GamerGate

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"Gamergate" redirects here. For other uses, see Gamergate (disambiguation).

The 'Gamergate controversy' occurred when the publication of a sex scandal in August 2014 led to industry reactions that confirmed longstanding rumors of a cultlike clique in the video game industry that conspired to promote unqualified friends as industry experts, write false news stories to promote a political agenda, and blacklist developers and fellow journalists who did not share their politics. The indie clique was also accused of rigging award shows to promote games that members of the clique had invested in.

The censorship of all aspects of the story across the Internet, particularly on websites that previously claimed to be dedicated to free speech, exposed the existence of a large-scale Internet censorship project within the United States.


Background

Gamergate involved a number of concurrent events that occurred in mid to late-August 2014. [1]

The Zoe Post

On August 16, 2014, Eron Gjoni published a series of personal blog posts accusing his girlfriend, video game developer Zoë Quinn, of emotionally abusive behavior and of having intimate relations with several other people who Gjoni called the "Five Guys".[2]

The Five Guys

Gjoni named three of the alleged "Five Guys".

Internet Aristocrat named two others as part of the Five Guys:

Online reaction

Citing the personal nature of the posts and general policies against harassment, attempts to discuss the allegations on internet forums such as reddit and 4chan were met with large-scale bans and deletions against all users and posts related to the subject. Independent attempts by critics such as TotalBiscuit to comment on the concerns related to improper journalism were met with claims of being sexist against Quinn and women in the industry. [3] [4]

Wolf Wozniak and Phil Fish

"Exchange between Wolf Wozniak and Phil Fish"

The day after the publication of the Zoe Post, game developer Wolf Wozniak said "Zoe Quinn sexually harassed me at a friend's wedding in early March. I didn't think anything of it at the time." Phil Fish replied at 4:42PM: "you crashed that wedding. nobody invited you. nobody wanted you there. you little shit."

IGF and Indiecade

The "Indie-Fensible" series of investigative reports by Youtube channel ShortFatOtaku found relationships between Polytron investor Indie Games Fund and people involved in the management of Indiecade and the Independent Games Festival. The Polytron game Fez won the top award at both shows in 2012. Five of the eight members of the 2011 IGF jury were principals in Polytron. Fez suffered delays that prevented it from being entered into the contest that year. [5] Following the reports, Twitter banned ShortFatOtaku researcher CameraLady[5] and she received a visit from police.[6]

Renewed attention was given to earlier reports from multiple developers that judges at the 2012 IGF had not played their games before rejecting them. [7] At the time, Jenn Frank had written an article praising IGF chairman Brandon Boyer and chairman emeritus Simon Carless while condemning the developers. [8]

Blacklisting

Reddit user ReverseSolipsis claimed that a friend working at a game development studio in Chicago had been forced to promote Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian on his personal Facebook page "because if people think he's not in line, his Rock Paper Shotgun support gets pulled and other indie devs will blacklist him." [9]

Shitty Webcomics reported:[10]

Been writing at gaming sites for over a decade now. (...) Anyway, this whole Zoe Quinn thing has put lots of sites on high alert. I brought up the whole thing with coworkers at the site I work at, and they just dismissed the issue. when I pressed the issue the implication quickly turned from a dismissive handwave to a very threatening “talk about this any more and you will be fired.” I’ve been talking to some writers at other minor sites and this seems to be happening on all points.

