I was recently accused of being uninformed about Gamergate. That's funny because I am informed to a fault and spend more time thinking about Gamergate and studying it than is probably healthy. The thing is though, you can have access to all the information that's out there and still not be swayed over to one side or the other. Yes, I know about #NotYourShield. I've watched that one Huffington Post interview. I've watched amateur Youtube videos from Gamergate supporters, read their tweets, tried to make sense of 8chan, read way more Milo Yiannopoulos articles than I would ever care to, watched Christina Hoff Sommer's videos, looked at more neutral pieces like Andrew Sullivan's, read Anita Sarkeesan's god damned master's thesis once, watched takedowns of her arguments that were varying degrees of well done, etc etc. the list goes on. It's good to be informed. It's valuable to actually read the sources that you don't agree with instead of getting them only by way of people you do agree with. Now, I got really mad when Gamergate came to TAY, probably too mad. I apologize if it reflected badly on you guys. My ire was coming from a place of "really? this? here?" So this my definitive interpretation of the movement/hashtag partly because I need to get it out of my system, partly to maybe show some things you haven't thought about before, and partly because I take being called uninformed as a challenge.
This isn't going to be about harassment. There has been harassment on both sides (though yeah, this all started with the harassment of one specific woman), and I think the anti-Gamergate crowd really needs to tone down the insults that involve virgins, neckbeards, Doritos, and (fill in your gamer stereotype). They aren't helping their case and I resent it as a gamer when people deride gaming as a way to criticize Gamergate. What I want to do is outline why, based on the evidence I've looked at, Gamergate is ultimately a very flimsy crusade.
A Specious Movement
From the outside, it isn't hard to see why many people would be attracted to Gamergate. To use a definition of subculture I recently used in my thesis for school it is "a system of values, attitudes, modes of behavior, and life-styles of a social group that is distinct from but related to the dominant culture of a society." We as gamers are also sort of a sub-culture, so Gamergate is something between a sub-culture and a sub-sub-culture. Like any subculture, they have their memes and in-jokes and special ways of communicating that set them apart. And I don't need to tell you that being part of a subculture or movement can be really invigorating. It's fun to be a part of something, whether that's a TAY inside joke (nvr 4get rough, sexual beasts) or feeling like it's you and your friends against the world, standing for a cause. Gamgergate has fostered a sense of camaraderie. You will often find weirdly militarized language within Gamergate:
It's a war of attrition, and while both sides tire — the one with the numbers wins out, however Pyrrhic the victory.
Journalism has drawn a line in the sand. We're simply crossing it.
It's just all part of the heady rush of fighting for what you believe in, boosting morale, fighting corruption on the home front. And it's ostensibly about ethics in games journalism. Everyone likes ethics, right?
Look, I don't doubt that there are Gamergate supporters that truly care about real ethical issues in journalism. I don't think that all Gamergate supporters are misogynists or have internalized misogyny. They have some intelligent and well spoken men and women on their side. However, on any given day, the #Gamergate tag on twitter is mostly filled with either plans to take down Gawker Media or complaints about the "ethics" of pushing a social agenda in gaming media. I'll get to Gawker in a minute but the latter issue is very telling of what most Gamergate supporters, both gamers and non-gamers, have in common: they see this as a war against "cultural Marxism." It is a very reactionary movement.
One of Gamergate's biggest ethical issues is...not even an ethical issue. It's an editorial slant that, whether readers like it or not, has been around for quite some time now.
A recent call to arms from Gamergate over Polygon's Bayonetta 2 review
Hypocrisy and Opportunists
If I've learned one thing about Gamergate it's that they love screenshots, so I got some screenshots to illustrate why there are a lot of pots calling a lot of kettles black. Most of you are probably familiar by now with the outrage over Gawker employee Sam Biddle's tweets that seemed to support bullying nerds and gamers. These tweets are the basis for much of Gamergate's targeted campaign to get advertisers to pull out from Gawker Media. It's been successful, too.
A Gamergate graphic illustrating the supposed hypocrisy of Kotaku's Stephen Totilo and his stance on bullying. You can also see Sam Biddle's original tweets here.
Sam Biddle has acknowledged that these tweets were just dumb jokes. I don't read much of Biddle's work but from all accounts he is hella nerdy himself. Is it probably best that journalists refrain from making ill-advised jokes? Yes. Has Gawker Media always had a very salty, off color sense of humor? Also yes. More importantly though, when it comes to bad jokes, Gamergate does not have a leg to stand on.
