How one movement has sought to destroy female presence in gaming
By Angela Espinoza, News Editor
There is a vast array of information relating to Gamergate, much of which continues to develop and be discussed. As such, I have done my best to summarize specific events thus far.
Gamergate is a movement-of-sorts that has been ongoing since mid-August. The term “Gamergate” was coined by actor Adam Baldwin, a vocal supporter of Gamergate. The movement began when one Eron Gjoni made an August 16 post to his blog TheZoePost.com; the post was an 8,000-plus-word rant about his ex-girlfriend and game developer Zoe Quinn. There are many layers to what has since become a two-month online debacle.
The “Zoe” post
In Gjoni’s post, he includes screencaps of conversations he shared with Quinn over Facebook, texts, and other social media tools during their relationship. He states in varying detail that she lied to him, manipulated him, and cheated on him. The post was made one month after their breakup.
Gjoni’s post seemed to be aimed at informing people what Quinn was like during their relationship, and how it related to her career. One implication—I stress “implication”—was that Quinn attempted to end her relationship with Gjoni because he knew enough to damage the presence of various people, including herself, in the games industry.
In one Facebook conversation, dated July 17, Gjoni and Quinn appear to be discussing an affair she had with her boss, Joshua Boggs. Quinn goes on to express her fears of the affair going public:
“… This can hurt a lot of people.
“… Games as a whole can lose one of it’s (sic) only strong voices for equality because a woman’s sexuality at all being public can sink that fucking ship.
“… The harassment would get worse.”
All hell breaks lose
Despite Gjoni’s listing his specific points of focus, many readers took away various misconceptions from the blog. The most damaging misconception, which has served as a driving force for the Gamergate movement, was that Quinn was advancing her career due to her romantic involvements in the games industry—that entire perspective was based on nothing from Gjoni’s blog.
Days before the blog went up, Quinn’s 2013 award-winning game Depression Quest was released on the Steam gaming platform. The game is a text adventure from the perspective of someone suffering from depression. While the game initially received good reviews prior to its Steam release, the coinciding “Zoe” post had many convinced positive reviews were due to her personal relationships. The argument many have stood by is that the game wasn’t “good enough” to garner all its positive reviews. Those (unfounded) beliefs led to many thinking Quinn was damaging the integrity of games journalism.
Quinn has been harassed online since the post. This harassment included Quinn being sent open death and rape threats on social media and via email, as well as private information such as her phone number and those of her family and friends being released—many of whom were subsequently harassed.
Countless other female game developers, journalists, streamers, reviewers, and personalities have been harassed as well. The Gamergate movement has silenced so many people in the games industry that, while much discussion about the subject has occurred, many actually affected by it remain silent. The following are only a few examples of Gamergate’s spread:
On August 25, Anita Sarkeesian uploaded her latest Tropes vs. Women in Video Games YouTube video entitled “Women as Background Decoration (Part 2).” Sarkeesian is no stranger to online harassment. The Kickstarter for her Women in Video Games series in 2012 garnered thousands of hateful messages and backlash based on her choice of perspective when analyzing video games. Sarkeesian is a pop culture critic, and while focussing on video games, has assessed that an overwhelming number of games are sexist and misogynistic in content and tone.
The timing of Sarkeesian’s latest video in relation to TheZoePost.com revitalized more aggressive harassment towards her. On August 27, Sarkeesian tweeted:
“Some very scary threats have just been made against me and my family. Contacting authorities now.”
Sarkeesian received specific threats over Twitter regarding her address and her parents’ address; she temporarily left her house while the messages were investigated. Sarkeesian shared those messages in a screencap to clarify how specific the threats were, with her and her parents’ addresses blacked out.
On October 10, game developer Brianna Wu, a vocal critic of Gamergate, found her address posted online; she immediately received several threats. Wu has not returned home since the threats were made.
On October 14, Sarkeesian was to give a speech at the Utah State University when she received an email threatening a “Montreal Massacre style attack.” Sarkeesian cancelled the event based on the grounds that the state allows people to carry concealed weapons, and that the school would not be doing checks if her talk continued.
On October 20, Quinn spoke publicly for the first time in an interview with MSNBC about her experience thus far. Quinn noted a number of women have left the games industry as a result of Gamergate, but went on to say, “I’m not going anywhere.”
What happens now?
As Gamergate is an Internet-based movement, there is no telling when it will end. One cannot control the actions of faceless, nameless harassers, nor can one stop someone from believing that the movement has its validity.
Again, despite being inspired by a misconception of the Quinn story, many have claimed the movement is about the integrity of games journalism. Yet there is no focus on actual corruption in gaming journalism, such as the ongoing debate of whether larger game companies pay popular review websites like IGN for positive reviews. The focus is only on one woman’s alleged relationships.
Others have claimed the movement is about the end of the “gamer” lifestyle. As a woman who has been “gaming” for 20 years, I have no idea what “the end of the gamer” actually means, let alone how it could justify a movement such as Gamergate.