Siliconera moderator Eusis Landale was fired on the orders of someone "even higher up the foodchain" than Siliconera's founder Ishaan Sahdev after arguing that moderator Puchinri's decision to forbid any comments critical of Anita Sarkeesian would "cause more problems than it would solve." [11] Landale then released copies of deleted comments showing that Siliconera had been removing criticism of Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, and Mighty No. 9 community manager Dina Abou Karam. [12]

Freelance games journalist Ollie Barder claimed to have been blacklisted after criticizing the writers of Edge magazine. [13]

I used to write corrections in the EDGE forum years ago and they have harassed me ever since. (...) EDGE always embodied the desire to be taken seriously in a really horrible way. Anti-facts almost.
(...) So a bunch of former game journo friends have unfollowed/blocked me because I've spoken out about #GamerGate , rather sad really (...) To clarify; it looks like I have been blacklisted as a pro freelance journo but my game design job is A-okay (for now)

Paul Hubans reported being blacklisted after he retweeted a video alleging corruption at the Independent Games Festival.[14]

So I lost some followers and possibly even some good friends for tweeting that video and saying I didn't agree with the corruption in IGF. This is exactly what I was afraid of, which is why I kept my mouth shut about all of this bullshit that's been going on lately.

Gamasutra demoted writer Ben Quintero [15] after he wrote the article "Can We All Get Along?" which acknowledged "complete radio silence from the major gaming press in regards to questions consumers have been asking." [16]

Jennifer Dawe claimed that Zoe Quinn had blacklisted her for saying she had not encountered sexism in the game industry. [14][17]

I disagreed with her that asking hobbies in a job interview was sexist and she spread to all her friends
I had no idea at the time this person was so connected they could ruin things for me asking a question

The Fine Young Capitalists

In response to the discussions taking place, the Toronto-based feminist group The Fine Young Capitalists reported their own difficulties with Quinn, stating that her highly unprofessional behavior had a strongly negative impact on their initiative to sponsor women wishing to enter the video game industry. After receiving a large number of donations from 4chan users towards their new project on Indiegogo, the group rewarded 4chan users with plans to place a 4chan-designed original character into the sponsored game. This lead to the creation of #GamerGate's mascot character, named "Vivian James". [18] [19]

"Gamers Are Dead" articles

In late August, video game journalists and academics across a number of outlets published a number of editorials and columns discussing gamers, negative aspects of video game culture, and/or how the word "gamer" should be retired from popular use. Though some of the articles only comment on problems with video game culture on a general level, many of the articles indicate that they were written in response to the allegations against Zoë Quinn. [20] [21] [22] [23] [24]

#GamerGate

On August 27, 2014, American actor Adam Baldwin viewed a number of YouTube videos discussing the concurrent events, and after noticing that some of it held a resemblance to the Watergate scandal, shared the videos on Twitter under the hashtag #GamerGate. In response to the rising number of bans on other forums, some users moved to Twitter and used the #GamerGate hashtag to discuss the events. [25]

Describing #GamerGate

When reporting on #GamerGate, news outlets have frequently expressed confusion and personal difficulty in learning the exact details of the hashtag and its motives, stating that the anonymity of the internet and the general goal of supporters to not declare any leaders or key figures of #GamerGate are major problems. Instead, news outlets tend to provide two alternate descriptions: [26] [27] [28] [29]

Studies into the use of the #GamerGate hashtag on Twitter report that the hashtag is used by two equally large groups of users, which largely do not communicate with each other. One of the two groups is largely associated with discussions of harassment, and/or are opposed to the movement, and the other group is largely associated with discussions of journalism, and/or are supportive of the movement. In an analysis of harassing Twitter posts made over the course of November 2014, 12% out of the detected harassing tweets were found to be associated with #GamerGate. As of late October 2014, activity on the Twitter hashtag was escalating. [30] [31] [32] [33]

Jump to section: § Reports of Harassment or § Issues with Journalism


Issues with Journalism

After discussions regarding the personal life of Zoë Quinn were banned on various web forums, users moved to other locations on the internet to discuss the ongoing events. Though some web forums continued to ban any and all discussion subjects that were historically connected to Quinn, sites such as The Escapist allowed a number of threads after emphasizing its rules against personal information. Members of the aggregation site reddit moved to a new subreddit, and the anonymous users of 4chan moved to 8chan after 4chan founder Christopher Poole personally declared a site-wide ban on the subject. [34] [35] [36]

Attempts to discuss #GamerGate in person has generally been met by anonymous bomb threats sent to the planned meeting locations. [37] [38] [39]

