Gamers are not dead, and the reports of their death have been greatly exaggerated.
GamerGate began in earnest after more than a dozen gaming and mainstream news websites condemned the gamer identity and declared it dead. The articles were a spineless response to harassment faced by an indie game developer named Zoe Quinn, whose destructive relationship with Eron Gjoni revealed collusion between indie game developers and members of the gaming press. Instead of addressing the issues head-on and tackling them one by one, game journalists chose to craft a narrative painting gamers in general as harassers and abusers.
The movement truly came into its own after the publication of Leigh Alexander’s now-infamous “Gamers are over” editorial on Gamasutra, which was among 15 other such pieces that declared the gamer identity to be dead in late August to early September 2014. In response to the public outcry, actor Adam Baldwin tweeted the hashtag #GamerGate. The name stuck.
In the months after GamerGate kicked off, Zoe Quinn, who never left the limelight, and a few friends sympathetic to her cause (myself included) founded the Crash Override Network. Crash Override Network was ostensibly founded as a support network for the victims of online abuse, but recently leaked logs show that its real purpose was quite the opposite. The group was exposed as a private network for online bullies. Serving as a chatroom from which to launch operations against its political opponents, members spearheaded campaigns of doxing, harassment and vilification of GamerGate supporters.
Heat Street was the first news publication in the mainstream to cover these leaks. We were not the only site to gain unfettered access to the logs. They were provided days in advance to many of the gaming and general news sites that reported heavily on GamerGate.
Besides Heat Street, the dispatch was sent to the editors of Polygon, Kotaku, VICE, BoingBoing, Eurogamer, Rock Paper Shotgun, Gamasutra, Salon and Jezebel. Curiously, none of them have written about the new information that has come to light about Zoe Quinn’s “anti-harassment support network” despite their extensive coverage of GamerGate prior to the leaks. Many of these same publications advertised the services CON purported to provide and legitimized it.
In light of the leaks, these same publications now show no interest in performing their journalistic duties and have opted instead to retain a stance of silence and ignorance while hawking a new project by Zoe Quinn called “Project Tingler” that involves half-naked men wearing prosthetic horse heads.
Anyone following the ongoing GamerGate topic would be understandably baffled by the lack of coverage. Some of the writers who have since made it their wheelhouse to cover the topic suddenly have expressed reluctance to talk about it. When asked if he was going to cover the story, New York Magazine writer Jesse Singal said there was “nothing to address” regarding the leaks because it was “not news” that “some anti-GG folks aren’t paragons of integrity.”
Nothing to address. Not news that some anti-GG folks aren't paragons of integrity w/r/t online pileons https://t.co/SglwCKHfWw
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) August 26, 2016
Singal has been more active than other journalists in his coverage of GamerGate over the past two years. When Candace Owens, an individual who launched a Kickstarter campaign in April 2016 for an online database of online harassers, accused Harper and Quinn of torpedoing her campaign and engineering her harassment, Singal blamed her accusations on GamerGate. He also had scathing words for game studios that refuse to address the alleged harassment of their employees, linking to a Polygon piece by Colin Campbell that did the same.
The article in reference describes GamerGate in no ambiguous terms as a “hate group” that “organized online abuse campaigns.” Polygon has published no fewer than 50 articles condemning GamerGate or implicating supporters of the movement in acts of domestic terrorism, including a bomb threat that shut down a Society of Professional Journalists panel discussing it. A letter from the site’s editor branded its supporters as “violent misogynists.”
On Kotaku, over a dozen articles have been tagged under GamerGate, most of which promote the narrative that female game developers or online personalities were forced from their homes or are in some way responsible for the culture of fear permeating online social networks. Even minor stories, such as when the Honey Badger Brigade, a group sympathetic to men’s rights activism, were the subject of coverage when they were banned from a fan convention in Canada. The site’s editor-in-chief, Stephen Totilo, even penned an editorial on the subject telling the movement’s supporters, “Enough.”
We are through the looking glass. GamerGate’s impact on the game industry is undeniable. Some of that impact has been negative, if only due to how the games media chose to stick to its own narrative. One of the biggest positive changes brought about by the consumer-based movement was its operation to alert the Federal Trade Commission of disclosure failures by members of the press and YouTube influencers. As a result, the FTC now has laws and guidelines regarding full disclosure. Ultimately, GamerGate has been a win for ethics.
Edit: The original version of this article erroneously implied that Jesse Singal blamed Candace Owens’s harassment on GamerGate.