When reports came out last weekend of developer Brianna Wu receiving death threats over Twitter, the gaming media renewed its attacks on the GamerGate movement labeling it a hate group trying to drive women from the gaming industry. When Anita Sarkeesian canceled a planned speech at Utah State University over anonymous death threats, the backlash against GamerGate built to a roar in stories across the national mainstream press.
I’ll admit I wavered. I wondered if maybe, however important the issues championed by the GamerGate movement, it had become too toxic of a banner for activism seeking journalistic integrity and industry transparency. There certainly were no shortage of anti-GamerGate articles making that argument. It was tempting; the constant theme of these pieces was, “Hey, maybe you’re in this for the right reasons. Maybe you do really just care about legitimate concerns with the gaming industry and press, but there are bullies who are claiming affiliation with GamerGate and harassing women in the industry. You’re not a bully, are you?”
Nobody wants to be the bad guy. It’s easy to be disheartened when you have to spend half your efforts fighting the mischaracterization of your goals and beliefs because some random asshole decided to threaten someone. Maybe it was time to just back away.
Then I watched the media dogpile throughout the week besmirch thousands of gamers as misogynistic trolls, characterizing everyone in GamerGate as part of a coordinated campaign to threaten, degrade, and ultimately silence women. I listened to the impassioned voices of women within the GamerGate community refuse to be shamed into accepting that false premise.
And then I watched real bullies expose themselves:
Ultimately #GamerGate is reaffirming what we’ve known to be true for decades: nerds should be constantly shamed and degraded into submission
— Sam Biddle (@samfbiddle) October 16, 2014
Bring Back Bullying
— Sam Biddle (@samfbiddle) October 16, 2014
Sarcastic Vindictive White Manchild Nerds are a greater material threat to my way of life than ISIL
— Sam Biddle (@samfbiddle) October 15, 2014
— Sam Biddle (@samfbiddle) October 15, 2014
We’re Offering $10,000 For Unretouched Photos of a Male Gamergate Participant We Would Actually Fuck
— Erin Gloria Ryan (@morninggloria) October 16, 2014
And that’s when I felt ashamed of myself for considering taking the easy way out and slinking off to leave people who love gaming and are passionate about reforming this industry to fend for themselves.
How did the evil, violent members of GamerGate respond? By launching a fundraiser for the PACER Center, an organization dedicated to “expand opportunities and enhance the quality of life of children and young adults with disabilities and their families.” At the time of this writing, the campaign has received over $10,000 in donations.
It’s actions like these that give the lie to the media smear campaign to brand GamerGate as a hate movement. This follows the effort by early GamerGate supporters to step in and contribute to The Fine Young Capitalists, an organization dedicated to promoting women in the gaming industry, after attempts to derail their fundraising campaign by progressive activists.
“It doesn’t matter,” critics say. “GamerGate is toxic. People have been harassed by individuals associated with it. You need to give it up.”
This is a coward’s argument: I don’t want to engage you on a subject that’s uncomfortable for me, so I’ll claim your entire movement is illegitimate because of the actions of fringe extremists. It doesn’t matter how many times you denounce and try to counter the actions of those extremist outliers, I’m going to associate you with them so that nothing you say should be taken seriously. That’s the same type of argument that bigots use to characterize hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims as terrorists because of the existence of al Qaeda and ISIS. Try making that argument and see what the response from the social justice advocate members of the gaming press would be.
At the same time, if the anti-GamerGate crowd wants to argue that the despicable actions of rogue members of a community are representative of the whole, they might want to check the structural integrity of the glass house they’re inhabiting. There has been no shortage of harassment, abuse, and criminal activity from anti-GamerGate activists, as Allum Bokhari detailed in his excellent GamerGate article at TechCrunch. And remember that weeks have passed since he collected these examples. Pack it up, game journalists, your supporters have engaged in death threats, doxxing, and hacking. By your own logic, your arguments are now invalid.
“That’s absurd!” they’d cry, if any of them had the guts to actually report on the criminal actions of the anti-GamerGate crowd. No shit.
Supporting GamerGate does not make you a bully. It doesn’t make you a misogynist shitlord, it doesn’t make you a loser, a frustrated beta-male, a weirdo, a race traitor, or a self-hating woman. Wanting the gaming industry and the gaming press to be more transparent and more accountable does not make you an awful person. Because, let’s face it, the gaming industry does need to grow up.
While these gaming journalists are attacking the gaming community, disparaging you as adolescent neckbeards outraged that women are allowed into the boys club, that same press still operates as nothing more than glorified PR platforms for a gaming industry still trying to pretend it’s some hobbyist startup operating out of basements and garages instead of the multi-billion dollar corporate juggernaut it’s become.
We’re tired of reading the same regurgitated press releases as though they account for legitimate previews. We’re tired of quality assurance employees being treated like disposable slave labor and then gigantic corporations throwing up their hands and acting like it was impossible for them to anticipate major releases being unplayable until a year after their launch. We’re tired of seeing talented programmers, artists, and writers being sacked en masse because the game they released averaged one percentage point less than an arbitrary Metacritic goalpost written into abusive contracts. It’s time for real change in this industry, yet the gaming press only has the spine to attack games through a political lens for issues they can ultimately blame on backwards consumers’ demands.
You want to talk about marginalizing female and minority voices in the gaming community? How many times have game writers trivialized GamerGate supporters using the #NotYourShield hashtag, calling minority gamers tokens or fakes? Is that supposed to be empowering when members of the gaming press dismiss you and treat you like a sideshow? How does it make you feel when bloggers tell you you’re foolish for supporting GamerGate, that you’re misinformed and deluded? Never fear, minority members of the gaming community, the cavalcade of predominantly white male gaming writers are here to tell you how they know better than you about your beliefs and experiences!
Gaming journalists want to bemoan the fact that gamers are now being portrayed as knuckle-dragging women-haters in the national mainstream press? They have no one to blame but themselves. Instead of reporting impartially on the GamerGate issue, they first ignored and censored the controversy, then went on the offensive against their own audience to delegitimize anyone who questioned their integrity. When the mainstream press began covering GamerGate looking from the outside in to the gaming community, there was little to read on the subject that didn’t depict GamerGate supporters as rabid misogynists.
I’ve experienced bullying. I’ve dealt with clinical depression. I lost two years of my life that I can only hazily remember, dropping out of college and enduring a constantly rotating cocktail of anti-depressants and intensive therapy before I was able to become functional enough to resume schooling and get on with my life. I still struggle with those issues. I’m not conceited enough to ascribe what I’ve gone through to the entire gaming community, but I also don’t believe that my life has been so unique that there aren’t a number of gamers who’ve had similar experiences as me. As a result, one of the more welcoming communities you could ever find is gamers. Many of us have gone through life being reminded at all times that we’re different from many around us. Gaming is a unifying passion for millions of people where it doesn’t matter if you’re nerdy or eccentric or different. You love games? Let’s talk about them. Grab a controller and sit down for some co-op; you’ve got a friend in me.
We’ve been bullied long enough. The massive trust deficit between a large part of the gaming community and the gaming press has been building for years, and by continuing to attack and misrepresent these readers–when all they’re asking for are editorial policies that put consumers’ interests before developers’–will only widen that divide. And it’d be a short-sighted move to declare war on their audience to maintain cozy relationships with publishers, because the real source of their advertiser cash is the much-reviled “nerd” who buys games. As we’ve seen with high-profile companies pulling ads from gaming websites–to much praise and promises of brand loyalty from GamerGaters–business interests in the tech and gaming world are already voting with their dollars that, in this case, the customer is right.
Follow Noah Dulis on Twitter @Marshal_Dov.