What is GamerGate?
I have been toying with these thoughts and ideas for a while now and although the picture that has emerged over the months makes sense to me, I do not claim to offer the Truth (with a capital T), just my 2 cents.
The reason I am writing this right now sparked by three events in particular:
- This beautiful illustration, that was submitted to reddit the other day
- The discussions regarding moving Social Justice away from KiA
- And the fact that I have recently written another piece and still feel invigorated by all the positive feedback
These ideas are still very much in flux and I want to stress that I’m still open for (your) input. They form a model that makes sense to me, but I would love to hear from you as well. So consider this an invitation to exchange ideas.
Should you yourself not be a part of GamerGate or maybe even be against it, consider this a window into the mind of somebody who has spent close to 9 months now identifying with it. Though I in no way claim to represent it.
GamerGate the hashtag
This part of GamerGate is probably the easiest to pin down and point to and it’s my go-to answer when somebody asks me what GamerGate is. Obviously, it’s a hashtag. It’s the sort of stuff that historians love because the first tweet has a precise date and person to attach it to. For this very reason, historians also love declarations of war, because it’s a date that students can learn and recite and all that fun stuff.
The analogy to a declaration of war also rings true in the sense that people have assembled under this banner and fought — at times vicious and scrupulous — against a perceived enemy. But the analogy doesn’t end there. Just like wars are rarely if ever caused by singular events, neither was GamerGate caused by Adam Baldwin’s tweet, or Eron Gjoni’s now infamous Zoe Post for that matter.
As many have pointed out, and only the most narrow minded people would like to deny, GamerGate has been in the works for a very long time now and while some milestones along the way might have specific dates and involved parties, its true beginnings are where people actually disagree on.
GamerGate and Ethics in VG-Journalism
As I have already touched on in my other article, to deny that GamerGate is about ethics is to be uninformed and/or willfully ignorant. I challenge anybody who believes that ‘GamerGate is about harassing women’ to go this site and find said harassment. The combined hours alone that people have spent collecting data and information on ethics in video game journalism should be enough to convince anybody with an open mind. And to top it all off we have recently witnessed the launch of deepfreeze.it to the big dismay of a group of journalists that feels threatened by it. And guess what, this group consists mostly of men.
I will, however not linger on this point any longer, because there is a deeper point I would like to get to and interestingly enough, it has nothing to do with games journalism or gaming for that matter.
GamerGate and Social Justice
It’s undeniable that GamerGate also cares deeply about social justice issues. Probably even more so than people who label themselves social justice Warriors. ‘But!’, I hear you say: ‘If GamerGate is about ethics in video game journalism, how come they go on an on about social justice issues?’
One possible answer to this question would be, that it’s no necessarily just about ethics in video game journalism, but also about ethics in general. Though that would — in my mind — miss the mark, because then we might as well call ourselves Ethics and Social Justice Warriors or SJW+.
The reason — I believe — that GamerGate is entangled with social justice issues, is because the world is entangled with them right now. I obviously can’t speak for every country, but at least as far as I can tell, in Europe, North America, Australia, Canada and most likely other parts of the world as well, topics like Feminism, LGBT(IQ), Vegetarianism, Vegan-ism, and countless other such topics are being discussed and disseminated. But why and how would this relate to video gaming? Is this the hidden agenda rearing its ugly head? The internalized misogyny within GamerGate that seeks to destroy feminism and drive women out of the video game industry and STEM?
Cargo Cult Science
We’ve learned from experience that the truth will come out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature’s phenomena will agree or they’ll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven’t tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it’s this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in cargo cult science.
Cargo Cult Science by Richard Feynman 1974
I encourage you to take the time and listen to what Feynman has to say and if you’re so inclined also read his piece on Cargo Cult Science.
Before I continue, I want make it crystal clear that:
- I do not dismiss social sciences outright.
- I regard all research & findings of respected, peer-reviewed journals equally (such as Thomson Reuters’ Master Journal List)
- I will even acknowledge the importance/findings of peer-reviewed journals that might not be on the MJL.
