Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer, The #GamerGate War Of Words

This was a very difficult post to write. For some weeks now #GamerGate has been a part of my life and the biggest thing on my Twitter timeline. It was what inspired me to really start writing these blogs. I have met great people while part of it. I have believed in the pursuit of gaming journalism ethics with passion and dedication. In my first ‘Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer…’ blog I referred to #GamerGate as “a war of words” and I did my part to fight in the battles, I took part in the discussions, I shared information, I tweeted on the #GamerGate and #NotYourShield tags. I established camaraderie with my fellow soldiers.

Yet in the midst of all of it I have tried to remain a voice for reason, rationality and positive change. I have tried not to get caught up in witch hunter mentality and have tried to keep my mind open and my ideas fluid, open to new information. When I debate I try to listen and really understand the perspective of the other person, why they may feel this way. And so it was that recently I found myself in debate with someone that was anti-GG. We were both engaged in combat, our word weapons sharp and to the point. Tempers were fraying, I didn’t feel he was really listening and I told him so. I felt he hadn’t really researched #GamerGate properly but had only looked at as much as he wanted to, in order to fit the opinion he’d already made. He had told me that #GamerGate’s interest in ethics had been lopsided and self-serving, that #GamerGate was only interested in beating down Social Justice Warriors and discrediting those that had criticised gamers. He argued that #Gamergate had not succeeded as a movement because it wasn’t really about ethics, it was about rejecting the narrative shaping and agenda pushing that we saw as being used to attack us. I had told him that I was wasting my time, we clearly weren’t going to agree, but then I stopped. I stopped and really looked at what it was he’d said. I then took a moment to look at the #GamerGate tag, really look at it, and I realised…he was right.

And here’s where things get messy. There is so much anger in #GamerGate right now. I understand it, I really do. People just want to be heard and they feel that instead of listening to our concerns game journalists declared war on us. The media that was meant to represent us in our cherished hobby and the people within that media that came from the ranks of gamers themselves, turned on us and hurt us. They rejected us and so we rejected them and their supposed ideologies. I have seen so many in #GamerGate demanding that we “keep politics and social issues out of video games” and “don’t let SJWs and their media cronies destroy our hobby” but that isn’t what #GamerGate is about is it? It was supposed to be about the ethical behaviour of journalists wasn’t it? That is them covering people they have relationships with or that they support financially. How does that include banning game journalism from covering social issues that they feel are relevant to gaming? When was that ever what #GamerGate was about?

The fact is that we were burned by our media and so we have sought others that would represent us. But here’s the thing, people like Milo Yiannopoulos and Christina Sommers may seem like heroes to us now. They may seem like they will treat us with the respect that we deserve. We have fled the bad relationship with our media and, on the rebound, have given ourselves over to the first people that have showed us kindness but they are using us, they have their own agenda to push and their own ideologies to market. They are not our friends, as before with our own media, we are a tool to them and we must not forget it. They have chosen our targets and we have run with it, trying to silence those that have hurt us just as they would silence us. Meanwhile legitimate examples of what we seek to end have been ignored, lost in the general din. We lack focus and as such are easy fodder for manipulation. We have become too defensive and are rapidly in danger of existing merely to justify our existence.

At this point in time I am tired. I am beginning to view #GamerGate as the cynical veteran soldier, surveying the smoking ruins and wondering if this is what they signed up for. When did we get so bitter? Because while #GamerGate has done some good, the funding of TFYC and raising money for depression charities, is what has been achieved been worth all the vitriol? The doxxing (of anyone no matter their side)? The harassment? The hatred? The selling of our souls for a moment of kindness? Has it been worth it? This is me not giving up, this is me truly understanding what #GamerGate has become and making the choice to let it go.

8 thoughts on “Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer, The #GamerGate War Of Words

  1. [Disclaimer: I’m not a gamer, but obviously I’ve played videogames all my life. These days I play interesting indie titles from time to time. I try to keep an ear on the ground, but I don’t consume gamer media on a regular basis. So I have no real stakes in this whole thing. I’m a male feminist and I’m a biased towards the so-called SJW side of the story. I’m appalled by the name calling & personal harassment on both sides. I’ve not yet experienced the wrath of the so called tumblr/twitter feminists, but I’m strictly opposed to Men’s Right Activists, who took part in #Gamergate as well, afaik. I’ve tried to get my information from different sources and to keep an open mind. English is not my native tongue, so I apologize]

    I read all your blogposts and I see the evolution of your thoughts and I’ve to ask:: Is this really was #Gamergate has become or was it like this from the beginning?
    It all started with a nasty blog post by a jilted Ex and a conspiracy theory. A conspiracy theory that was falsified early on: Nathan Greyson never promoted Depression Quest. But at this point, the war had already begun.

