What is #GamerGate about?
You may have heard about GamerGate in the media lately and how it is just a bunch of horrible women-hating white guys who cannot stand the idea of females getting near their games to the point where they threaten to kill or massacre them. In all fairness, some people have been threatened, albeit on both sides with the media only really reporting about the threats against anti-GamerGate, but there is no denying that threats have been made. One thing the media seem intent to emphasize is that GamerGate is not about ethics in journalism or it is only a smokescreen for attacking women. Unfortunately, the media has never exactly been known for its fairness or honesty. So, what has GamerGate been going on about that actually has to do with ethics in gaming journalism?
- Right before the GamerGate hashtag was coined a post on Reddit noted two major issues involving journalists. One, Patricia Hernandez, wrote multiple articles for Kotaku about games created by Anna Anthropy. The problem is Anthropy and Hernandez happened to be roommates and remained very close. It was also noted that Polygon’s Ben Kuchera was a regular donor to Zoe Quinn’s Patreon page while writing about Quinn, and Polygon adopted new policies in response.
- A Reddit user from Australia posted about corruption in Australian gaming media. One significant claim was that a forum operated by an Australian studio of Electronic Arts was hacked with 40,000 users having information compromised. EA would not inform its users and simply took the site down, while reporters in Australia would not cover it because of close ties to the company. GamerGate supporters on Twitter quickly jumped on the story, including prominent GamerGater MundaneMatt. Kotaku scooped GamerGate without any mention of the Reddit post or allegations of corruption in the media enabling the cover-up by EA.
- More attention to GamerGate brought in Breitbart journalist Milo Yiannopoulos. GamerGate supporter and Cinema Blend journalist William Usher leaked copies of a mailing list called GameJournoPros, based off the controversial defunct JournoList created for major liberal-leaning media. In one of these conversations Ben Kuchera, an editor at Polygon; James Fudge, managing editor at Game Politics; and Andy Eddy, a long-time journalist who has held numerous editorial positions at GamePro, IGN, and other gaming outlets; attempted to lean on Editor-in-Chief of The Escapist to shut down discussion of allegations regarding Quinn and Nathan Grayson. Notably, the Escapist thread was the subject of a DDoS attack following the leak. Another conversation saw writer Ryan Smith overwhelmingly shouted down for questioning the major gaming media’s silence on the allegations regarding Quinn.
- Prominent YouTuber Totalbiscuit, an early defender of the movement that would eventually become GamerGate, tweets about brand deals with prominent gaming YouTubers regarding the game Shadow of Mordor. The story is quickly picked up by pro-GamerGate reporters such as Mat Growcott of GamesReviews, Erwin Murillo of Gamer Headlines, and Andrew Otton of TechRaptor, with the latter outlet having been previously brought down by a hack following its pro-GamerGate reporting. The first article in a major outlet that appears to mention the Shadow of Mordor controversy is a piece by Kyle Orland, founder of GameJournoPros, in Ars Technica. Despite directly linking to the GamesReviews piece that mentions GamerGate, no mention is made of GamerGate in Orland’s report.
There is a narrative being presented that GamerGate does not care about ethics in journalism or ethics in gaming. In fact, over the course of the last two months, GamerGate has been quick to point out, raise, or promote, issues regarding poor ethics in gaming journalism. Anyone who tells you GamerGate is only about harassing women out of the industry is either lying or misinformed. The latter should be no surprise coming from regular people, since the establishment gaming media naturally never had any interest in granting GamerGate any appearance of legitimacy in the eyes of the public.