Disclaimer: This is the opinion of the author and is in no way a reflection of the site.
Down the rabbit hole, we go.
GamerGate remains one of the most contentious and misunderstood controversies in gaming history. Initially, it started as a grassroots movement t for a return to ethical video game journalism. However, given the individuals criticized for unethical behavior, namely Zoe Quinn; GamerGate then became, according to mainstream media and those opposing it, the last effort for “straight white men” to keep their ailing gamer identity alive and untouched from women and minorities. Moreover, these political overtones led to GamerGate becoming relevant within politics and other fields quite unrelated to the controversy. Therefore, it is necessary to discuss GamerGate in its entirety to ensure that it no longer has relevance, given that the controversy is over several years old.
Canary in a Coalmine
GamerGate is one of the more significant battles within the culture war. It is a political struggle brought about by conflict between sets of social beliefs and cultural values. Although GamerGate was the full realization of combating against unethical video game journalism and unknowingly becoming one of the numerous battles within the culture war, issues with the former began back in 2007 with a blog post written by Simon Carless. Carless wrote that “gameplay is a…dirty word!” and from there argued that the vaguely-defined term promoted poor thinking, he even compared the concept of “gameplay” to “moviewatch.”
Carless was a major proponent of “New Games Journalism.” Kieron Gillen coined the term and described it as a movement of elite gaming journalists who wanted to do more than simply review products. Notable figures within “New Games Journalism” were Kieron Gillen, Leigh Alexander, Ben Kuchera, Ben Abraham, Austin Walker, Kris Ligman, Ian Miles Cheong, and many others. A cadre of gaming journalists that sought out to make gaming journalism politically relevant.
“New Games Journalism” due to its political motivations and the efforts of the individuals involved within the movement led to the gaming journalism of today – political, polemical, and too vested in the supposed messages conveyed by games rather than gameplay. Although so-called elite gaming journalists argued that video games were art and rightly so, it led to cultural-Marxists finding a new stronghold within gaming journalism.
It goes without saying, however, many are unaware that there is a stronghold of cultural-marxism within pop-culture journalism and they view journalism as a means of engineering society rather than as reporting. Therefore, their agenda is to use video games to socially mold society. Though to achieve this feat they have to commandeer the popular gaming industry since “social justice games” lack the capability of competing against traditionally popular video games.
Moreover, evidence highlighting the above is notable within two journal articles written by Adrienne Shaw entitled, Rethinking Game Studies: A case study approach to video gameplay and identification and On Not Becoming Gamers: Moving beyond the constructed audience. These articles argue that game developers need to develop video games that academics deem worth and address topics they view favorably.
An additional tidbit of information is how these articles laid the groundwork for the series of articles known as “Gamers are Dead.”
The Tenets of GamerGate
GamerGate grew out of the need to see a return of honest video game journalism. Although it is nothing more than a comedy special at this point, GamerGate was a response to unethical video game journalism. The multiple journalistic failings that GamerGate exposed and challenged are summarized and sorted into the following three categories:
- Conflicts of interest (COIs), including the non-disclosure of personal relationships (romantic and otherwise), non-disclosure of direct financial support and/or investments, and the non-disclosure of Patreon contributions.
- Bribes and similar enticements (or threats and similar intimidation tactics) towards reviewers to grant games a better score then they deserve.
- Secret cooperation of supposed competing outlets to push (or silence) a message or narrative.
- Industry-wide blacklisting
Wide-spread prohibition of GamerGate and GamerGate-related topics on forums and comment sections.
Abuse of DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown measures
Social media blockbots and shadow-bans
Attempts to ban or censor video games based on content
Additional issues brought to the forefront of discussion were:
One of the multiple journalistic failings of video game journalists were their anti-consumer practices. An example of their anti-consumer practices is failing to disclose affiliate links. An affiliate link is a special link to a product, whereby someone buys a product after using one’s link, then thereafter they get a commission. This is a popular way to make money ethically online, however; video game journalism websites fail to disclose affiliate links that range from pure thoughtlessness and sinister:
Polygon: Undisclosed Affiliate Links
Wired: Undisclosed Affiliate Links – And Wired Again
The Verge: Undisclosed Affiliate Links – And The Verge again
PC Mag: Undisclosed Affiliate Links
Kotaku: Undisclosed Affiliate Links
VG 24/7: Undisclosed Affiliate Links
Vulture: Undisclosed Affiliate Links
VideoGamer(dot)Com: Undisclosed Affiliate Links
Politics Weaponized Against Game Developers
Video game journalists punish game developers for their politics or lack thereof. A well-known example was the unwarranted backlash against Kingdom Come: Deliverance for failing to include black people in their historically accurate game based in medieval Poland. The backlash the developers received was nothing short of disgusting and indicative of the problematic nature of identity politics. Below is an excerpt from Eurogamer’s review on Kingdom Come: Deliverance:
“But there’s also a big problem. There are no people of colour in the game beyond people from the Cuman tribe, a Turkic people from the Eurasian Steppe. The question is, should there be? The game’s makers say they’ve done years of research and found no conclusive proof there should be, but a historian I spoke to, who specialises in the area, disagrees.