Behavior of Journalists

Supporters of the hashtag have expressed difficulty in describing their aims to the media, claiming that reporters are refusing to speak to supporters of the movement, or that reporters are only willing to discuss sexism. As a result, there have been complaints on the accuracy of the media's representation of the movement, such as the media stating that #GamerGate consisted mainly of white men. Supporters and some journalists commenting on the movement have also shared the opinion that there are a number of clear ways to end the movement, one of which is for video game media outlets to adopt and/or publicize their ethics policies. [40] [41] [42] [43] [44] [45]

In September 2014, information was leaked that implicated a number of American game journalists as being a part of a private mailing list exclusive to people who worked in video game journalism, labeled GameJournoPros. The emails show employees from a number of unconnected video game media outlets discussing their concern for the events surrounding Zoë Quinn, and the majority of participants dismissing concerns about improper journalism. Polygon editor Ben Kuchera was highlighted as strongly urging The Escapist's editor-in-chief Greg Tito to close discussions of both Quinn and questions of journalistic propriety. In the days after the reveal of the list, the Escapist's forums were reported to be under a denial-of-service attack, while Ars Technica's senior editor Kyle Orland apologized for his participation in the mailing list. The list has also been compared to JournoList, a former private mailing list for political journalists across several unaffiliated news outlets. [46] [47] [48]

During the Society of Professional Journalists' Ethics Week in late April 2015, the designated twitter hashtag for the event was flooded with #GamerGate related tweets and spam. While users were directed to not engage with the tweets and use a new hashtag, SPJ board member and journalist Michael Koretzky noticed that there were an unusual number of legitimate inquiries amongst the #GamerGate-related spam, and sought to use it as opportunity to discuss ethical journalism with the greater public. Announcing Airplay, Koretzky invited both supporters and opposers of the hashtag movement to a live-streamed panel discussion, to encourage meaningful debate and clarification on #GamerGate. After failing to contact or successfully invite any members of the opposition, the panel was modified to a discussion between supporters and a number of senior journalists. Though the Airplay event on August 2015 was considered successful, the event was cut short and the venue was vacated by police authorities after receiving multiple bomb threats. [49] [50] [51] [52]

In November 2015, citing the events of Airplay, the Society of Professional Journalists announced the creation of the Kunkel Awards for Video Game Journalism. [53]

Initiatives

In response to rebuffs by game journalists about the legitimacy of the complaints, supporters of #GamerGate formed the "Operation Disrespectful Nod" campaign, which sought to contact affiliates, sponsors and other superiors of video game media outlets. Letter and email writing directions and templates were made for companies that featured advertisements or indicated sponsorships on video game websites said to be unethical, and tweeting was encouraged. [54] [55]

News outlets that were targeted include the websites that published editorials about video game culture in late August, most notably video game development news site Gamasutra, and the respective editorial by site news editor Leigh Alexander. Intel proceeded to withdraw advertising in Gamasutra in response to complaints about the opinion article. Several game developers expressed disapproval of the move, after which Intel released a statement explaining that they take feedback from all customers seriously, and did not intend to take sides on the current issues. [56] [57] [58]

In December 2014, Valleywag writer Sam Biddle made a number of Twitter posts, citing #GamerGate as a reason to encourage bullying and the shaming of nerds. In response, the letter and email campaign was directed towards the advertisers and brand partners of Gawker Media and its subsidiaries. After software company Adobe made comments distancing themselves from Gawker and emphasizing their stance against bullying, Biddle stated that his tweets were done in a "very obviously joking" manner. Gawker editor-in-chief Max Read also made a statement in response to the withdrawals of sponsorship, apologizing to Gawker's readers and that Gawker has already lost "thousands of dollars", and may potentially lose more. [59] [60] [61] [62] [63]

Upon the bankruptcy and subsequent closure of Gawker in August 2016, Max Read lists #GamerGate among a number of other recent events as a major contributing factor to the company's demise. [64] [65]

