This is What A GamerGater Looks Like: Why I’m a Gator
Happy Halloween readers. It’s about 2AM right now here in Mainland China. You can blame the tequila for this little piece. I’m not an especially big fan of Medium, but everyone needs their soap box to stand on, don’t they? Well, as a Halloween treat I want to tell you all a scary story. I realise that a lot of you that a lot of you fear #Gamergate, so what better than an origin story of a Gamergater? A look inside the mind of one of the beasts. I dare say I can compete with the likes of Doctor Hyde. Let’s Get this horror show on the road.
Who is this wh*re?
My name is Stephanie Smith. I’m a video game journalist. I’ve been writing for just a shade under a decade now, I’m also an English Teacher here in China Mainland. I’m a bit crazy, but you have to be to willingly deal with other people’s children 5 days a week. I’m sure I’m near the bottom of the Gamergate pecking order. Still famous enough to get featured in an article or two, so not too shabby.
The Incubation Of A Monster
Gaming has always been a huge part of my life. I was the first child in my father’s second marriage and had a difficult time with it. My half brothers and sisters are all mixed-race and playfully/ironically call me the black sheep. Playing Pokemon is still a fond memory for me and it is the birth place of my alias: GamerGengar. Haunter was a gift from my half-brother and being young I had a lot of sentimentality for the Gengar it turned into. I attribute most of my greatest successes to gaming. Games either inspire me or keep me alive long enough to accomplish things.
When I was still a bundle of aspirations, I was uprooted and moved to Ireland. Being a young and innocent little twat I had no idea what was in store for me. Kids these days call it ‘privilege’. It means that you’ll be bullied mercilessly because your ancestors may be arseholes or lived near arseholes. Daily life became an unhappy blur of death threats and bullying. The best I ever hoped for was isolation. To this day I have remained introverted from this not so happy foundation.
It’s safe to say that after more than ten years in Ireland I was crushed. Thoughts of killing myself were a constant undertone to everything I did. If I hadn’t been so concerned about the trouble it would get my family into I would have followed through. Instead I decided that I wouldn’t kill myself, I just wouldn’t take care of myself. This is what built the devil-may-cry attitude I have today.
I still have that deep sense of justice that every small child has. I’ve never grown out of it like the others around me. Combine that with my disregard for personal safety and you have teenage me. I frequently made myself unpopular by talking about gay rights, and by broadcasting my lack of faith. I was smart, but I wasn’t wise for sure. Around this time I met my first feminist. She was what the people in the village called “The local bike”. She was, and for all I know, still is a bully and a snob. She took great pride in the fact that she could get away with anything as long as she provided sexual favours.
While I cared little for her, I cared even less for her ideology of feminism. Her interpretation of it was that all men were evil and should be dominated. Not to kink shame, but I found her fairly disturbing. The problem only got worse as I interacted with more feminists. I didn’t really know how to feel, honestly, I went through a time of being ashamed to be the same gender as them. Sometimes I still cringe when I meet one in real life, but I have grown past the shame. I can’t be responsible for the cringe-worthy activities of others, I have enough of those toe curling moments at 2AM when my brain decides to remind me of everything stupid I’ve ever done.
These seeds later bloomed into the cold-hearted cynic and anti-feminist you see before you.
Write About Now
I love writing and I love gaming. It is only natural that I sought to combine the two. It didn’t take long for me to become a video game journalist. It was something I took a lot of pride in. The blissful naivety helped me learn to love my job. Life was good, but all good things come to an end.
The longer I stayed in the industry the more I noticed the cracks. Most video game journalists are payed $1 per 1000 views. The realisation hit me one day that I’d be subconsciously pushed toward writing clickbait rubbish without substance. It was a bit of a crisis of conscience to me. I enjoyed the competition of being the number 1 most viewed on the site, but I had to change.
I was good at opinion pieces and since I was the only woman on the team I essentially had free reign. I ended up writing about feminism in a roundabout way, or rather it’s many spectacular failures. The embodiment of these failures being Anita Sarkeesian. In a way I was in awe of her, how could someone be so deluded? Either way she made great material to write about and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was low hanging fruit for sure, but it was another thing that pushed me toward Gamergate.
I am a video game journalist, so of course I was always aware of Gamergate. Fortunately the publication I worked at had kept their nose clean and so were free to be passive observers. From the very start I found them interesting. Growing up, my parents always told me to do my own research and try as I might I could never prove anything against Gamergate. As a result I was silent, but I kept an eye on it.
I didn’t identify as part of Gamergate, but I was definitely pro-Gamergate. What fascinated me the most was unlike other communities, this one dealt with its own. It actively discouraged brigading and doxing and reprimanded members who were being dicks. Sure it was clear that some members were shitheads, but as a whole they didn’t really bother me so they had my support. I also thoroughly appreciated them archiving articles for me to read and enjoyed the community.
