one year header forward

I doubt many peo­ple thought the con­tro­ver­sy that be­come known as GamerGate would con­tin­ue ex­ist­ing and gain­ing mo­men­tum over the course of an en­tire year. Many pre­dict­ed its demise as ear­ly as the 9th of September, pre­sum­ing what some per­ceived as the short at­ten­tion spans of Gamers be­ing tak­en up by the re­lease of the game Destiny. Its death has been loud­ly pro­claimed on al­most a week­ly ba­sis since its in­cep­tion, but twelve months on it is — stub­born­ly — still here and still be­ing fu­eled by waves of in­creas­ing­ly poor jour­nal­ism meant to dis­lodge it. So gamers man­aged to sur­vive the full force of the games press and main­stream media’s fran­tic at­tacks. The ques­tion is: what now?

I’d like to use a quote from Maiyannah Lysander of Highland Arrow and her Editorial “Anti‐Ethical,” which is, in my opin­ion, one of the finest pieces writ­ten about im­prov­ing stan­dards in any me­dia:

So the ques­tion we ul­ti­mate­ly come to is: what now?  There is no self‐evident or ob­vi­ous easy vic­to­ry out of all of this, no real end ob­jec­tive we can hope to at­tain in the pur­suit of an eth­i­cal gam­ing press.  As the fa­mous British politi­cian Leonard Henry Courtney’s quote goes: “the price of peace is eter­nal vig­i­lance.”  Ethicality is af­ter all a moral code, and laps­es in it are nev­er guar­an­teed not to hap­pen.”  Maiyannah Lysander, Highland Arrow

I feel that be­ing a watch‐dog that is able to pro­vide cor­rec­tions to the press and give rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion to con­sumers is a good role for the so­cial me­dia pres­ence of GamerGate — and for any­one else who wants to in­crease the ac­cu­ra­cy and stan­dards of the gam­ing press. All you can do is give ev­i­dence that who­ev­er is writ­ing the ar­ti­cle is be­ing mis­led and hope they lis­ten. It’s not flashy, or ex­cit­ing, but pro­vid­ing a counter‐argument and hav­ing the facts to hand out over and over — even when you are shot down most of the time — and find­ing those will­ing to lis­ten is the best pol­i­cy to win­ning over the press. Be con­sis­tent, be ro­bust and you will find peo­ple will­ing to lis­ten to your sto­ry.

When a prov­ably false state­ment is point­ed out to a jour­nal­ist, they have an oblig­a­tion to act on it by is­su­ing a cor­rec­tion. When they fail to do so, there is a process we need to fol­low. First of all, we can con­tact an ed­i­tor or site man­ag­er or see if the or­ga­ni­za­tion as an in­ter­nal om­buds­man. This has pro­vid­ed some suc­cess with or­ga­ni­za­tions like ABC and CBC, but has not yet re­sult­ed in full re­trac­tions or sanc­tions against writ­ers.

When an ed­i­tor or site man­age­ment will not deal with an ob­vi­ous false­hood or con­sid­er ev­i­dence, we move onto things like Disrespectful Nod. Contacting af­fil­i­ates and ad­ver­tis­ers to ap­ply pres­sure on site man­age­ment to im­prove stan­dards and pre­vent ba­sic er­rors and cor­rect wild­ly in­ac­cu­rate as­ser­tions.  This is Media Advocacy 101. Contacting ad­ver­tis­ers is a last re­sort, but it is one that has proven suc­cess­ful. One year on and GamerGate is still, at its heart, a con­sumer re­volt and boy­cott of shod­dy jour­nal­ism re­lat­ing to videogames that has been con­sis­tent­ly re­port­ed as a form of “ter­ror­ism” or re­cent­ly as a “Campaign of rape threats” by WIRED.

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Some parts of the press are, in every sense of the word, un­rea­son­able. They have proven them­selves un­able to be rea­soned with on more than one oc­ca­sion. When ev­i­dence is placed right in front of their face — screamed so loud they can’t ig­nore it — they con­tin­ue to swear black is white. Here we reach the realms of the ir­re­deemable and those who act with de­lib­er­ate mal­ice and ill in­tent.  You can only re­form some­one who is will­ing to re­form; you can only ed­u­cate and in­form those open to new in­for­ma­tion. A huge chunk of the gam­ing press and the main­stream me­dia have shown them­selves to be en­tire­ly un­con­cerned when what they are say­ing can be shown to be false. Those ac­tive­ly seek­ing out cor­rect in­for­ma­tion and do­ing sim­ple re­search are even more rare.