Articles about #GamerGate

In September 2014, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales commented on the status of the Wikipedia article on #GamerGate. He described the current state of the article as a "badly written battleground" that bears resemblance to another unrelated dispute where the editors did not appear to care for Wikipedia. Edit disputes for the #GamerGate article eventually escalated to the point of being brought to the Arbitration Committee, and in response to misleading media coverage on the handling of the disputes, the Wikimedia Foundation issued a statement clarifying the purposes of the Arbitration Committee and Wikimedia's core mission. [66] [67]

Response

Since the creation of the #GamerGate hashtag, several changes to editorial and ethical policies by video game news outlets have been attributed to #GamerGate or the subsequent discussions created by claims of inadequate journalism. In September 2014, editor-in-chief of The Escapist Greg Tito cites the critiques of game journalists spawned from #GamerGate as a major force behind the publication of the outlet's ethics policy. Managing editor John Keefer also commented on the changes in journalism and its challenges, stating that "we should do everything we can to report only facts, sans slanted or ambiguous words". [34] [68] [69]

Many game industry professionals have commented on #GamerGate, with several doing so only under conditions of anonymity. On the subject of journalism, some developers opined that the press has a tendency to look down on gamers, and developers such as Kyle McConaughey expressed disapproval of the threats of blacklistings the independent game developers experience from journalists. While opinions on the state of video game-related journalism was largely negative, opinions varied on the nature of #GamerGate, its apparent broad scope, and its actual relation to complaints about game journalists. [70] [71]

Reports of Harassment

In response to the original allegations by Eron Gjoni, Zoë Quinn has stated that the reactions to the blog posts are part of an ongoing campaign of harassment that she has received for the previous two years, in relation to the development and release of her interactive fiction work Depression Quest. After receiving a number of increasingly threatening messages, Quinn has stated that she has had to move from her home for safety. Specifically citing the imageboard 4chan as the primary source of the harassment, Quinn also leaked a number of 4chan chat room logs that she obtained that demonstrated ongoing efforts by anonymous users to attack her. The logs are also said to prove that the hashtag was invented by these users. [72] [73] [74] [75]

Commentators have generally described these actions – and online harassment of women in general – as an act of terrorism. [76] [77]

Related Threats and Attacks

Independent game designer Phil Fish came to the defense of Zoë Quinn on Twitter shortly after the original allegations were made in August 2014, calling the people attacking Quinn as "cowards", among other insults. Some days after his comments, Fish's site was hacked and replaced with a proclamation that 4chan users and Anonymous planned on targeting Phil Fish and other associated indie developers after their recent hacking against Zoë Quinn. In response to the hacks, Fish reportedly announced his intentions to sell his company and the ownership of Fez, along with his desire to leave the video game industry. [78] [79]

Feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian has described the harassment against Quinn and #GamerGate as an organized version of the harassment she previously received in response to her YouTube video series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, stating that she also had to recently move from her home for safety in response to harassment against her latest episode of the series, released on August 25. In October 2014, Utah State University received an anonymous shooting threat claiming to be motivated by #GamerGate, stating that it would take place during Sarkeesian's planned lecture at the campus. Despite stating that she would not be affected by the threats, and conclusions by the university and local police that the threat was not credible, Sarkeesian eventually canceled the lecture stating that the responses by the university and police were inadequate. [80] [81] [82] [83] [84]

Video game developer Brianna Wu has stated that she began to receive harassment after posting a tweet in October 2014, mocking the hashtag and stating her support of women. In response to death threats, Wu states that she and her husband had to move from their home for safety, and also announced a $11,000 USD reward for information leading to the identification of the sender. Though initially blaming #GamerGate for these threats, Wu admitted that she may have assumed that all of the threats directed to her were related. [85] [86] [87] [88] In February 2015, Wu's studio Giant Spacekat canceled their planned attendance at gaming festival PAX East in March, stating that her team was fearful of being harassed by #GamerGate supporters. [89] [90]

