5 Benefits of GamerGate That Shouldn’t Be Ignored

GamerGate self identifies as a consumer movement, despite being accused by many of being a “hate group”.

Am I clickbaiting right? Regardless of your opinion on GamerGate, there stands a very important fact that all to often goes ignored: whether “hate group” or consumer movement, GamerGate has accomplished some objectively good goals. Some personal, some public, some likely small in the short term, others possibly life saving. Yes, life saving. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of it all and forget that behind the hashtag are real people, and it’s easy to fall for the narrative that all “Gators” think alike, when in actuality, they’re each working from different, unique mindsets. But when diversity of ideas takes hold, it can accomplish great things. Setting aside a narrative which paints it as pure evil, what good can a bunch of nerds accomplish when get together on social media? Well, a lot. And like the supposedly “evil” things, many don’t even have to do with ethics in journalism.

Raising Money for Charities…and For Victims of Incredible Violence

When GamerGate was first conceived, some members on what was then considered a central hub, 4chan, caught wind of a radical feminist charity called The Fine Young Capitalists. The charity has recently been a target of hacking and threats over a Game Jam they had held for charity, which promoted female developers. The Chan decided to throw in a helping hat in the wake of what seemed like a tragedy. Following behind them was GamerGate, who decided to lend a hand as well. The two groups together, along with do-gooders who found the charity through these groups, raised over $70,000 for the charity.

And that’s not all. A website made for GamerGate features an entire list of charities participants are encouraged to donate to, including charities combatting bullying, suicide, cancer, and other worthy causes. There seems to be a general mindset of giving back, which has been prevelant in the gaming community with charities like Child’s Play.

But that’s not all. In 2015, adult film star Mercedes Carrera, a supporter of GamerGate, reached out to the community and anyone who would listen, after her peer and friend, Cytherea, was brutally raped in her home, and her family held at gunpoint. Unable to work due to the trauma, Carrera and The Porn Charity, a partner of The Fine Young Capitalists, organized a charity to support Cytherea so she could recover in peace. Largely thanks to GamerGate, the charity exceeded its goal.

Supporting Victims of Suicide and Depression, Constantly

If you look back to that list of charities, you’ll notice the top two listed are the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the PACER National Bullying Prevention Center. These picks for charities to support weren’t random — as with any group, there was some members of GamerGate who have been and may still be victims of bullying, depression, and suicide. The community acknowledges this, and takes action to help its members, and anyone who may be considering suicide. In addition to both of these charities reaching far beyond their stated goal, there are participants of GamerGate who make it a regular duty to support those going through difficult times.

When a moderator for the pro-GG subreddit KotakuinAction attempted suicide, members were quickly informed. It remains one of the most positive threads in the subreddit, with even members of GamerGhazi, a notably anti-GG subreddit, wishing the user their best.

GamerGate supporter @JennofHardwire, reaching out to struggling followers after the Tim Schafer incident, and defending the validity of such threats.

In the wake of a suicide threat on Twitter, following a controversey involving develop Tim Schafer, GamerGate regulars talked the user down, while publicly asking anyone else suffering to talk to them. One user, @_icze4r, regularly posts suicide hotlines so they’re available in case anyone needs it (and has refused to stop after some of their followers complained about it). Suicide is something which effects everyone, including people in GamerGate — what better way to help combat it, then use a group already established to remind people they matter.

People Are Being Able to Live Their Dreams With the Help of Others

Solution6Months, or GameDev.life, was an idea concieved by developer Jennifer Dawe, one of the most prominent current GamerGate supporters. The idea was to create a website explicitly for people who want to break into the industry, but who lack resources or time for formal education, or who simply lack the confidence to believe they can succeed. While, on paper, not having much to do with GamerGate, the support for Dawe and love of the project led to promotion by pro-GG users on KotakuinAction and Twitter, and within a couple of days, the site exploded with users, requiring it to be moved to a new server.

While still a new idea, it shows a great deal of promise, and users are excited about the prospect of learning to make games, for many once just a fantasy. There are also areas for people to create teams, promoting working together and using ones skills to their advantage to make something wonderful and whole. The site is open to anyone, and obviously, discussion of GamerGate is almost nil, since it isn’t the purpose of the site. But the support of GamerGate helped make it a reality, and many members are supporters of GamerGate.

