Moving Beyond #GamerGate
Several of my game industry colleagues have written blogs and articles opining that now that the controversy is being reported by the mainstream press as rampant misogyny and hatred under the guise of campaigning for journalist ethics, #GamerGate is a dead issue.
If I may borrow from Mark Twain, the reports of #GamerGate’s death are greatly exaggerated. When I retweet an article about #GamerGate, I still get plenty of responses from zealous supporters asking me to look at articles and YouTube videos supporting their position that the issue, for them, really is about the ethics of game journalism. However, I think what is driving many of these gamers is that they feel they are being marginalized by a press that is unfairly labeling them as misogynists and will continue to fight back so that their voices will be heard.
Since I don’t think their campaign is going to subside any time soon, here is my unsolicited advice to supporters of the #GamerGate movement to make it a more positive one.
First, drop the #GamerGate hash tag from your tweets. The hash tag was first used by actor Adam Baldwin in response to former boyfriend Eron Gjoni’s very public character assassination of Gjoni’s ex-girlfriend, Zoe Quinn, a game developer whom Gjoni claimed cheated on him with several people, including game journalist Nathan Grayson. Although Grayson had never reviewed any of Quinn’s games and didn’t mention her in any article that he wrote after their relationship began, Quinn and her family were subjected to a harassment campaign that included doxxing, hacking attempts, and threats of rape and death.
While #GamerGate supporters say that their campaign is really about journalistic ethics, its origins are rooted in the rants of a jilted ex-lover about an incident that proved not to involve any actual violations of journalistic ethics. The original campaign against Quinn was more than unethical – it was hateful, immoral and criminal. Trolls and psychopaths have co-opted the #GamerGate tag, and for the rest of the world outside your movement, the term has become synonymous with misogyny and hate, not ethics. If your interest is truly in improving the ethics of game journalism, then adopt a different hash tag, such as #GameEthics, that isn’t burdened with such vile baggage.
Second, your campaign itself needs to be conducted in a much more ethical and professional manner. Currently, the campaign comes across as a witch-hunt in which an uncoordinated army of anonymous #GamerGate supporters zealously and publicly out journalists and others for any perceived violation of journalistic ethics. Sensational terms like “corruption”, “nepotism”, and “cronyism” are being over-used and misapplied. To those of us outside your movement, you appear to be a crazed mob that doesn’t have a coherent understanding of what it is ranting about.
Game publishers and journalists have long enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with each other in which there is an ongoing danger of conflicts of interest. So, the pursuit of ethics in game journalism is a worthy one; however, this pursuit needs to be handled professionally to have validity. Leaders in the #GamerGate movement should unite, rally around a single communication channel (such as a website), and assemble a panel of legitimate journalistic ethics experts whose identities are publicly known. This group might draft a code of ethics that game journalists could be encouraged to adopt, and #GamerGate supporters might report suspected violations of journalistic ethics to the panel for review and analysis. If any true ethic violations are determined, #GamerGate leadership should handle communication of such violation professionally, such as through a letter to the editor of the offending publication, while discouraging supporters from conducting their own individual and anonymous campaigns of harassment and public humiliation.
Third, if you think that game criticism is currently too biased towards a leftist ideology, resist the temptation to boycott websites or intimidate speakers. Your own members have complained about being insulted, marginalized and stereotyped; but attempts to fight fire with fire only makes your appear to be thin-skinned bullies who are escalating the situation. Instead, devote your energies to creating forums in which game criticism is done through the prism of other ideologies. Gaming is for everyone, and it is in everyone’s interest to encourage diversity, rather than attempting to drive out those who think look and think differently.
Finally, you should be campaigning against any harassment directed towards female journalists and developers. I know that many of you say that you are doing it now, but the effort needs to continue. #GamerGate began with many of its supporters conducting a misogynistic harassment campaign, and as long as women in the game industry are harassed in social media, you will be blamed. Your movement has a lot of bad history to overcome, and you need to work hard to let it be known that this horrendous behavior is antithetical to your goals.
You must take these steps if you want your goals to be taken seriously by the world you are trying to influence. If you don’t, your movement will never be respected and the term “gamer” will continue to be tainted by the ugly side of #GamerGate.