GamerGate reveals rampant misogyny

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

This is awful:

For those of you who aren’t gamers (or don’t hang out all day on Reddit or Twitter), Gamergate arose after the ex-boyfriend of indie game developer Zoe Quinn accused her of trading sex for positive reviews. Following an ethics investigation by the gaming site Kotaku, these allegations proved to be false. But that hasn’t stopped Quinn and other prominent females in the gaming community from being subjected to rape threats and other horrifically misogynist rhetoric. Gamergate defenders say that the misogyny spewed by some of its supporters is not the focus of the movement, and that the real issue involves journalistic ethics and what some consider a troubling shift in games journalism from “talking about the actual games” to writing about the societal and political ramifications of the gaming community.

…Gamergate supporters were angry with Intel because Gamasutra’s editor-at-large is Leigh Alexander, one of the most vocal opponents of the movement. In an August article subtitled “‘Gamers’ are over,” she wrote,

‘Games culture’ is a petri dish of people who know so little about how human social interaction and professional life works that they can concoct online ‘wars’ about social justice or ‘game journalism ethics,’ straight-faced, and cause genuine human consequences. Because of video games.

Not every Gamergater is a misogynist pig. And Alexander’s post is perhaps unfair to gamers who don’t engage in the kind of appalling, sexist rhetoric that’s come to dominate the movement. With that in mind, maybe Intel had every right to distance itself from a writer who, while fighting the good fight, takes the argument farther than a mainstream company like Intel is comfortable with.

What’s even worse is that Intel gave into the pressure from this misogynist movement, and so Intel pulled its advertising from Gamasutra. It’s tragic that such a fundamentally misogynist movement is having so much success. The movement has also managed to hound certain journalists out of the games business:

The start of the story (which is actually the latest permutation of a long-evolving firestorm) came in late August after indie game developer Zoe Quinn and critic Anita Sarkeesian were both horribly, horribly harassed online. The same harassment was later lobbed at award-winning games journalist Jenn Frank and fellow writer Mattie Brice. Both Frank and Brice say they will no longer write about games. The FBI is looking into harassment of game developers.

…”The ‘official’ line is that it’s about a demand for more transparency and better ethics in games journalism,” Keith Stuart, games editor for The Guardian, told me in an email. “This in itself is absolutely fine — as I wrote in my own piece, we should all be skeptical of the media. But whatever the higher motivations of some of those involved, the debate has had such a toxic undercurrent of abuse and anti-feminism that it has poisoned the whole concept. If this is about ethics, it cannot also be about systematic harassment. Those two contradict each other completely.”

GamerGate wants journalists to talk about Zoe Quinn’s sex life, and the sad fact is that GamerGate has been very successful:

So who is Zoe Quinn?

Quinn is a game designer whose most famous creation is Depression Quest, a game she co-created with Patrick Lindsey and Isaac Schankler that uses the format of a multiple-choice text adventure (a game told entirely through words) to simulate the experience of having depression. It’s a beautiful, brutal experience, but it’s also one that doesn’t really offer much in the way of traditional “gameplay,” since you are, after all, making selections from a menu of options.

That’s Quinn’s artistic point — depression creates the impression that you have limited options — but there’s also a large, vocal audience that cares first and foremost about gameplay. That audience actively tried to prevent Depression Quest from being included on Steam Greenlight, which is a voting process that gets indie games on Steam, one of the largest platforms on which consumers obtain games.

For a time, Quinn dated a programmer named Eron Gjoni. Things ended badly. Gjoni wrote a series of online posts about the end of the relationship (collected here). He released personal information about her. And then all hell broke loose. (Gjoni has since distanced himself from everything that followed in this Vice interview.)

Gjoni said that Quinn had cheated on him, and one of those instances was with a writer for the influential games website Kotaku. Kotaku investigated, finding no wrongdoing on the part of either its writer (Nathan Grayson) or Quinn, but the seeds of the controversy were sown, and you can see elements of both of the major points of #GamerGate emerging.

Thousands of comments on the matter were expunged from normally freewheeling 4chan and Reddit for reasons that weren’t immediately clear, and a DMCA takedown notice was filed against a YouTube video using footage from one of Quinn’s games. Quinn was harassed endlessly via Twitter, her phone, and other modes of communication. Needless to say, much of the criticism of Quinn was horrifyingly gendered, directed not just at her personal decisions (which would have been bad enough) but also at her identity specifically as a woman within the gaming community.

Some gamers were upset that the press didn’t report more on Gjoni’s accusations, accusing the journalists of covering for one of their own. But, of course, journalistic outlets don’t make habits of reporting on the personal lives of those they cover, unless those personal lives are somehow specifically notable. So in that sense, #GamerGaters has succeeded.

I’ve read that 1% of the population demonstrates strong tendencies of sadism/pyschopathy. I’m willing to believe that their might be a link between sadism/pyschopathy and the enjoyment of the most prominent kinds of video games.

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