With that being said though; I do consider social sciences to be by definition less precise than for example the natural sciences. The reason I say by definition, is because humans are almost incomprehensibly complex compared to for example the experiments done in a particle accelerator. Which in effect means that it will never suffice for me to just read abstract of a paper, I will always demand the entire paper in order for me to fully acknowledge a finding.
You might be asking yourself by now if I have completely lost the plot and how this all is ever going to relate back to GamerGate. Well I already alluded to the what I want to expand on now with the first picture in this post. And I now want to elaborate further on it with this (marvellous) drawing here
What I’m trying to say with this drawing, is that I believe the reason we are dealing with all of this, on a global scale, as well as within GamerGate, is because people haven’t been very good at critically examining the results coming from fields such as social psychology. And so we are now faced with the situation that not only has this research crept into the education system, it is also in the heads of the journalists, developers, adbusters and people in general.
If you want more than just my word (and I hope that you demand more when someone makes such claims), here are some examples and facts to back up my claims:
Researchers are rewarded for splashy findings, not for double-checking accuracy. So many scientists looking for cures…articles.latimes.com
Social Psychology suffers particularly from the so-called Replication Crisis as detailed in its Wikipedia-article. Since it is the basis for all of the claims that Anita Sarkeesian makes (assuming she even bothers to quote any science) in her videos, I want to include it here in full:
Social psychology has recently found itself at the center of a “replication crisis” due to some research findings proving difficult to replicate. Replication failures are not unique to social psychology and are found in all fields of science. However, several factors have combined to put social psychology at the center of the current controversy.
Firstly, questionable researcher practices (QRP) have been identified as common in the field. Such practices, while not intentionally fraudulent, involve converting undesired statistical outcomes into desired outcomes via the manipulation of statistical analyses, sample size or data management, typically to convert non-significant findings into significant ones. Some studies have suggested that at least mild versions of QRP are highly prevalent. One of the critics of Daryl Bem in the feeling the future controversy has suggested that the evidence for precognition in this study could (at least in part) be attributed to QRP.
Secondly, social psychology has found itself at the center of several recent scandals involving outright fraudulent research. Most notably the admitted data fabrication by Diederik Stapel as well as allegations against others. However, most scholars acknowledge that fraud is, perhaps, the lesser contribution to replication crises.
Third, several effects in social psychology have been found to be difficult to replicate even before the current replication crisis. For example the scientific journal Judgment and Decision Making has published several studies over the years that fail to provide support for the unconscious thought theory. Replications appear particularly difficult when research trials are pre-registered and conducted by research groups not highly invested in the theory under questioning.
These three elements together have resulted in renewed attention for replication supported by Kahneman. Scrutiny of many effects have shown that several core beliefs are hard to replicate. A recent special edition of the journal Social Psychology focused on replication studies and a number of previously held beliefs were found to be difficult to replicate. A 2012 special edition of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science also focused on issues ranging from publication bias to null-aversion that contribute to the replication crises in psychology
It is important to note that this replication crisis does not mean that social psychology is unscientific. Rather this process is a healthy if sometimes acrimonious part of the scientific process in which old ideas or those that cannot withstand careful scrutiny are pruned. The consequence is that some areas of social psychology once considered solid, such as social priming, have come under increased scrutiny due to failed replications
I hope you haven’t forgotten that I stated earlier that this does not mean that I dismiss the entire field outright. I don’t. I consider all scientific endeavors important. But from everything I have seen coming from (mostly) social sciences, I have learned to take it with more than a pinch of salt.
Cargo Cult Journalism
This leads to me to what I’d like to call Cargo Cult Journalism, which represents both, the tabloid media that has garnered the status — in the minds of the people — of actual journalism on the internet, as well as real journalism, that has approached tabloid media through things like native advertising and journalism that is so yellow you’d need a color picker to distinguish the two. We — inside GamerGate — have had the privileged position of experiencing first hand what it means to become a victim of both these tabloids that present themselves as actual journalistic enterprises, as well as real parts of the fourth estate that have sucked these stories up as fact and simply parroted them back.
