Share...
13 Dec 2014 16:52
| |

I've hung my overcoat at the crossroads of media technology and social change for the last 20 years as a journalist, author, and consultant. That includes a book - CauseWired: Plugging In, Getting Involved, Changing the World (Wiley) which chronicles the rise of online social activism - and bylines at The New York Times, The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, techPresident.com, Social Edge, Industry Standard, Inside, Worth and Contribute magazines, among many other publications. I co-founded three companies, including the pioneering '90s protoblog @NY and CauseWired, my consulting firm currently advising clients on the social commons. In my spare time, I'm an adjunct instructor of social media and philanthropy at New York University.

Contact Tom Watson

The author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Loading...
Entrepreneurs 3,216 views

What Fuels 'GamerGate' Anger And Outrage? Gender, Power And Money

There is one aspect of the ongoing discussion of “GamerGate” in endless blogs, media articles, tweets and essays that – despite an aversion to adding to that endless discussion – pulls my casual gaming fingers to the keyboard.

And that’s the idea, repeated almost everywhere, that GamerGate (the months-long explosion of vitriol in and amongst the so-called gaming community), is somehow complex.

Like a side trip down a text-based screen map in Beyond Zork (oh yeah) there’s an endless connection of charges and counter-charges, he said this and she said that, postings on this board and that board, and the virtual footsteps of socially challenged anonymous trolls. [Here's the intricate eldritch vapors' guide to the gory details from our own tech coverage].

But GamerGate isn’t complicated at all. It’s about three things: misogyny, power and money.

Misogyny

Death threats, promises of sexual violence, massive and violent attacks by semi-anonynous male gamers against three women is at the center of GamerGate – indeed, gender hatred is the defining core. As Reuters columnist Jack Shafer wrote last week, “all you need to know about ‘GamerGate is that it has earned writer Anita Sarkeesian, game entrepreneur Brianna Wu, and developer Zoe Quinn violent threats from anonymous Internet sources.”

Earlier this year before GamerGate broke, Wu wrote a strong essay with specific examples of abuse that women face in the gaming industry. Her conclusion: it’s everywhere, and violence is around the corner:

Women in the industry are told by men what is valid for us to feel. The conversations tend not to recognize the reality of the situation, and the very real threats that can occur at gaming events or in our day-to-day lives. We’re told it doesn’t matter, to grow a thicker skin, and that men go through the same thing.

I have yet to talk to a man who has had to call a police officer due to a stalker, only to be told nothing can be done until they are physically assaulted. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to be at a gaming event, cornered by someone who claims to be a fan, and to be physically kept from leaving by someone holding you in place or putting their body between you and the exit.

Two months later, she and her husband were forced to flee their home at the advice of police responding to specific online threats of sexual violence.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 7.33.59 PM

 

Power

The anonymity that services like Twitter Twitter allow has a positive side: it empowers  the discussion of controversial issues without opening every participant in the discussion to potential persecution. This often matters in citizen movements, particularly in repressive political systems. But it also has a dark side that protects gangs of online sexual predators who get off on the power that being an anonymous part of a mob imparts.

“The goal of trolling isn’t to make a point,” wrote John Biggs on TechCrunch today. “The goal is to bother someone and watch someone squirm. It happens over and over: like a baleful eye of Sauron, the GG crowd turns to a topic or person and gleefully watches as its messages, emails, and tweets begin to affect the conversation. The Internet gives the voiceless great power and it also gives the troll a great bludgeon.”

Let’s face it, a segment of the gaming demographic is angry about a loss of dominance, a loss of control, a loss of license to act as they please with no ramifications – a loss of power.

Money

And that demographic is also worth billions of dollars to companies and shareholders. That desire for power and control – rooted in free expressions of sexual violence for too many – is almost completely aligned with the marketing plans of the big gaming companies, the venture capitalists who invest in gaming startups, and the shareholders who buy stock in the sector.

