I've been holding back on writing something on #GamerGate for a while. Believe me, it's been tricky, but I can contain myself no more - it's finally time to put the toxic mess that is #GamerGate and its associated shit-flinging to bed. It's always been tricky for gaming, our long-maligned and insular hobby, to clean its own house - but it has to be done if we want to be proud to call ourselves gamers.
First, some history for those who haven't been following:
#GamerGate started as an astroturfed campaign by a mixture of reactionary misogynists and trolls on 4chan's /v/ (and related areas of the internet). Today, it has become a monster that is spilling into the real world and threatening lives and careers.
At its inception, the movement was based around a feigned concern for games journalism as a thinly-veiled cover to abuse developer Zoe Quinn; an invented conspiracy based on an uncritical approach to the claims of a jilted ex-partner and a whole lot of actively malicious invention. It's worth pointing out that all of these concerns had been thoroughly debunked pretty much from the start, but were and continue to be perpetuated by those astroturfing the movement.
What followed was a period of active astroturfing on reddit and twitter by a hard core few based on IRC and 8chan to try to draw in others as a shield, on the premise that "games journalism is corrupt and needs to be fixed".
The idea that games journalism could stand to be improved is a reasonable one; large parts of the gaming press remain the same as they were twenty years ago - a trade press that does little more than reprint press releases and rate games on a 7-to-10 scale. So when the gaming press reacted negatively to the harassment, death threats, and rape threats made by people supporting #GamerGate and calling themselves "true gamers" (as you would expect from any reasonable person), this was an ideal opportunity to polarise the debate and attempt to demonise the gaming press as the enemy of gamers.
What we're left with is a movement that at its core has a cadre of embittered trolls content to doxx, send rape threats to, and harass women in gaming and feminists in particular, using the wider movement as a shield. In an ironic twist on the also-astroturfed #NotYourShield, people with entirely reasonable concerns about the state of games journalism are legitimising the actions of its more extreme members through their participation and support.
There have been some excellent articles exploring the "why" of #GamerGate. These two in particular are interesting discussions about the movement and the complexity of its cause and of its membership, and are definitely worth reading if you have the time:
So where do we go from here?
Standing against harassment and misogyny in the games industry is a positive thing. Calling for improvements in games journalism is also a positive thing. The two are not as inevitably opposed as those who have an agenda to push would have you believe. Unfortunately, the movement as it stands is toxic and incapable of disowning the actions of its hard core, so rescuing it from the mire is likely impossible.
If you want to improve games journalism but don't support the harassment and threats, ditch #GamerGate and keep fighting your fight elsewhere. Hold journalists accountable, but don't shield these people and their actions, and don't be sucked in by hatred that hurts gaming more than it helps it.