Breitbar's Milo Yiannopolous, one of Gamergate's biggest supporters, saying kinda offensive things.
Very popular internet personality and Gamergate supporter Internet Aristocrat making an autism joke. Don't get me wrong, I love a good autism joke, but usually the making of those jokes is best left to autistic folks.
I could have gotten a screenshot of someone joking about Brianna Wu's appearance, or how third wave feminists can't get laid, among other things. But my point is here - people on both sides are making jokes in bad taste. It's hypocritical that an advertising boycott movement is being built upon the facetious snark of one Gawker writer.
Another huge issue with Gamergate is that its supporters include some blatant opportunists - mostly people who, prior to being involved in Gamergate, were railing against feminism and pushing a narrative of traditional male sexuality being punished. The top offenders here would be Milo Yiannopolous, Mike Cernovich, and Christina Hoff Sommers to name a few.
Milo Yiannopolous (@Nero on Twitter) can recently be seen complaining about Emma Watson's UN speech because, uh...she's too pretty? He also seems to be very scared about a nebulous threat to sex and his expression of sexuality. K.
Christina Hoff Sommers, or Based Mom within Gamergate, describes herself as an "equity feminist" and does not support third wave feminism. Well, in some respects, neither do I! Hoff Sommers' videos seem very intelligent without saying much of anything at all. She really just affirms the status quo. Granted, she rarely says anything outright false: it's true that people have been harassed on both sides, and it's true that among the legions of objectified female game characters, there are a lot of games that portray women in a nuanced and positive light. "Many men...do like images of beautiful, sexy women," she says in her latest video. "Today, at least in certain feminist circles, it's open season on the sexual preferences of straight males."
OKAY. Where to even start, because the narrative of the liberal media trying to phase out straight male sexuality isn't something that appeared with Gamergate. This is something I have been seeing in the gaming community for years. It's very hard to write about people who actually think that an outcry for more well written, less objectified female characters is the death grip of feminism coming to take the boobs away with a straight face. I like sexy characters. I like the game characters I play to be attractive. I like sexuality (even straight male sexuality!) being portrayed in mature, adult ways in games. Questioning the dominance of characters being created to cater to straight male sex fantasies =/= condemning men for simply having sexuality and being sexually attracted to women.
Yet this odd fear of liberal journalists and critics encroaching on sexuality and masculinity is the common thread in these three Gamgergate supporters who are not gamers. It's fine to not be a gamer and talk about games, of course, but I just think it's quite obvious why figures like these are in Gamergate.
On the topic of shields
#NotYourShield is a hashtag that is affiliated with Gamergate. Its aim is to show that women, minorities, and other disenfranchised groups do not necessarily stand on the side of anti-Gamergate and the journalists. However, women in Gamergate are still being used as a shield by their own movement at times. "We have women" is often trotted out like the Gamergate equivalent of having a black friend. By putting these girls and women on a pedestal, some Gamergate supporters can use their worship of a select few females to cover up the fact that they don't really care about women's issues. They can continue to demonize women that are not on their side. They have constructed their own paradism of feminism, led by women like Hoff Sommers and Gamergate supporters who identify as feminist. All the rest of the feminists though? Screw them.
We have facts, they have feelings
A very common sentiment I see on the #Gamergate tag and in pro-Gamergate media is the idea that Gamergate has the higher ground because they deal in logic, facts, and rationality. Those crazy anti-Gamergate feminist SJW folks? They just have emotional arguments. The thing is that we all have an emotional investment in gaming.
As a girl, reading comments about how "gaming is guy thing" affects me emotionally. The Gamergate supporters must have an emotional investment in their cause, or they would not spend so much energy on it. These "culture wars" over gaming? I've been in them for years. I can't help but be. I was a gamer long before I thought much about my identity as a female. I'm tired of Gamergate because it's the same damn thing I've been seeing in mainpage comments on Kotaku forever. It is a feeling based movement. Feeling threatened by feminism. Feeling scared of the progressive direction gaming media has taken.
This has been said by many people before, but if you are a good person in Gamergate that cares about ethics, and I don't mean the issue of writing about games from a liberal or feminist point of view, leave. You're being played by a lot of people who don't care about games, but only furthering their reactionary views. Go fight for ethics with a hashtag or on a platform that is free from hypocrisy, dubious claims, and ranting about whatever Anita is doing this time.