Editor’s Blog: Let’s draw a line under GamerGate.

Gamergate

Here at Continue Play, we’ve been watching with dismay as a number of videogame critics, writers and game developers have come under attack in recent weeks.

The so-called GamerGate “movement” – taking its name from a tweet posted by actor Adam Baldwin – claims to be concerned with exposing wrongdoing and breaches of ethics in videogame journalism, citing all manner or things which it claims highlight a litany of problems within a number of publications, both print and online, and a corrupt relationship between their writers and members of the game development community. One specific, and widely-discussed accusation revolves around the claim that Zoe Quinn slept with a game journalist in order to receive favorable coverage for her game, Depression Quest. That accusation has since been conclusively proven false – no such favorable coverage exists. Of course, in true conpiracy-theorist fashion, the response is to claim that it no longer exists because it has been taken down in an attempt to debunk the claims.

This is nonsense. The coverage doesn’t exist, because it never existed.

Next, attention moved to an accusation that many editors and journalists collude to set the narrative and discourse around which videogames are covered. One right-leaning site claimed to have “exposed” a scandalous message board where a number of people who write about games for various publications chatted about work.

Yes, that’s all it was – a number of people chatting about videogames. It should not be surprising that people working in the same industry talk to each other; they meet at various press events and functions, and many become friends or later colleagues. Let’s be clear: this happens in any industry, not just videogame journalism. The idea that people in the same industry know each other and chat to each other about work isn’t a shocking scandal – it’s a commonplace and mundane truth about any profession. People in the health sector, in the film industry, in mainstream journalism, in the automobile industry: no matter what industry you work in, it’s easy to find people from two different companies or organizations discussing things amongst themselves. Birds of a feather flock together.

Now, let’s discuss the other side to GamerGate – the ongoing harassment and abuse being levelled at its targets. First thing’s first – GamerGate is not a centralized movement. Anyone can associate themselves with it, all it takes is a simple hashtag at the end of a tweet or email. GamerGate has no official spokesperson, no official website, it doesn’t exist as an organized body of people with clearly stated aims that acts in a a transparent manner (ironic, considering that its supporters readily argue it’s all about wanting more transparency in the games industry). There are plenty of more moderate supporters of the supposed goals of the movement who have not engaged in the routine abuse and harassment of journalists, critics, and developers. No-one is saying for one minute that every single person who has ever supported the movement is a rampant misogynist troll – and it’s also true that some supporters of GamerGate have, themselves, received abuse, behaviour which is equally unacceptable.

But the GamerGate movement, and the ease with which people can associate themselves with it, has led to a series of instances where women – and men – have been threatened with rape and murder, suffered persistent abuse, libellous claims about their public and private lives and their work, and has seen people driven from their homes out of fear. All of this culminated last week in the threat of a killing spree if Anita Sarkeesian attended a planned lecture at a University in Utah. The police and FBI were contacted and an investigation has been launched to find the source of the threat, but out of fear for safety and that of others, Sarkeesian cancelled the appearance.

This is the truth about GamerGate – it claims to want transparency, truth and to support freedom of speech, but the ongoing actions of many of its supporters have spread lies, false accusations, and actually denied the right of free speech to its targets through persistent malicious attacks and threats on their target’s – and others’ – safety and careers.

GamerGate – or at least many of its supporters – also say they want to remove politics from gaming. Let’s be clear – you can’t remove politics from anything. Indeed, saying you want to remove the politics from gaming is an inherently political statement. You’re stating a desire for a tonal shift in how something is discussed and evaluated. What these people really mean is that they want politics they don’t agree with removed from the coverage of games, and that’s a whole other thing entirely. It’s a desire for censorship.

The world of videogames is now one of the leading entertainment industries, enjoyed by countless millions around the world from all backgrounds, of all genders, ages, races, sexualities, and faiths. It’s perfectly natural for any industry to be examined and debated, and for its practices and failings in all areas to be scrutinised. Questions should be asked about whether certain ongoing issues such as the representation of women are appropriate in the modern day, and people should be free to ask them – and for other people to agree, or disagree. That’s healthy. That’s important.

Ethics is an important subject, of that there is no doubt. But so is the free exchange of views and information, and the ability for people to discuss those views without fear of having their lives torn apart by an unpleasant subset of people who are no more interested in behaving ethically than they are the real effect that their actions have on people’s lives. This is the true legacy of GamerGate, for better or for worse; and however genuine the stated interest in exposing ethical wrongdoing, it has become irreversibly tarnished by the behaviour of many of its supporters. So I urge anyone who remotely, honestly cares about videogame journalism ethics and greater transparency in the games industry to not support GamerGate. Start your own movement. Write about it online. Debate and discuss things, and reach out to like-minded individuals. But do so responsibly, without abuse and recognizing that games should be enjoyed – and discussed – by all, whatever their gender.

No-one deserves to be subjected to the kind of threats and abuse that have become commonplace as a consequence of GamerGate. No-one deserves to be hounded from their home, have their friends and family targeted, have to endure constant abuse every time they check their twitter feed, or emails, or phone messages. Certainly no-one deserves to have their career and ability to voice an opinion restricted by disordered individuals threatening to go on a murderous rampage should they attend a planned function. It is entirely possible to disagree and discuss the games industry without resorting to such underhanded and malicious tactics, and by employing these tactics the culprits achieve nothing beyond undermining their arguments and inflicting misery on those they disagree with.

