A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article shaming the press for basically ignoring GamerGate. I was not alone, with Frank Cifaldi being one notable example who made literally dozens of tweets like the one below.
Erik Kain, a Forbes journalist who has written more sympathetically to the #gamergate cause, has also made that note from the other side.
Shortly afterwards, the Anita shooting threat and Brianna Wu being forced to flee her home resulted in the real press finally picking up on the story, and not surprisingly with those two events driving the coverage, my predictions were correct in that #GamerGate has been covered as primarily a vehicle for harassment. #Gamergaters complaining that they aren’t covering their trumped up bullshit against Nathan Grayson don’t seem to get that those kinds of penny-ante inside baseball stories DON’T make national news, but potential school shootings sure as hell do. And THAT’S why stories have finally shown up in the MSM press, including CNN, MSNBC multiple times, New York Times, Rolling Stone, CBS, and NPR among others.
I’m guessing that once the New York Times is reporting on their field of expertise while they’ve been actively ignoring it, the gaming press started to actually feel a sense of shame, because at that point they were pretty clearly derelict in their duty. Brianna Wu calling them out from the Washington Post may have also been a factor. Because it wasn’t until then that we started to see the flood of sites actually acknowledge and, in most cases, condemn #gamergate.
[W]hen “GamerGate” rose up to cover over a campaign of harassment with a veneer of concern for the ethics of games journalism, it more or less set off every single disgust alarm I have. Though I’m sure some good people have been roped into this mess under this guise, the ethical concern portion of all this is largely a farce, a fallacy.
Of course, this whole thing didn’t begin with “ethics.” When demands from the proto-GamerGate crowd to cover the Quinn “controversy” got louder, we discussed the topic internally. We debated its newsworthiness — it turns out we don’t always agree — but it was the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics that ultimately helped me make the decision to decline coverage of what was now being called a conspiracy. “Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect,” the code reads under the heading of “Minimize Harm.”
Gamespot (10/17/2014) - Attempts to play it safe by not mentioning #gamergate by name.
Although we consider any debate dealing with game journalism ethics to be vitally important, we do not condone any actions that are meant to harass, bully, or intimidate others. We also refuse to give oxygen to a disturbing minority who seek to use this debate as an excuse for their own appalling actions.
Kotaku (10/20/2014) – After they had just given oxygen to the short-lived counterprotest, they later published We’re all Tired of Gamergate.
Here’s where we seem to stand: Much of the press and the gaming world is repulsed by Gamergate, a movement that is—be it the case that it was the actions of extremists or not—inextricably associated with harassment and that, as much as its roots may be claimed to be about games journalism still suffers the core rot of having taken seed as a blog post written by a person trying to assassinate the character of his ex-girlfriend.
Game Informer (10/20/2014) – Notably, this magazine is effectively the house organ for Gamestop, the video game retail chain. Note, this article is a surprisingly thorough history of the original sins of #gamergate, the harassment of Anita and Zoe, and seems to be pretty accurate, a good read if you want a reminder why you should be pissed off about the cataclysm that is #gamergate.
Media outlets outside of gaming are looking into this mess in the video game community and they see GamerGate as a hate group. It is hard for me to disagree with that conclusion. Many of the same people who harassed Anita Sarkeesian during her Kickstarter campaign two years ago, many of the same tactics of intimidation, victim blaming, and conspiracy theories, have come out of the woodwork to support GamerGate. Why wouldn’t they? It legitimizes and normalizes their hatred of these women. “GamerGate does not condone harassment,” has become a common quote when allegations of abuse crop up. I find that hard to believe. The goals of those who harass and send death threats and the goals of GamerGate are the same. Those harassers are comfortable in GamerGate; there is no reason for them to feel unwelcome. People on the GamerGate forums celebrated when Anita Sarkeesian cancelled her talk at USU because of the school shooting threat. Defending this movement after two months of this behavior is giving tacit support to an environment that encourages harassment of women in the video game industry.
The only story I’ve seen fished out with the GamerGate hashtag is legitimate harassment. I have seen absolutely vile, irredeemable messages delivered to women who have dared to make games, critique games and, you know, BE ON THE INTERNET in the vicinity of games. And by stating this, I am not inviting you to tell me, now, whether or not you agree with the views of industry critics like Anita Sarkeesian – that’s irrelevant.
If you feel defensive or angry right now, it’s because you’re being mentioned in the same breath as: those who send death threats to developers; those who launch volleys of sexist remarks at women reviewing games; those who threaten school shootings in order to shut down a woman’s speech (about video games!) at a university. I don’t believe Joystiq readers stand for that, but I also see requests for our team to get “back” to writing about video games whenever we touch on gender disparity or LGBTQ issues. Well, we can’t do that while people are getting attacked in the same room. We can’t talk about games or ethics or “just games” while this is going on.
Somewhere in here, the ESA offered the most milquetoast of all condemnations possible. I suspect that next week, they’ll report that the sky is, in fact, blue. Usually.
“Threats of violence and harassment are wrong,” said a spokesman for the Entertainment Software Association in a statement. “They have to stop. There is no place in the video game community—or our society—for personal attacks and threats.”
This leaves some notable exceptions acting as cowards in stating a position. IGN (the number one gaming site in the world), The Escapist (which is trying to pivot to cater to disaffected gamergaters). PCGamer has no editorial I can find, but are limiting their comments to just twitter (and getting boycott threats for it), thus managing to be spineless and alienate gamergaters at the same time.
As for the rest of them, most of them for whatever reason haven’t posted about the issue since, which means that MSNBC has run more coverage than any of them. It’s nice that they took the time to take a stand for what’s right. Maybe, if we’re lucky, they’ll feel inclined to do it again in a month or two.
And for what it’s worth, none of them were as good as Clickhole’s.
Is Gamergate a vast, complex, and diverse community?
Yes! It is not composed, as the mainstream media would lead you to believe, solely of white male trolls. It also has female trolls. It has African-American trolls and Asian trolls, gay trolls and straight trolls. In fact, Gamergate is all about the inclusion of anyone—regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation—whose views on video games and how we should think about them conform exactly to those of the movement at large.
It is important to remember that the members of Gamergate, only some of whom threaten to rape and murder women, are simply fighting for ethics in gaming journalism.