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Everyone's talking about 'Gamergate'. Here's what it is and why it matters.

#GamerGate erupted on social media in August. But what is it?

OVER THE PAST month, a controversy has erupted in the gaming world and prompted a discussion on the deeply ingrained misogyny that exists in gaming, journalistic ethics and the destruction of the ‘gamer’ identity.

Introducing #GamerGate.

Between August 24th and September 23rd, just over 971,000 tweets were sent using the hashtag #GamerGate.

gamergate Source: Topsy

If you’re not an avid gamer, though, chances are you’re not familiar with what’s been going on. Here’s a timeline to get you caught up

August 16th – The Zoe Post

zoepost Source: The Zoe Post

On August 16th, a programmer named Eron Gjoni published a treatise entitled The Zoe Post. The subject of the post? His relationship with independent video game developer Zoe Quinn.

A little background.

Zoe Quinn had previously garnered attention in the gaming world for a game she designed called Depression Quest, a game that allows the player to play as a person struggling with depression.

depressionquest Source: Dpression Quest

Her and Gjoni started dating in November 2013. They broke up in May before rekindling their relationship in June. In July, Gjoni discovered that Quinn had allegedly cheated on him with a few gaming industry figures, including gaming journalist Nathan Grayson.

And so The Zoe Post came to be. In the muti-act post, Gjoni revealed intimate details of their relationship, published chat logs between the pair and urged people not to trust her.

Needless to say, it quickly became “a thing”.

People quickly began to insinuate that Zoe Quinn had had intimate relationships with journalists like Nathan Grayson, who writes for gaming website Kotaku, to get good reviews for her game. (For their part, Kotaku clarified that no ethical breach ever took place and stated that Grayson never wrote about Quinn during their relationship.)

gamergate2 Source: Twitter

In response to the piece, Zoe Quinn wrote this on her blog.

zoepost2 Source: Quinnspiracy

It did little, however. Quinn received multiple death and rape threats online. Anyone who defended her was similarly harassed.

According to The New Yorker, anonymous users on 4Chan threatened to physically harm Quinn.

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.

On August 19th, she was ‘doxxed’ on Reddit. That is, all her personal information – address, phone numbers, bank details – was released.

All the while, a debate on impartiality in gaming journalism and misogyny in gaming continued to rage.

August 25th – Anita Sarkeesian

anita Source: feministfrequency/YouTube

On August 25th, gaming journalist Anita Sarkeesian released a video in which she analysed the role of women in video games as background objects or victims of violence as part of a series called Tropes vs Women in Video Games.

Following the video’s release, she received several threats and was forced to leave her home.

This is not the first time Sarkeesian has found herself targeted by online trolls who oppose her feminist views. In 2012, a game called Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian was made in which players were encourage to, you guessed it, beat her up.

While unrelated to the Zoe Quinn controversy, it was viewed by onlookers as another symptom of gaming’s feminist problem.

August 28th – Gamers are over

On August 28th, British journalist Leigh Alexander penned an article entitled “‘Gamers Don’t Have To Be Your Audience. ‘Gamers’ Are Over.” In the piece, she alluded to the ongoing Zoe Quinn furore, as well as certain gamers’ resistance to new developments in gaming culture.

‘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.

And then the final blow to ‘gamers’.

These obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these childish internet-arguers — they are not my audience. They don’t have to be yours. There is no ‘side’ to be on, there is no ‘debate’ to be had.

It did not sit well with a lot of self-proclaimed gamers and Alexander found herself bombarded by an avalanche of angry tweets.

Reminder: this was the third instance of a female gamer or gaming commentator being relentlessly targeted for their viewpoints in a matter of weeks.

#GamerGate, meanwhile, continued to dominate Twitter discourse with the mainstream even starting to pay attention.

September 2nd: #NotYourShield

On September 2nd, a second hashtag sprouted up. #NotYourShield was purportedly an attempt by gamers to demonstrate that “this isn’t just male gamers who are speaking about gamergate, and this isn’t an issue of hating feminism or not wanting women in the community”.

Not Your Shield was supposed to be a grassroots movement stemming from #GamerGate to show that gaming was inclusive and that this wasn’t about being misogynistic, it was about being concerned with journalistic integrity.

The movement quickly gained momentum. Only problem? It was entirely manufactured. By 4Chan, no less.

202517_bwm9q3ciaaxi4t Source: Ars Technica

According to Ars Technica:

Discussion logs, however, suggest that #notyourshield didn’t begin as a broad movement but was a campaign manufactured and orchestrated by 4chan users via sockpuppet Twitter accounts.

(A sockpuppet Twitter account is a fake Twitter account.)

That’s not to say that there aren’t some genuine participants in the #NotYourShield movement. But when its origins lie in 4Chan where its purpose seems to have been to deflect from the harassment of the likes of Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, it’s fair to question its motives.

September 6th: 4Chan

Then came the bomb.

On September 6th, Zoe Quinn released a series of screenshots of chats, which apparently demonstrate that, like #NotYourShield, #GamerGate was orchestrated and pushed by 4Chan users.

We Hunted The Mammoth also unearthed some 4Chan chat logs, which show that the movement was designed as a means of shielding them from criticism:

4chan Source: We Are The Mammoth

The chat logs also reveal the extent of the harassment campaign waged against Quinn. In logs posted by We Hunted The Mammoth, 4Chan users are seen chatting about the distribution of her nudes and possibly driving her to suicide.

Oh, the humanity.

So, where are we now?

Many continue to maintain that #GamerGate isn’t indicative of any anti-feminism in gaming, but is merely about journalistic integrity.

Last Friday, dozens of e-mails about Zoe Quinn from leading video game journalists were dumped. The exchanges show certain journalists opting not to publish stories about Zoe Quinn on the site for fear of encouraging the trolls.

26565B83C18A46CFA70C4D0C47322EB6 Source: Breitbart

This has served to add fuel to the theories that video game journalists are somehow impartial or have an agenda to push.

And so, GamerGate continues.

At the very least, it has cast a magnifying glass on gaming culture as a whole and its treatment of women. And perhaps it has forced fans and industry figures alike to look at themselves and critically examine the negative aspects of the culture.

But, like the celebrity nudes scandal, it has also uncovered a deeply unsettling corner of the internet that is content to violate women in a number of ways, the sum total of which Anita Sarkeesian likened to psychological warfare.

Something tells us this won’t be the last we hear of it.

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About the author:

Amy O'Connor

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