do that.

Maybe I should report on this? Nah, I’ll just help promote these people I’m donating money to.

It goes beyond that of course, to talks of suppressing any Gamergate discussion, lamenting that actively shutting down discourse on certain sites would fit the narrative they were accused of, and working on a plan to create a petition to have over 2,000 developers and industry professionals sign this list. One responded insinuating that effectively forging people’s signatures on said petition would help the cause. Breitbart wrote numerous articles about this list, the contents of acquired emails, and the author did a full dump of all the emails pertaining to the aforementioned indie developer onto his personal website. If Breitbart is a site you have a hard time bringing yourself to read (and I understand, as they often use quite colorful language), Techraptor also did articles highlighting the emails, and has done numerous Gamergate articles as well. 
#2: You think Gamergate’s goal to fight corruption in journalism and demands for transparency are a smokescreen just to harass women online.
It goes without saying that absolutely NO ONE deserves to be harassed or abused online. I don’t care what they say, or what they’re opinion is. It’s not cool. Period. The thinking that Gamergate just wants to harass women is ludicrous when you consider that many of the most vocal voices are in fact, women. There are women giving daily updates on their youtube channels on the state of Gamergate, there are women doing unbiased reporting of the facts of Gamergate, and at least one woman has started a website with Gamergate’s goals in mind during this entire issue. Browsing #Notyourshield on Twitter turns up more and more women who are frustrated with other speaking for them.

Honestly, there’s no better image to represent that frustration than this one.

To say that harassment and abuse doesn’t happen from people who identify as gamers during this whole thing would be a lie. People like myself who are passionate about it and even those who don’t actively support Gamergate but are monitoring it regularly speak out against it, and police any who might do the harassing. However, people on the anti-Gamergate site regularly engage in insults, harassment, and even doxxing. It’s not just the insults, but the pure disdain and condescension from people who are actually in professional positions writing for sites that are at the heart of this. I can’t really blame them since their income is on the line. I log online each day (which is basically turning my phone on the moment I wake up) to see new articles posted by these journalists spreading more misinformation, focusing on old or abandoned issues, or engaging in outright character assassination.

#1: You use “Conservative” as a pejorative term.

Oddly enough, people that normally (and have) negatively report on videogames picked up on the burgeoning movement and have been fairly reporting on it, even digging into allegations and investigating issues brought about by angry and concerned gamers. Adam Baldwin is a known conservative actor, and Breitbart is a heavily conservative website that many deem to be particularly provocative. Christina Hoff Sommers has been engaging with gamers and made a video in the American Enterprise Institute’s “Factual Feminist” series addressing feminism and gaming, siding more with gamers in stating that games aren’t overtly sexist as others have claimed. AEI is seen as a conservative organization, and Christina was labeled as such, despite her history of producing content for a wide range of sites and organizations both liberal and conservative. She herself identifies as a 60’s era liberal feminist.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll side with the guy that looks that
badass while wearing a goofy hat.

Look, I don’t care what your political leanings are. Humanity only ever advances when we take a non-partisan look at the facts, and get together for an amicable solution. Automatically dismissing someone’s opinion or argument based solely on their political leanings is not only condescending to them, but you also insult your own intelligence for refusing to even hear out information that may be contrary to your own. You can never be right unless you’re prepared to be wrong.

For years gamers have been silenced, shamed, and banned into sitting down, shutting up, and letting others dictate where their hobby should go next. Those who have spoken up with concerns over videos and articles that paint gaming as sexist or racist are quickly labeled as misogynist or called a race hater. Recently a prominent critic of the Tropes vs Women video series was banned from Twitter for “harassment” at a time when he hadn’t posted in days, and was in fact working overseas at a nuclear power plant. Gamers have gotten tired of being silenced and insulted at every turn. Gamergate is simply a result of years of repression, sparked by a couple of small incidents, driven out of control by events and information that come to the surface almost daily. There is far more to the story than I can lay out in a short article, and in fact, I think Gamergate will make a pretty bitchin’ movie in a few years.

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