Gamergate: no more fun and games

Women gamers are receiving harsh threats online for "poking deftly into the subculture's most sensitive nerve". By Alistair Fairweather.

Alistair-Fairweather-180-profileWhat do you think of when you hear the word “nerd”? What was once an insult has become almost affectionate. With their extreme intelligence and social awkwardness, nerds are usually seen as endearing and harmless. This makes what is happening in the gaming industry all the more shocking.

For the last four months, a war of words has been raging between fans of videogames (gamers), the gaming press and feminist critics. What started as a blog post by a jilted boyfriend soon morphed into an ugly melee, sprawling across Web and social media.

On one side of the conflict are millions of fanatical gamers, outraged by what they see as an unjustified attack on a treasured pastime. On the other are gaming journalists and feminists who are horrified by what they believe is an entire industry built around deep-seated misogyny.

The conflict, named #GamerGate after the Twitter hashtag it spawned, has sullied participants on both sides. Gaming journalists have lost credibility by attacking the very people they are supposed to serve. Feminists have come across as shrill and militantly self-righteous.

But it’s the gaming community that has really disgraced itself. Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist and prominent critic of mainstream gaming, has been deluged with threats of rape and violence. And she is only one of many women connected to the gaming industry who have been targeted in the same way.

Sarkeesian has been exploring female roles in games for the last two years through a series of video critiques. After the release of her most recent video, someone sent her a message on Twitter:  “I’m sitting outside your apartment … with a loaded gun.” Geolocation data confirmed that the tweet was posted nearby her home.

In October, Sarkeesian was scheduled to speak at Utah State University’s Center for Women and Gender. A few hours before the event, the university received an anonymous e-mail if Sarkesian was allowed to speak. The e-mail continued: “I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America.”

What’s puzzling is that Sarkesian isn’t saying anything particularly new. Her video critiques are provocative but largely accurate. Women are routinely portrayed as either sex objects or punching bags in many games (often both at the same time). Few games have female characters of any substance — most are treated as either adornment or chattel. So where does all this disproportionate rage come from?

Part of it stems from the psychology of gamers. For many painfully awkward teenagers, the digital world of gaming offers the kind of escape that sport or dating might offer to their more socially adept peers. I was one such teenager, and I remember the solace this private world gave me. In that world, you can wield the kind of power that is routinely denied to you in your daily life.

From that perspective, a threat to gaming — whether real or perceived — is taken personally. You’re not just talking about “videogames” — you’re talking about a way of coping with life. Sarkesian is poking her finger deftly into the subculture’s most sensitive nerve.

But however strident Sarkeesian and her peers may be, nothing justifies the kind of reaction they have received. Gamers have unleashed a torrent of threats so vile that many cannot be repeated without nauseating both writer and reader. Nothing can ever justify a threat of gang rape or mutilation.


The majority of #GamerGate supporters are not misogynists. Only a small minority have threatened women online. Moderate supporters have a genuine concern that gaming journalists have been partial and unethical in their coverage of the industry. But that justified cause has long since mutated into what amounts to an online hate group.

Thirty years ago, Revenge of the Nerds debuted in cinemas. A classic tale of nice guys with thick glasses and goofy laughs beating the jocks at their own game. These are the breed of nerdy men and women that founded the gaming industry and made Silicon Valley what it is today. For 30 years, nerds have been a force for progress and good — from Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak to Sergey Brin and Mark Zuckerberg.

But not all nerds become billionaire playboys. Many remain painfully awkward and socially isolated. Their sensitivity can be endearing, but it can also be dangerous. However unfair they may feel feminists are being, they cannot be allowed to react like overgrown toddlers. It’s time for gamers to grow up and join the 21st century.

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  • DeusExDraconian

    John is but a simple troll. Just walk away, Gregg. Walk away.

  • John Sartoris

    No, but Deus is a troll who comes on the thread with no argument of his own and no relevant point to make. I love how trolls like Deus wallow in their hypocrisy…;)

  • Gregg Braddoch

    “You accept video games affect, that’s a start.”

    Demonstrated by scientific study, video games enhance problem solving, reaction time, etc.