After SPJAirplay, it’s be­com­ing in­creas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to have poor re­port­ing go un­chal­lenged and un­no­ticed. Reporters like Rebecca Aguilar have wok­en up to Gamers and their con­cerns and peo­ple like her seem much more at home with the idea of press ethics and stan­dards, re­mark­ing that peo­ple claim­ing to know about jour­nal­is­tic ethics whilst not hold­ing any jour­nal­ism qual­i­fi­ca­tions is a “red flag.” Many jour­nal­ists at the event were im­pressed with the com­mit­ment and pas­sion of the pan­elists who were will­ing to en­dure a bomb‐threat to keep a dis­cus­sion they were hun­gry to have go­ing. By con­trast, not a sin­gle mem­ber of their op­po­si­tion, not one jour­nal­ist who had so round­ly dis­missed the ideas of GamerGate, was able to muster the courage to even at­tend the event.

The path of least re­sis­tance and least trou­ble is a men­tal rut al­ready made. It re­quires trou­ble­some work to un­der­take the al­ter­ation of old be­liefs. ” ― John Dewey

What we are work­ing against here are prob­lems sys­temic in the en­tire news me­dia. Changing the way peo­ple read news and opin­ion, and re­mov­ing the built‐in ten­den­cy we have that as­sumes a jour­nal­ist is knowl­edge­able on the top­ic at hand will take time. What is be­ing at­tempt­ed now is noth­ing short of a root‐and‐branch re‐examination of how the pub­lic in­ter­faces with all form of me­dia. This is go­ing to be a long process, and one that wasn’t start­ed just last year.

But once again, con­sis­tent use of the facts bares fruit; as more of the pub­lic slow­ly sees be­hind the cur­tain they be­come more dis­trust­ful of what the me­dia has sold them. Ultimately, this leads to a pub­lic far bet­ter in­formed about video games, agen­da push­ing, and the short­com­ings of the me­dia in cov­er­ing top­ics they don’t ful­ly un­der­stand. The pa­tient dis­pelling of myths is a thank­less task, but one that hun­dreds of peo­ple un­der­take on so­cial me­dia every day. I would like to thank those peo­ple for their tire­less ef­forts in im­prov­ing the stand­ing of the gam­ing com­mu­ni­ty. Even if in a small way, they are help­ing im­prove jour­nal­ism as a whole.

The con­cept of “lev­el­ing up” is used as a wink­ing ref­er­ence to the sur­re­al schlock of the “Law and Order” episode, but it has be­come an in­te­gral part of what GamerGate has achieved and how it wants to progress. The gam­ing com­mu­ni­ty has a chance to turn games me­dia from a provin­cial back­wa­ter re­gard­ed with con­tempt by “real jour­nal­ists” to a lead­ing ex­am­ple of how the de­cline in press stan­dards and pro­fes­sion­al­ism can be re­versed with the help of read­ers. Gaming is the biggest en­ter­tain­ment medi­um on earth, that is in­dis­putable, and we have an op­por­tu­ni­ty as gamers to make its cov­er­age a shin­ing ex­am­ple of ro­bust, in­de­pen­dent con­sumer ad­vice, and analy­sis.

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I don’t think most peo­ple re­al­ize how far gamers have come. Through sheer per­sis­tence and grit we got an au­di­ence with the Society of Professional Journalism. At every turn we have tak­en every op­por­tu­ni­ty to force our crit­ics to en­gage us. The smear pieces are mere­ly a symp­tom of an old press fight­ing an in­creas­ing­ly los­ing bat­tle. Hell, GamerGate could even im­pact the way the US con­sti­tu­tion is in­ter­pret­ed due to the case of Eron Gjoni hav­ing gained the in­ter­est of lead­ing civ­il lib­er­ties lawyers with a col­umn in the Washington Post who are am­i­cus for the case and ad­vo­cat­ing on be­half of Eron.  We’ve helped shape FTC guide­lines, we’ve gained con­ces­sions from out­lets like PC Gamer who have re­moved bla­tant con­flicts of in­ter­est. This was all most­ly achieved by peo­ple you will nev­er hear of; GamerGate is of­ten de­scribed as neb­u­lous but that is part of its ad­van­tage — the ideas broad­cast are in­stilled by an army of reg­u­lar gamers who just want to see their hob­by, their pas­sion, be a bet­ter place.

The at­tack pieces we’ve al­ready seen on the one year an­niver­sary are a re­flec­tion of how threat­ened un­eth­i­cal jour­nal­ists and de­vel­op­ers feel of the new­found ac­tivism of the gam­ing pub­lic. But it’s a con­fi­dence trick, a façade. Like Michael Koretzky, head of the Florida chap­ter of the Society of Professional Journalism said, there has been a wall of si­lence over SPJAirplay. They don’t cov­er it be­cause its mere ex­is­tence dis­proves their nar­ra­tive.