    What I still can not understand: Why did level-headed, reasonable gamer, good people, rally around #Gamergate?
    I read about the leaked naked pictures, the leaked social information and the shitstorm that came over anybody who would dare to come out in support of Zoe Quinn.
    I read Jenn Franks Article in The Guardian and I was shocked, that were terrified of their own peer group. So terrified in fact, that they left their beloved job behind. So much abuse, so much hate. And a lot of it was directed at women. Women, who worked in the gaming industry. Still people decided to support #Gamergate.

    The media declared the death of the gamer. There was lots of confusion about who was supposed to be a gamer. I saw it as the (misguided?) attempt to distinct between the loud and aggressive minority, the ultraconservative radicals opposed to the normal game enthusiast, who is in favor of inclusive games and gender equality.
    But other people saw it as a stab in the back, the last act of betrayal. The existing tension between fans and writers in an explosion and fueled the twitter war.
    I read the accusations of #Gamergate, not only on twitter, but in the comment sections and I could just not compute. The working conditions of games journalists as well as indie game developers seemed rather daunting, quite different from what I would expect from a club of crony conspirators. There is not much to say against transperacy, but how is a patreon donation the same as having stakes in a financial enterprise? What does ‘objective criticism’ look like? Why this unrelated, but still always present obsession with Sarkeesian? And aren’t the video game journalists and developers targeted by #Gamergate at the end of the day the smallest fish in the industry?

    There was so much irrational rage, mistrust and yes, hatred against women and in general people who want to see a more diversified games industry. The reasonable voices seemed drowned out. And all this time, the most constructive articles I read were by video game journalists. Confronted with all the mistrust and hate, they stayed calm and tried to reason:

    They never said, gamers were wrong. Obviously there is corruption in video game journalism. They just stated that not small time indie devs or some freelance writer making ends meet are the problem, but Big Buisness. And they asked one question, one question I still ask myself:

    Why would level-headed, reasonable gamer, good people, rally around #Gamergate? The Hashtag was tainted by hate. How could #Gamergate be about ethics, when all this abuse happened in the name of Gamergate because of a vague suspicion? Conservatives and Anti-Feminists rallied around #Gamergate, eager to fight their own battles against feminists and SJW in the name of gamers. This Hashtag was beyond saving from the start. It could not be declared for a just cause. And #notyourshield? The honest people, concerned about the state of video game journalism, who are using this hashtag, they are shields. A shield for the trolls and all the anti feminist hate monger.

    I really don’t understand, why people listen to the conspiracies. Why they hate against small freelancer and indie developer, when big studios shit on fans every day. But in the end I’m just a bystander. I was never screwed over by game journalists and I’ve never been in the twitter trenches. So what do I know?

    1. Try to look at it from our perspective for a moment. Corruption in game journalism has been thing for years, the media is a marketing tool of the larger game industry and always has been. Reviews are one thing but these journalists also provide us with news about the gaming world. When the ZQ news broke at first I was skeptical, who cares about who anyone was sleeping with? She was being called a whore and I spoke out against that. But then the news began to break about Patron support. Now you may not see it as a problem but many, including myself, do. Patreon support, in essence, pays the rent of the artist so they can focus on their art. It is not an investment, however you don’t pay someone money every month with no expectation of return unless you have a vested interest in their success. If you’re a journalist and you write about something/someone you fund with Patreon then that vested interest is a conflict of interest and should at the very least be declared.
      When people began to express these concerns they were ignored completely by the media, so many turned for answers to the only people actively responding, Zoe Quinn and her supporters. In essence the mainstream game media threw Zoe to the wolves and ran for it.
      The questions became louder and more people were asking them. This is when #GamerGate actually came into being, the tag being started by Adam Baldwin. The media response to those questions was to launch a seemingly co-ordinate attack on gamer identity, 10 articles in less than 24 hours decrying the gamer identity of whiny neck bearded white man children as “dead” Now just think about that for a second, if you’re a non-white, non-male that identifies as a gamer these articles say you don’t exist. If you are a white male gamer you’re being told that despite games and it’s media being marketed toward you for years your opinion or feelings do not matter because you are a white male. How is anyone supposed to take that?
      So that sparked the beginning of #notyourshield a tag used by gamers that weren’t white males to declare that they needed no one to speak for them and that they refused to be used as a shield against legitimate criticism.
      The thing is though, many in the media have continued to ignore and scoff at the genuine worries of many gamers. This has pushed those that normally would not have got involved or would’ve remained in the middle balance to the fringes with the radicals. People feel they are not being listened to, so they shout louder and louder and get more and more angry as they feel more and more marginalised. The majority of #GamerGate are not sexist, they just don’t want games creators to have the freedom to create the games they want to without censorship and for it’s media to be more honest about conflicts of interest. To behave with basic journalistic ethics. That is why I got involved with #GamerGate

