The gaming community has been in an uproar as of late as conspiracy theories and accusations abound. The GamerGate movement seems to be in the thick of things and it’s complete and utter chaos. Wild accusations and death threats are being thrown around left right and centre. Amazing revelations are coming out as well as rumours of law enforcement over lies and false information. Documents are being leaked regarding evidence on both sides as well as threatening to blow the entire indie game industry and (possibly AAA) right back to the stone-age and gamers are copping the brunt. It’s all misogyny this, journalistic ethics that and it seems the gamers are sick of it.
The gamers feel they have been continuously misrepresented by several journalists who purport to write for their cause on their behalf. This fact was made abundantly clear to me when I first joined the GamerGate related channels on the Rizon IRC network. GamerGate has reportedly come under fire regarding claims of hacking from people as well as doxing and death threats. The evidence however suggest the contrary where the movement is actually involved. All this talk of misogyny and journalists as well as evidence of bait tactics regarding such a hot topic seems to be for the most part, entirely irrelevant. Yes the social justice side is what sparked the controversy as the catalyst but it looks like they are not the flame.
The collective voices of GamerGate’s personal stance on the whole subject of misogyny and the journalists that support it are both mostly not part of the equation. The guys from GamerGate, made up of numerous members from reddit, tumblr, twitter, 4chan and from all over the internet have, in the past been known to flame, backstab, name call and dox each other, not to mention 4chan itself being called the internet hate machine years prior while wearing the title with pride. Now it appears they have put aside their differences with each other and stopped attacking other members on forums, boards and channels for the most part. The gamers seem to no longer want to be accused of events they were apparently unaware of. Several discussions and articles have been posted that claim to have evidence to this end, but is either side truly innocent? I interviewed a number of individuals, anonymous in their support in order to get their take on the movement of GamerGate.
The collective voice of the GamerGate movement feel as though they’re not being taken seriously and many “anons” within the channels piped up to that effect. For people unfamiliar with that term, “anon” refers to a member of 4chan generally but has since expanded beyond that to include members of GamerGate choosing not to disclose their name. I spoke to one such individual who went by the online handle of “z0x80”. He discussed with me the idea behind everyone regarding GamerGate and 4chan as one entity. Here is the direct quote from my conversation with him. I, myself went by the handle “ThirdChild” as I conversed with him. I’d just like to state before the interviews that we at Techraptor have our own differing views regarding GamerGate. As such this article does not represent my views or the collective views at Techraptor. We are journalists first, gamers second. We also don’t get paid much at all for this. It is mostly volunteer. We do it because we love it.
“Can I add something to that paragraph, just a comment?” He asked in regards to a conversation about the different dichotomies and groups (4chan, reddit, tumblr and funnyjunk) involved within GamerGate. ” Go ahead”. I replied. He then Explained that he was a very old member of 4chan back in the day. He went on to say “There is this notion that 4chan is somehow represented by its users and in a sense that’s true but in a vague sense, kind of how a city is represented by its citizens. These groups, especially the little hacking and trolling crews, exist on every popular site simultaneously. They don’t just use 4chan, 4chan is like a popular bar or intersection in their entire city, it’s just available to them like it’s available to everyone.”
“Whenever I hear people try to speak of 4chan as a thing, I kind of laugh. These same people who are openly awful here, are silently awful everywhere else. I just think there’s kind of a fallacy, the way people identify with websites. Like Tumblr being for SJWs — there are tons of famous MRA’s (Men’s Rights Associations) that use tumblr as their primary platform. Collective guilt is the fallacy. That is all, thank you for letting me say that. ” The conversation that took place between him and myself suggests the community of GamerGate may not be 4chan trying to push what others have claimed to be their “misogynistic agenda. It seems that the movement is not just one conglomerated group and is in fact spread across several different avenues with twitter accounts defending themselves from attack, at the same time as females themselves, not associated with GamerGate dismissing misogyny openly.
