To say that the Gamergate movement began with Zoe Quin in August 2014 would be in some ways correct but would be incredibly far from the whole story. On the most basic level it is important to note that Quin had been the subject of a low level harassment campaign for 18 months before the catalyst of her ex boyfriend’s diatribe kicked off the controversy. So when he accused her of having affairs with Kotaku gaming journalist, Nathan Grayson, there was a receptive audience willing to run with it. Before long the bandwagon was hitting like a semi truck. Of course it did matter that Grayson never covered her work and the only time he did was before their relationship began. The Quinspiracy was alive and well with the harassment campaign kicked into full gear.
Where to Find Gamergate
It wasn’t until actor Adam Baldwin coined the term Gamergate that things started to really congeal as he described it as a backlash against political correctness painting it as a movement about culture, ethics and freedom. Originally the movement organized itself on 4chan, with a quick transition to /gg on 8chan when it picked up steam, but has since migrated as these channels increasingly fall out of favor. Nowadays the Gamergate movement finds itself primarily organized out of the subreddit kotakuinaction. Gamergate used to have a secret group on Facebook but once it was outed it quickly disbanded. Apparently supporting Gamergate is not something you do with you real name where friends and family can see it. It’s presence on twitter is worth noting but, as will be discussed later, this is a bit questionable.
What They Are Talking About
What Gamergate believes itself to be is a movement about ethics in gaming journalism. Deepfreeze is perhaps the best example of this. It provides people with information on various news outlets and journalists with their various perceived offences. It even has a handy dandy blacklist for those in a rush. It mainly confines its ethics in journalism standards to the norms of our time decrying things like collusion, corruption, censorship, dishonesty ect. When one looks at the new center of the movement, kotakuinaction, what one observes instead is a bit of what deepfreeze is about and a lot of other stuff. This other content which dominates the forum resembles other alt-right and mra forums.
The Proper Term is Gentleman’s Club
The overlap between Gamergate and the alt-right movement has never been hidden. If one considers the alt-right’s own more general distrust of traditional news media this should come as no surprise. What this results in is kotukuinaction embracing alt-right symbols and being littered with alt-right conspiracy theories. Furthermore since reddit skews male unless kotakuinaction is a freakish outlier it can be assumed to as well. When one considers that Gamergate came from the Quinespiracy and has been time and time again been called out for its overtones of misogyny their choice of forum makes a lot of sense. Their lack of presence on Facebook which at this point can be assumed to include all but america’s most disenfranchised also indicates that they are not comfortable in a truly diverse environment or platform.
Only Dogs Can Hear Dog Whistles
Their association with the alt-right movement becomes even clearer when one considers the sort of people that they frequently rally behind. This includes Milo Yiannopoulos who was banned from twitter for orchestrating a hate campaign. In fact the man who coined the term Gamergate, Adam Baldwin, is a minor celebrity within the alt-right community. One of the most convincing influencers, who is actually centered around the movement, is oneangrygamer. In this article he outlines a series of rebuttals to claims made by a gaming journalist about the movement. As a piece of rhetoric the whole thing holds up pretty nicely and follows the party line. Although some of the claims about the diversity of the movement can be questioned a compelling case that Gamergate is not given the fair coverage it deserves is perhaps there. A subtle shift happens in the last paragraph when the following is said “It’s clear that Matt Lees was taking one desperate attempt to further smear anyone who doesn’t align with his political views, abandoning all hope at honest discussion by cherry-picking falsehoods and completely ignoring all the facts.” Political views? Certainly ethics in journalism is political but there is a consensus with western democracies about what that constitutes. One which deepfreeze shows the movement conforms to. It would be absurd to assume Lee is attacking them for their normative beliefs about journalism. What this implicates is Gamergate is political because it has allied itself with or falls under the umbrella of the alt-right movement which is in a broader sense a white nationalist movement.