Obviously, Kotaku and Polygon wrote noth­ing on pur­pose. This wasn’t an over­sight – their ed­i­tors know­ing­ly ig­nored the biggest gam­ing sto­ry of the week.

Why? So far, I can’t muse a rea­son that’s both in­ten­tion­al and eth­i­cal” -Michael Koretzky, SPJ

When some­one with­out an agen­da or who is act­ing in good faith comes into the core ideas and ev­i­dence of GamerGate, they can’t help but con­cede that the con­sumer re­volt may have a point. This hap­pened re­peat­ed­ly at SJPAirplay, and the fruit of those en­coun­ters and ques­tions that arose will take months, even years, to bare out. But the fact that the core ideas of GamerGate have mer­it has helped to make fur­ther in­roads into the jour­nal­ism world. There is no dirty trick or ob­fus­ca­tion of the truth need­ed to con­vince peo­ple, only an ar­tic­u­late ex­pla­na­tion of GamerGate’s core con­cepts.  Gamers don’t need to fall into the same traps and poor prac­tices of those try­ing to at­tack them. This fight can be won with­out com­pro­mis­ing the in­tegri­ty of the idea that there is a bet­ter way to do news and ed­i­to­r­i­al.

An out­let shouldn’t be able to avoid calls for im­prove­ment by mak­ing a few to­ken con­ces­sions and putting out a few opin­ions that agree with what the out­let feels are the sen­si­bil­i­ties of “Gamergators.” Substantive change is need­ed, we shouldn’t have to set­tle for sim­ply “less shit.” Professional and eth­i­cal games jour­nal­ism is pos­si­ble, and it should be the norm.  Accepting the same flaws in cov­er­age be­cause some­one is “on your side” is the ex­act thing we are fight­ing against. Standards don’t have a “side,” they just are. Sometimes that will mean a hard­er fight and less easy vic­to­ries; some­times that will mean you have to harm your own ar­gu­ment to point out where things have gone wrong in the past. Self‐reflection isn’t weak­ness  — it is a strength. The fact that the press can’t ad­mit it has done a sin­gle thing wrong af­ter a year of per­pe­trat­ing eth­i­cal breach­es to cov­er up ear­li­er eth­i­cal breach­es is frankly stag­ger­ing, but it is one of the fac­tors lead­ing to their demise.

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I of­ten see peo­ple say­ing “this isn’t the same GamerGate I got into a year ago.” Well good, it shouldn’t be. It’s learned and re­fined and grown whilst its de­trac­tors are mak­ing the ex­act same blun­ders that caused it to ex­ist in the first place. At the core of it, a canon of pow­er­ful ideas has tak­en shape.

Ideas about free­dom of ex­pres­sion, fair­ness, and stan­dards. Whatever in­ter­per­son­al dra­ma may take place, these ideas re­main in place.

To use a fa­mous quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:

Great minds dis­cuss ideas, av­er­age minds dis­cuss events and small minds dis­cuss peo­ple.”

The ideas of GamerGate are sound and they have changed many minds al­ready. When you ex­plain them to av­er­age gamers, the re­sponse is al­most uni­ver­sal­ly pos­i­tive. All we can do is ig­nore the bull­shit and keep in­still­ing these ideas, with rel­e­vant ev­i­dence and log­i­cal ar­gu­ments, un­til the dis­eased in­sti­tu­tions that try every­thing to dis­cred­it them ei­ther re­form or are re­placed.

I know “Be the change you want to see” is a cliché and a cheesy quote, but it ap­plies so much here. You want eth­i­cal jour­nal­ism and a bet­ter dis­course with­in the gam­ing com­mu­ni­ty? Create it. Become it. Write, make art, make videos, make video games, make mods, fos­ter com­mu­ni­ties. No one can stop you from be­ing a gamer or a de­vel­op­er and choos­ing to do so your way.

So move for­ward safe in the knowl­edge there is a huge num­ber of peo­ple who want to see con­tent done bet­ter and are will­ing to fight for that over the long term. As I laid out in “The Death of Games Journalism – Part 7,” the end­point of this her­culean ef­fort on the part of gamers would be the con­struc­tion of a press and in­dus­try that bet­ter re­flects them, that is pop­u­lat­ed by them. Even if GamerGate as a hash­tag goes away overnight, what it has set in mo­tion, and the peo­ple it has in­spired won’t go away.  The idea of a rot­ten in­die scene and gam­ing press is an idea that has tak­en deep root in the gam­ing con­scious­ness, and you can’t kill an idea.

Indie Implosion: “A Chair is a Videogame”
Translating Tumblr — The Lifting Fandom
The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent be­low.
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.