The real issue isn’t this though, according to people from GamerGate. The real issue they wish to tackle is one of journalistic integrity as well as people being held accountable for their actions. They want the games industry to stop destroying people who agree with their views, they want websites to stop censoring them whenever they try to have an intelligent conversation in their message boards and they want all information to be accurate. I interviewed them collectively and in amongst the people just having fun and laughing pieced together their response. I’ll admit that the group is pretty chaotic but as an independent journalist they accepted me quite warmly and have been incredibly nice. I listened to what they had to say and they seemed very grateful for the opportunity. There were some who were reluctant at first due to previous journalists reportedly spinning their comments out of context. Once again when talking to them I used the handle “ThirdChild”.
I asked the channel directly. “I know it’s sometimes chaotic and loud in here but what is the general long-term goal of Gamergate?” One of the anons with the handle “DepressionFries Replied to my question replied. “Stop corruption.” More users going by the handles Admiraltaco, fotts and Drinky_Kraw chimed in. “It’s about exposure of corrupt and bias MEDIA. Newspapers are all bias, they are mostly printing click-bait. It’s sad that it is going to take us gamers to liberate the press.” “As you can see, the recent happenings have shown that the media protects their friends regardless if they’re in the wrong or the right. They don’t fact check, and they don’t investigate”.
“A revival of ethical business and journalistic standards within the Gaming Industry is what we want. We as a consumer want objective and honest reviews of games, and games that are produced, marketed and criticised in a real manner, unlike how it is now. This is in essence, a consumer revolt.” I quizzed him further asking if Gamergate was against nepotism within the industry or if it was more than just that. They all replied. “Some of us will be lost once the gaming angle closes, because that’s all they were here for. I think the right term is cronyism”, they said correcting me for my earlier questioning. “As the story breaks into larger media circles I think you will see grassroots opposition arise both to online press and off. We want games to be respected by their merits, and not by the favoritism, nepotism or cronyism that overvalues certain names, while unfairly destroying/ignoring others under the guise of misogyny/social activism.”
“Art is commentary on politics, not the other way around, as seen with Dragons Crown, and TFYC. Gawker Media and general gaming sites outright ignore reporting on indie games from people not in their IGF/Silverstring circles and the only time indie games break through this wall seems to be when they start selling a tonne of copies via word-of-mouth. this doesn’t seem to be official anywhere or followed. I’m just stating this as an observer. We remove support from sites that don’t own to their own mistakes. It seems that certain companies are on some kind of subconscious blacklist. As if mainstream online press will not write a review for them, or acknowledge a game’s existence in its particular genre if it’s published by certain kinds of companies. Very few of anything published by Big Fish Games winds up on Gawker/GDC and I don’t think that Silverstring and the ‘indie cabal’ have an official stance or anything, just something about the way they think dismisses indie games who sign to a larger publisher. It makes me think of the indie music scene a lot, like they consider those indie programmers to have sold out”
I then asked them. “Are there any games that fell by the wayside you guys would like TechRaptor to review? We’re always looking for articles.” “Review risk of rain, and Lone survivor was good too. Someone needs to make a site where all the gaming reviews are done by gamers. You should be blocked from making reviews if you are not a gamer.” He also said more sites should also allow users to write their own reviews, effectively by the gamers for the gamers.
I’d just like to state we here at Techraptor have our own differing views regarding GamerGate. As such this article does not represent my views or the collective views at Techraptor. We are journalists first, gamers second. We also don’t get paid much at all for this. It is mostly volunteer. We do it because we love it. Back to the conversation where Drinky brought up a valid point about the standards of game journalism.” ” I think there are two major problems with the journalism angle that don’t directly relate to corruption. Everyone fighting for the same views means they need to review the same games. This means that they also wind up ignoring ones that aren’t guaranteed hits”. ” Meanwhile the niche sites are not well-organised, and aren’t able to muster the same support. Reviews like that are needed for unknown games”.
This raises the issue of lesser-known games being occasionally overshadowed by the bigger budget ones. GamerGate feels it would be nice occasionally for the larger game journalist sites to cover little known games that no-one’s heard of. The problem with this idea seems to be that the smaller games not getting as much spotlight mean they also don’t generate as much press or coverage. It’s financially not in a game site’s best interest to cover games no-one has heard of. Still it is an idea that seems to come from an honest place and could perhaps be considered once in a blue moon. These seem to be the views of numerous members of the GamerGate community.
One other such individual I interviewed echoed these similar sentiments. This “anon” I interviewed was female and had her own views about GamerGate and the claimed misogyny within the industry.
