GamerGate, a supposed grassroots movement, continues to change the actual message the widespread group is hoping to accomplish. What began as a somewhat grotesque treatment of a female game developer has switched focuses again and again until people speaking on the subject are often speaking in two different conversations. One of those conversations deals with ethics in game journalism, or the feeling of bias inserted into reviews or news reported by major game outlets, while the other popular topic deals with the fatigue with the perpetuated sexist image of the average gamer.
The origins of GamerGate are as murky as most social media explosions, but the timeline seems to begin around a single developer named Zoe Quinn and an accusation by an ex-boyfriend. Quinn, developer behind the game Depression Quest, was accused of cheating on the boyfriend, Eron Gjoni, with five other people, some of which were video game press. This rumor — none of which has ever been proven — went unreported by most major outlets and, when coupled with perceived censorship on Reddit and 4chan, lit a fire under many that felt a controversy was afoot.
A back and forth ensued between Quinn and other indie developers on public stages, bringing some to threaten her life and causing her to abandon her home in fear. This sparked a large number of articles to declare this riotous activity was a response to the extinction of the stereotypical gamer. As a recoil, and with the perceived corruption in the gaming media given new life, the #GamerGate hashtag was born to organize those that thought themselves in the “gross nerd” stereotype.
GamerGate, according to an unofficial homepage for the movement, has three goals that revolve around exposing the “corruption” throughout the game journalism industry. That being said, the site glosses over the fact that the entire movement was seeded by a string of sexist attacks and verbal threats against Quinn, including the aforementioned death threats and talks of her genitalia. The website advertises that the “main and only goal is to make ALL voices be heard equally,” but the actions of those sporting the hashtag do not always support that position.
Many game developers themselves feel this entire movement is coming from many angles at once, but that very few of the supporters are informed over what the actual message behind GamerGate has become. Some gamers, developers and people in general have disregarded the entire movement because of its sudden change in direction and aim after its inception. Journalists have lost their jobs or publishing rights thanks to a rumor that has never been substantiated and the subsequent backlash of the gaming public that has never been fully explained.
GamerGate, should it actually want to succeed in this quest, should follow their own goals and inform the public on their intentions. Having a fragment of their following—supposedly 70 million strong—talking on sexual issues while another talks about journalism ethics splits audiences and has much of the public immune to the whole idea. This year alone, Machinima was reportedly paying for positive Xbox One reviews and Steam added a guideline to their curator system to make customers aware when positive opinions are being bought, showing that there are some pieces of the industry to clean-up. GamerGate can be that collection of gamers sick of biased reporting, but it has to straighten out its image and message first to escape its self-made stereotype.
Opinion by Myles Gann