GamerGate Forewarned of Trump Win; Why Didn’t Game Journalists do Anything?

2014 After a female game developer cheats on her boyfriend, he pens an online tell-all series of blog posts revealing that one of those liaisons was with a reporter for online gaming website Kotaku. This was the beginning of GamerGate.

Seemingly uneager to address just how close journalists and developers sometimes get, the gaming press decided to use one word against the Balrog-esque mob gathered outside, as if facing it on the bridge of Khazad-dûm. Gathering their energy, they cried out, “You cannot pass, misogynists.”

We know what happens in the Lord of the Rings: the Balrog is sent spiraling down into the chasm below, but not before catching the unfortunate Gandalf and pulling him down with it. So too, did game journalism lose quite a bit of respect and stature when it chose to make a stand with such a silly and juvenile rebuttal.

Instead of penning op-eds making the industry more transparent and straight-forward for the average gamer, article after article accusing everyone remotely involved in GamerGate of hating women were fired off. It eventually expanded to include all minorities; anyone reading something from Kotaku, Polygon or other mainstream sites would not be wrong to assume, based on what they’d read, that people with continued concerns about where gaming journalism was headed were also out to bar anyone who wasn’t a straight, white, heterosexual man from creating games.

Generally such arguments which rely on tossing labels, rather than replying with any substance, are dismissed as strawmen. I had been used to seeing these sorts of tactics used by the right (such as the annual scare reports about evil atheists and their “war on Christmas”), but this time it was the progressives who didn’t want to calmly lay bare their explanations and let them stand on their own.

It was about a month later that the gaming press, which clearly had nothing to hide from the misogynistic mob pounding on their door, was revealed to have had a secretive mailing list that not only included collaborating on journalistic narratives across sites, but also blacklisting certain people who raised uncomfortable issues. Oops.

The minority of people who were harassing people and the most problems were actually aided by this scorched-earth press narrative. Since most people involved in GamerGate were not harassing anyone it was an easy argument to dismantle. Where were the critical thought pieces on what was fueling GamerGate’s most virulent 1%? Or even just bitterness expressed by average male gamers that the gaming press was trying to take developers to task for not shoehorning in as much identity politics as they could into each new release?

What I wanted to read was some well-researched, original documentation of social issues affecting male gamers and why GamerGate became the flashpoint that it did. Games are for fun, but if the people covering them are going to call themselves journalists (and they do), then where is some decent writing on the topic? There were almost no looks at the topic which did not paint its entire membership in one grand stroke.

Unfortunately, there was no ultimate redemption for the gaming press a la Gandalf’s return. So it goes.

2016 Hindsight is 20/20, so certainly journalists in the gaming industry would have had enough time to contemplate the results of calling large swathes of people bigots based on the actions of a small minority of trolls (some of which, I assume, are good people). I wouldn’t fault anyone for optimistically hoping that people such as Christopher Grant, head honcho of Polygon, or the Editor-in-Chief of Destructoid (I’d include a name, but their staff page is a jumble of people and it wasn’t noted in their self-aggrandizing site history PDF; so much for transparency) would note the similarities between how the gaming journalists responded to GamerGate and how the mainstream media was beginning to craft their narrative against Trump supporters.

“NO! STOP! DON’T DO IT!” might have been a nice sentiment to hear from them. No such luck. Just as the gaming press had alienated many of its own readers with ridiculous insults, so too did much more esteemed news outlets such as The New York Times with cries of “Racists! Misogynists!” as people questioned Hillary Clinton.

As we can now look back, simply hiding behind slurs did not quell the resentment and did not stop the mob. That is not a personal opinion; former Gawker editor Max Read called GamerGaters the most effective enemy of the blog network. That article went up on August 19, 2016—just one day shy of the two year anniversary of Kotaku breaking their silence on GamerGate.

There were two obvious lessons to be learned:

  1. The well-meaning majority of a movement doesn’t like being mischaracterized
  2. The trolls are simply egged on by name calling

How and why did the gaming press miss these lessons? As near as I can tell, many gaming sites are stacked with ideologues who are less interested in moving the world forward and prefer to keep their views on society untainted by reality. That is unfortunate, because now we have President-elect Trump set to be sworn in next month.

Dear god, why? How could this same awful tactic be reused after its miserable deployment against GamerGate?

The press coverage is eerily similar. I will actually go out on a limb (as a liberal) and say that I believe that the majority of Trump supporters are not bad people. They’re frustrated, they’re misunderstood. I followed the election closely and there seemed to be no general push to dispel the notion of them being a generally deplorable group of Americans. This was a mistake.