    Also: You still haven’t shown me that Anita anywhere in her work has stated games won’t turn people into misogynists. Quite convenient that you get to make claims without defending them. (God Privilege)

    “You also can’t refute that different games will have different effects. ”

    No, but I wonder how you can scientifically demonstrate the presence of a subjective moral problem.

    “Sarkeesian cited her evidence, so you know what it is. You clearly haven’t disproven it yet.”

    She has cited no scientific evidence that supports her claims, so there is nothing for me to disprove – let me know when you find a scientific study anywhere on feminist frequency’s videos or website that needs debunking.

    “Thanks for the God complement, by the way. ”

    Anything for My Lord and Master “I’m right because I said so.”

  • Gregg Braddoch

    Yay! I get to implode because my Lord, Master “Because I Said So”, said so.

  • John Sartoris

    Your post is quite ironic since you give no evidence to support any of your statements. So, you’re the one who thinks he’s right because he “says so.” What a shock.

    Nobody talked about “scientifically demonstrating the presence of a subjective moral problem.” So, that statement is ridiculous

    She absolutely pointed to studies showing video imagery affects on the mind. You need to show the studies you mentioned actually enhanced problem solving and reaction time, and only did that. Otherwise, the only one playing God, and badly, is you.

  • Gregg Braddoch

    “Your post is quite ironic since you give no evidence to support any of your statements.”

    Yeah, I don’t really defend scientific research that has been widely publicized to Troll-Gods like yourself.

    “Nobody talked about ‘scientifically demonstrating the presence of a subjective moral problem.'”

    No, but Sarkeesian is claiming real-life problems are caused by video games, and these ‘problems’ are morality based and subjective.

    “She absolutely pointed to studies showing video imagery affects on the mind.”

    Yet none of them demonstrate that this imagery can have ‘misogynistic’ effects.

    “You need to show the studies you mentioned actually enhanced problem solving and reaction time, and only did that. ”

    Yeah, no. This is like saying “well you’ve stated that human beings benefit from eating protein, now you have to prove that protein doesn’t cause cancer because I said it does.” Anita needs to prove that the real-world effects she’s claiming are caused by games, and instead she relies on her own personal bias, much like yourself. “I said it, so it has to be true” – Anita “Comments Disabled Because Misogyny” Sarkeesian.

  • Gregg Braddoch

    ” I love how trolls like Deus wallow in their hypocrisy”

    I think that is your hypocrisy that you got on Deus… just gross dude – Keep that stuff where it belongs.

  • John Sartoris

    Examples never have to be as big as the argued trend; that’s why they’re called “examples.”

    Secondly, go look up “strawman;” you’ve been misusing it terribly.

    Finally, thanks again for the compliments.

  • Gregg Braddoch

    “Examples never have to be as big as the argued trend; that’s why they’re called ‘examples.'”

    Traditionally, the examples are also accompanied by data showing that they are just the examples, and indicative of a larger trend. (This is the part that makes them examples).

    “Secondly, go look up ‘strawman;’ you’ve been misusing it terribly.”

    Yeah, says the guy who either purposely misconstrues my words, or struggles to understand them – I was generous and assumed the former – Are you saying you just don’t understand? It’s ok, your secret is safe with me – We wouldn’t want the rest of your worshipers to find out.

    “Finally, thanks again for the compliments.”

    One can never compliment a deity enough times… I mean seriously, they could throw a fit, and suddenly your pious worship is blasphemy – It’s best to suck up before this happens.

  • Gregg Braddoch

    heh too bad he later decided that “all gamergaters are trolls” was a better story halfway through his article.

  • John Sartoris

    Examples are only accompanied by data if needed. She said there are video games exemplifying particular trends; she gave examples exemplifying them. So, no data was necessary.

    You didn’t look up “strawman:’ I’m not surprised. You wouldn’t want to see how poorly you’ve been misusing it.

    Don’t worry about my throwing a fit; you’ve been a devoted acolyte…;)

  • Gregg Braddoch

    “So, no data was necessary.”

    She called the Damsel trope “pervasive” which means “widely used” – When one makes such a claim Data is necessary.

    ” You wouldn’t want to see how poorly you’ve been misusing it.”

    Yeah I know, you said I used it wrong, so it must be so. No reasoning with you Gods.

