As someone who doesn’t tweet, browse reddit, read YouTube comments, or do basically anything else to damage my mental health, I was surprised to find out that #GamerGate is still a thing. Well, that’s not entirely true; I have known is still been talked about since it started in late August last year, but it continues to confuse me.
We don’t need to recount the history, and frankly it’s so tangled I’m not sure if there is any way to properly put together the full history now of something that only started seven months ago. Right now, I cannot trust any source I can find on the topic, which is fitting because, Today on The Anime Harvest, we’re talking about Ethics in Games Journalism(?)
If you’re looking for an explanation of #GamerGate, don’t. Also, you came to the wrong place, because at this point, I have no fucking clue what it is. As far as I can tell, #GamerGate didn’t actually start as what it is now. At its conception, the term just referred to a particular controversy, thus the “gate” name. (And on a side note, can we all come together and just agree on one thing? That naming every controversy “-gate” has gotten old, and was stupid to begin with.)
However, now #GamerGate refers to a group that formed as a result of that controversy. The main controversy that’s still going on now is whether the #GamerGate group is just a bunch of angry misogynistic gamers, or a consumerist organization working for improved ethics in games journalism. I’m not here to criticise of defend #GamerGate, I’m just trying to understand what is going on, and hopefully get a clearer conversation going.
In an attempt to figure this whole thing out, I went to the GamerGate wiki and started reading. After looking into it, I have to say… Look, if you tell me you’re with GamerGate or pro-GamerGate, I get it, but it’s not going to mean anything to me.
I get that the pro GamerGate side isn’t made up of a bunch of raging misogynists, that they have raised money for organization that help bring more women into the industry, and that many women associate with GamerGate. I get that media, particularly the mainstream media which still seems to think gamers are some basement dwellers with no connection to the broader society, has done the level of due diligence and research that would get a C- in Journalism 101. I get that games journalism needs to be improved. But I don’t see GamerGate actually being focussed on that.
Don’t get me wrong, the group has done some good thing in holding “traditional” games media to a higher standard, but a lot of what’s been done has been through overly aggressive attacks. For example, it seems to the main way GamerGate has been getting its message across, both to mainstream media and gaming media sites, has been mailing advertisers to pressure them off certain sites. Now, if Kotaku and Gawker were overtly anti-gamer and maliciously spreading lies, I’d understand that. Consumers are the underdog, they have to utilize whatever power they’ve got.
But I don’t think the media is being malicious. When it comes to the gaming media, the industry is still young, and a lot of the people involved got there through a hobby, not a professional interest. When it comes to the broader media, it’s just idiots thinking they have a trivial story and can get off early for the day. Either way, aggressively getting ads pulled when they criticize you kinda reinforces the message that gamers are just being immature.
And looking though the GamerGate wiki, it doesn’t look like a campaign for ethics in journalism. It looks like a campaign against anyone who opposes GamerGate. The front page features Anita Sarkeesian, who isn’t a games journalist. Far be it from me to defend her uniformed, poorly reasoned opinions on games, but she is not a journalist, she’s a high-budget YouTube ranter.
Under the wiki’s “Boycott List”, almost every reason given for an organization being on the list is that they were anti-GamerGate or ran negative coverage over GamerGate. Under the “Support List”, the organizations are either pro-GamerGate or at least have positive coverage of GamerGate. Reading this you would think that the definition of “ethical” was “pro-GamerGate”.
But what about the games media people who haven’t been vocal on either side. Does GamerGate Wiki care about their journalistic ethics? Evidently, no. Among the people with some of the most influence in gaming right now, ethics violations are rampant. I’m talking about YouTubers. YouTube gamers are engaged in paid promotions and native adverting with clear conflicts of interest and little to no disclosure, but GamerGate Wiki does not appear to care about that. The claim that this is just about journalistic ethics is getting damn hard to believe.
Like I said, I don’t know what GamerGate is. And that’s the problem. I don’t think this wiki represents the individuals I’ve seen standing for GamerGate, and all my criticism of this wiki is not directed at GamerGaters. But when this is what I find when I try to understand what GamerGate is, you can’t blame me or others for not understanding your position.
Please, just don’t talk to me about “GamerGate”. If you want to share an opinion on games media, or anything else for that matter, explain it fully and carefully. Post it somewhere that doesn’t have a character limit. Say it with sentences, not a fucking hashtag. #Don’tTalkToMeAboutGamerGate
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