GamerGate, Feminism and the Gaming Growing Pains

“I want to say this in the most non-misogynistic way possible. ‘F*ck you B!tch.’”

This tweet from a #GamerGate enthusiast is one of the nicer things that they have said to Zoe Quinn, a notable independent video game developer and, as she puts it, “the internet’s most hated person.”

How did such a hostile environment, with such polarized sides, come to exist? According to Forbes Magazine,Quinn’s ex-boyfriend Eron Gjoni started the ordeal. Upon their relationship ending, Gjoni wrote a blog post stating that Quinn had slept her way into a position of success, having cheated on him with five other men. The most notable of the men she allegedly slept with was her boss. When it was revealed that these accusations were completely untrue, it would have made sense that the topic was dropped. This, however, was just the beginning.

As one article from Yes! Magazine put it, “(Quinn’s) personal life and sexual activity became a public conversation topic in articles, forums and YouTube videos.” The #GamerGate community was formed. The group’s advocates state it is a community working for journalism ethics. There were concerns that writers could be bought or offered sexual favors in return for press coverage of a game after Gjoni’s post, which the #GamerGate community took seriously. #GamerGate’s eventual ban from reddit and other social media sites (due to some of their members’ online harassment and death threats) heightened the communities concern in regards to censorship and a left-leaning press.

While we can hope that the majority of internet users do not hate Quinn, there is no denying that there has been a out lash of harassment, stealing of personal information and rape and death threats coming from the #GamerGate community and directed towards vocal feminist gamers and game developers, with Quinn at the forefront. Such responses have caused a backlash against #GamerGate, largely from the political left and female gamers. #GamerGate enthusiasts are seen, at least by those who oppose them, as 30-something white boys with neck beards who live in their parents’ basement. While some of the members of the #GamerGate community fit that bill, the community is much more diverse. It includes people of color, minorities, LGBT individuals and women.

While the debate about #GamerGate heated up, things became more serious for vocal female gamers and developers such as Quinn. She, along with Anita Sarkeesian, a video game critic who runs the YouTube channel Feminist Frequency and the series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, and Briana Wu, the founder and head game developer at Giant Spacekat, received death and rape threats. All three had to leave their homes and go into hiding for extended periods of time because people affiliated with #GamerGate were hacking into personal information, including their addresses. Sarkeesian had to cancel a talk she had planned to give at Utah State University because she received threats that her presence would trigger “the deadliest school shooting in American history.” Quinn’s elderly father reserved an explicit phone call in which he was informed his “daughter is a whore.”

Can we just think about that for a minute? These women have taken center stage for all women who want a place in the gaming community. For doing so, they have had their sex lives analyzed and investigated in public. They have been constantly harassed using unproductive and sexist language, they have had their privacy violated, they have been forced to move from their homes to feel safe, and they have had to cancel events where they talk about these experiences just to prevent countless deaths.

It may be true that some proponents of #GamerGate are genuinely concerned about the factual integrity of their news; in fact, some have stated that they do not support the aggressions made toward women and that is not the aim of the movement. Nevertheless, it is under this hashtag that women have had their rights violated, their work discredited and their very lives threatened. There should be no question here. If people want more ethical journalism, than by all means they should speak out and demand it, though it is interesting there is such concern about gaming journalism but no outrage toward the financial bias in our mainstream media news sources today. #GamerGate, if it ever was about ethics, isn’t anymore. It is a way to perpetrate a violent and destructive culture of misogyny while threatening women’s lives as they fight for a place in a male dominant culture. It is time to #StopGamerGate.