    “Don’t worry about my throwing a fit; you’ve been a devoted acolyte…;)”

    Which is what you desire, yes? Gods always want little automatons which follow their moral code to the exclusion of all else, so I had a pretty good hunch on that one.

  • John Sartoris

    Use of “pervasive” doesn’t automatically demand data. There are no rules stating that.

    It’s been fun, dude. I’ve got to get back to work. I’m sure I’ll see you again.

  • Gregg Braddoch

    “Use of ‘pervasive’ doesn’t automatically demand data.”

    Yeah, I agree with you: No data is necessary to demonstrate that games overuse something that is “pervasive” throughout video games – We should just all take your word for it, and by extension Anita’s.

    This is a load of turkey crap.

    “It’s been fun, dude. I’ve got to get back to work. I’m sure I’ll see you again.”

    Yes, My Master.

  • Erc

    Sarkeesian’s “documentaries” have been laughably devoid of fact.

  • Carey Martell

    Cherry-picking examples is anecdotal. If Sarkeesian was truly confident in her claims, she would publish a paper that cites examples from a statistically significant portion of games that have been published. Instead Sarkeesian looks for games that confirm her beliefs and then writes an essay about how her belief is correct. That is the textbook definition of anecdotal evidence, and it is not the least bit scientific.

    As for GNAA I am sure you can use Google to identify the many blog posts that have posted chat logs and Twitter posts from GNAA members who have acknowledged their own involvement. The information is out there and easy to find by simply doing a Google Search for the two terms together.

  • Greg Nieto

    So you’re saying, more-or-less, that the tone set by anon culture outweighs the actual ideas and goals behind the group’s organized efforts? That’s what you seem to be implying when you say that the lack of tone policing makes it a clear ‘hate group’ issue.

    The simple reality is that no organized efforts have been targeted at pushing women or minorities out of gaming. Shitposting is shitposting, but when it comes down to it, we’ve actively supported female devs (got one game greenlit on Steam in a single night) while people opposing GG have done the exact opposite; they tried to bury a farming sim as somehow supporting misogyny and hatred purely because the developer had the audacity to state that she didn’t feel the industry had treated her poorly. I’ve been told I’m either a sock or an idiot for being a minority and giving a shit.

    Talking about inclusivity isn’t better than actual inclusivity, even when actual inclusivity is paired with ignorant shitposting. Personally, I have never ventured into /pol/ because it doesn’t interest me. I haven’t seen much of what you describe on /gg/ on 8chan, or on KiA, but maybe we have different notions of what is and isn’t offensive.

    At the end of the day, actions are more important than words and gestures, and GamerGate hasn’t actually tried to push anyone out of the industry while the opposition legitimately has. What we have done is gotten the FTC to release more stringent guidelines, something that can’t be meaningfully associated with most of the claims that outsiders have made about GG as a group.

  • McTSA

    Surely this article could have been written without using a large smutty tar brush to paint all gamers and gaming journos with it? And now I see I am classified as a nerd and seemingly I have tendencies to all sorts of abominable and vile deeds?

    Good grief, dude?! Words fail me.

    Whatever you write next, please do not tell my wife what subliminally and unknowingly I am. She does not know it (yet?) and I’d like to keep my happy marriage that way… please!

  • S.Grey

    You mean the former protege of Bart Baggette a pick up artist who teaches ppl how to manipulate women ? Maybe we can talk about Randi Harpers meth addiction ? The fact she got fired from Yahoo for doing meth in the bathroom….. well it really display the lvl of intelligence the average anti-GGer has.

  • Greg Mahlknecht

    I took the time to check out the issues around this and wow – what a storm in a teacup. Sarkesian’s videos are certainly nothing even close to accurate. I’m not sure Alistair actually watched any of them. The “research/facts” behind them are about as strong as the wifi-is-giving-us-cancer crowd, based on laughable premises and even more ridiculous logic.

    I don’t know how anyone got outraged over it, it should have just been laughed off and forgotten; I don’t think this has anything to do with nerds or their particular social retardation; it’s just plain simple mob mentality that has escalated out of control. Certainly not unique to GG. This time it just happened to be a few nerds that lashed out, tomorrow it could be movie or soccer fans or a religious group that doesn’t like certain cartoons. In each case, just a few idiots probably looking for attention and trying to impress their friends.

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