Here’s Why Every Woman Should Care About #GamerGate
Content note: this story is drenched in threatened violence against women, including rape.
The video gaming world is currently tangled up in a snarl of misogyny that is in equal parts disturbing and unsurprising. Even if you’re not a gamer, you may be aware of the existence of what’s been called #GamerGate, but you might not realize the extent to which this Internet phenomenon has gone – and depending on just how strong your stomach is, you might not want to know.
Let’s talk hypotheticals. Imagine that you and a group of like-minded people have some concerns about journalistic ethics, or maybe about whether you feel you’re being fairly represented in the media you consume. What would you do? Would you choose to A.) boycott the media that’s bothering you; B.) work to get trusted publications to establish an in-house ombudsman to oversee concerns about nepotism or tit-for-tat schemes; or C.) produce a month-long campaign of profanity-riddled, degrading, hateful attacks on women that include sharing their private personal information and threatening to murder them?
I’ll give you three guesses to put your finger on which one of these actually took place in the name of what some people apparently consider ‘ethics’. You may not be a gamer, but hopefully you’ll agree that something is rotten enough in the state of Xbox for the rest of us to be more than a little concerned.
For those who have been living in blissful ignorance of this disgusting shitstorm, 1.) I’m jealous, and 2.) the Cliffs Notes version of #GamerGate history starts with game developer Zoe Quinn. In early September, her angry ex-boyfriend publicly posted the details of their messy breakup, including the allegation that Quinn had slept with a writer for gaming site Kotaku – a site that had also reviewed Quinn’s recently-released game, Depression Quest. Sure, the review wasn’t written by the writer that Quinn apparently slept with, and, yeah, the game’s positive coverage appeared on Kotaku long before any such relationship took place. But if you think a little thing like ‘facts’ stopped the gamer outrage machine when there was a woman to rake over the coals, you really don’t know much about gaming culture on the Internet:
Fanboys smelled feminist blood in the water and went berserk, because apparently two people being sexually involved in non-overlapping spheres of the same industry is now the worst crime conceivable … aside from creating a video game that doesn’t feature a white, stubbly male protagonist, of course. Braying for ‘journalistic ethics’, male gamers posted Quinn’s address and phone number on the Internet, called her father to tell him his daughter was a whore, shared nude photographs of her, and anonymously sent threats of violence. If anyone shows up on your Facebook newsfeed trying to mansplain that this is really just about games journalism, please ask them why the brunt of the focus from the Internet Asshole Brigade has been locked on Quinn and not the journalist whose ethics are being accused of breaching.