      1. First of all, I don’t want to imply that the gamergate crowd is sexist or misogynistic. I’v read some of the ‘Death to the Gamer’ Articles – and I agree, the whole classifcation of the Gamer as a juvenile white male was uncalled for. Still I think these articles were never about gaming enthusiasts in general, but more about an identity, which (in the the author’s minds) is deeply linked to a ultraconservative subculture fighting change and seeing every criticism as an personal attack and reason enough to lash out violently.
        So the message was: Stop self-identifying as a gamer, thanks to these radicals the lable will always be associated with hate, abuse and misogyny. We as the gaming community have to show the hate mongers that we’re not like them, we’re not gamer.

        I get that there was a misconnect between journalists and fans, but still:

        But instead of showing solidarity with Zoe Quinn and all those who were being harassed, the gaming community was pissed journalists would want to take away their label. And by forming #notyourshield they basically showed their support for the abusers, stood shoulder to shoulder with those preaching hate. I mean I understand that people wanted to speak up for themselves, but that’s how it looked from an outsider’s perspective.

        And like I said, I’m all for transperacy, but the case for ethics in game journalism seems rather thin. People rarely seem to criticise major studios like you did. Instead a lot of it is about Quinn, Sarkeesian and SJWs. Stuff like ‘The Sarkeesians Effect’, people just enraged by the thought games could be considrered political or even worse: driven by their own anti-feminist agenda.
        And the perception of the biased media seems skewed, because there is empirical evidence, that feminism is actually not a big issue in game media:

        The way I see it, the demand of taking the ‘artistic vision’ of developers seriously just feels hollow. A lot of time Gamer don’t respect artistic vision, they demand fanservice. They bullied Ubisoft in creating a new ending for Mass Effect to give a prominent example. So fans do influence and even pressure game developers in a much larger scale than so called SJWs could ever do.

        What do you mean by censorship? Censorhip sounds a lot like a conspiracy theory

      2. Hi Mustera, just wandering through here, but I would like to explain a little bit about Mass Effect (Bioware btw not Ubisoft)
        You have to understand just how much of an investment this series is. In time, in emotional attachment (which is REALLY tough to do in a game’s story where nearly anyone can die to boot, as after the first death or two the average player disconnects and doesn’t want to get close to someone for fear they might be next), and unusually, in character legacy (choices from previous game impacting the next). The reason Gamergate didn’t start sooner is because previous blowups have affected a single genre, not the entire swath at once. Everyone not in that genre was still busy console warring.
        So previous controversies like DmC and Mass Effect petered out after awhile…well, truthfully, ME never petered out it seems. smoldering embers still exist. I have no doubt that will rise to the forefront once again. It’s a VERY sore point that never had closure.

        Essentially, many MANY great things were promised by the ending, and many wildly varying multiple endings as well. Perhaps it wouldn’t live up to the hype. Perhaps much of what it was building to was too good to be true. I would like to think the majority were smart enough to have steeled their heart for just such an occurrence in fact. But what actually happened was a grievous insult of narrative. Not only was much of the third half of ME3 railroaded, making your choices over the last 50-80 hours of gameplay utterly meaningless, & the ending boiled down to ‘choose what of 3 pretty colours you want the galaxy to explode into.

