GamerGate One Year On: GamerGate Is…

John is here during the year anniversy of the event in gaming known as GamerGate explaining what GamerGate is to him and why he pushes back.

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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.)

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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.
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