Gamergate: The (Im)perfect Storm?

Nick is here today to give his thoughts on where the consumer revolt spawned from Gamergate stands now, and his hopes for where it won't tread.

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I don’t think any­body ex­pect­ed Gamergate to blow up the way it did when it start­ed back in August. I don’t think any­one ever ex­pect­ed it to even be a thing in the first place. But Gamergate has be­come a storm sweep­ing over video games. One can’t help but won­der if Gamergate will be­come the hero or the vil­lain at the end of this.  Remember, these are my per­son­al thoughts and in­ter­pre­ta­tion of those thoughts based on the knowl­edge I have of this sit­u­a­tion. This is just my opin­ion on the mat­ter, from my point of view.

Many peo­ple be­lieve Gamergate start­ed on August 28th 2014 with the “Gamers are Dead” ar­ti­cles pub­lished by sev­er­al out­lets. But I be­lieve there has been a silent un­der­ground out­cry of re­sis­tance go­ing all the way back to Dewrito-gate and the Mass Effect 3 end­ing de­ba­cle. I think it was around this time that de­vel­op­ers and pub­lish­ers felt it was a more vi­able mar­ket­ing scheme to in­vest mon­ey into mar­ket­ing to the press in­stead of try­ing to mar­ket to the much larg­er au­di­ence of con­sumers. There’s no deny­ing they prob­a­bly saved a lot of mon­ey mar­ket­ing to a small­er group and let­ting the press han­dle the con­sumers, but in do­ing so they gave the press more con­trol than they should have had. I think this is tru­ly the start­ing point where a need for Gamergate arose.
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With this shift in mar­ket­ing, I think it came to bring a sense of en­ti­tle­ment to the press. They came to be gate­keep­ers be­tween devs and con­sumers. The press be­came the ones who de­cides what and who reach­es the con­sumers eyes and ears. Once the press be­came more fo­cused on pol­i­tics in­stead of the in­dus­try it­self they ul­ti­mate­ly came to hurt a lot of de­vel­op­ers. We came into an era where devs were re­quired to have enough mon­ey be­hind them to buy cov­er­age or forced to toe a po­lit­i­cal line to earn cov­er­age from the press. With these hap­pen­ings, the un­der­ground rum­blings that would lat­er be­come Gamergate grew.

These things I men­tioned — and many more that I won’t here for brevi­ty [Editor Note: See our Death of Games Journalism se­ries] — ul­ti­mate­ly lead to the fat­ed “Gamers are Dead” day that un­in­ten­tion­al­ly caused the ex­plo­sion of an­gry con­sumers known as Gamergate. And in these past ten months, which feels like sev­er­al years in in­ter­net time, we’ve seen mas­sive changes from in­die scene all the way up to the AAA de­vel­op­ers. It’s much like sit­ting on the edge of your seat, bit­ing your nails, won­der­ing what will sur­vive and what won’t in this mas­sive storm. But one thing’s for sure go­ing for­ward. Games jour­nal­ism as it is, is dead. The mass of con­sumers in this in­dus­try have spo­ken and have said, “No, we will not be in­sult­ed or slan­dered, we will be treat­ed with due re­spect, and we will be heard.” The games press is now left with a de­ci­sion. Either re­form to these new height­ened ex­pec­ta­tions or to die out in the storm they had a hand in making.

There are def­i­nite­ly risks go­ing for­ward, though. Things that are still un­fore­seen, and things we can only hope do not hap­pen. But these things call for a good dis­cus­sion go­ing for­ward. One of the big wor­ries with any in­dus­try chang­ing event is: in­stead of true re­form you end up with a mere ex­change of pow­er. It is im­por­tant that once the storm has made its due course and passed over that we do not turn into the things we fought against.

As was once quot­ed by ac­tor Aaron Eckhart:

You ei­ther die a hero or you live long enough to see your­self be­come the villain.”

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It is a very slip­pery slope, but Gamergate as a whole does have sim­i­lar up­bring­ings as so­cial jus­tice as a move­ment. The ide­olo­gies be­hind them vast­ly dif­fer, but both felt their way of do­ing things was for the greater good of every­one, both found a means of gain­ing pow­er to en­force these changes they felt need­ed to hap­pen, and both have yet to put down the pow­ers it is wield­ing. Granted, Gamergate is still in full swing at this point, but it is very im­por­tant that once this is all over, Gamergate be re­spon­si­ble enough to put down this pow­er as to not turn into the thing it’s fight­ing against. The worst thing that could hap­pen, I be­lieve, is Gamergate mere­ly be­comes the vil­lains of gam­ing it is fight­ing so hard thwart.

Now I’m sure some might shrug off these no­tions that Gamergate could be­come the thing it fights against. But just as this storm brewed from sev­er­al sources that most nev­er ex­pect­ed to go to­geth­er in this once in a life­time event, it is pos­si­ble that this storm might not die and just changes course. All it re­al­ly takes is enough peo­ple in Gamergate get­ting drunk on pow­er — much the same way so­cial jus­tice did — and refuse to put down this pow­er they are wield­ing and in­stead di­rect it to­wards an­oth­er cause.

The cy­cle could con­tin­ue much the same way so­cial jus­tice still wields its pow­er. No longer for no­ble caus­es, but for per­son­al gain and to keep those they do not agree with be­low them in a so­cial con­struct with foun­da­tions in guilt and shaming.

There are oth­er things Gamergate needs to ac­com­plish as well be­fore it can put down its pow­er — for good hope­ful­ly.  For ex­am­ple: ad­dress­ing the pub­lish­ers and de­vel­op­ers that ul­ti­mate­ly abused the press for fa­vor­able cov­er­age and hope­ful­ly han­dling the mi­nor­i­ty of gamers that do, in fact, give gam­ing a bad name with all their vit­ri­ol and hate. But it is im­por­tant, as a level-headed Gamergate sup­port­er, that we use this pow­er we have achieved with re­spon­si­bil­i­ty and in the in­ter­est of all, not just our­selves. This is a mas­sive op­por­tu­ni­ty to change not only video games, but the world as a whole for the bet­ter. Don’t let that slip through our fin­gers by be­com­ing what we fight.

(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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Nick is a graph­ic de­sign­er, up­com­ing stream­er, and all around busi­ness helper. Will wreck you with Ibuki. Will also like­ly piss you off, don’t take it personal.

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