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There was one thing, ini­tial­ly, that drew me into GamerGate: the lie. The mad­den­ing sense of injus­tice that such a small group of jour­nal­ists could try and erase thou­sands of peo­ple out of cal­lous self-interest. That they could do so almost casu­al­ly, com­plete with shit-eating grins and a hearty sense of self-righteousness. The feel­ing that a few “enlight­ened” peo­ple out­weighed the mass­es; that the truth would be lost in a tor­rent of slan­der that expo­nen­tial­ly increased as time went on. When you’ve become an evan­ge­list for the truth, it con­sumes you. This is what drew me into GamerGate. I think there are a lot of peo­ple that have the idea that those in GamerGate are con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists or obses­sives; GamerGate is con­stant­ly shar­ing ideas and infor­ma­tion in an attempt to break through the wall of mis­in­for­ma­tion that has been erect­ed around them. GamerGate is — at its heart — the sto­ry of a push-back again­st media malfea­sance.

gg is side 1That’s why I find it so unpalat­able when some of the same peo­ple who wrote slan­der­ous pieces then dis­avow the truth. It makes my blood boil to watch a swindler con­fi­dent­ly assert that there is no such thing as objec­tive truth. Like assert­ing it makes it so; as if it absolves them of their dis­hon­esty and the dam­age that comes with it. I believe the truth has a pow­er, an urgen­cy, that keeps peo­ple mov­ing and fuels them. Those who believe in its pow­er and feel it has been cov­ered up can’t help but keep going until that truth sets peo­ple free.

Gaming is a small cor­ner of the world. I know this. We are not involved in some great con­flict of life and death. But it is our cor­ner and if we can’t look after our own com­mu­ni­ties, what chance do big­ger com­mu­ni­ties have? Activism is some­thing that — when done right — scales incred­i­bly well. A gen­er­a­tion is being built that will nev­er blind­ly trust the media — or any­one for that mat­ter. Once you have been on the receiv­ing end of the dis­tor­tion machine, you can’t help but ques­tion all doc­tri­nes that are sold as unques­tioned fact. If the media will go to such lengths to cre­ate a whole moun­tain of pro­pa­gan­da to hide some­thing as triv­ial as a group of peo­ple try­ing to reveal con­flicts of inter­est in Games Journalism, you begin to won­der what hap­pens when there are some real stakes on the table.

The mag­ni­tude of tak­ing on a false nar­ra­tive is frankly ter­ri­fy­ing; once peo­ple have come into con­tact with an opin­ion it clings to them like a par­a­site. People were almost rav­en­ous to believe the sto­ries about rov­ing gangs of misog­y­nist gamers and the hero­ic wom­en bring­ing female rep­re­sen­ta­tion to the games indus­try for the very first time.

We found out that the ground had been well pre­pared for the­se ideas; a steady diet of fear and shame had been fed to the read­er­ship of many of the­se out­lets. The jour­nal­ists stood like priests, ready to absolve you of your mod­ern sins if only they would cast out the neck­beard­ed dev­ils in their mid­st. If you don’t fit the mold of an oppressed per­son then you can become an “ally” to Social Justice and work off your genet­ic sins in servi­tude of their great dog­ma.

Safe-space doc­trine, white priv­i­lege, inter­sec­tion­al­i­ty: the­se were ideas gamers were unfa­mil­iar with, they were alien and mean­ing­less. The cul­ture war was thrust upon them, they did not seek it out. Those who say that GamerGate is pure­ly about being “anti social-justice” have it back­wards. Gamers came to com­bat the lies being spread about them and found an ide­ol­o­gy behind it — fuel­ing and inform­ing it. The two were inter­twined. This was mere­ly a mild skir­mish for Social Justice. And one they expect­ed to win quick­ly and com­plete­ly by uni­lat­er­al­ly print­ing self-insert fan-fiction in which the glo­ri­ous jour­nal­ists hero­ical­ly slayed the sav­age gamer and ush­ered in a gold­en age of artis­tic expres­sion. Their source for this was a Tumblr post and hand­ful of shaky aca­d­e­mics. All turned up to 11 and blast­ed out in con­cert.

I remem­ber the ques­tion of “Why are you so angry?” being lev­eled at gamers on the inter­net. The answer is sim­ple; injus­tice makes those with a sense of jus­tice feel right­ly aggriev­ed. The nat­u­ral reac­tion to a group of peo­ple attack­ing your rep­u­ta­tion over a sus­tained peri­od of time is anger and pas­sion­ate refu­ta­tion. That’s the most insult­ing part of this whole affair to me; the fact that those who slan­dered gamers are indig­nant, appalled you don’t take this treat­ment lying down. Being in a com­mu­ni­ty that is under siege by the media is some­thing gamers are used to. It has been their nor­mal since the incep­tion of video games. Refuting the­se mis­guid­ed ideas has become the gamers quest, to instill the virtue of inter­ac­tive worlds and free­dom of cre­ation found in video games.