My first question towards her “As a woman, what is your opinion on gamergate? Do you believe any side is innocent?” She responded with “I’m inclined to say the Gamergate side is more innocent. There’s definitely bad people involved, people who are antagonistic or engaging in bad behavior, but most of my pro-GG interactions have been pretty positive.”
“Whereas with the opposition… The evidence is looking pretty grim. The big names seem to be engaging in unethical behavior. I’m sure (most of) the advocates of the Social Justice side really believe that they’re trying to do the right thing, and I’ve seen some of them be fairly equitable. But there’s a LOT of underhanded tactics, a lot of “ends justify the means” going on. I’ve seen doxxing, spurious attacks…not good or constructive stuff.”
I asked her. “Just to clarify, how long have you been part of the GamerGate culture? Including the precursors.” To which she replied. “I’ve been gaming for decades. My friends are mostly gamers. I like video games. I like talking about video games. I follow video game academia. So I’ve had a long time interest in gaming culture. I haven’t had any faith in big name gaming journalism in a long time. I’ve seen enough scandal in the past, I’ve seen how complicit the two entities are, so I just…stopped bothering with it. So when the news hit about Gamergate? I wasn’t surprised.”
I decided to ask a question regarding common concerns about the demographic within the group. ” Do you feel the organic way in which the movement came into existence is hurting the message it wants to exhibit? Can you explain a little bit about the culture of all these sites that helped combine to form #GamerGate?” The woman responded to my question with an interesting point. “I don’t think movements in the digital age can be orchestrated. Not anymore. These things can’t be controlled. There will always be extremists, there will always be ‘bad guys’, there will always be trolls or plants trying to hinder things or just cause a mess of things. But for what it’s worth?” ” A lot of people have learned these lessons and put a *lot* of emphasis on behaving ethically.” ” There is only so much you can do to police these kinds of things, but it seems like they are trying.” ” As for the culture of the sites that formed the movement? Uhh…haha, I got nothing. Most of my exposure is from Twitter and, from some extent, some stuff I’ve gotten in my Tumblr feed. It all bleeds together.”
Asking her to elaborate on her involvement I said. “You’ve never been part of the culture of tumblr, 4chan, reddit etc?” Her response was down to earth. “ They’re just gamers. They’re just…nerds. They’re black, white, Asian, gay, straight, trans, cis. Oh man. I was a channer, way back when. 2005 – 2010ish. I don’t remember the last time I went on there, but I’m familiar with the environment. Tumblr? I have a Tumblr that’s mostly pictures of pretty girls, monsters, robots, and Mass Effect. Y’know, I honestly just use the internet to geek out about games and girls.”
I became curious about the history of 4chan and the like, asking.“What was the culture like back then? Have you checked it out recently? Has it changed much?” Her response showed just how naive I was. “I don’t feel like it’s changed that much. I feel like it’s mostly the same. The memes have changed, but it’s the same thing. There’s been this longstanding myth that 4chan is the Wild West of the internet – anything goes. But I, and most other people I knew as I recall, always kinda knew that was a myth? There was always censorship and people buddy buddying up to each other. Same with Reddit. Same with most internet communities.” “I still find it kind of funny that people are surprised, by any of this. By the extent – sure. But by it’s existence? I just took the corruption as a given. I didn’t like it, but I just tried to not play into it. Not give pageviews or traffic, not give my money.” “I’m definitely shocked by just how bad it is, though. It’s one thing to imagine, to expect it to be there. But then you actually see it all unravel and it’s like…sort of a smack in the face.”
I asked her personal opinion of the people in the movement. “Whats your opinion on the gamergate or rather the twitter, 4chan, tumblr and reddit communities?” She once more reiterated. “It’s just…gamers. It runs the gamut. Like, yeah, the majority of the people involved are white dudes, but it’s pretty diverse.” ” There’s a range of political affiliations, backgrounds, temperaments. Some are creeps, but most everyone seems cool and chill, focused on the issues.” ” And there’s plenty of non-white, or non-male, or non-straight, or non-cis people in the mix too. It just seems like a regular slice of people from what I’ve seen so far.”