Today’s Amanda Marcotte post on RawStory has it exactly right:

Game marketing has been aggressively aimed at this aggressively sexist young men for a long time now, which is something Sarkeesian’s videos make abundantly clear. Sexism is a selling point for them. Marketers fear that if they reach out to women and tone down the sexism, then the hardcore gamers that make them a lot of money right now will revolt and stop spending so much money. And there’s no guarantee that women will replace the money lost. While just as many women play games as men, it’s objectively true that women have a lot less free time and spending money than men do. Say what you will about the sexist dudebro: Keep flattering his bullshit sense of male superiority and you have a customer for life.

The thing is, public threats of murder and sexual violence can play havoc with a media brand. Ask the NFL. While the market may look the other way for a while, a sustained campaign in public can make a huge difference in the era of networks – particularly the empowered, muscular feminist digital networks. It’s a different time. And to me, that’s why GamerGate continues to simmer.

Because its victims won’t go away.

Post Your Comment

Please or sign up to comment.

Forbes writers have the ability to call out member comments they find particularly interesting. Called-out comments are highlighted across the Forbes network. You'll be notified if your comment is called out.

  • Michael Roa Michael Roa 1 month ago

    I’d just like ask for you to look into the issue more deeply. You didn’t mention anything about the journalistic corruptions, you summarize a complex issue to three key points, never admitting it to be anything more than those three points, and you attack a community with generalized statements. I also see a lack of representation of the opposing side to the this issue, you show one side, and act as though the other is some terror dedicated to attacking it. As Brianna Wu said “They threatened the wrong woman this time. I am the Godzilla of bitches. I have a backbone of pure adamantium, and I’m sick of seeing them abuse my friends.” , now I’m no Godzilla of bitches, made of adamantium, but I am a young man, with a backbone of vertebrae, nerve tissue, and other various body parts and body fluids, and I’m pretty sick of seeing people abuse gamers, dox gamers, and attack gamers. And as a journalist I’m confident you’ll take this advice to heart and build on it to help create a more ideal article that can please both sides of the issue, won’t you?

  • “I’d just like ask for you to look into the issue more deeply,” writes young Michael Roa, working on his avuncularity.

    He then proceeds to show that he has mastered the most fundamental skill of the corrupt journalism of generations past, even-handedness between false equivalents.

    Too bad, Michael. That ethic died years ago. Good people are no longer trying for balance: we try for truth instead.

    -dlj.

  • Why even write articles anymore? They’re all copy and paste ideas from your friends. Research is too hard for journalists it seems. The first article on Google that mirror our personal views is more than enough.

  • Gusi Rincon Gusi Rincon 1 month ago

    Ill keep my stand on this,

    “Death threats, promises of sexual violence, massive and violent attacks by semi-anonynous male gamers against three women is at the center of #GamerGate – indeed, gender hatred is the defining core. As Reuters columnist Jack Shafer wrote last week, “all you need to know about ‘GamerGate is that it has earned writer Anita Sarkeesian, game entrepreneur Brianna Wu, and developer Zoe Quinn violent threats from anonymous Internet sources.””

    My life savings to the person capable to provide any solid evidence between GG and the threats, beyond just taking the word of the victims as granted when they point fingers at us

  • Gusi Rincon Gusi Rincon 1 month ago

    BTW

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2014/10/09/gamergate-is-not-a-hate-group-its-a-consumer-movement/

    get your facts right

  • Vewak Vewak 1 month ago

    It’s cute how this gets spammed by bots on Twitter, and how off the article is since it never makes a mention of “ethics”. Ethics policies being the silver bullet to destroy GamerGate.

    It’s amazing how impossible it is for some of these atrocious jackasses to realize that ending GamerGate is just so simple. All they need to do is apologize and implement ethics policies.

  • Of the five comments before me only one, by Veewak, has any contact with the real world as I know it.

    The other four are sick mumbling by egotistical, apparently wounded, moral midgets.

    -dlj.

  • Of the five comments before me only one, by Vewak, has any contact with the real world as I know it.

    The other four are sick mumbling by egotistical, apparently wounded, moral midgets.

    -dlj.

  • Appealing to the authority of the echo chamber, no analysis, strawmen abound.

    Rubbish.

  • Marcus Marcus 1 month ago

    Agreed. this is all that really needs to be said about #GamerGate. it just needs to stop.