If journalism is to succeed, gaming or elsewhere, it needs to dedicate itself to seeking the truth. The press’s response to both GamerGate and the 2016 election was to push a narrative. There is no doubt. In being so dogmatically defensive of women and minorities (GamerGate) and Clinton (2016 election) against slights, perceived or otherwise, it ended up being a moment in which journalists shot themselves in the foot and hampered themselves from actually moving society forward.

This time there was much more at stake and we should have expected better from the people who sat through the first storm. Another bitter year for gaming journalism.


Movies should be judged by cast diversity, not entertainment value

There is a common misconception in the minds of today’s moviegoers and that is the idea a great film is one which has impeccable acting, masterful direction, and brings a story to life. I’m here to disavow that myth: it’s not. What really makes a motion picture transcend its medium is a cast composed of ethnically diverse actors and actresses.

The first trailer for next year’s mythological blockbuster Gods of Egypt has certainly proven this. The movie won’t even be out for months, but the reviews are in; this film is just too damn white. It should be common knowledge that the real gods of Egypt were racially similar to the mortals that they ruled over. Well, the human parts of them were.

goe-wiki-whitewashingHollywood has yet again tried to “whitewash” history with its large stable of actors and actresses of European descent. How would one even know that those hailing from the Nile river basin have dark skin?! If media moguls won’t provide historically accurate depictions of events, who will?

This could have been a real turning point for Western media. There is only one main black actor in the film, but think about the impact of having even more. In the United States alone it could have changed millions of lives for the better. Some activists waste time on tackling poverty and incarceration, but in reality those issues simply stem from employment practices in Hollywood. Thankfully, some brave souls have already made sure that the Gods of Egypt Wikipedia page already reflects what a travesty it is.

I hope studios listen to the loud voices demanding change. Together we can make a difference in the world and that starts with holding movies accountable for historically accurate and racially correct depictions of mythological deities.

VICE uses Paris attacks to smear gamers

Veerender JubbalEver the beacon of journalistic excellence, VICE recently published a piece by Rich Stanton blaming GamerGate supporters for circulating a photoshopped image of a journalist and fingering him as the mastermind behind the recent terrorist attacks in France. The victim, Veerender Jubbal, had one of his selfies edited to look as if he was holding a Quran instead of an iPad while wearing an explosive vest, as well as a dildo sneakily added into the background. Twitter users @turd_wartsniff and @Bl4ptrep seem to have been behind the image manipulation and the two were quickly deemed supporters of GamerGate because of past tweets and participation in the movement’s subreddit KotakuInAction.

Of course, journalists are supposed to understand that you cannot paint an entire group by the actions of extremists. There is the general consensus that not all Muslims are terrorists, because of that exact reason. Even after so many attacks carried out by Islamic militants, people still understand that the majority of followers do not hold the beliefs that the perpetrators of these violent acts do.

If you’re the gaming press though, there is no room for such courtesies if a party does not hold the same fawning idolization for identity politics that you do. Which is why it is considered acceptable to publish such articles as Mr. Stanton has done. I’m glad that he was able to use this experience not to condemn this prank alongside GamerGate supporters, but instead blindly accuse a subset of gamers of being racist.

Although I don’t consider myself a part of GamerGate, I understand where they’re coming from. It’s articles like these which highlight the cognative dissonance shared by so many “progressive” writers which now litter the Internet with a lot to say about very little. I spend a large amount of time reading both sides of this topic and people involved in GamerGate don’t spend a lot of time discussing how to cause harm to people. It is simply not the majority and should not be treated as such.

I’ll wrap this up by pointing out that @Bl4ptrep even distanced himself from GamerGate months ago before these events unfolded. My adVICE? Try fact checking next time on a hit piece.


MMOnday: Heart of Thorns Impressions

gw2-hot-logoOne of the most anticipated releases in the MMORPG world this year has been Guild Wars 2‘s first expansion Heart of Thorns. It came two years after the game’s initial launch and boasted the  first raid, new class specializations and even a completely new class (in addition to plenty more). Last week players flooded into the new region to face the game’s recently awakened elder dragon Mordremoth and his hordes of minions.

So how is it? As someone who’s been playing for the last two years, the expansion feels very enjoyable so far. The class specializations take awhile to unlock (too long, according some of the most vocal critics of the new system), but the Hero Points needed offer a nice alternative to simply grinding enemies to gain experience for a new level as many MMOs opt for. Another new mechanic is gliding which feels smooth and offers a great way to traverse the new areas. Very reminiscent to Aion, another NCsoft-published MMORPG released in 2008.

