A little “history” on how all this #GamerGate madness got started (according to wiki, since it seems less biased than any news sites):
In February 2013, Zoe Quinn released Depression Quest, an interactive fiction browser game through the depressionquest.com website. Though the game was met positively by critics, it generated a backlash from some players who believed that the game received an undue amount of attention in comparison to its quality, especially after a planned Steam distribution platform release. Quinn began to receive hate mail over the game upon its release and criticism from some parts of the Steam user community, receiving enough harassment to cause her to change her phone number and restrict harsh commentators from posting on the game’s Steam discussion forum. This elicited further outrage from others and by September 2014, Quinn had already endured eighteen months of increasing harassment, which had created “an ambient hum of menace in her life, albeit one that she has mostly been able to ignore.” Game developer Zoe Quinn was the original target of the harassment campaign. Shortly after the release of Depression Quest on Steam in August 2014, Quinn’s former boyfriend Eron Gjoni wrote a blog post, described by The New York Times as a “strange, rambling attack”, containing a series of allegations, among which was that Quinn had an affair with Kotaku journalist Nathan Grayson. This led to false allegations from Quinn’s detractors that the relationship had resulted in Grayson publishing a positive review of the game. Kotaku’s editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo affirmed the existence of a relationship, but clarified that Grayson had not written anything about Quinn after the relationship had commenced and had never reviewed her games, though he did acknowledge a piece written before the two began their relationship. A number of commentators in and outside the gaming industry denounced the attack on Quinn as misogynistic and unfounded. “Next time she shows up at a conference we … give her a crippling injury that’s never going to fully heal … a good solid injury to the knees. I’d say a brain damage, but we don’t want to make it so she ends up too retarded to fear us.” A threat issued to Zoe Quinn, as reported by The New Yorker. As a result of these allegations, Quinn and her family were subjected to a virulent harassment campaign including doxxing, threats of rape, hacks of her Tumblr, Dropbox, and Skype accounts, and death threats. She began staying with friends out of fear that she would be tracked to her home. Quinn told the BBC, “Before [Gamergate] had a name, it was nothing but trying to get me to kill myself, trying to get people to hurt me, going after my family. […] There is no mention of ethics in journalism at all outside of making the same accusation everybody makes towards any successful woman; that clearly she got to where she is because she had sex with someone.” Quinn told The New Yorker that she feels sympathy for her attackers because they have “deep-seeded loathing in themselves.” In an interview with MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow Daily, she said she regards her Gamergate detractors as becoming increasingly irrelevant in the industry due to the democratization of game-making tools, but nonetheless noted later in an interview with the BBC that, “I used to go to games [sic] events and feel like I was going home… Now it’s just like… are any of the people I’m currently in the room with ones that said they wanted to beat me to death?” Others were targeted by similar harassment, doxxing, and death threats under the Gamergate umbrella. Those who came to Quinn’s defense were targeted and labeled by their opponents with the derogatory phrase “social justice warriors” or “SJW” for short. Among those so described was fellow video game developer Phil Fish, who had been a focus of controversy on social media in 2013. Fish, reportedly known for his combative hostility on social media, was hacked and doxxed after speaking in support of Quinn; the attack exposed documents relating to his company, Polytron, as well as many of his personal details. As a result, Fish sold Polytron and left the gaming industry.
Ok, so now you’re filled in on how it all started. Since then, things have gotten a little strange. Now it feels like the original intent of #GamerGate has gotten way off track, and almost anything gaming related that someone dislikes will find it’s way under the GamerGate tag. Is this just an unexpected consequence of social media? A bandwagon hijacking attempt by others with a grievance just trying to be heard? An intentional attempt at misdirection to distract from the original purpose of GamerGate? I don’t think that question can be answered with any level of fact (though plenty of opinion, no doubt). Regardless, I think that the true mission of GamerGate needs to be brought back into focus. “What is the true mission?” you may be asking. Well, again that depends on WHO you ask.
