Note: This post is focused on the origins of #GamerGate. It’s part 1, because if I manage to find the emotional energy, I may write more.
Lately, I’ve noticed a trend towards saying #GamerGate started out with basically good intentions but it somehow lost its way.
From its origins in the infamous August that never freaking ends, untill now, 9 months later, #GamerGate has persistently been about one thing and one thing alone:
I know this can be considered quite a sweeping statement to make. I’ve decided to attempt to finally sit down and explain my reasoning. I have to do this in two parts. The first (this one) discusses #GamerGate origins. The second will discuss #GamerGate as it is today.
Before I begin, I’d like to be clear on what I am and am not claiming.
I am claiming #GamerGate is about taking part in, defending, and supporting harassment, and about being, defending, and supporting harassers.
I am claiming that the claim that #GamerGate is “about ethics in games journalism” is a ludicrously weak smokescreen.
I am also claiming that a great deal of #GamerGate is about using online harassment and abuse with the specific purpose of silencing the voices of people who #GamerGate disagree with politically.
I am NOT claiming that every person who has and does support #GamerGate is a harasser or doesn’t care about ethics.
I am NOT claiming that it’s fair to allow the bad actions of a few to be used to make a majority look bad.
My claim is that the majority of #GamerGate, even the loudest and most respected voices, is what makes #GamerGate look bad.
I am claiming that it’s not “third party trolls” who give the media the “wrong” impression of #GamerGate.
Instead, I believe those decent members of #GamerGate who genuinely are not interested in taking part in, defending and supporting harassment are the minority.
It’s not fair to judge a group by a small, bad minority. It’s also not fair to judge a group by a small, good minority.
#GamerGate might have a small, good minority (smaller and smaller each day), but the majority of #GamerGate are nothing more than the pro-harassment trolls everyone thinks they are.
Lastly, I am NOT claiming that everyone who criticizes #GamerGate is perfect, or even a good person. I have personally been disgusted by and blocked people who are supposed “allies” because I have seen them take part in abusive behaviour.
I am NOT even claiming I have never done anything wrong, or that I’m a perfect person. In fact, I certainly have been awful and abusive. I have made mistakes, and I’ve been outright wrong.
I believe there’s a difference between slipping up sometimes, or having days when you’re unforgivably awful, and dedicating your entire life to being horrible and abusive, and I believe that the vast majority of #GamerGate are representative of the second.
Right. That’s done with. Let’s begin.
Part 1: Origins
This was the first #GamerGate tweet ever sent out. #GamerGate existed before then, but Adam Baldwin was the first person to give it this name.
The videos linked to in this tweet were created by a YouTuber named Internet Aristocrat, who would later leave #GamerGate, not for harassing too much, but for not harassing enough.
To quote Internet Aristocrat final’s message:
“It was the opportunity to finally kick the teeth in of Social Justice Warriors, and ‘Tumblr’-ettes, and draw a fucking line in the sand, and push back against all these hyper-sensitive cunts. And for awhile it was working really really well. All you had to do was attack. See that’s the trick, that’s why I love /pol/ so fucking much. People think you need to be a moderate, or an independent, or a neutral. They’re wrong. You need to pick an extreme.”
Internet Aristocrat’s motivations was never to encourage politically neutral, or apolitical journalism. Internet Aristocrat wanted, specifically, to see voices that could be called too “liberal”, and therefore the opposite of his own political worldviews, be silenced. He doesn’t just want to see his views “win” by being the only views represented in games media, he wants the views of those he terms “hyper-sensitive cunts” to go away forever, even on personal blogging sites like Tumblr.
From the same video,
“You had to do just one thing: Attack, attack, attack. Keep the pressure up, and your opponent, in this case, corrupt media and the SJW cultural Marxist bullshit, they’ll fold. They’ll make a mistake and make themselves look stupid, like Sam Biddle did, like other people did, and you capitalize off of that.”
This little quote here says volumes about #GamerGate’s “arguing” techniques. Attack, attack, attack, until they slip up. It’s very clever, and it does work, and it’s still a favourite technique of #GamerGate’s, especially on Twitter, as anyone who’s ever publicly said something #GamerGate doesn’t like knows.
What do you call purposefully attacking someone as much as you can with this intent? I call it harassment.
So the very first #GamerGate tweet is links to videos by someone whose intent was to use harassment to “kick the teeth in of Social Justice Warriors” and “over-sensitive cunts”. This person openly supports both extremism and the infamously racist, far-right 4chan board /pol/. He unironically uses the term “cultural Marxist”.
His entire motivation was political, and he was happy to use harassment tactics to “win”, and he made that clear.
Keep in mind the fact that Adam Baldwin himself is a deeply political person, a conservative and Brietbart writer with a pretty heavy agenda to push.
Cough. #GamerGate is about using online harassment and abuse with the specific purpose of silencing the voices of people who #GamerGate disagree with politically.
