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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
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.