To some(most), it is about journalistic integrity. Or to be put bluntly in this instance: Not writing a positive review of a crappy game because you’re allegedly banging the game developer. I am not saying that is what actually happened in Quinn’s situation, but that is how a lot of people are viewing the situation. Let me note here, in regards to the game that started all of this, “Depression Quest”… I have mixed feelings. This game, as stated on it’s website (www.depressionquest.com), was geared towards helping people who suffer from depression.
“Depression Quest is an interactive fiction game where you play as someone living with depression. You are given a series of everyday life events and have to attempt to manage your illness, relationships, job, and possible treatment. This game aims to show other sufferers of depression that they are not alone in their feelings, and to illustrate to people who may not understand the illness the depths of what it can do to people.”
Now, that is an honorable mission. As someone who has suffered with depression long term, I applaud that. Sentiment aside, as a gamer I wouldn’t play this game. I wouldn’t even give it a good review as a game. As an alternative therapy option to depression, maybe. Not as a game to play for fun. Back on point though. The game received good reviews from some critics, and even a few awards (though to be fair, a lot of that happened AFTER the whole situation went viral). The reviews from the gaming community however were not so positive. Does any of that justify the insane backlash that is now being experienced on both sides of the GamerGate bridge? Hell no. None of this should have happened in the first place. As a gamer, I don’t give a FF(flying f***) what any critic thinks of a game. Most of my game pre-buying impressions come from other (not paid) gamer reviews. If I read a critic review, I always expect it to be somewhat slanted. Is it right? No. Do I care? Not much.
The other main topic of GamerGate is the treatment of women in the gaming community. This has spanned to cover everything from women in journalism, women who review games, female gamers, female characters in video games, etc, etc, etc. Are you starting to see where this might matter to ALL women, not just gamers? This might have been about the treatment of women in the gaming community on the surface, but really that is just a reflection of the treatment of women in a lot of communities and environments. Any female gamer can tell you, if you play any sort of online game that allows other players to know you are female, you’re going to be treated different by some players. This really is a double edged sword. In an MMORPG you might find yourself being left out of a raid, because you want to go as a DPS but you are automatically assumed to be inferior to a male DPSers who wants that slot. Your choice? Find a new raid or go roll a healer, because that’s the only way you’re going with that crew. Is it fair? Nope. It sucks to be left out and not even given the chance to prove that maybe you are the better DPS and probably have better awareness than that male DPS. Hell, did they even bother to look at his gear score? Yours was totally better by a long shot! Oh well. On the other side of that coin. Maybe you’re in the mood for a few rounds of Halo matchmaking. And maybe you really suck. That’s ok, you’re a girl, so this guy with a K/D of 527536456:1 is going to backpack you through every match, just to be nice to you. This really isn’t that different from how women are treated in life. Every day we experience both sides of the coin. A male stranger might hold a door open for you out of respect. Unless you are an extremist, you are able to appreciate this for the kind act that it is. Funny enough, if you hold the door open for a man, they may seem to quickly get awkward and uncomfortable about it as though you have just demasculinated (not a real word, I know) them. 😛
The harshest truth of it though, is that we are just as guilty as men when it comes to sexism. For a large majority of women, we view men and women under the same sexist lense. We might claim to be strong independent women, but honestly.. if you were to walk out to your car today and find that your tire was flat, who would you be more likely to seek assistance from? Your good friend and neighbor Sally, or her husband Bob? *Disclaimer: I myself am pro at tire/oil/brake pad changing, and am in no way saying that no woman is capable of handling these things on her own.* Point is, we too are guilty of the invisible dividing lines between male and female capabilities.
Back to the GamerGate insanity though. Not everything is for everyone. Do I enjoy seeing women treated as sex objects in video games? Not particularly. Do I like seeing violence towards women in video games? Not in the extreme cases of some games.. but let it be known: If a female game character stands between me and a rares chest, I will plow her down by any means necessary. Yes, some games go too far in my opinion. I find it distasteful but I really don’t think it influences anything much. If someone is attracted to that type of game, odds are they had issues long before they played the game. I spent my first 5 hours in World Of Warcraft slaughtering pigs. I have absolutely no desire to go do so in real life. If getting to LV 10 in WOW gave someone an urge to go pick on piggies in real life, I am willing to bet good money that person had issues long before stepping into WOW. I don’t think that there needs to be a major change to how women are portrayed in video games. If you don’t like what you see in a game, then don’t play it. If it’s not illegal content (child porn for example) then it really isn’t hurting anyone. What IS hurting people though are the interactions between male and female gamers. I don’t think that this interaction is being fueled by how women are perceived in a video game. I think it is fueled by how women are perceived in the world. I think a lot of time is being wasted on fighting the content in video games instead of fighting a battle that really matters.