Music and art direction are also strong. The background music is quite enjoyable and gamers may find themselves turning up their volume a bit to enjoy it. Plenty of new enemies have also been added and many feel unique and foreign. One of my favorite additions are the bipedal mushrooms which are happy to dive at players as they cross the jungle. Looking forward to discovering more as I venture further.

I can’t comment too much on the story, but playing the introductory sequence that brings you into the new region felt exciting and also set the tone for the story.

One special note I have to make is about the expansion’s launch: there was no downtime, no queues and little lag. Online games seem rarely prepared for hordes of players at launches or expansions, but ArenaNet did a great job of keeping the experience smooth and pain-free. I remember the launch of Warlords of Draenor and what a nightmare that was, so it was extremely refreshing to be able to play as usual even with such a surge of people.

Have you played yet? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

GaymerGate: Inside the Internet’s most mysogynistic movement

Getting to Know GaymerGate

Completely fabricated image
Completely fabricated image

GaymerGate, often shorted to the acronym GG, is an online movement that began in August 2014 after it came to light that a gaming journalist had engaged in sexual acts with a female game developer whom he had written about without disclosing any type of relationship. Tens of thousands of homosexual gamers took to social media to voice their discontent. The movement claimed to have been against what its members saw as an ethical transgression and fiercely criticized the standards of modern gaming publications in general. Officially, it had nothing to do with the heterosexual nature of the impropriety, but the fact that it had happened at all.

Some were critical of GG and pointed out the double standards of the movement. Developers and journalists had never been criticized for any exclusively-male orgies often held after conventions. Feminist culture critic Anita Snarkiseen called the group a bunch of “gay white nerds” who weren’t willing to let women into the industry.

Getting in with the Gaymers

Ethical disclosure: many bottles were traded for information
For bribing purposes

In order to fully understand GaymerGate and find out what it was really about, I had to infiltrate the movement from within. After familiarizing myself with their home on Reddit in a forum called r/KocktakuInAction, I began speaking with those that personally identified as belonging to the shadowy and leaderless group. One such “GaymerGater” agreed to speak to me, but asked to only be referred to by his initials “A.S.” Repercussions for those who turn their backs on GG are often ridicule and online harrassment… bullying which can only be prevented by completely logging off from social media, something near-impossible to do in today’s connected world.

The first question that had to be asked was, “Is it really about ethics?” I could see A.S. pause over Skype, but he slowly shook his head. “No,” he said, “and I’m sick of pretending it is.” The narrative just kept unwinding from there. It was, he admitted, an organized attempt to get women out of gaming.

Boys’ Club

A joystick can react in different ways depending on where it's touched
A joystick can react in different ways depending on where it’s touched

My link into GaymerGate patiently explained that gaming was never intended to be an activity for females. He pointed out the phallic origins of the joystick which still remains an iconic symbol for the hobby.

“This has always been a unique celebration of male-ness. When you wrap your hands around a controller and start jerking it around… it connects you. You’re right there with your brothers. It’s deep, man. Girls just don’t get that,” A.S. seemed to get a bit choked up a bit and I gave him a moment to collect himself, “It just isn’t fair for women to try to tempt the weaker straight men among us.”

He also admitted that GG would do anything it could to stop the influx of women into gaming, including criticizing their fashion sense and hairstyles on social media. Weight, however, was off-limits because “gaymers understand how tempting chocolate can be”.

Toning Down the Testosterone

lara-croftWomen have not taken kindly to GaymerGate or its facade of caring about “ethics in journalism”. Opponents of the movement have created their own group: Females Against GaymerGate, or faGG for short. They promise to keep shining the light on the misogyny spawned by GG. Multiple YouTube series have demonstrated how important characters such as Lara Croft are to gaming; “She’s definitely one of the most important female role models as far as characters go. For the next game though we really hope that Square Enix highlight her privileges, such as being white, thin, able-bodied, and cisgendered as well as acknowledge the inherent cultural oppression in exploring new territories.”

Girls fighting under the faGG banner have also sharply criticized gaymers for the assumption that they hold a monopoly on geeky men. They point out that some of the most desirable traits can be found among gamers, chief among them being their skilled hands from countless hours spent nimbly nudging analog sticks and timing precise keystrokes during critical moments.

Where do we go from here

GaymerGate wasn’t predicted to be a long-lived, but even today proponents keep the movement going. Likewise, faGG supporters are there at every turn to ensure women are able to get in on the joystick-slamming action in gaming.

The war rages on, but I hope that my exposé brings attention to the real motives behind GG and just how divisive it is in gaming. Bear this information in mind when deciding which side you support.