        This was damn near a betrayal of everything, both player and programmer, actually worked for. And a lot of it falls to the best writers leaving or being fired, and the remaining writers slamming themselves into a corner with no way out. They failed to come up with a proper resolution, and yet submitted their works anyway, and then the studio heads allowed the story to press on the way it did. Imagine the feeling of now being so constrained, after having had such an open ending experience. The greatest CYOA book series ever written was now to be a plain-jane novel. After you hit page 80-85 in the final book, it became ‘turn to next page’ over and over

        The sudden announcement of multiple DLCs to ‘finish’ the game properly did not help, especially with the first being so lackluster. And every further attempt at appeasement only made the mob more angry and unruly, as each seemed a more desperate attempt.

        The secondary reason GG did not spawn from this is that it was simply niche enough a blockbuster game to not leak over into another genre. After all, 100+ hours is a large timesink. Not everyone had the willpower to make that sort of investment, so only the people who didn’t quit with the second game as ‘good enough’ were affected. There was about a 700k drop in first-month sales between the two titles. A depressive sigh was all they could muster.
        Gaming media had a big part in all of this, hyping up ME3 as being worthy of the title GOTY, as well as being the best possible sendoff anyone could hope for for the trilogy.This only fueld the anger more

        So yeah, loads of hype, loads of people feeling cheated, deafening corporate/gaming media silence when pressed for answers. I know more than a few people who wrote off gaming entirely after that experience, and it took Gamergate for them to come back.

        This isn’t unique to gaming either. Comics recently had this happen, with Marvel’s Civil War. Captain America is hyped as a grand hero fighting an increasingly paranoid and totalitarian goverment. “This is NOT the America I fought to create” he remarks in one iconic scene. The disagreement started civil enough, but then Tony Stark begins to use less and less ethical means to reign in other metahumans and superheroes for the government registration programs. Spooks begin to show up shadowing innocents suspected of harboring special innate abilities. Abductions by a multitude of alphabet soup agencies mount. Tony bolsters his ranks with hired killers as his police force after more and more disenfranchised heroes walk. It’s looking like the intent of the comic is a criticism of the over-militarisation of police state America. People are REALLY eating this story up. Finally, Marvel is going to make up for One More Day.

        And then, within a few issues, they cut the legs out from under Cap. Many heroes killed resisting the government. He goes on national TV to apologise to their next of kin and winds up berated by a screechy harridan newscaster. Another fight breaks out that destroys part of the city and leaves Cap to hang up his shield muttering about the cost being too great, of having handled things improperly. In-universe, Tony’s actions are vindicated, he is a hero. The true national American hero. Cap is disgraced.

        The sheer anger over the ending to Civil War set even many NON-comics forums on fire, people who just read the synopses felt as betrayed as those paying for it. They wrecked the legacy of the incorruptible, the living embodiment of The Better America. And what is Marvel’s response? “Well, we had ALWAYS intended it to be a warning against taking up vigilantism, and for the comic to have been taken as pro-registration.” Except…except that’s NOT how they wrote the previous 80ish issues of headline/spinoff/guest/crossover comics at ALL. No they did every single thing they could possibly do short of outright murder to paint Tony Stark and the government as being in the wrong and highly unethical, sometimes even breaking the constitution to enforce order. Captain America was Designated Good Guy.

        In my personal opinion? They wrote themselves into a corner, and realised there’s a lot of people in the white house who had said they were comic book fans too and were following the arc closely. They wanted to swap gears and make Cap’s vigilantism and anti-registration stance appear ill-thought and in the wrong. That he should have pursued the proper channels to fight this new law and he’d been too hot-headed. But they started out writing that Tony was an ass and willing to break rules, friendships, laws, and heads to get his way. He was made out to be a petulant child, and the government an even larger angry baby. With only 5 issues before the end to go they suddenly realised they didn’t have enough time to reverse course, or undo/sweep away all the bad Tony had done up to this time. So they asspulled the most terrible resolution possible, and somehow were surprised fans took it poorly.