  • Marcus Marcus 1 month ago

    you seem to be confusing “facts” and “opinions”. just like every other gamergater.

  • Mihaly Ducz Mihaly Ducz 1 month ago

    Well, this article offered zero analysis, insight or overall value. Thanks for your time tough.

  • Arlo Boemo Arlo Boemo 1 month ago

    I’m not sure that you can effectively comment on GamerGate without discussing a call for the gaming press to act in an ethical manner. The reality might be fanboys having an altered view of ethics (ie, if you don’t share the same view as them and you publish that view you are unethical) or misogynists hiding behind a demand for eithics, but without discussing this aspect of the matter you appear to be dismissing/ignoring what many members of GamerGate seem to believe is the core of the issue. Having said that, I still believe you would come to the same conclusions.

    I honestly don’t know why the misogynist members of GamerGate are so enraged. As long as people are buying sexist games, companies will keep making them regardless of who is saying what. It’s extremely depressing but very true. Just look at the film and music industries.

  • There are plenty of women in #gamergate. It is a diverse movement of individuals fighting freedom of expression and ethics.

  • Arlo Boemo Arlo Boemo 1 month ago

    You might be right, but that’s the problem with a movement formed on Twitter with ill defined objectives. The message getting out there isn’t the one that you’re referring to. You might want to blame the media or SJWs but ultimately the movement is responsible for its own message and objectives.

  • “Death threats, promises of sexual violence, massive and violent attacks by semi-anonynous male gamers against three women is at the center of #GamerGate – indeed, gender hatred is the defining core.”

    I suppose you also think violence is at the defining core of Islam, merely because a Muslim minority is in the Middle East setting off bombs and killing people. No? Then why think that a minority of idiots sending death threats on Twitter is representative of an entire grassroots movement?

    Very poor article.

  • dtobin dtobin 1 month ago

    Muslims can point to the many great accomplishments made in the name of Islam. Muslims may disagree about the core tennants of their faith, but the different denominations can point to clear agreed-upon texts of their core beliefs to debate.

    There is no agreement among “GamerGaters” as to what tangible goals they want. There are no positive accomplishments that don’t come tinged with serious negatives (such as raising money for cancer treatment “to cure butthurt,” raising money to fight bullying at the urging of a pro-GamerGate individual that turned out to be an enormous sexist bully, or convincing Intel to pull out its gamasutra ads in the name of journalistic ethics, effectively trying to change their coverage by outside means, something agreed upon as unethical by the Society of Professional Journalists).

  • Another crappy article from another crappy journalist. No research, no evidence, nothing.

  • Z1230 Z1230 1 month ago

    I feel like it would be much easier for this debate to be addressed appropriately if the individuals who consider themselves part of #Gamergate would say something like this:

    Questionable ethics do not justify threats of violence against people or their families.

    And whenever I read people who ignore the very real threats of violence, sexual assault, arson etc against a handful of women in the industry and just respond with “gamergate isn’t about mysoginy it’s about ethics,” I want more people to specify. Yes, ethical standards in journalism are critical, but you need to explain. What are the ethical dilemmas, pitfalls, and flatout wrongdoings that you want to avoid?

    My fellow gamers, the ones who believe Gamergate is about ethics, what are the specific ethical issues you want addressed? If you can do that AND denounce the threats, you can make progress.

  • It’s disheartening to see many journalists taking GamerGate at face value. I hope you reconsider how closely you look into the facts. I’m hurt as a gamer that I’m now considered “aggressively sexist” towards women just because I play video games. I hope you recognize your biases and check both sides of the story, and not trivialize underlying issues.

  • I’d would like to ask the author to look into the matter more deeply. It’s easy to get swept up in this “Us vs Them” trope. So far I’ve only seen articles addressing this GamerGate issue not to promote discussion but with the intent to end it. That is what I took away from this article.

  • Also Known As Also Known As 1 month ago

    Tom, despite you and many, many, many others trying to paint this issue as something it isn’t, and slander the movement, the fact is that GamerGaters have honed and focused their efforts and are gradually creating the changes they want to see. It seems they also have a lot of support from within the industry itself.

    So keep projecting your own hyper-feminist agenda onto the debate–it isn’t working.