The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Hashtag
I really never wanted to talk about GamerGate. I really wanted GamerGate to be the trivial nonsense it sounds like on the surface. Unfortunately, it’s turned into so much of an unmitigated, creepy mess that I couldn’t stay out of it with a clear conscience. I don’t want to go into its full history. Other articles have done that already, and more thoroughly than I can.
By its own admission, the GamerGate movement has no leaders and no single, cohesive goal. People join in the movement for many reasons, and anyone who knows how to use a Twitter hashtag can call themselves a GamerGater. You can’t police a hashtag vj4dk6s. I myself spent some time using the tag last night to make posts about ants, until I quickly grew bored with it (I’m really not a very good Internet troll. I’m okay with that)*. Some of their most vocal supporters aren’t even gamers. Really, the only thing all people who identify as GamerGaters have in common is that they’re really, really angry about… er… things.
Still, three factions seem to stand out among the name’s supporters. There are others, but these appear to be the most vocal of them:
The first is the rabble of 4Chan** trolls and harassers where it all started after Eron Gjoni published a blog post about his ex, indie game developer Zoe Quinn, essentially accusing her of trading sexual favors for good game reviews. These creeps immediately launched a harssment campaign against her, including death and rape threats that drove her out of her home. They did the same to Brianna Wu for posting some anti-GamerGate meme images, and Anita Sarkeesian (a media critic, not even part of the gaming industry) for talking about feminism and games. This faction truly just wants to ruin lives. If you think there is anything at all productive or reasonable about this faction, then this post is not for you.
The second are those who believe it is a breach of ethicis for professional game reviewers to incorporate issues of diversity or cultural/political critique in game reviews which should be “objective”. These people do not know what “objectivity” means, or what reviews are. Media reviews of any kind are inherently subjective. They are an account of that particular reviewer’s experience with that piece of media. To say “The portrayals of women in this game made me uncomfortable, which lowered the score slightly” is no less objective than “The muted color scheme and static camera angle made it difficult to see what was going on, which lowered the score for me”. This group is also up in arms about an article in which the writer declared a specific, narrow definition of the word “gamer” to be obsolete. Just like reviews, that is an opinion piece and while you’re certainly entitled to believe tha person was mean, it is not an ethical journalism issue. This group seems to think “ethical journalism” means “journalism that I approve of”. They have no idea what they’re talking about, and this post is also not for them.
The third faction are those who think the gaming industry and related journalism is too clique-ish and that sometimes close relationships between the two present a conflict of interest. They’d like to be assured of clear disclosure when a journalist writes about someone with whom there is a personal connection. That’s not unreasonable. It’s not something I personally have a strong opinion about (I honestly don’t remember when a professional review had much of an impact on my buying choices. I tend to pay more attention to consumer reviews, honestly), and I find it weird and misguided that they put so much focus on independent developer coverage and so little on big-name companies who often literally buy reviews, but it’s not an unreasonable expectation. This post is for this group.
My question to this faction of GamerGate is this: Why are you still associating with the GamerGate name?
Is it because the name “GamerGate” has notoriety, even though it has gained that notoriety for awful reaosns and it has been irreparably tainted by the trolls and frothing anti-SJWs? Do you really, truly need this hashtag to make your case? Do you really think this ridiculous name is helping you make that case productively?
And it is a ridiculous name, you know that right? I am absolutely baffled that you all took that name and ran with it. Adding the “-gate” suffix to other words to imply scandal is something that comedians do to make fun of the over-the-top sensationalism of issues like these. Even without its harassment-campaign roots, the misogyny, the misinformation about what “journalism ethics” and “objectivity” mean, it’s a really, really stupid name that paints your movement as full of hyperdramatic children right from the start.
How on Earth is defending this absurd name worth associating yourself with the kind of people who would dox Felicia Day for publicly admitting that they have made her afraid to speak about it? Or who would threaten a mass shooting at a university to prevent a feminist media critic from speaking? Why would you even want to align yourselves with that second faction who thinks it’s unethical to publicly have opinions about things?
If you have a worthy cause, you need not live and die by a hashtag. Especially one as stupid as GamerGate***.