“We know of African kings in Constantinople on pilgrimage to Spain; we know of black Moors in Spain; we know of extensive travel of Jews from the courts of Cordoba and Damascus; we also know of black people in large cities in Germany,” the historian, Sean Miller, tells me. Czech cities Olomouc and Prague were on the famous Silk Road which facilitated the trade of goods all over the world. If you plot a line between them, it runs directly through the area recreated in Kingdom Come. “You just can’t know nobody got sick and stayed a longer time,” he says. “What if a group of black Africans came through and stayed at an inn and someone got pregnant? Even one night is enough for a pregnancy.”
It’s not conclusive proof but it’s readily available doubt to undermine Warhorse’s interpretation. What muddies the water further is whose interpretation it overridingly is: creative director, writer and Warhorse co-founder Daniel Vavra’s. He has been a vocal supporter of GamerGate and involved in antagonistic exchanges on Twitter (collected in a ResetEra thread). More recently, he wore the same T-shirt depicting an album cover by the band Burzum every day at Gamescom 2017 – a very visible time for him and his game. Burzum is the work of one man: Varg Vikernes, a convicted murderer and outspoken voice on racial purity and supremacy. He even identified as a Nazi for a while”
–Kingdom Come: Deliverance review – history is a double-edged sword
The above is more suited for a separate article with citations but not a game review. It is unrelated politics injected into a review of an RPG and it illustrates what is meant when one says, “keep politics out of gaming.” However, this is not a call for the removal of politics from video games rather it is a call for more nuanced handling when it comes to political games.
Keep Political Activism Out Of Video Game Journalism
Video game journalists do not only weaponize politics against game developers they also inject it into every situation possible. This mere injection of politics often causes journalists to forget to write about video games at all. An interview for Cyberpunk 2077 illustrates this quite well:
I ask because the option in it is to play as a male or female character type. If someone wanted to choose a character who was gender fluid, how would you portray that?
Weber: You know, as an example in the character creation you can do that by not calling the type of body you choose ‘man’ or ‘woman’, but just title it ‘body type’. And then from a male or female body type you can on this basis choose how to make your character.
I didn’t write it down when watching the demo, but are they labelled ‘male’ and ‘female’ in there currently?
Weber: I think the way it is right now, we’re not saying either. We’re basically showing it to you and you choose which of the bodies you have as the basis to then go on and make the character.
Beyond the aesthetics, could you choose to have a different pronoun? Is that an option in the game?
Weber: I honestly don’t know yet. What I can say was that it was a part of Cyberpunk 2020 but how exactly we’ll do it in Cyberpunk 2077 I don’t know yet. But it is definitely a thing we are aware of.
I know plenty of fans who would appreciate that, and after all, you have a main character with a name that doesn’t specify any gender.
Yesterday, seemingly out of nowhere, a mysterious page of code appeared on CD Projekt Red’s Twitch channel. After a few…
Weber: Well exactly. That’s why we chose that name, because V works for male, works for female and we thought it would be a good option…
…for gender fluid as well?
It is evident from Weber’s reaction that he is uncomfortable with the line of questioning. This is probably due to gender fluidity having next to nothing to do with the game. Furthermore, the interviewer failed to ask barely any questions relating to Cyberpunk 2077.
Preserve A Work’s Right To Integrity
Video game journalists often have video games changed due to political demands. This is problematic since neither art or media should bend to such whims, as the deciding factor is the marketplace, not political leanings. Additionally, the demands of video game journalists are ridiculous since their demand that female characters’ bust sizes be more conservation or retconning pre-existing characters to make them more progressive. The demands of journalists also make localization an issue since Asian developers receive the bottom end of the stick due to cultural differences and it explains the declining number of Asian video games making their way into the Western markets.
Goals of GamerGate
To bring basic ethical practices to current game journalism websites.
To encourage the growth of unbiased reporting on gaming and gaming subculture.
Hold those who broke basic ethical standards accountable for their failings.
To push back against rampant cultural crusaders (SJW’s) attempting to force extreme progressive culture on gaming.
To not only stop cultural crusaders in the gaming sphere but also stop their spread and potentially push them out of other hobbyist spheres (Metal, SciFi, Arcade Gaming, Comics)
Gain media recognition that Gamer’s are not violent or misogynist or any other horrible monster that lurks under the beds of children at night, but rather just regular people enjoying a hobby
Given the extensiveness of GamerGate it is necessary to go over its origins, then thereafter provide additional sources to add further detail to the controversy and all those involved.
