What is #GamerGate, Anyway?

Posted October 22, 2014 in
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Anita Sarkeesian received anonymous threats to be the scapegoat for a school shooting if she commenced with her talk at USU. Photo: Susanne Nilsson / Flickr

If you are a person of the video game persuasion, you have undoubtedly heard about the latest hashtag flooding the Internet: #GamerGate. From reading hashtags alone, however, it is difficult to pin down what exactly #GamerGate is.

#GamerGate is the latest wave of Internet hate and it is … complicated. It originated back in August of this year when video game developer Zoe Quinn was publicly shamed by her ex-boyfriend and accused of sleeping with game reviewers in order to get positive reviews on her game. She has since received multiple rape and death threats and has even been forced from her home. This small act from Quinn’s ex has since spiraled into a gross demonstration of misogyny toward women in gaming (development or otherwise). #GamerGate, however, cannot be described solely as an act of violence against women because it would too easily be brought down. Therefore, its proponents wear a veil and declare themselves as standing for ethics in video game journalism.
Why, then, is Anita Sarkeesian being targeted? Sarkeesian is a YouTuber known for her videos Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. Her videos analyze and elaborate on how poorly women are represented—not only in video games, but the media as well. She is an easy target for #GamerGate because she acknowledges that gaming tropes do exist. Much of the gamer population who disagrees with her opinion call her a hack, claiming that she manipulates gameplay to show the poorest representation of women possible. The fact, however, that she is able to manipulate a game in such a way is proof that the representation is awful—but I digress. Sarkeesian, like Quinn, has been targeted for threats and has also been forced to leave her home in fear of her safety.  There are many other women and even men who have been targeted in #GamerGate for their discussion of gamer culture. Even some award-winning journalists have been forced to quit due to criticism and harassment.
#GamerGate hit close to home this week when Sarkeesian chose to cancel her speech at Utah State University after three emails threatened a mass school shooting if she spoke at her scheduled appearance. One email stated that feminists have ruined his life and referred to a feminist-related school shooting in Montreal in 1989. Sarkeesian was keen to go on, with the request of pat downs and metal detectors. Utah State University denied her this request, and instead offered to perform backpack and bag checks. Utah’s gun laws would allow people with concealed-carry permits to enter the school, and USU claimed that they couldn’t do anything more because of the laws. Unsurprisingly, Sarkeesian canceled her appearance.
The story has since made national headlines. The issue is not Sarkeesian canceling her appearance because USU would not comply with her requests, nor is it the idea that Utah’s open-carry laws would allow guns inside the school. Whether or not this person making threats was a gamer or not is irrelevant. The glaring problem is the fact that someone (I will not even assume it is a man) has such a strong hatred toward feminists and their message that they threatened a school shooting, and nothing has been done about it. Had this speaker been a politician, the emailer would have been tracked down immediately. This incident has raised awareness of #GamerGate to such a level that anyone who reads the news is aware of it, not just women in gaming. This incident brings to light just how important Sarkeesian’s work is, and this threat to her safety probably did more to raise awareness than her speech ever could.
The threat to everyone’s safety has brought so much attention to #GamerGate that, hopefully, something will finally be done to end it. It’s painful and frustrating to watch these sexist asses torment and abuse people from the safety of their computer screens, using “journalism ethics” as a smokescreen for blatant misogyny. The dark side of the gaming culture may be overriding the growing number of women gamers (as of this year, women outnumber men in the gaming community), but now, at least anyone with an Internet connection and news interest is aware and can help end the abuse.