Controversy and heated internet battles broke out around female game developer Zoë Quinn after a lengthy blog post by her ex-boyfriend which implied that she received a positive review for her game by starting a relationship with the reviewing journalist. This started a campaign of misogynistic online harassment, including death and rape threats to Quinn and her family. The campaign has since grown to most anyone of significance that speaks out against the marginalization of women in video game culture, and has been organized under the hashtag #Gamergate, and mostly conducted on Twitter, Reddit and 4Chan. The #Gamergate hashtag is certainly the principle the term used for this ongoing debate, but other ancillary hashtags have developed such as #notyourshield and #conleaks.
Support for victims of online harassment has been developed in the form of Crash Override Network and the Online Abuse Prevention Initiative to support people suffering from online harassment such as doxing, rape and death threats.
Gamergate supporters (those who encourage and/or commit the harassment of Quinn, Sarkeesian and the like) criticize the Crash Override Network for being corrupt and being in collusion with the media, as well as using the same harassment techniques (doxing, for example) they seek to stop.
Media critic Anita Sarkeesian released a web series entitles “Tropes vs Women in Video Games” which further inflamed the issue from both sides. She received an outpouring of support to her kickstarter campaign which outraised its $6,000 goal and reached $158,922. This brought the Gamergate issue to larger audiences, but also sparked a slew of misogynistic death and rape threats to Sarkeesian and her family. She has since started a non-profit called Feminist Frequency, which advocates and educates on the “media’s relationship with gender, race and sexuality” (feministfrequency.com), and has sponsored the Crash Override Network.
Actress and gamer Felicia Day hesitantly spoke about Gamergate, saying that she was afraid to speak out against it for fear of being harassed. She was then swiftly victimized by online harassment, including the leaking of her phone number and address which led to threatening letters and phone calls.
Theories of widespread corruption are rampant among the Gamergate community, serving as the linchpin to the anti-feminist argument.
Supporters and detractors of Gamergate can be found within and outside of the gaming industry. Bungie, for example, one of the largest video game developers in the world, invited Anita Sarkeesian to speak on developing strong female characters in games, which originally compelled her to create her web series. Sarkeesian has also appeared on The Colbert Report, bringing an even larger audience to this issue.
Some of the most notable twitter users in the fray are, appropriately, @Gamergatetweets, @GamergateFTW, and @Gamergatolizer.
There are some supporters of Gamergate, however, that insist that the campaign has nothing to do with misogyny, but is all about exposing nepotism, cliqueness and elitism in the gaming world that has apparently developed between a small number of gaming developers and the gaming press. These Gamergate supporters says that Zoë Quinn is a part of that group, and that her ex-boyfriend, Eron Gjoni just exposed it and did not want anyone to harass her.
From the “Zoepost:”
Further, there is a growing movement of gamers who support #Gamergate and identify outside of the cis white male demographic, that, they say, is a fictional stereotype created by the media. They have developed the #notyourshield hashtag to proclaim that they are “not the shield” for feminists to use against a “white male patriarchy.”
There doesn’t seem to be a clear winner of this online war, and in fact, the fight still seems very bitter. There also seems to be a lot of confusion on both sides of what the fight is even about. Amidst this confusion, there are a lot of ‘trolls’ who clearly are taking the opportunity to harass people and tout their misogyny, but still other supporters of Gamergate assert that this is just ancillary to the actual issue. Whether or not the perceived ‘core’ of the issue is the misogyny, feminist leaders such as Sarkeesian still have a lot of abuse on their plate that they are working to make more people aware of.