It was only a few weeks ago when we talked about the good that internet activism can do. #Gamergate is the other, uglier side of activism online.
Gamergate began in August, when an ex-boyfriend of indie game developer Zoe Quinn posted personal allegations on his blog. This included an accusation that she had an affair with a journalist, Nathan Grayson, from gaming blog Kotaku; the blog insinuated that this influenced the reviews given to Quinn’s a-typical, interactive fiction game “Depression Quest.”
A part of the gaming community began a campaign of ugly harassment and personal attacks on Quinn and her defenders. When backlash to this backlash began, perpetrators claimed to be fighting corruption in gaming journalism.
Since then, the debate has only burned brighter and with more rage as more op-eds and takedowns are written, a few developers and writers leave the industry, and, this month, Intel pulled advertising from Gamasutra, another gaming website. This last was especially troubling, as it unintentionally posited Intel as backing the attackers.
The problem with Gamergate goes back to its origins, the harassment of Quinn. If gamers are upset about journalistic integrity, they should go after the big players, the AAA publishers. But it wasn’t these that were attacked. The vitriol was heaped on an indie developer with relatively little power.
Attacking her to instigate mobile casino change doesn’t do anything. It was an opportunity for hardcore gamers, upset about “outsiders” shoving diversity and “art” down their throats, to finally lash out. Here was this woman, this “cheating harlot” who represented everything they hate in the industry, and now they had reason to crush her.
Grayson never reviewed Quinn’s game; in fact, all mentions on Kotaku of Quinn-related productions took place before the two entered into a relationship.
A valid criticism and debate have been tacked on to, and tied inextricably to, a violent, sexist attack, ruining any possibility of having that important debate. It doesn’t matter how many people involved with Gamergate are attempting to have a real conversation. It doesn’t matter if they think Zoe Quinn is a terrible person. Using her as a springboard for backward, hate-mongering attacks on diversity in gaming is pretty undefendable, and veiling it in some sort of crusade on journalism ethics only serves to ruin that fight as well.
It’s like online music reviewer Todd In The Shadows recently tweeted: “Reminder, Gamergate: The assholes didn’t join you. You joined them. And you’re achieving all their goals.”
A movement is only as good as the weakest links in its chain. When those weak links are allowed to spout hate, racism, and sexism, it leaves the whole with little good ground to stand on.