What Is GamerGate? Here’s An Explainer For All The Confused Non-Nerds Out There.

Back about a month ago, we told you about GamerGate when it was in its infancy stages, and I kind of figured that was the end. Instead, it’s mutated into a truly ridiculous mess that’s brought in political operatives and sucked in unwilling celebrities. And, thus, a lot of people are hearing about it, but they’re not clear on what it is. And so, for the benefit of those of you wondering what the hell is going on, here is an explainer.

OK, so what the hell is GamerGate?

It’s a lot of things, to a lot of people, but sticking to the facts, it’s a hashtag that began trending on Twitter as a response to pieces from major gaming outlets with titles like ‘Gamers’ Are Over by Leigh Alexander:

‘Games culture’ is a petri dish of people who know so little about how human social interaction and professional life works that they can concoct online ‘wars’ about social justice or ‘game journalism ethics,’ straight-faced, and cause genuine human consequences. Because of video games.

Depending on whom you ask, these pieces were a reflection of the widespread corruption in the gaming industry and the collusion between the gaming press and game developers against gamers. Or they were a reflection of a bunch of adults finally losing their s**t on their largely teenage audience.

What triggered these angry editorials?

The ex of an indie game developer, Zoe Quinn, alleged among other things that she slept with developers for good reviews of her free game Depression Quest. Unfortunately, the gaming community has a long history of being crappy towards women, and a lot of the misogynist dolts who occupy the hobby also hate Depression Quest because it’s a game critics like that does not involve shooting. So they were on Quinn like bedbugs about how she’s a big ol’ whore and obviously slept her way to positive reviews of a game she released for free.

What’s the response from gamers?

Essentially, that the misogynist attacks either aren’t happening, which, you know, they are. Or that it’s a minority of all gamers and thus game outlets shouldn’t be so mean. It hurts their fee-fees to admit that, yes, maybe there might just be a few terrible human beings on Xbox Live!

They also claim that the gaming press is in bed with developers and thus there are massive ethical breaches. In other words, it’s the fault of the gaming press that a bunch of gamers are acting like total dicks to people. People like, say, Anita Sarkeesian, who’s been getting this crap ever since she launched a Kickstarter in 2012 to talk about how women are treated in video games.

Well, obviously all gamers aren’t misogynists…

Sure, and most Southerners wouldn’t go near the Klu Klux Klan, but what region do you think of, when you think of racist idiots? A small, vocal group can taint the majority with their words and actions, and anybody who pretends otherwise is, to be frank, naive.

Adding to the problem is that GamerGaters can insist up and down that their movement is not about misogyny, but the simple fact of the matter is that whenever a woman has an opinion about a video game, she gets attacked. All Felicia Day (The Guild) did was say she was hesitant to discuss it because she was worried about being attacked, and then her home address was posted online. Brianna Wu, a developer, was driven out of her house. Jenn Frank, a gaming journalist, literally quit because the harassment was too much. Somebody on Twitter is threatening to assign a private detective to investigate Quinn.

And that’s just the recent examples. Just ask, say, Jade Raymond. Or Team Liquid. And those were just the examples I found in five minutes on Google. There are many, many others.

Are there ethical problems in gaming journalism?

Sure, plenty, but none of them are being talked about in GamerGate. As you read GamerGaters talking about the problems they find in the gaming press, it’s all about indie games getting any time at all and “social justice agendas” held by major sites like, say, Polygon, which posted a review of Bayonetta 2 asking that maybe they dial back the sleazy T&A since it gets in the way of the actual game. To GamerGaters, this isn’t an “objective review.” An objective review would just tell them there were titties. Really, once you read about these “ethical breaches,” it rapidly becomes clear that for most of those involved in GamerGate, it’s that the gaming press isn’t fighting hard enough to tell them what they want to hear.

What would you say to any GamerGaters who got to the end of this instead of skipping down to the comments?

Simply this: If you look at the facts, people are being hurt. Because of their opinions about games. Games are fun, but they shouldn’t be the most meaningful thing in your life. If you put a consumer product ahead of the health and safety of other people, that shows a profound lack of perspective. In short, it’s not about you. So stop trying to make it that way.