        I have to admit that Civil War killed my interest in comics, ALL comics, not just ‘capes’ because not only of how it was handled but how terrible the company reactions to the fans were. Unlike many, the recent deluge of movies didn’t bring me back. I know quite a few people who were suckered back into the comics based on the quality of the various movie series, but it’s still too much of a sore point to me. I just refuse to be burned that wy again.
        Anyway, that’s the general feeling of anger you’re seeing coming from ME fans as well as gamergate in general. It feels like a mass betrayal by those public figures you had felt you shared opinions and ideals with, thought you could call a friend if you ever met, felt the few who had done wrong were now redeeming themselves.
        All to get a big fat kick in the face.
        Similar to GG as well is there were multiple small unethical practices afoot that would take too long to list and document

        Unlike GG, comics is a much smaller field. Their influence is mostly cultural osmosis now, there’s no reams of comic books in major big box retailers aside from the token few like Spiderman/X-men etc. It effectively faded from mainstream appeal due to the failure of superhero movies in the early 90s. It was going back up in notice before Civil War, but after…well, it’s not very often comics break a million or two in sales, despite how much cheaper they are than games. Because the primary demographic is much smaller, no real change could be enacted, and there’s not enough mainstream exposure for a true revolt to take place. Also internally, comic book fans have forgotten how to really fight. With DC and Marvel having such a huge market share, it functions like the two-party system in politics. Those hurt the most feel like they didn’t have the power to change anything because at the end of the day your options are still “Choose your monolith”
        Meanwhile I see GG as more like european hobbyist parliament. Every company you can ‘vote’ for has just about an equivalent size and monetary power aside from the most obviously corrupt. And those small ones, should they band together, can outspend the big guys. Gamergate had the potential to become the Orange Revolution, and I feel it is quickly approaching that point.

        English isn’t my first language, so I hope I have gotten my point across clearly, but I just thought you were looking at things completely the wrong way by that last paragraph of yours. The entitlement has always been with the middlemen, the PR managers, the gaming mags/review sites, and project heads like Derek Smart, John Romero, Peter Molyneux, and most recently Tim Schafer.

  2. I forgot: I really respect you a lot for being a voice of reason in all of this and that you did keep an open mind. I guess I have another point of view in all this, but I’m also tired and confused by this conflict that seems so insignificant. And then I read stuff like this and I think: I want movies, books, games, all kinds of fictional worlds where everyone feels home. I want inspirational heros for anyone, especially in games, which are after all interactive escapist entainment.

  3. You know i really share your perspective because even though i follow the issue from the beginning i never really care about it up until a few while back when 4chan, reddit and other sites actively started silencing the issue.
    That was what did it for me and said am not gonna take this.

    The anger has been accumulated for years now, gaming press giving glowing reviews to shit titles, article after article saying negative things about the good games because they have a particular political agenda.

    When Total war rome 2 was out, did the “gaming journalists” do their job when they released that buggy game? Nop, they were too worried about the patriarchy and lack of female protagonists in assassin’s creed.

    By the way there were a lot of issues involving Zoe Quinn at the beginning (not just grayson) but am not gonna mention it because they are not important at this point.

  4. Just wanted to stop by and say that I found your blog while spending a truly sad number of late-night hours digging into this train wreck called gamergate, trying to figure out where some of the people involved were coming from. I haven’t read all your recent posts, but I did read your first “thoughts of a feminist” post, and respect your efforts to stand up for the principles in which you believe, call for civility from your own side, and resist it being coopted by the worst of the worst… and I respect this post even more.

    As someone whose social circles have a distinct bend toward what some would deride as “SJWs”, but who can acknowledge that some seriously not-ok stuff has been done under that banner, I felt I could sympathize with your earlier post. And yet, the comparison of the worst actors in GG to the worst actors on the SJ (or anti-GG, or whatever) side never felt quite “right” to me, so I spent some time thinking about why.

    I wrote up my conclusion in a post of my own, which I think might be relevant here if you’ll indulge me in quoting myself for a moment…

    while well-meaning and bad actors on both sides may be united by claims of loyalty to common causes (“journalistic integrity”, “social justice”, etc), only one side is united by a brand (“#gamergate”), and the difference between a brand and a cause is that a cause is (largely) self-defining, while a brand is (largely) not. Sure, different people may have different ideas about what journalistic integrity or social justice mean, but that’s worlds away from a meaningless tag that can’t help but be defined by the most visible critical mass of nastiness that rallies behind it.

    It sounds like you came to a similar conclusion.

    There’s been a lot of negativity getting thrown around lately (understatement of the year), so basically what I want to say is this: I still don’t agree with everything you have to say, but you seem like a decent person, I respect the way you say what you say, and I look forward to hearing more from you (and maybe having a couple of constructive disagreements along the way– we could start with Patreon, but let’s end on a positive note instead). 😉 Kudos to you for being willing to take a critical look at something in which you’re invested, and for being willing and able to differentiate between your cause and your brand.

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