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Understanding GamerGate

I had an e-mail asking if Samizdata had any views on the GamerGate issue, and where are the best places to read about it.

So… for those of you who do not know, it is a scandal about corruption in the games industry and the serious lack of journalistic ethics in sections of the games press. Indeed the sites who cover games in the Samizdata sidebar are specifically ones who actually have some notion of journalistic ethics like, you know, real journalists should.

If you do not see any of the large mainstream games sites linked, there is a very good reason for that: they are not worthy of your clicks so I sure as hell do not want to send traffic their way. IGN is actually a noteworthy exception to the ‘mainstream = corrupt’ paradigm, in that they actually accepted that yes, there is a problem. So kudos for that. The only reason I am not linking them in the sidebar is not that they are corrupt, it is that they are crap.

I do not actually propose to expound on GamerGate at length other than to say “I support the objectives of #gamergate” and link to various articles about it.

The TL:DR version: many games companies have been getting the best product reviews that money can buy, and also many of the reviewers are a networked coterie of far-left Critical Theory fans who sometimes do hatchet jobs on games for purely ideological reasons. This annoys the hell out of many gamers who are not interested in “does this game objectify women?” but rather just want to know if the cover mechanics work well and is the game-play fun?

Also part of the whole GamerGate thing is an attempt by the anti-GamerGate side to re-frame it all as being about misogyny. To wit, a number of the principal actors (actresses actually) have claimed to have received ‘death threats’ as part of a plot to “force women out of the games industry”. However there is, to put it politely, some speculation that some of these ‘threats’ may be part of a viral marketing campaign to sell stuff to the beta-male/feminist demographic.

The best overall explanation of the pro- and anti- side was written on TechRaptor. Other good sources are found on Niche Gamer. There is also good stuff on GamesNosh, also here. Breitbart Network has been covering this rather awesome soap opera. And there are the twitter hashtags of #GamerGate and #NotYourShield.

And for a rather, ahem, robust set of views, there is the vastly entertaining Internet Aristocrat.

Oh and Gawker takes an arrow to the knee over this. How cool is that?

The spectacle of the cultural left getting absolutely reamed over and over again by angry villagers with pitchforks in full view of anyone who cares, is something that really makes for compulsive viewing, even if you are not a self-described ‘gamer’ (I am, I might add).

Grab some popcorn and enjoy 😀

UPDATE: also some articles on Reason.com here and here.

43 comments to Understanding GamerGate

  • Mr Ed

    Having lost all interests in games with, Defender, or perhaps Hellcats over the Pacific, I cannot make head nor tail of what ‘corruption’ there might be, or what there is to corrupt. Is it that Lefties are having a moan that no one gives a toss for their bleating?

  • The Steel Ferret

    It is simple Ed, games get amazing reviews. The graphics? Awesome! The game play? Awesome with awesome on top! Bug? Runs perfectly. This game is REVOLUTIONARY! A masterpiece in games design. 9/10!

    You buy it. The game looks… ok. The game play is… ok. It crashes. A lot. It is more or less the same game you played last year, just re-skinned. It is a 5/10 game at best.

    And yet in Polygon, Gamesutra, Kotaku, CVG, Gamespot etc etc are ALL telling us this is AWESOME.

    It is not a difference of opinion, it is a lie, bought and paid for. Bioware is particularly known for simply getting the best reviews money can buy. And Indiegames are absolutely no better than the big players.

  • You may have lost interest Ed, but games and bigger and more significant now than cinema. Steel Ferret pretty much has it right. And this is a cultural arena where unexpectedly the Bad Guys are having their heads repeatedly rammed up with own arseholes by a digital dissident movement, and they really don’t like it one bit. Intel recently pulled advertising from Gamasutra due to the stink, which is rather wonderful.

    But it is not just the parts of the dedicated gaming press who stink, it is various games ‘journalists’ at Forbes and the Guardian etc. who are clearly in this up to their necks, which is actually not that surprising.

  • David Jones

    The same sort of spat’s being going on in the US skepticism scene (there is such a thing) for the last few years – some Social Justice Warriors and Critical Theory types muscled into podcasts and conferences in the US – and the subsequent fallout’s been both infuriating and entertaining. Some of the same people have popped up, including the loathsome and despicable Amanda Marcotte. If I didn’t know better I’d be suspicious of carefully orchestrated entryism.

    At the beginning of GamerGate was a game by Zoe Quinn called ‘Depression Quest’ and this is where I get confused. As far as I can tell it isn’t really a game – just a bunch of HTML pages. Could someone tell me if I have misunderstood something? Did it get good write-ups for being worthy? Or for the reasons some GGers have suggested, perhaps?

  • Rich Rostrom

    There is somewhat more to the story. The “Social Justice Warrior” element in the gaming press (the accused in “GamerGate”) feel that gamer culture is infused with toxic misogyny which it is their duty to eradicate.

    It appears they are not entirely wrong.

