What is #GamerGate?Mar 25, 2015 | 2 Votes
Since the very start, the gaming industry had controversies and disputes about many different topics. The portrayal of Arab characters in first person shooters, the violence of the Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto series, the accusation that games corrupt the youth of today and more.
Over the years games became more and more mainstream and it is hard to find a person these days that does not indulge him or herself with playing a game every once in a while. The fact gaming reached a bigger audience meant a wider demographic and new crowds that didn’t use to play games before.
In order to understand GamerGate, we need to prelude it a bit. Our story begins with a feminist video blogger named Anita Sarkeesian that created in 2011 a series of video reviews named “Tropes vs Women in Video Games”. In the series Sarkeesian claimed the gaming industry is male oriented and there are many aspects of gaming that discriminate against women, such as the “Damsel in distress” trope, women being eye candy and women being used only to establish male characters.
The video series was highly viral. It was so viral the kick starter Sarkeesian opened in 2012 to sponsor the project raised $158,922 and got thousands of response videos and comments, supporting and objecting the claims. Following the success, Sarkeesian channel “Feminist Frequency” gained credibility and influence in the gaming industry and gaming companies, amongst them Intel and BioWare who consulted “Feminist Frequency” on different matters. The issues of gender inequality Sarkeesian raised became a highly discussed matter.
On the other side of the fence, “Feminist Frequency” and its allies claims were ill receives to say the least. Internet communities of gamers on Reddit, 4chan and 8chan rejected the claims made by Sarkeesian are said they were false. The main claim against Sarkeesian was of cherry picking, analyzing out of context and incitement of misandry against male gamers.
In 2013 Independent game developer Zoe Quinn released her game named “Depression Quest” that received praising reviews. The gaming community on Steam and the forums mentioned above claimed the game got positive reviews solely because of an alleged affair Quinn had with the journalist Nathan Grayson who arranged those reviews by pulling his connections. The rumors raised accusations of unethical journalism practices and conspiracies behind the game reviewing industry and was eventually named “GamerGate”. Due to those claims Quinn started receiving hundreds of hate mails, phone calls and harassments. Her Tumbler, Dropbox and skype were hacked and she even receives threats of rape and murder.
Soon after “GamerGate” started, a new episode by Sarkeesian was released into the already flamed environment, Sarkeesian who publicly supported Quinn, started being harassed and threatened similarly to Quinn. Sarkeesian claimed the threats and harassments indicates the misogyny of the male gaming culture and called to “destroy it”. Female game developer Brianna Wu received the same treatment as well.
From a hashtag aiming to attack the gaming journalism ethics, #GamerGate started to mean attacking female gaming related personas. For months feminist game reviewers and developers, mainly supporters of Sarkeesian and Quinn were attacked and bullied. Even the authorities were involved after Congress, the police and the U.S department of justice had to get involved after cyber bullying and death threats became too serious.
The aftermath of this battle is unclear. The feminist side see the events of “GamerGate” as proof of their claims of misogyny within gaming and gamers. On the other side, gamers state the conspiracy behind “GamerGate” is real and the main subject. They also denounce the few misogynists and violent attackers. Some critics asserted that many of the harassment and threats claims made by the feminists were fabricated, exaggerated and exploited by a movement interested only in political agendas and have little to no interest in games.
Returning to where we began, GamerGate did manage to start a discussion about the gamer identity. Games becoming mainstream means more gamers of both genders while the industry is still very much masculine and aims mostly to a male audience. Raising those issues, gaming companies are starting to put more emphasis on targeting a female audience and hiring female employees. Although some of the malicious parts of this controversy were appalling, I personally think the fact females are now acknowledged in concern of games is a great outcome.