I guess at that stage I was a Gamergater in everything but name. I had no reason to commit to the cause at the time. I’d silently contribute on chan boards enjoying the anonymity. I was impressed with the people in the group. The Kotaku In Action board uses archived links which further help add distance between the material and the Gaters. It’s a great system really, an article can be criticised in a place where the writer doesn’t need to feel attacked. I didn’t yet identify myself as a gater. I was enthralled with them and loved the community and its content, but I needed a push.
The push came and it was hard. I had moved to China to work as an English teacher for middle school kids. Shortly before that I had found a great niche at a video game website dedicated to Kickstarter games. I really enjoyed my work, but there’s a problem. I strive to be open and honest with the people I’m friends with. When Gamergate came up, most people on the team were willing to accept whatever Salon or Kotaku wrote about it. I’d always comment that I couldn’t find evidence of the claim. I’d post screenshots and casually say that we couldn’t write an article slandering a group without evidence of their misdeeds. I knew this wasn’t winning me favours, but I didn’t quite realise the wound I had opened.
I did follow Gamergate forums but at the time the curious case of Brianna Wu had escaped my radar. Part of my job was to investigate Kickstarters that hadn’t delivered. Unfortunately, tripping into Revolution 60 sealed my fate. I pitched an article to my boss who remarked that she had been harassed by Gamergate. I went to find the harassment but instead ran into some of the nasty things she had said in the past.
LGBT issues are a bit of a soft spot for me and after finding some nasty comment about gay men not being allies I commented to my boss “are we sure it’s Gamergate and not just people appalled by this bigotry?”. We had a good relationship and always spoke casually to each other. I was surprised when suddenly my pitch was slammed down (It had already been approved). He made a comment on the Trello board where the pitch card was that he couldn’t believe a Gamergater like me didn’t know Brianna Wu. I told him right then and there that I wasn’t a Gamergater. There was a definite tone change after that,and everyone who wasn’t my friend began to act icy toward me. I was aware of it, but just focused on being number one on the weekly leader boards. I guess I knew deep down that they were searching for a reason to fire me, but I pretended that nothing was wrong. I viewed my boss as my friend and expected better of him.
It was maybe a month later I was in the middle of editing one of my articles on Wordpress when I was suddenly locked out. I went to Trello to report that Wordpress had gone down, but found myself locked out of that too. I felt that ice water sensation in my gut, but held my breath. The notifications rolled in that the Admin had changed my passwords.
I started writing an email to the boss, but he beat me too it. I felt like I had been punched as I read. I was told that I was rude to the new Editor and that referring to him as him on the Trello board was not acceptable (Even though they did identify as male). I had barely ever spoken to the guy in question. I didn’t really like him since I knew he was treating me differently than my two other friends who worked there. We even experimented, writing articles on each others accounts. I was held to a much higher standard than anyone else. I didn’t mention that I knew this, but it did bother me. In the whole email one line stood out “Your Gamergate grudge”. My what?
I wrote back begging to at least be able to finish my work and collect the emails of friends at work. He didn’t respond until I gave up and just sent him an invoice. I was devastated. To add an extra sting he didn’t tell anyone I’d been fired and offered everyone else double pay for a week. Presumably he needed the huge production hole I left behind to be filled. Being apart of that team had made me happy and taken my mind off of the isolation. I had enjoyed interacting with developers and building my reputation. It was the holidays at the time, so I lost three days to drinking and crying. It was fairly pathetic, but it was the unfairness of it. I talked my friends into staying. Most wanted to leave in solidarity but there was no point in throwing away paid writing work.
It took a while for me to recover. I was quite intent on giving up on writing. I was so sick of all the politics that had taken root in gaming. This, this had always been my sweet escape. The rest of the world could fall down and shatter around me, but I always had gaming to fall back on. In that moment I felt like my one lifeline had been snatched away from me. I gave in to the lethargy. I gave up on video game journalism. I cleared my inboxes in a symbolic moment of letting go…
… It’s never that easy to quit though, is it? I stumbled across an archived link of one of my older articles on Kotaku in Action and laughed. These were my people. I realised something that should have been obvious. I loved pointing out all this bullshit that feminist came up with. I loved busty female characters and the inevitable fit the media would have over them. I loved debating and researching and finding compromises. I loved being apart of this fight. What was the point of lying to myself about where my alliances lay?
I was a GamerGater. I was damn ashamed of my fence sitting. I started writing again, the way I like to write. It was for an entirely new website and my article on why girls didn’t like female characters, took off. It broke all of the sites view records and was shared everywhere. It even brought the website down for a few minutes at the height of traffic. What a thrill. It isn’t your average story of rebirth, but I look at my GamerGengar alias. The one I grew up with that I held close to me and changed it to an ambiguous GG.