Anyone not living under the same rock that many of its adherents crawled out from under will surely know by now about GamerGate, the supposed activist movement to defend traditional computer gaming standards and values, which has mushroomed into an umbrella grouping for all kinds of self-righteous victimhood, hate speech, intimidation, trolling, and even death threats. The whole thing started around a woman journalist, but writers have by and large been out of the front line on this story – until now.
For one thing, Theodore Beale AKA Vox Day, a fairly notorious right-wing science fiction author, apparently thought he could use GamerGate to settle his own scores and called for a boycott by GamerGate followers of Tor Books, due to the anti-GamerGate stance of Tor author John Scalzi. Scalzi himself has not exactly taken the threat lying down, outlining in exhaustive detail how exactly any GamerGaters could boycott his publisher and every single media group associated with him.
Meanwhile, Cory Doctorow, self-publishing pioneer who has lived and written deeper inside gamer culture than many other writers, spoke out in one recent interview about GamerGate:
It’s disheartening. My wife is a retired “Quake” player who played on the English national team, was a games professional. And I, because of her, have moved through a milieu where I’m surrounded by incredible women gamers. That kind of steamy, grotesque writhing underbelly of gamer culture — the rape threats and the violence and the reflexive hatred of Anita Sarkeesian — is really disheartening. And it’s not unique to gaming. I think it is an epiphenomenon of a wider social inequality. Gamers reflect that.
Doctorow’s 2004 story “Anda’s Game” has also taken on a new role as a sort of founding myth for the community of female gamers.
For now, journalists are the main targets of GamerGate. Along with feminist critics, actresses, and anyone who dares to speak out against gaming-related attacks on women, it seems. But the ripples are obviously growing wider. And it remains to be seen whether publishing companies, with their histories of dealing with free speech issues, are any less supine when faced with GamerGate pressure than Intel or Adobe have been.
Fortunately for all concerned, it seems increasingly likely that the GamerGate movement is going to have its 15 minutes of fame and then sink back into obscurity. Any time journalists investigate GamerGaters’ claims that the movement is about ethics in journalism, rather than misogyny, they just find more misogyny. They might be able to rile up the blogs and social networks, but there’s next to no positive coverage of it in the real media.
Other links worth reading:
Former NFL football player and big-time gamer Chris Kluwe has had a lot to say (some of it delightfully profane) on the subject of GamerGate.
And if you have twenty minutes, this video tackles GamerGate from an unexpected but remarkably informative perspective—it applies literary criticism to the movement.