Let’s Say #GamerGate is About Ethics

#GamerGate claims to be about ethics in gaming journalism. Nobody disputes that “ethics” is good and “corruption” is bad, but plenty of articles I’ve seen don’t bother to define what “ethics” in journalism actually is (just claim that GamerGaters certainly aren’t about it). So, let’s be clear here.

“Ethics” in journalism includes things like:

  1. Avoiding conflicts of interest (reporting on a game you worked on is pretty sketchy)
  2. Making sure information is accurate (that game came out in 1999 not 2000!!)
  3. Avoiding plagiarism (you best not copy me)
  4. Trying to ensure that you’re not putting people who talked to you for or are discussed in the article at risk of harm because of said article (journalists can’t put Zoe Quinn’s address in a piece, you know).

(To read all the ethical guidelines, here’s the Society of Professional Journalist’s code of ethics so we’re all on the same page.)

Great. This all sounds legit. Every journalist should adhere to these standards.

Now here are some of the main things I’ve seen GamerGaters get angry over regarding “ethics in journalism”:

  1. Gaming publications accept advertising money from game developers, which may or may not be a conflict of interest (there is nuance to this one).
  2. Journalists from competing publications talk to each other about what to cover.
  3. Reviews of games need to be objective by focusing on game play and story rather than things like gender representation. (Example: Operation Bayonetta 2, which states: “If you buy Bayo 2 for Wii U, do the Club Nintendo survey and explicitly state that you were unhappy with how Polygon chose to represent the game. Polygon chose to focus on sexualizing Bayo 2 over the actual gameplay and gave it a lower score because of that. Cut Polygon out of Nintendo Press Material.”)

Aside from the fact that only the advertising claim may be an actual ethics violation (and the review claim is just ridiculous, as by nature a review cannot be objective), I’m left wondering: So what?

You disagreed with the low score Polygon gave Bayonetta 2. Clearly you are still going to buy the game and think it’s great, because you’re an independent-minded person. So why does it matter what a Polygon reviewer said?

Does this perceived corruption change your buying habits in any way?

Does it affect how you see the games, or how much you enjoy them?

Do you think you are getting lower-quality games because publications are being too nice or too harsh to certain ones in their reviews?

What makes you think EA Games has ruined your lives more than companies like Bank of America?

Though I disagree with #GamerGate (the motivations seem, at best, misguided, and at worst, misogynistic), I’m honestly trying to understand all of this. Because right now, I just hear a bunch of people screaming at each other (myself included, at times) — “NO, #GamerGate is about ETHICS!” “NO, #GamerGate is about HATING WOMEN!” “Goddamn SJWs!!” “Stupid privileged white men with gross neckbeards!” — and getting nowhere.