This is difficult to write about.
GamerGate, or #GamerGate, has illicited a wealth of emotions that range from anger, to fear, to sadness, and so on. It’s difficult to write this because I started playing games in the interest of fun. When we started gaming, be it on our Game Boys, SNES, Nintendo 64, or (shudder) Sega Master Systems, we did so because we wanted to have fun. Video games were the new toy.
As we’ve aged though, we’ve expected games to age with us. For a lot of games, this means that things have grown more violent, scarier, or perhaps have begun to draw on (now adult) gamers’ sense of responsibility (games like The Last of Us, or Telltale’s The Walking Dead). More importantly, gaming has grown to include more than the traditional gamer. It’s no longer a hobby or past-time relegated to teenage boys or basement-dwelling dweebs. Playing Call of Duty or Halo is just as acceptable now as playing for the Varsity Basketball team was 20 years ago.
We’re in the midst of some serious growing pains and, right now, people are very sensitive to what’s being included (or excluded) in the medium.
I’ve come to realize that the GamerGaters have become the Tea Partiers of gaming. They’re a collection of conservatively minded individuals who, at the heart of everything, have a perfectly reasonable agenda. The Tea Partiers wanted more responsible government spending. The GamerGaters wanted more transparency within the gaming media. No one outside of the organizations necessarily had to agree with them, but their ideas weren’t rooted in what they’d soon become associated with.Tea Partiers quickly became the fringe-right and GamerGate has unfortunately become the face of misogyny and virtual terrorism.
I think it’s safe to assume that there still are individuals within the GamerGate community that feel that their efforts towards a more open media are gaining traction and that the lunatics within their ranks aren’t slowing their process. I’m confident that there are individuals who feel that Anita Sarkeesian/feminism is not at the center of much of this and that it really is about video game journalists. They stand behind the idea that they simply want complete honesty out of their games media, and who can blame them? Why wouldn’t you want your news to be objectively better and fairer?
Full-disclosure over past (or current) relationships between developers or publishers and authors should absolutely be supported by gaming websites and magazines. Gaming review sites should absolutely have a standard of ethics by which they stand and support not only to protect themselves, but their staff as well. The fact is, most respectable major outlets agree with GamerGate on this front. That’s common sense.
The problem GamerGaters face – and, to be clear, I mean the folks who are legitimately interested in more transparency in media, not the anti-feminists, not the individuals personally attacking writers and developers – is that their public image has been completely destroyed. Sure, some of that responsibility falls on journalists, but plenty falls on the shoulders of the fringe. There are too many conspiracy theorists within GamerGate (the type of people that think Activision or EA are literally giving cash to outlets to produce positive reviews); there are too many misogynists or would-be-rapists and murderers that ultimately, even when denounced by the serious members of GamerGate, that associate themselves with the movement that the public image of GamerGate has ultimately been destroyed. This has forced much of the media (both the one being attacked and the non-gaming media) to view GamerGate as an ultimately dangerous movement.
Whether the GamerGate movement likes it or not, they’re fundamentally giving the lunatic fringe a shield to stand behind; a flag to wave as if to say “See? We’re not alone.”
This has killed any momentum that GamerGate has hoped to achieve or maintain.
The rational members, the ones that are legitimately invested in the transparency of games journalism must abandon their title if they ever hope to achieve anything. They need a face for the organization that is willing to speak publicly against death and rape threats, against all of the craziness which has plagued the games media for the last several months, while simultaneously pushing for the media they’d like to see. There is a place for that to exist, and I think that it would be healthy for the industry as a whole. Someone should constantly question the source of their news. Someone should keep the industry in balance. This would ultimately lead to a more legitimized industry that is forced to stretch itself beyond mere republication of press releases, reviews, and “puff” pieces. I hope that the original notion behind GamerGate can ultimately gain some traction, and that our favorite gaming sites are forced to make sure that they really are being as open and honest as they should.
GamerGate, if you’re reading this, it’s time to leave behind the hashtag and understand that that movement has been killed by your irreverant supporters. It’s time to legitimize yourselves with a structure we can look to in order to better understand the movement. Facing opposition to your movement should be expected, welcomed, and dealt with in a respectable and professional manner. Ultimately, you need to be better than what GamerGate has become, and that shouldn’t be very difficult.