If you don’t know what GamerGate is, consider yourself fortunate. If you do, you’re probably frustrated by it, regardless ofwhich side you’re on. I’m going to attempt to quickly summarize how the controversy started, what it involves, and why it matters. As a feminist, I admit that I have a somewhat biased opinion when approaching this issue. I also know that there are many more well-educated and articulate feminists out there (even on this campus) who are more able to speak out against misogyny than I am. That said, I’m going to try to approach this issue as fairly as I can. Here is a quick, fact-based summary of the major components of GamerGate.
On Aug. 16, Eron Gjoni, an ex-boyfriend of game developer Zoe Quinn, created a blog post that stated that she had not only cheated on him but also had sexual relations with journalist Nathan Grayson for positive coverage and better reviews for her game, Depression Quest. This sparked outcry from many gamers who called for the eradication of corruption within video game journalism, with Zoe Quinn seen as the central perpetrator of a widespread pattern of behavior. A major result of this was the online harassment of Zoe Quinn, whose personal photos and home address were posted online by a handful of individuals. This generated its own backlash of anti-GamerGaters who saw the movement as misogynistic, and only interested in punishing women. In turn, this inspired a reaction from pro-GamerGaters, who state that the movement is not about Zoe Quinn or any other women, but the ethics of journalism. This has led to a complicated, dizzying controversy with multiple victims.
Now, it has been disproven that Zoe Quinn slept with Nathan Grayson for positive coverage. He never reviewed her game and his only article that mentioned her was about a failed reality show in which she was involved. Furthermore, their relationship began after that article was written. Regardless of the resulting movement, it is undeniable that it began with a lie.
The biggest question surrounding GamerGate is simply whether the movement is really about ethics in video game journalism or whether it’s about harassment. Newsweek did an analysis of tweets involving the hashtag #GamerGate, examining 25 percent of two million tweets between Sept. 1 to Oct. 25. They discovered that of these tweets, Zoe Quinn, the developer, received 14 times more angry tweets than Nathan Grayson, the journalist. This is convincing evidence that the majority of those involved with the movement (or at least those that take part in it on social media) seem more interested in harassing the female developer rather than the allegedly corrupt journalist.
Some anti-GamerGaters are stereotyping pro-GamerGaters as gross, misogynistic virgins who hate women while some pro-GamerGaters are stereotyping anti-GamerGaters as whiny, liberal, radical feminists who wish to destroy gaming culture. Neither of these stereotypes are entirely valid, but there are bad apples in every group. I don’t think that Zoe Quinn or any other woman who has been targeted deserves any of the death threats, hacking and harassment that they have received, but more importantly, I don’t think that many pro-GamerGaters do either. Sending an angry tweet is not commensurate to leaking someone’s personal details. Pro-GamerGaters are probably upset that their cause is being generalized as a hate movement. I sympathize with that.
But at this point, it may be best to abandon ship if you are pro-GamerGate. You may not be actively and intentionally harassing women, but your vocal support contributes to a growing base that gives the wrong-doers something to hide behind. This points out the dangerous thing about misogyny: that you may be (and unfortunately, probably are) supporting it without being aware of it. If you are interested in fighting back or at least interested in stopping people from calling you a misogynist, it’s easy to do. Just listen. Listen to those who claim to be targets of prejudice before immediately discrediting them. I know some are resistant to feminism. That’s fine. Feminism is not infallible. But compassion is.