The height of Gamergate


A continued look at the misogynistic online movement

By Angela Espinoza, News Editor

N.B.: There is a vast array of information relating to Gamergate, much of which continues to develop and be discussed. As such, I have tried my best to summarize specific events thus far.

We are now in the 12th week of the Gamergate movement. As stated in the last edition, Gamergate began after the combination of a multi-thousand-word blog post by one Eron Gjoni about his ex-girlfriend and game designer Zoe Quinn and the release of the sixth Tropes vs. Women in Video Games—a YouTube video by Feminist Frequency. Gamergate, regardless of what else you may hear, is a campaign against women.

The history of Gamergate

Gaming culture has a history of being anti-female and Gamergate has largely been a movement based on harassing women in the games industry and gaming community.

Taking prominence in the ‘80s, video games have long been heavily marketed to male audiences. Around the 1980s, ads for games often featured images of male fantasy, with men appearing either physically strong, or average with an attractive woman on their arm or in distress. Many ads for game consoles in the late-‘80s and well into the 2000s often featured young boys or male teenagers playing games while young girls or female teenagers would often be presented as annoying figures, if at all.

The integration of massively multiplayer online games throughout the 2000s also brought forth the discussion of verbal harassment towards women playing video games. Many cases from computer gaming to the original Xbox Live service revealed that women would often be catcalled and verbally harassed online. A 2012 survey by one Emily Matthew on revealed that 63 per cent of women felt they had experienced sexism while playing games online, with 67 per cent of women also stating they’d intentionally obscured their sex online in order to avoid harassment.

Now we are in the throes of Gamergate, which has already doxxed (revealed private information online) Quinn, Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian, game designer and journalist Brianna Wu, and gaming icon Felicia Day. Several of these women haven’t been home since their addresses were revealed.

Controversies inflicting gamergate

After two months of non-stop harassment, there has been pressure on prominent members of the games industry to speak up about the movement. Many journalists, independent game designers, and various other online figures have already spoken up against Gamergate. However, almost no reactions from figureheads have been made public.

A plot named “Operation Disrespectful Nod” by Gamergate to encourage advertisers to side with their movement seemed to be working for a time.

On October 16, several Tweets such as, “… nerds should be constantly shamed and degraded into submission” and “Bring Back Bullying” by Gawker writer Sam Biddle shamed the movement. Members of Gamergate then sent numerous emails to Adobe, a previously assumed advertiser of the website, claiming that Gawker was encouraging bullying towards them. Adobe publicly requested Gawker take down their promotional image (not an ad) to cut relations with the site.

In the weeks since, Adobe received more details about Gamergate and those supporting the movement. On October 29, they released a statement that reiterated, “We reject all forms of bullying, including the harassment of women by individuals associated with Gamergate.”

Intel also pulled advertising from Gamasutra after the publishing of an article on August 28 by editor-at-large Leigh Alexander in which she had stated, “Gamers are over.” Similarly to Gawker, Intel also received numerous emails from Gamergate supporters who found the article offensive. Intel later reinstated its advertising and issued an apology.

On October 25, Fortune published an article by staff writer JP Mangalindan on how major game and technology companies have kept quiet on the matter. According to the article, after several attempts to contact seven major game companies, only Montreal’s Ubisoft responded. One spokesperson stated, “Harassment, bullying, and threats are wrong and have to stop. There should be no place in the video game community for personal attacks of any kind.”

On October 29, Dave Lee of BBC News wrote an extensive article and posted an in-person interview with Zoe Quinn on Gamergate and how it has affected her life. “The fact that so much of the responsibility is offloaded to the people most harmed by it [Gamergate], when somebody in a much safer position than I am can stand up and condemn it … it’s frustrating,” said Quinn of major companies.

That same day, just hours before that evening’s episode of The Colbert Report, Anita Sarkeesian was announced as a surprise guest. Stephen Colbert dedicated the first 10 minutes of the episode to provide a brief look at Gamergate for those tuning in, followed by a satirical interview with Sarkeesian on the subject. While his coverage of Gamergate was brief, Colbert honourably took on the role of being possibly the biggest public figure to speak out against Gamergate.

No going back

After all that has occurred regarding the Gamergate movement, after decades of women being misrepresented and harassed in gaming, there is no going back from here.

Like in all forms of media, sexism will always be a part of video games to some extent. But with the growing acceptance of Sarkeesian’s research and the negative widespread attention Gamergate has garnered—regardless of figureheads who have not spoken up—the changes would likely be seen in the medium going forward.

What we’re seeing here is similar to what we’ve been seeing in the sporting world, another male-dominated hobby and industry. There is much debate going on as to how sports can become more inclusive to women, with advertisers at the very least, taking advantage of their massive female audiences.

Both mediums are finally taking perceptions and mistreatment of women in their industries seriously, likely because we are experiencing perhaps the biggest feminist awakening of our time. From Emma Watson’s UN speech to numerous celebrities actively promoting and discussing feminism, much of the public is waking up to how our society has long accepted the mistreatment of women. Wherever Gamergate goes from here, we can take solace in knowing that progress will be made.