So with this in mind, let’s look at the videos that were linked in the original #GamerGate Tweet. They are about Zoe Quinn. In them, Internet Aristocrat makes claims that there is big, giant conspiracy trying to prevent people from talking about “Zoe Quinn and corruption in games journalism”.
Let’s talk about Zoe Quinn.
You know when people say “I don’t like this game because” and other people say “IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT WHY DON’T YOU GO MAKE YOUR OWN”? Well, Zoe Quinn made her own game. It was called Depression Quest, and it was free.
Please look at this: It was FREE. You didn’t have to pay money for this game. She made a game and she gives it away for free.
When Depression Quest began to get favourable reviews, there was a backlash against Zoe and the harassment started, long before #GamerGate was named, from people who didn’t like the game.
Let’s just go over this again: By the time #GamerGate started, people had been harassing Zoe Quinn for months because she had made a FREE game that they didn’t like, and it got attention that they felt it didn’t deserve. No one forced anyone to play this game. All that happened was some people who did play this FREE GAME said they liked it and that it was worth
buying GETTING FREE OF CHARGE, and this was the Big Unforgivable Crime that would later lead to wild accusations that all of games journalism is corrupt. Because some journalists liked/recommended a free game not everyone liked.
Fast-forward some months. In August 2014, Eron Gjoni, an ex-boyfriend of Zoe’s, published a long, angry blog post about her. Amongst his emotionally-charged ramblings, he mentioned Zoe had a relationship with Nathan Grayson, a journalist for the games website Kotaku.
While it didn’t have a name yet, this is the blog post that arguably started #GamerGate. In fact, in its early days, #GamerGate was called Quinnspiracy. Zoe Quinn was immediately accused of having sex with games journalists (plural) in exchange for positive reviews (again, plural) of her game.
Now pay attention, because this is important. Grayson never reviewed Depression Quest. In fact, no one at Kotaku reviewed Depression Quest. The claim that Zoe Quinn slept with games journalists for favourable reviews for her FREE TO PLAY game were quickly proven false.
Not just up in the air, no one really knows, but false. False accusations. From the start.
This wasn’t an investigative journalist uncovering evidence of an ethical breach.
An angry ex-boyfriend wrote a blog post that mentioned something that was taken as proof of some massive “sex for favours” conspiracy in the games journalism industry.
The most essential “proof” for this conspiracy was a blatant, easily and quickly disproven lie.
This whole thing should have blown over almost immediately. It’s easy to fall for lies on the Internet, but most people get over it and move on. The “Quinnspiracy” didn’t blow over despite the fact that there was no “ethics in games journalism” breach though, because it was never about ethics in games journalism.
The harassment of Zoe Quinn had been going on for months at this point. People hated her. When they thought they had gotten hold of something real and big to be used against her, they were too excited to allow little things like “facts” get in their way.
Internet Aristocrat’s videos make bold accusations of a large conspiracy to silence people just “talking” about “Zoe Quinn and corruption in games journalism”.
In actual fact, all that was happening was people were telling harassers who were spreading malicious slander about Zoe Quinn to stop. Internet Aristocrat even lists examples of articles that say harassment is bad as “biased”.
From the start, #GamerGate was an attempt to defend harassers and their harassment, screaming “censorship” when slander presented as fact wasn’t tolerated, and “biased” when journalists criticized the harassers.
It’s about taking part in, defending, and supporting harassment, and about being, defending, and supporting harassers.
This is how #GamerGate started. Eron Gjoni, Internet Aristocrat, and Adam Baldwin. Three people with absolutely no interest in “ethics in games journalism”, but who do have specific people, namely Zoe Quinn and perceived political enemies, who they have a personal, invested desire in seeing destroyed and silenced by any means possible.
This is the foundation of #GamerGate. It’s not about ethics games journalism. It’s not even about games. It’s about harassment, usually aimed at the perceived political enemies of the far right.
This is why it’s attracted non-gamer right-wingers with a clear and obvious political agenda, like Christina Hoff Sommers and Milo Yiannopoulos. It’s why it’s attracted non-gamer open misogynists who are in it for the opportunities to attack feminists and women, like Roosh V. It’s why it attracts open harassers like The Ralph Retort. It’s why you will be mobbed on Twitter by harassment if you say anything #GamerGate doesn’t like. This isn’t something that #GamerGate became. It’s something that #GameGate has always been.
There are still some who insist it really is about ethics in games journalism because there really is a worldwide conspiracy, and everyone from ‘The New York Times’ to Wikipedia is lying about the harassment. Hells, there are even still people who believe Zoe Quinn really did have sex with games journalists in exchange for good reviews.
I watched Shutter Island the other day, and a quote from that movie is still playing in my mind:
“You’ve uncovered a conspiracy, which means anything we tell you about who you are, what you’ve done, can be dismissed as lies.”