Misogyny, Death Threats and Video Games – Thoughts About Gamergate

Note: There’s some strong language in this piece. I’m not sure how The Morning Bell readership feels about c-bombs, but they’re in this article. Thanks, abusive internet commentators.

As someone greatly entrenched in the world of video games, I have been following the events Gamergate quite closely. For those who don’t know about Gamergate, you clearly don’t get most of your news from Reddit like I do. Here’s a quick recap:

-In August, a jilted ex-boyfriend of indie game developer Zoe Quinn wrote a big ol’ diatribe, which amongst other things claimed that Quinn was in a romantic relationship with Nathan Grayson, a journalist for popular video game news site Kotaku. This lead to some internet-goers to believe that Quinn was sleeping her way to good reviews for her recently released game, Depression Quest (Grayson never reviewed the game, by the way).

-Quinn received a shitload of violent threats, causing her to fear for her safety and flee home.

-At this time, feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian released a new video in her series Tropes vs Women in Video Games. The series had received large amounts of criticism and bile in the past, but the latest episode, ‘Women as Background Decoration’ received particular attention.

-Sarkeesian received a shitload of violent threats, causing her to fear for her safety and flee home.

-Then someone sent an email saying there would be ‘the deadliest school shooting in American history’ if Sarkeesian went through with a talk about her work at Utah University. Sarkeesian cancelled her talk.

-Indie game developer Brianna Wu criticised Gamergate on Twitter. She then received a shitload of violent threats, causing her to fear for her safety and flee home.

There has also been a lot of discussion of the meaning of the term ‘gamer’, or even if it has meaning anymore, as the gaming industry grows and diversifies, and whether self-identified gamers feel their identities are being compromised. There’s also been discussion about the integrity of games journalism as a whole, but it’s hard to focus these topics when people are threatening people’s lives over video games. Video games. You know, those things on computers with buttons that you play to enjoy yourself.

What’s worried me the most whilst following the Gamergate coverage, apart the rampant misogyny, is the frequency of violent threats and even death threats in the place of criticism. If you want to emphatically make a point about how much you don’t like something there are better ways than saying ‘I’ve got a knife and I’m coming to your house so I can shove it up your ugly feminist cunt.’

No-one is benefiting from this. There are women fearing for their lives because people rather act violent than actually say something intelligent. Instead of criticising these women’s work, the women themselves are under attack.

Want to know my opinion of the Tropes vs Woman in Games series? I think it’s a great idea with not so great execution. The videos in general are a bit dry and could be condensed, as there are some examples that don’t quite need as much of an examination as others. The most recent episode was definitely an improvement content-wise, though.

Notice how I didn’t mention anything Anita Sarkeesian had done in the past, or questioned her qualifications as a gaming critic or a gamer? And that I was calm, measured and didn’t mention wanting to stab or rape her once for making a video I didn’t think was excellent. You may think this doesn’t need to be said, but you would be surprised.

Often when I see situations like this, I think of the online disinhibition effect – ‘a loosening (or complete abandonment) of social restrictions and inhibitions that would otherwise be present in normal face-to-face interaction during interactions with others on the internet’ – also known as the greater internet dickwad theory, courtesy of webcomic Penny Arcade.

But this seems a lot worse than just being a dick because no-one can touch you, though I somehow doubt that if the situation arose where an online detractor of Anita Sarkeesian met the woman herself that they would threaten to impale her private parts. I know most people are discussing issues in the gaming industry like civilised human beings, but as always, it’s a very loud, very dumb minority that ruins it for the rest of us. And I repeat, these people are being very loud and very dumb about video games.

There have been some parties calling for the end of Gamergate – a truce of sorts between journalists and vitriolic commentators. It may help, but the gaming industry, particularly the women who have been working so hard to break into a traditionally male-dominated industry and make it more inclusive, deserve better. They won’t get it unless the loud, ungrateful section of the gaming community learn some harsh lessons, like that threatening people with death over Twitter is not okay.

0 Comments

  1. Scrublord

    Hi Mel/Morning Bell

    As someone who has been there from the beginning, You’ve covered some great points in this article. However, please do a bit more research before posting thoughts on something so volatile like the GamerGate issue. You’re clearly very focused on the atrocities that have occurred to feminists. Yes, it’s horrible and should never have happened, but Feminists have also done some pretty horrible things to males.

    There are terrible people on both sides of the fence and until we learn to grapple with this, we will never move forward. Reddit isn’t exactly the best news source.

    Please check out the following links and I’d love to see you post a follow up piece with your opinion on both sides of the fence. GamerGate is about corruption in gamer journalism, and nothing more.

    This is the best site for up to date news:

    http://gitgud.net/gamergate/gamergateop/tree/master/Current-Happenings

    This is a timeline of everything that’s happened in chronological order:

    http://www.tiki-toki.com/timeline/entry/336432/The-GamerGate-Chronicles/#vars!date=2014-08-28_01:03:37!

    and this is a summary of Gamergate’s agenda and reasoning:

    http://www.historyofgamergate.com/

    If you’re also interested, InternetAristocrat and Co. have done some great videos on the GamerGate side of things (YouTube). Keep in mind though that he is a "white-cis-male" and is biased and says some pretty harsh stuff, (but also brings up good points). You don’t have to watch these if you don’t want to.

    Quinnspiracy Theory: The Five Guys Saga
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5-51PfwI3M&list=UUWB0dvorHvkQlgfGGJR2yxQ&index=9

    Quinnspiracy Theory: In-N-Out Edition
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKmy5OKg6lo&list=UUWB0dvorHvkQlgfGGJR2yxQ&index=8

    Quinnspiracy Theory: White Castles and Ivory Towers
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Km3DZQp0StE&index=7&list=UUWB0dvorHvkQlgfGGJR2yxQ

    If you don’t watch any of those, PLEASE watch this one, it even talks about Australian gaming journalism and some corruption in it:
    GamerGate Part 1: The Path We’ve Taken
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dbi-8rPShE&index=5&list=UUWB0dvorHvkQlgfGGJR2yxQ

    And IF you don’t even look at that, at least check this tumblr post on the whole thing:
    http://ughsocialjustice.tumblr.com/post/101208206818/gamergate-primer-finale

    Annnddd I’ll just chuck this in for good measure (very little about GamerGate and more on the horrible things Feminists have done)
    http://ughsocialjustice.tumblr.com/post/101217051118/can-you-please-give-me-5-real-reason-on-why-we-dont

    At the end of the day, we’re here for equality, not for feminism, we’re here to fix the corruption of gaming journalism, we’re here to fix the sterotype that "gamers" are white-cis-sexist-males who hate everyone. Reddit, 4chan, gaming sites like Kotaku, all those are fighting against GamerGate, but GamerGate is winning.

    There are bad types of people in every group/society/community/clan/guild, but there are always more good people out to make the world a better place.

    I’m looking forward to seeing your follow up thoughts on this! Please check out those links!

    and I’ll end this with a twitter quote from a Journalist: "Who here hasn’t slept with a PR person or game developer? #AMIRITE"

    1. Lucas Di Quinzio

      Hello, It’s Lucas, the who wrote this article.
      Thanks for all the info, but believe me, I’ve trawled though all that stuff as well. I guess the reason I focussed on the abuse in this article is because that’s what has stood out for me, even with all the other shit floating around. I’m sick of seeing game devs of all kinds getting death threats.
      I wish gamergate was only about ethics and games journalism.