The idea that games are some­how harm­ful has changed hands from left to right like a hot pota­to over the years but it is still has the same dis­cred­it­ed idea at its core. Despite moun­tains of evi­dence to con­trary, they assert that when games are con­sumed by their appro­pri­ate audi­ence they can cause an adverse effect to the fiber of soci­ety. That games are a mali­cious and cor­ro­sive force that needs to be cur­tailed and cen­sored for the “greater good.”

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Gamers became cal­loused through the­se exchanges of self defense; they real­ized that no one was going to give them the respect and under­stand­ing they feel they deserved. Not unless they went out there and shook loose the mis­con­cep­tions built up over the years. To refute the nar­ra­tive in the strongest pos­si­ble terms and cite evi­dence while stand­ing our ground. This has also been the stan­dard oper­at­ing pro­ce­dure GamerGate has adopt­ed, except this time we were fight­ing our own “enthu­si­ast” press. In the past games have been accused of being demon­ic, obscene, addic­tive, blas­phe­mous, caus­ing vio­lence, low­er­ing intel­li­gence, pro­duc­ing mur­der­ers, and now stand tri­al for caus­ing racism and sex­ism. This is just anoth­er chap­ter of the same book, and I think this will be looked back on with the same degree of cringe and shame. The pro­po­nents of this world­view will look as car­toon­ish and out of touch as the rant­i­ng min­is­ters, dis­graced politi­cians, and rav­ing dis­barred lawyers of yes­ter­year. This is the moral pan­ic of the mon­th that Social Justice drug out to a year.

I’m often accused of being on the “wrong side of his­to­ry,” as if there is some pre-destined direc­tion the world must be mov­ing at all times. As if there is a set “right” side of any debate to be on before the mer­it of the points will even been dis­cussed. What the jour­nal­ists and pun­dits arrayed again­st gamers sim­ply can’t under­stand is that our dif­fer­ences are what make us strong. Our dif­fer­ences make us diverse, and learn­ing to live with those dif­fer­ences, and make peace with them, is what makes us adults.

You can’t have an hon­est exchange of ideas if you think those who think dif­fer­ent­ly than you deserve to be washed from the face of the earth. There will always be an ebb and flow of ideas, a move between right and left, indi­vid­u­al and col­lec­tive, the per­son­al and the pub­lic. History does not have a “side,” it ignores the fences put around it, mov­ing as it pleas­es. This is true for human his­to­ry, not just the realm of video games.

There is a weari­ness devel­op­ing. Not a weari­ness of debate, but a weari­ness of wait­ing for an hon­est debate to final­ly start. People are ready to throw their arms up in the air and just give up on the impor­tant con­ver­sa­tions that we need to be con­tin­u­al­ly hav­ing. There is a lot of noise but very lit­tle sig­nal — and even less being processed. Moments of under­stand­ing and use­ful dis­course are the excep­tion — not the rule. The lie takes on a life of its own, it becomes self-perpetuating, and those who wrap their egos in it fierce­ly defend it. Shielding and prop­ping up this unwieldy doc­trine becomes an ends unto itself, and so no real issues can be dis­cussed. Only recrim­i­na­tions and finger-pointing about the lie itself. It masks the human­i­ty of adver­saries, and makes the goal a com­mu­ni­ty built to “defeat” those who indul­ge in wrong-think and dare to be their dif­fer­ent from them.

What GamerGate means to me is the same as what being a gamer means to me: it means com­mu­ni­ty and a place to share ideas and dreams. It’s about over­com­ing insur­mount­able obsta­cles with the help of those around you. It’s about fos­ter­ing the cre­ation of dig­i­tal words and inge­nious mechan­ics and being able to read cov­er­age from your peers that guide you to the best play expe­ri­ences and a deep­er under­stand­ing of the medi­um you love. So that’s why I push back, that’s why I’m still here one year on. That’s why I sup­port GamerGate. And I’m not dead, yet.

(Disclaimer: The opin­ions expressed in this arti­cle are the author’s own and do not nec­es­sar­i­ly rep­re­sent those of the staff and/or any con­trib­u­tors to this site.)

John SweeneyOpinionGamerGate,OpinionThere was one thing, ini­tial­ly, that drew me into GamerGate: the lie. The mad­den­ing sense of injus­tice that such a small group of jour­nal­ists could try and erase thou­sands of peo­ple out of cal­lous self-interest. That they could do so almost casu­al­ly, com­plete with shit-eating grins and a hearty sense…
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John Sweeney
John Sweeney is a ter­ri­bly British man with a back­ground in engi­neer­ing. He writes long-form edi­to­ri­al con­tent with analy­sis of gam­ing, games media and inter­net cul­ture. He also does the occa­sion­al video game ret­ro­spec­tive with a week­ly column about Magic the Gathering thrown in for good mea­sure. He also does most of our inter­views for some rea­son, we have no idea why. A staunch sup­port­er of free speech and con­sumer rights; skep­ti­cal of agen­da dri­ven media and sus­pi­cious of unac­cou­table author­i­ty but always hope­ful for change.