Gamergate tried to dispel accusations of racial prejudice and misogyny with it’s #notyoursheild campaign. Here the try to highlight the diversity of their movement and strike out against their characterization as a bunch of bigoted white males. Gamers as a whole are an incredibly diverse group when one includes casual gaming. Gaming itself remains heavily gender skewed, however, with ‘casual’ games capturing many women while traditional pc and console games remain male dominated. In order for the movement to claim to represent this group then it feels it needs to be commensurately diverse. The narrative here is that Gamergate is in actuality the victim of concerted harassment campaigns that try to characterize them as a homogenous group where the likes of Brianna Wu and Anita Sarkisian manufacture the harassment they claim to be receiving from Gamergate in order to victimize themselves and discredit the movement. This would be a somewhat compelling argument if it was true. Given that many of the accounts using #notyourshield on twitter are sockpuppets this is not the case. Sockpuppet accounts are when someone pretends to be someone else in this case various marginalized groups. Often these sockpuppets are also bots. Thus articles like this remain to be particularly convincing as Gamergate’s presence on twitter is questionable at best.
What is most interesting about the Gamergate movement is how overtime it has becomes less and less about the initial controversy or even ethics in gaming journalism and more about the movement itself as such. One of the oft cited successes claimed by the movement is the changes in the policies of various gaming news outlets. Yet all of these happened in late 2014 or early 2015 when the movement was at its outset. Since then it seems that the Gamergate community has spent most of its time defending itself and policing traditional news outlet coverage of the movement itself. If one is truly concerned about ethics in gaming journalism and confines their arguments to such then their demographics shouldn’t be relevant. Either the journalist violated norms of ethical journalistic practice or they didn’t. Yet Gamergate devotes a goodly portion of its dialogue to legitimizing itself. What impact they have had other than to serve as a talking point in the culture wars since 2015 is scant at best. Yet the movement endures.
Hate Reading the News
What this highlights is the interaction between new and old media within the Gamergate movement. Gamergate members for all their distrust and dislike of traditional news outlets are voracious consumers of their content. They have to go through the effort of reading these various articles from people and organizations they despise in order to catalog their complaints and galvanize themselves into action. Furthermore they participate in such things as email, letter and phone campaigns to convince various organization to change their policies or advertisers to pull out of publications. Furthermore their criticism stems from a bog standard understanding of what constitutes journalistic ethics. In this regard these self styled outsiders reinforce traditional norms of what constitutes journalism and journalist ethics as such. Furthermore they provide a ready base of guaranteed clicks not only for the fake news sites that litter the alt-right movement but also for traditional media outlets they find themselves policing.
New Tech Old Ideas
Although Gamergate organizes itself through new media, initially on 8chan, and now on reddit it has in no way challenged, and in fact shored up, the position of news media outlets that dominate old media. Furthermore their ability to influence these news outlets does not constitute audience participation but merely new avenues for interaction presented by new media. Gamergate operates outside of news outlets on new media forums and then interacts with these news outlets by providing external pressure. In this way one observes a synchrony between old and new media without any true synergy. Furthermore by legitimizing standard journalistic practices in old media as the gold standard for the new media dominated gaming journalism Gamergate reinforces a status quo. Gamergate as a new media phenomenon then indicates the lack of disruption new media represents for news media. What it amounts to is a new and improved same old same old.
The Never Ending Story
All in all what the Gamergate movement demonstrates is that through the atomization of audiences new media has only exacerbated problems with our status quo rather than challenging it as such. In particular it has allowed people to insulate themselves from other views and remain in homogenous communities. There seems to be very little debate or cross talk rather both sides have a strict narrative aimed at distinct audiences on different platforms. Gamergate hangs out on reddit where the pejorative term SJW, social justice warrior, is bandied about like other people outside of their subculture use it. Where as traditional news outlets cover Gamergate itself and pretty universally condemn it. In fact one can even observe the phenomenon where bots on both sides of the aisle get into arguments with each other. It turns out even humans are superfluous to these debates. What this indicates is that new media has squeezed out the ground for reasonable discussion in exchange for partisan clickbait. It seems that the culture wars are immensely profitable. For corporations at least. For us as a people much less so.