Sunday, November 2, 2014

Gamergate: What it is

I'm more in tune with gaming news than the average person, but by now I'm guessing that at least some of your have heard of Gamergate. I'm also guessing that the source you heard about it from was not reporting on how it began or what it really was, since larger news outlets tend to cover niche stories from ignorant, uninformed standpoints.

To that end, I've decided to post a quick, easy, 10-point guide to what the Gamergate scandal actually is. I'll leave out the names, since they wouldn't mean anything to most readers anyway, and just give you the bullet-points of what happened. Oh, and before I begin, I should point out how stupid I think it is that we use the "-gate" suffix for every scandal and controversy that comes down the pipe.


1. A female game developer releases an indie game.

2. Said game gets good reviews.

3. A report surfaces that the developer bargained sex in exchange for some key positive reviews. This claim, made by her ex-husband, is later shown to be unverifiable and probably false.

4. This series of events nonetheless reignites the already ongoing debate about questionable ethics in game reviewing. The initial scandal that a developer may have bartered sexual favors for good reviews is referred to in the gaming press as "Gamergate".

5. A group of feminist gamers argues that this developer was only targeted by these claims because she is female.

6. Some members of the gaming community dismiss this claim, pointing out that the bigger issue is about the ethics of game reviewers who often receive undisclosed benefits in exchange for positive reviews. They push for a general consumer revolt against the current gaming review industry.
7. Other members of the gaming community respond instead by attacking both the female developer and said feminists via hate mail, death threats, doxing (releasing the victim's personal information online), and assorted other tactics.

8. Other women in gaming step forward and complain that this illustrates the latent sexism of the gaming community.

9. Those women are similarly targeted by the same types of attacks.

10. Press outlets outside of gaming become aware of this and begin reporting on how these women have come under fire. They start calling the notion that men in gaming focus on attacking women in gaming "Gamergate".


There, now you know what Gamergate is. So what have we learned?

First, we've seen yet again that virtually no grassroots movement is able to stay on point for long. What began as a very legitimate critique of disclosure rules for gaming reviewers quickly got derailed and turned into something it was never supposed to be.

Second, we're reminded that feminist activists are always ready take over every conversation with complaints of sexism. This can be rather obtrusive, given that there are other subjects that exist and are worth discussing. However, it's hard to get too annoyed at them when:

Third, we're repeatedly shown that there are always men willing to be big enough assholes to validate the feminists' complaints. I mean, come on guys. How hard is it to just not be a dick to women?

Fourth, and finally, we see another example of the fact that non-specialized journalists rarely do an even moderately competent job of reporting on special-interest stories. As usual, they came in late with no knowledge of the topic and wrote virtually useless articles misrepresenting or sensationalizing what little information they actually had. This misleads the public about what is happening, and it gives people the illusion of having an informed opinion on a topic, which they can then spread via word-of-mouth, further obscuring the actual truth of a situation.

Well now I've made my effort to address that flow of misinformation. Hopefully it helps.

1 comment:

  1. My contact with the video game industry is limited to The Comedy Button, a podcast featuring people from the games review industry but which almost never discusses games, and the main blog at Penny Arcade, where they assume everyone is a gamer. I only heard about it in passing at Penny Arcade so I had absolutely no context or detail on it. It was really only discussed in passing and if I recall it was something about how death threats are probably not good.

    So, this was enlightening to me. But the thing that interests me is not about feminism or whatever, but about how the review outlets are different from metal music review outlets. I thought IGN was the only actual "industry" left over there (whereas we have I guess Decibel and a few nods from more mainstream areas). So I thought it looked pretty much like it does here, with bloggers and a very few professionals. But since there's actual money in video games, there might actually be a profit motive to bribery.