The creation of GamerGate began on 16th August 2014, with the publication of the infamous”thezoepost” by Eron Gjoni. Gjoni was the former boyfriend of so-called indie game developer Zoe Quinn, and the blog post outlined Quinn’s psychological abuse and infidelity.
Though Quinn’s deplorable character was not the focus for gamers since they rather took notice of whom Quinn had exchanged sex for favors. These men, the five that Gjoni named, happened to be industry professionals who had the potential to promote both Quinn and her work, including Nathan Grayson and Joshua Boggs. Thereafter, numerous discussions erupted on social media and various gaming websites, as a result, the mounting suspicions of corruption and cronyism within both the video game industry as well as gaming journalism had finally been realized with Gjoni’s blog post which confirmed those suspicions.
The earlier mentioned discussions were usually met thread deletions, DMCA video take-downs, shadow-banning, and more. However, these attempts to silence these revelations, expectedly; caused a Streisand Effect that led to the topic spreading
These events; the publication Gjoni’s blog post, the impact it had within gaming circles, and the internet-wide efforts to smother any discussion on the matter led to it all being termed the Zoe Quinn Scandal.
The Zoe Quinn Scandal grew in scale and impact leading to video game journalists being placed under increased scrutiny by their readers. This resulted in many conflicts-of-interest being discovered and spread. Later in August, actor Adam Baldwin coined the hashtag “#GamerGate” in response to the deluge of exposed breaches in video game journalism. The hashtag then was adopted by those arguing for better ethics in video game journalism.
Following the adoption of the “#GamerGate,” video game journalism sites and their journalism led a coordinated media campaign known as “Gamers are Dead,” whereby several different outlets posted articles decrying gamer identity in its entirety all within 24 hours. The timing of the articles along with with their united message caused “#GamerGate” supporters to immediately suspect collusion. Their suspicions were later confirmed in September 2014 with the revealing of the secret GameJournoPros group.
Timeline of GamerGate (with anti-GamerGate leanings)
Mistresses of Fraud: Anita Sarkeesian and Zoë Quinn
The opposition of GamerGate characterized itself as fighting for women and minorities both within the gaming industry and gaming community against the “straight white men” that dominated the two. However, anti-GamerGate only functioned as a means of protecting the worst in gaming and solely on the grounds of their “victim identities” and political leanings. Anti-GamerGate supporters championed Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, and many others for no other reason than the aforementioned.
Anita Sarkeesian created a Kickstarter entitled, Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. The crowdfunding campaign met and exceeded its goals yet the YouTube video series failed to achieve anything worthwhile. The series’ exploration of common and recurring stereotypes of female characters in video games was biased and misinformed, leading to further negative reception for all things gaming in mainstream media and broader society. Sarkeesian when met with criticism or challenges she immediately cried victim.
Zoe Quinn made Depression Quest, a game that many criticized over its lack of game development and design. It was a mixture of traditional “choose your own adventure” and Tumblr hyperlinks – a guaranteed disaster. Though, Quinn’s disaster project managed to land on Steam Greenlight, receive favorable coverage, and win several awards. Somehow, everyone is meant to believe that Quinn poorly received game could achieve all this success without suggesting that the allegations of her trading sex for favors are (without a doubt) true.
Brianna Wu a video game developer and computer programmer has little behind her name aside from a terrible game and numerous feminist talking points that polarize the gaming industry and gaming community to the point of inducing nausea. Wu, like everyone mentioned thus far, failed to have a positive and significant impact within gaming, thus she became a perpetual victim to blame her failings and those of other women on perceived sexism and misogyny within the gaming industry and community.
Other arguments opposing GamerGate were “better portrayals of women in gaming” and “gaming needs to be made more diverse and inclusive.” The former in actuality never concerned itself with better portrayals of female video game characters rather it argued for more conservative female character designs. The latter, the same as before, was not concerned with its suggested argument instead more ‘diverse and inclusive’ gaming meant an over-saturation of progressive (or regressive) identities, themes, and more in video games.
GamerGate began as a grassroots movement concerned with ethics in video game journalism. However, given the individuals, it criticized it then became a perversion of itself in the eyes of mainstream media and other anti-GamerGate supporters. This is unsurprising, however, the lack of effort to disprove these critiques is; since it leaves many believing that the gaming industry and community are problematic, which is worrisome since in the 21st century it is guilty until proven innocent. Thus, this article was an attempt to provide a better understanding of GamerGate to undo the misunderstanding surrounding it along with reducing any contention on the matter.