On the surface, society pretends that women are more respected than ever before. In some industries, they now make more money than men. In certain politics, they now hold more positions than ever. That’s great. What’s happening under the surface though, is disturbing. Some men seem to feel that they are being forced into singing undo praises of women, and it is breeding hostility. That hostility is being shown in outlets where it is easy to say things anonymously. Forums and comment boards are a perfect example of this. Last week I got into a heated debate with another commenter on a CNN news board about available storage of Iphones. His comment that set it all off: “…then I can see why some non-technical people, like housewives..” Ugh. After a healthy debate in which I basically called him out on his sexism, he changed his original post to now read “That a housewife would ponder OS memory allocation, ok, but to understand the dynamics behind it, hmm, seems like a litigious shot in the dark but I suppose the lawyers are relying on a jury of those same housewives, informed or not.” Not a total win, but at least a little less insulting than his original post had been.Small almost-victory.
In the gaming community, this hostility is being expressed more than ever. In my 20+ years of gaming, I have never felt more under attack for being female than I do now. There have always been those who were quick to throw out the typical regurgitated staples such as “Oh, a girl on the team. How big are your boobs?” or “Go make me a sammich!” and “Girls don’t play video games! You probably a little boy. Are you gay?” Add to all that the uptick in hostility, and now we get “If you don’t get at least 5 kills, I am going to come to your house and rape you in your ass.” That was said to me at the beginning of a match making round of Swat in Halo on Xbox. And that isn’t even the worst thing that has been said to me.
Are all guys like this to gamer girls? Of course not. The majority are not. In fact, the majority say nothing at all to me and are just there to play their game. This is why the hateful jerks stand out. They always have something to say. The female gamer in me is glad that some of the hostility that we are subjected to has been brought to light by GamerGate. Most of my male gamer friends have always known that I am subjected to more abuse than they are in games, but now they are realizing just HOW much more. As a result, I have noticed a change in how they interact with other female gamers. They were always quick to defend me against those who verbally assaulted me, but now they are even more compassionate to other female gamers we encounter in games. I think this is probably the response that most male gamers are having. I think that most male gamers are just as appalled by the treatment of girl gamers by others in the community as we ourselves are. I think that is getting lost in all the drama too. The sexist jerks in the gaming community are getting louder than ever, and unfortunately a lot of male gamers are getting lumped in with the jerks as collateral damage.
So what is the real solution to all of this? I wish I could tell you that there was a solution, or a fix to change it all. Truth be told, I don’t think there is. I think that like everything else in the world, there will be no overnight change, and there will be no reprieve for the women of this generation. The best we can do is to raise the next generation to be better than our own and hope that with time, this sort of of behaviour is weeded out. We must raise both our sons AND our daughters to not see a difference in a persons strength and capability, due to their sex. We must emphasis the importance of decent social behaviour and respect for other people, both male and female. This above all, is where I believe the true root of the problem lies. Our willingness to treat each other with kindness and respect has been diminishing at an astonishing rate, and this character flaw in our generation is being mirrored and even magnified in the generation after our own. We can, and we should do our best to try and set the example in our generation for future generations to follow. We need to stop looking to place blame, and start looking to make change, beginning with ourselves, not a video game.
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” – Gandhi
**Further disclaimer: Yes, there is a lot more to the #GamerGate situation than just what I have touched base on in this article. This article is not intended to be the ‘know all – explain all’ of #GamerGate. For those going nuts because I didn’t say something that you truly feel is of importance, feel free to inform and educate others via the comments. 🙂
*Update* 1/23/2015 – Adding this just for shits and giggles. 😛