Nearly five years ago, an online movement took the first world by storm that changed the socio-political landscape, and it all started with an angry ex-boyfriend, and an unethical relationship between a video game developer and a video game journalist.
That movement was #GamerGate, and you’ve probably heard a lot about it but aren’t really sure what it is. In fact, if you were to line up 50 people and ask them what #GamerGate ultimately was, you’d probably get 50 different answers.
One thing I can tell you is that the four articles recently published simultaneously by the New York Times about it are not a good recap or place to start. You’ll notice that these articles were written by people like Sarah Jeong and Brianna Wu. Jeong is, of course, popularly known for being a hard left journalist, and Wu is a former game developer who found that cultivating victimhood in the political realm was more lucrative.
The #GamerGate movement was complicated, decentralized, and a lot of things happened very quickly and on the daily. It can be a confusing thing to cover, but it’s best if you keep it simple. The base definition of #GamerGate was what it was originally supposed to be.
“It’s about ethics in video game journalism.”
That’s primarily what those taking part in #GamerGate wanted. They wanted that after learning a game developer, Zoe Quinn, was sleeping with Kotaku journalist Nathan Grayson, who was giving her game “Depression Quest” positive coverage. People began asking questions about the validity of gaming journalism and began demanding better ethical practices and less corruption. The gaming press pushed back, and #GamerGate was off.
While this unethical relationship triggered #GamerGate, it wasn’t the overall cause. Quinn’s infidelity with a journalist for benefits was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. The gaming press had become disdainful of its readers and overly political with its subjects. Social justice had become the name of the game and where people wanted a simple review of the latest action shooter, we were instead treated to an explanation of why we shouldn’t play it because it was sexist or racist somehow.
This focus on politics is what made #GamerGate become so political so quickly. The popularity of social justice intersectionality had made the fight against #GamerGate a feminist issue, a race issue, an LGBT issue, etc, etc. Those within #GamerGate demanding better ethics from the press who were minorities, or women, gay, trans, etc suddenly found themselves being labeled as “sock puppet accounts” while simultaneously being spoken for by the very people they were complaining about. The hashtag #NotYourShield popped up from within these communities in an effort to push back against these social justice warriors using them as a weapon against #GamerGate.
Christina Hoff Sommers became a very important figure in #GamerGate and made an excellent video breaking down a lot of what happened.
Overall, the #GamerGate movement did real damage to the social justice infected journalist outlets and the way social justice warriors operate. Sites that once held power within the culture collapsed and gaming sites developed codes of ethics. Activists who made money off of scamming people and businesses found themselves losing the audience they needed and subsequently, the cash they wanted, like Anita Sarkeesian.
The social justice mainstream press lost the #GamerGate war, and they haven’t been able to get over it since. This is why you see them still writing about it in the New York Times years later. It’s a bitter taste they can’t get out of their mouths, and they’ll rewrite history if it’ll help.
You’ll hear them say that it was a movement about online harassment, threats, and violence. It wasn’t.
Figures like Wu would intentionally do things to evoke anger in order to milk victim points, which relayed into publicity and Patreon donations. Sarkeesian did a lot of the same. Those who were a part of #GamerGate would often talk about or attempt to argue directly with Wu and Sarkeesian in good faith, but would often receive blocks for their efforts.
That’s not to say threats and harassment didn’t occur to these people, but those who did threaten violence often found themselves disavowed by #GamerGate as a whole. This wasn’t a campaign based on fear and hatred, it was about ethics in gaming journalism with average people on the front lines. It was a movement that saw people from all political spectrums, walks of life, communities and more coming together to want something that shouldn’t be that hard to deliver.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for the SJWs/mainstream press and it still is. They were the bad guys after years of believing they were the good guys, and telling themselves they were doing it for the oppressed and marginalized wasn’t flying here. They were corrupt and they were being called out by the world. Fantasy was their last bastion, both their shield and their sword.
Reading the New York Times articles about it, I can see that this is still the case.
#GamerGate had its troubles but it wasn’t the neo-Nazi, white supremacist, anti-LGBT, violent movement that the mainstream press makes it out to be. Personally, I’ve always looked at it as one of the defining moments of our culture. For me, it was proof that we can put aside political or social differences in order to work toward something good. That the Republican and the Democrat can unite against something evil and the Christian and the atheist can find common ground and be friends. It’s a spirit that I feel still lives on in ways I see today, with citizen journalists asking the hard questions and doing the work the mainstream press won’t for one corrupt reason or another.
The real story is that #GamerGate was a net positive on society. It showed the mainstream press and corrupt institutions that a god could bleed, and that when you roll against people who fight dragons as a hobby, you may find your kingdom crumbling around you. It showed that your position as a journalist or content creator didn’t make one infallible and that you’re not monologuing, you’re dialoguing.
What started as a quest for ethics in video game journalism ended up being much more and the world is better for it.