As of May 2015, Wu indicated that harassment remained ongoing, complaining that local law enforcement, state prosecuting attorneys, and the FBI have still taken no action. [91]

Shortly after American actress Felicia Day posted on her blog commenting on #GamerGate and her past experiences with sexism, Day's personal information was posted in the post's comment section, along with threats. Former American football player Chris Kluwe condemned the action. [92] [93] [94]

Supporters of #GamerGate have stated that many of their supporters are also being harassed, in addition to the reports of harassment against figures who openly state their opposition to the movement. In addition to death threats, supporters have described harassing phone calls to their workplaces and business-related sites leading to the denial of jobs and monetary income. Supporters have also generally claimed that there is a higher proportion of female, LGBT and non-white figures among users of the #GamerGate hashtag than is stated by opponents, and they have also been affected by harassment. [95] [45]

Initiatives

In response to rising levels of online harassment in 2014, in January 2015 Alex Lifschitz and Zoë Quinn announced the creation of the Crash Override Network, a task force featuring experts in information security, public relations, white hat hacking, and other fields. Dedicated to supporting victims of online harassment, Lifschitz also stated that the task force had already successfully prevented several swattings in the past month. [96] [97]

At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas, Intel announced the "Diversity in Technology" initiative, describing plans for a $300 million investment to promote diversity within the company and the technology industry. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich referred to online harassment towards women and minorities as a factor in the plans, mentioning that recent events motivated them to create the initiative. Partners include Anita Sarkeesian's website Feminist Frequency, the International Game Developers Association, the Society of Women Engineers, and others. [98] [99]

Other Fields

The #GamerGate hashtag has also been compared with other issues in fields outside of video games. LGBT complaints surrounding the nominations for the 2015 Hugo Awards has frequently been compared with the #GamerGate movement, and Brianna Wu has stated that the movement is directly responsible for hijacking the Hugo Awards. [100] [101] [102]

Response

In March 2015, U.S. Representative for Massachusetts Katherine Clark sent a letter to the Department of Justice, calling for them to prioritize and respond to women-related cyber-crimes, citing #GamerGate related attacks as a significant problem. Clark then invited Zoë Quinn to a public briefing with U.S. Congress to give an explanation of #GamerGate. [103] [104]

Many game industry professionals have commented on #GamerGate, with several doing so only under conditions of anonymity. On the subject of harassment, some developers opined that the increase of public awareness, real or not, will have a negative impact on the growth of the industry, and developers such as Dave Rickey agreed that greater cultural issues unconnected to video games were a major contributing factor to #GamerGate. While opinions on harassment and bullying were largely negative, opinions varied on the nature of #GamerGate, its apparent broad scope, and its actual relation to harassment towards women and minorities. [70] [71]

In popular culture

In February 2015 the American television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit aired the episode "Intimidation Game", which is largely inspired by the harassment-related events of #GamerGate. In SVU show regular Ice-T's Ice-T: Final Level podcast, Ice-T explains that the show tends to twist stories from recent events for their episodes, and that gamers should not worry too much about attacks from the press. [105] [106] [107] [108]

American anime company Funimation received complaints after an episode of their English dub of the Summer 2015 anime Prison School contained a localized line about #GamerGate. In response to complaints about the incorrect translation, Funimation script writer Tyson Rinehart stated that he was "glad [his] script pissed you off", whilst Funimation issued a statement distancing themselves from the English dub's actors and writers. [109] [110] [111]

Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, the 2016 Expansion pack for the 2012 remake of the critically acclaimed 1998 role-playing video game Baldur's Gate, received complaints towards a new LGBT character and a new line for popular character Minsc that referenced claims made by #GamerGate. Beamdog CEO Trent Oster issued a statement agreeing that Minsc's line was not in line with his character, and that it would be removed. In regards to the LGBT character, Oster agreed that the characterization could have been improved. [112]

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See also

External links