So we will continue to discuss, and write about games, ethics, social issues and cover instances of wrongdoing in both games and games industry. But we will do so on our terms, and not allow the increasingly toxic environment that has been fostered by the whole GamerGate fiasco to set the terms of those debates. From now on, Continue Play will no longer discuss GamerGate by name.

Let’s all move on from the venom and get back to the real spirit of gaming: having fun together and accepting – and including – others.

Dale Morgan

Dale Morgan

Founder, Editor in Chief
When Dale isn't crying over his keyboard about his never-ending workload, he's playing games - lots of them. Dale has a particular love for RPGs, Roguelikes and Metroidvanias.
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  • GrayW

    *Deletes the sad excuse of an article that was being worked on*. Spectacular read, couldn’t agree more with just about every word. Great work!

  • iain davis

    this isn’t over because you want it to be? lol the media already told us we were dead and we are still here.
    gamers are used to grinding. we don’t stop till we have achieved the objective. we will happily do the same thing day after day for miniscule benefits and still feel fulfilled and rewarded. this is far too much fun playing #gamergate game of the year 2014

    • Тарас Шевченко

      How about playing along with their narrative. We are the dead, now how do they kill us?

      • Dale Christopher Morgan

        That’s a very literal interpretation of what the “gamers are dead” thing was about. It didn’t mean that at all.

        It meant that the traditional, pejorative notion of gamers as lonely basement-dwellers sitting in darkened rooms has been well and truly destroyed in an age where the medium is a past-time enjoyed by countless millions around the world on a daily basis. Grandparents play games. Women play games. Gay people and disabled people and people from all possible backgrounds play games. The notion of a gamer as a young white male sitting in his bedroom no longer exists (except among a few hardcore right-wing sites like The Daily Mail). THAT’s what the “gamers are dead” thing was about, not what you’re inferring.

    • Dale Christopher Morgan

      Is it fun knowing that you’re causing genuine distress and ruining people’s lives, while the movement hasn’t uncovered a single instance of corruption?

  • Steven Opie Wallace

    Let’s look at it this way…

    For every terroristic threat, that will place them in a category of people who will be hunted down for a crime they did not (and likely would not) commit, simply because they are keyboard warriors.

    That is their fault, not the gaming industry.

    Let them receive that Darwin award because I can guarantee, the majority of people who threaten physical harm (in this particular case) would be made someone’s bitch in prison.

    The anonymity of the internet only goes so far.

  • Edonus

    No….. I have seen gaming journailsm grow and become too influential in the industry. Of course a gaming journalists is going to say questioning our ethics is pointless because hay… would I lie to you? The media feels too coordinated, we are stupid. When most gamers complain about COD all year but every year the same game released with little to no changes gets scored high all the time. I remember when they were giving GTAIV perfect 10s and no one mentioned its slowdown and glitches. I loved the game and all but they were giving it 10s like none of these problems existed…. and these days we have pixels counts with out even discussing if the game looks good or not. I remember tons of articles from all over the place linking kinect to the NSA and there is no evidence supporting the claim at all.

    The media has pushed its agendas many a time and has lost trust from anyone with a brain. I say burn it all down and rebuild. At least start chopping down a few…. If say Game informer and IGN are in bed with each other chop Game informer down and if there is corruption they will squeal. Right now all the sites and journalists are trying to promote dismissal with no need for investigation and they are staying tight lipped. No one talking about the claims and specific groups that could have participated in some non sense. Its like a criminal pact…. no snitching

    Let rattle some cages light a few fires and see if there is any real integrity in the system.

    • Dale Christopher Morgan

      No-one is saying ethics aren’t important. No-one cares more about ethics than the press, and nearly every instance of corruption you can name from the last half century was exposed by the press.

      And so you rattle some cages, light a few fires, and what if you incover nothing? No evidence of corruption? All you’ve done is burn a reputable company to the ground, destroy people’s livelihoods and lives.

      What you’re proposing is the modern-day equivalent of the Salem Witch Trials – “let’s throw ’em in the lake to see if they sink or swim”. It’s mob mentality.

      Before you go after any target, you need to have some kind of concrete lead that there might be corruption. It’s simply not good enough – and certainly UNethical – to simply pick a random target and see if they’re guilty of something.

      • Edonus

        The press is not what it used to be. Yes in the last half a century it exposed corruption and educated the community. The problem is with in the last 2 decades the press has changed and is more about reinforcing the views of there core audience than putting them of by educating them and presenting facts as is. Truth is today only about 5% of news is unfiltered like it use to be so I wont let the press hide behind what use to be or what it should be in theory.

        And I say yes…. rattle those cages. You have to test the system. Just the manifestation of gamergate is enough to suggest it should at least be tested. The problem is that journalism is a self contained industry. We wont know about corruption or things being wrong unless they tell us themselves. This is why it could have been going on for so long.

        The only time it gets questioned is when the swings become too blatant. So what if we test them and burn them down and find no corruption? Great….and for those who get washed away in the sweep thats just the nature of the beast. That is the price you pay for having a system so inclosed.
        Now on the flip side….. what if we dont test and there is corruption? You call gamer gate poison….. I see it as radiation being pumped in to the system to find cancer.

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