Elsewhere, users happily talk to their favorite developers and entertainers, learn about new games they otherwise may have never noticed. I personally spent a week in personal bliss after a developer recognized and complimented me and some fanart I created, for a game I may have never found without the GamerGate community. Little actions like that are everywhere in GamerGate, and whether living a lifelong dream or a one-off chance to meet a hero, it’s a positive experience that can make a person’s day, or their entire life.

A Story of How a Hashtag Can Actually Lead to Change

While to some, the “ethics in journalism” thing has become something of a joke, when you take a step back you will see: there are some websites taking it seriously. Even some who aren’t particularly fond of GamerGate. The Escapist and Destructoid, two popular sites for gamers, were among the first to update their ethics policies in the wake of GamerGate. Careful to not jump to celebration, GamerGate audited The Escapists changes, giving them a seal of approval. The Escapist went on, in 2015, to hire three new content creators, two of them women, a demographic considerably underepresented in gaming journals.

An infographic displaying positive changes linked to the GamerGate movement in 2014.

Their efforts have also led to sites who haven’t reformed their ethics standards getting advertisement pulled. There’s something to be said about any movement which accomplishes real changes it seeks — as someone who has done in person advocacy work, it can be insanely difficult (unless you have the right kind of money) to actually accomplish a goal, or even, to get people to care enough to help you. It requires a level of passion and then, past that point, enough vigor and organization to actually get the job done. It demonstrates an amazing human ability some believe impossible — humans can accomplish a lot and organize naturally, when faced with a dilemma and just enough fire under their feet. GamerGate proves that a simple hashtag can make some, relative to size, big changes.

GamerGate Has Shown: Video Games Are Important to People

Prior to the 21st century, video games weren’t art. They were only marginally entertainment — meant for children and those with the mentality of children. But things started to change, outlook improved, but still, no one really considered them “important” in the way film, and painting, and sculpting, and music, and sports, and other forms of recreation and art were. It was in its own microcosm, mixed in with the ever changing tide of technology, where it didn’t seem to fit in either. This was largely because, to most people, it wasn’t important. In the grand scheme, people didn’t think of video games as deserving the same acolades as the film and music industries.

But GamerGate changed that…suddenly not only were the games themselves making the news, but so were players. And developers. And writers. And entertainers. The real world began to pay attention to gaming, and you may say “for the wrong reasons” but when you look back in history, pretty much all art evolves from conflict. Specific art forms become popular and beloved when they are bred from pain, sweat, and tears. Some of our most popular music genres have evolved from ragtime, which evolved from the songs sung by slaves in the 1800s. Film evolved into an art on the backs of visionaries using the new art style to make beauty, in the wake of two World Wars and the Great Depression. Literature becomes great when it comes in the wake of suffering: whether it’s about a dark time in history, or the author themselves overcame great obstacles to achieve them. People recognize controversey, and it makes them appreciate what the controversey is over. Because it is a signal to people: if someone is this passionate, that they fight through thick and thin to accomplish something, then there must be something important about it.

And this is no exception. GamerGate has spawned academic papers, increased academic interests: again, even if you disagree with the motivation, to stand back and see just the reaction and publicity occuring, is astounding. And the long term of this for video games is positive. It means more interest, more ideas, more indie developers, and less stigma attached to a hobby that once upon a time, many were bullied for.

This isn’t as an attempt to convince anyone to turn to GamerGate, nor an excuse for any harassment, but simply a reminder. GamerGate is made of humans. Those humans are all different, and unique, and their central purpose isn’t harassment even when some people under the tag engage in it. Their central purpose is gaming, and improving the industry surrounding gaming to be fair and transparent to them, the consumers. And along the way, it’s important to remember, that just as humans can do bad things, they are also capable of great things. While sometimes unintentional, GamerGate has impacted gaming and a little bit of the world outside gaming as well. It’s important to remember that, and instead of focusing on the bad constantly, pay attention to the good. There’s not enough positivity in the world largely because we miss it when it smacks us in the face.