I wanted to know how she felt regarding the several articles proclaiming gamers as dead. “What do you think of the journalists actions in the face of all the events?”
Her response was unexpected. “Sort of funny? The simultaneous, almost identical message from the countless journalists was just so transparent it was just impossible to take seriously. I’m more surprised by the people who went pro-GamerGate. Some of them were pleasant surprises!”
I had run out of questions and felt I should wrap up by asking. “Last question. I’ve heard people say it’s not about the social movement side of things and the focus is on journalistic integrity and objectivity. Would you agree with this?”
She replied with “That seems to be the general focus of the movement, yes. And I do think it’s good to focus on that. That is the more important issue. I must confess, that while I’m not focused on any particular INDIVIDUALS…I am kinda emotionally invested in the social side, personally. But that’s just me.”
Anything else you would like to add for people reading this? This article is partly your voice after all.”
She gave her last two cent, adding to what I’d missed. “I’m transgender and I’m a lesbian. I’m not stealth, I’m just kinda quietly out, I don’t talk about it much but I don’t deny it. I have a complex relationship with social justice. There is a lot I respect about it’s historical origins, actual socially responsible activism, and a lot of the issues that SJWs claim to care about are things that I care about. But…the tactics of SJWs, by and large, aren’t okay. The rhetoric of SJWs isn’t okay. So I feel kind of disillusioned and hurt by the whole thing. These people don’t represent me and in a lot of ways they hurt me, even if they don’t mean to. Video gaming is important to me. I’ve been gaming for years. It was a means of escape and it was a means of self-expression when I was growing up. My childhood was hard and in a way, games were kinda one of the few safe things I had. They were really inspiring for me. I’m not saying there aren’t problematic things in gaming culture, but…I don’t feel like it’s a bad thing. I don’t feel like it’s a bad thing overall, that is. I feel like it’s mostly good.” I then thank her for her time and her unique views.
It was nearly over. I felt that I had reached out to a large enough portion of the people behind as well as supporting GamerGate and told their story. It seems that are there all sorts of diverse people from different walks of life who agree with the views of GamerGate. From what I observed during the 5 days I hung out with individuals in their culture, I discovered people who feel strongly regarding ethics, as well as credibility, objectivity and critical thinking. I had initially thought that the chaotic nature of their movements spontaneity might be there downfall. They clearly feel strongly, that the people that run a large part of their favourite hobby’s public relations, and flow of news is corrupt. They feel like they have had an important service that was once freely available just dry up overnight. They care about the small developers too as well as the less published games. They often felt that a game didn’t need to be triple A quality to be good.
It seems they want a return to the old days where you could read a review written by an objective writer who despite getting the game for free, had not written it subjectively with a view to pleasing the publishers. They want people to disclose things being of even a remotely shady nature, as well as ethics being upheld when writing, not selling out or only covering the big games in order to gain better clicks or website rankings. They want people who actually play the games, who are gamers to review the games. They want sites started by gamers, for gamers. They want people willing to hear their voice and provide intelligent back and forth between them instead of just silencing or censoring them. They feel the issue lies not in the people reporting the news but in the industry as a whole. People scratching each others backs, favoritism and cronyism seems to be these people’s hot button. They don’t care about women’s representations in games, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad people. For them it’s all about the games and the games industry.
The culture, I will admit is a bit chaotic and not what most people are used to. A world where racial slogans and sexual insults as well as alternative names for cigarettes are the norm is definitely not a place for everyone. The seemingly misunderstood culture is actually an amazing equaliser. It’s possible that their sort of world or format is the type of world where everyone lives in harmony. Maybe they cuss each other out occasionally but that happens in everyday life too. My experience within the culture for me was a very positive one. They were reluctant at first to trust me due to the previous attempts by other journalist seeming to not have worked out so great, so they started their own gaming sites in protest, even funding suicide prevention charities as 4chan crumbled around them and fell to the social side. They felt betrayed, angry but they seemed willing to trust maybe one more journalist. That journalist was me, a volunteer writer for a small gaming news site that is slowly growing in size. I learnt a lot from the community and I feel grateful and honored they were willing to entrust me with their voice. I can only hope I’ve done them justice and if there’s one thing that I’m sure of after this enlightening experience the last week or so, Gamers are most certainly not dead.