It is one thing, for frauds and culture/media critics to misrepresent science and facts for their personal gain. But it is a different story altogether, when journalists — the people in charge of informing the populace — are failing to properly investigate a topic. We are witnessing first hand — in a phantasmagorical transformation — how old media is freely giving away it’s hard won freedom, in order to sustain itself and invests more into hiring young, clickbait-journalists which are excused based on their inexperience. But don’t take my word for, I wholeheartedly encourage you to take a moment and actually read the results from the report by Steve Coll. This is journalism, right now.
Essential practices… oh you mean these pesky nuisances?
I don’t want to linger too much on my disappointment with journalism though. The really sad part about all this though is, that I probably don’t even need to provide any proof for you to know exactly what I’m talking about. People have come to accept that journalism is a joke at this point; how objectivity is a “silly thing to strive for” and how you have to be naive to assume that press is in any way shape or form credible. How silly of Reuters to strive for scrupulous fairness and balance…
So it’s no surprise that these Cargo Cult Journalists have officially declared us dead to them around the 26th of August 2014, in the media blitz that has since become known as Gamers Are Dead. But the seeds for this narrative had been sown way ahead of time. Be it the fact that gamers — sometimes also known as consumers — had been called privileged and entitled for a long time before, or the narrative that video games were only aimed at white males. Or how Anita Sarkeesian was promoted as the second coming of Christ for video gaming and received the ambassador award for being hugely influential, according to the GDC. This had been in the works for a while.
Disregarding for a moment that even though Feminist Frequency is supposedly so influential, yet every major game/series since her series started is problematic, as well as the people reporting on these games GTA/Saints Row, Bayonetta, Hotline Miami, Bloodborne. Out of the library of all video games — that by some are assumed to be up to 5 million — she has so far only picked 20 worth recommending. As an aside, it surprises nobody within GamerGate that most of these games are from the indie scene. The very narrative — that Anita has been spinning for the last 3 years now — was one of internalized misogyny and gamers being the worst harassers. She has never engaged anybody in any form of critical interview and none of her “work” has ever been met with any kind of scrutiny by any of the video game journals.
Here’s a challenge and an invitation to you, find one article in any of the major video game outlets with a hunch of criticism.
Instead, her rhetoric has been employed and modulated by — as we’ve come to learn through GamerGate — the people within the clique to shame and denounce a demographic that could not be more diverse. At this point I should maybe mention, that I do not wish to be (mis-)understood as accusing everyone against GamerGate of being part of a conspiracy. The reason I believe they are/think alike is because of the underlying foundation that I outlined in my (magnificent) illustration. Feminist Frequency is building on top of an existing framework and it’s simply good tone to pander the notion that media’s depiction of women is poor. The leap to misogyny — internalized or real — is but a minor one. And so is the idea that we must all therefor hate women, not want them in our boys’ club, harass them,…
In this regard, GamerGate at least enabled some people to actually receive a platform for criticizing Feminist Frequency’s contributions:
After I published my article I read Adrian Chmielarz’s wonderful piece about the “The Witcher 3”-review by Polygon writer Arthur Gies and I realized that this is another way in which Cargo Cult Science/Journalism are creating a hostile environment for content creators. A great read, that I feel beautifully illustrates another point I hadn’t even touched on:
The Big Picture
So GamerGate is not only about ethics in video game journalism, it is also about:
- ethics in discourse
- ethics in journalism (as a whole)
- misrepresentation of facts and science
- misrepresentation and shaming of gamers/geeks
- tabloid media elevated to the status of journalism
I’m inclined to say that I don’t think the SJ aspects should be separated, but at the same time I feel like we might be muddying the waters if we keep it in. By that I mean, ethics are best served cold and if anything many of the SJ dramas produce anything but cold hard facts.
But that’s just another one of my harmful opinions~