    See this comment at ESR’s blog. “Every time a patch is posted, their inboxes explode with meticulously detailed home-invasion-and-rape-fantasies.” The commenter has previously posted on how at college a baseless sex crime accusation and subsequent kangaroo justice nearly ruined his life, so he’s no reflex sympathizer with feminist SJWs.

    This doesn’t excuse the corruption in the gaming press, or justify the “we-must-reprogram-them” attitude of the SJWs. It does mean some of the problems they talk about are real.

    I know enough gamer types and aging bachelors to see how and perhaps why a cohort could go wonky this way. So it’s not just a marketing ploy.

  • So it’s not just a marketing ploy.

    I will believe it when someone is arrested, charged and convicted. Until that point I am saving the finite amount of sympathy I generate daily for people who are much less likely to be trying play their audience for fun and profit. Join the dots: these are not reflexively honest people.

  • Mr Ed

    Steel Ferret, thank you for explaining it. My last involvement with Gaming was a court case many years ago involving a labour dispute. I appreciate the size and influence of the industry. I would have hoped that in this industry of all industries, peer-to-peer reviews and word of mouth would be running rings around the Guardian, Forbes etc.

    I find it hard to believe that many gamers would go to the Guardian for reviews except for the narcolepts trying out ‘Social Worker Fights the Cuts 7’.

  • David Jones

    @Rich Rostrom – the ‘accused’ in GG aren’t the SJW side anymore: the accused, accused by the MSM, are the GGers. So let’s say GG and anti-GG so as not to confuse matters.

    Thing is, this didn’t start out as a reasoned debate about the extent of misogyny in gaming or online. it started as a protest about corruption in the press but the narrative was quickly hijacked by the SJW crowd and the two sides have been shouting past each other ever since.

    The mainstream gaming press & sites are accused of nepotism and corruption. In return the SJWs have piled on ZQs side to protest misogyny. I must say that, having seen the same thing happening in US skepticism, I’m not entirely falling for the the misogyny-in-gaming. Doubtless there’s misogyny online and anonymity encourages it. Why this is supposed to be a gaming problem particularly I don’t know. The GG side made a point of funding women through the Fine Young Capitalists.

    The point really I suspect is the traditional Statist & Left vs Libertarian and Right. That explains the rift better than claims about one side being all about misogyny and the other being all for the rights of women – just as it does in the skepticism rift.

  • long-lost cousin

    I thought the whole thing started when one SJW threw a fit because the state of Utah wouldn’t gut its CCW law to accommodate her special-snowflake self.

    Did they ever figure out if the complaint she filed in San Francisco was real, or did she make it all up?

  • No, long-lost, the whole thing was well and truly rolling already when Anita Sarkeesian deployed that bit of viral marketing 😉

  • “the beta-male/feminist demographic.”

    Beta? Nah. I’m a beta. Those guys are down around omicron, at best.

    Ed: Steel Ferret’s explanation is a good one, but don’t discount the moaning Lefty angle. There’s a lot of that to it as well. Mainly, as SF alluded to, in the burgeoning indy sector. Poor-quality games with a “social justice” agenda, made by journalists’ mates, get amazing reviews while decent stuff made by someone nobody’s heard of is either ignored or panned.

    But you’re absolutely right about word-of-mouth. That’s what the journalists don’t understand themselves. It’s not like the music industry 30 years ago, where the NME could dictate Good Taste (ie, moaning Lefties). They think they have the same kind of power. They’re wrong.

    David: Yes. This is just another front in the ongoing “culture war”. Only this time the SJWs really have a fight on their hands.

  • patriarchal landmine

    it’s actually much simpler than that.

    it’s about men and boys who are tired of being the scapegoats for “everything wrong with society.”

    most of these games journalism sites are run by leftists, most especially kotaku which is owned by the same people who run jezebel, one of the most repugnant feminist sites on the internet (an accomplishment, indeed).

    we’re tired of our hobby and ourselves being blamed for every school schooling, every incidence of bullying or violence, and apparently now all the phony “misogyny” and “rape culture” in the world.

  • patriarchal landmine

    You may have lost interest Ed, but games and bigger and more significant now than cinema.

    no kidding. some movie releases will actually be pushed back to avoid major game releases.

    someone who says they “don’t play video games” to me is like someone bragging about how they don’t read books or listen to music. most especially considering that video games are above almost all other forms of media available today. ever wonder where all the talent went that used to make TV shows? those people make video games now.

    liberals are having a whinge because video games aren’t “doing enough to appeal to girls” despite almost every game available today having female characters in it. the simple fact is that girls don’t play video games as much as guys do, and we’re supposed to be ashamed of ourselves for this fact. it’s like saying there aren’t enough men working at battered women’s shelters, except even more asinine.

  • Laird

    Whoa there. I was happily following along, learning about a tempest I’d never heard of in a teapot which I hardly knew existed, and then I read “someone who says they “don’t play video games” to me is like someone bragging about how they don’t read books or listen to music.” Rampant idiocy, and uncalled for rudeness to boot. I don’t choose to waste my time playing mindless computer games; I waste my time watching mindless TV, and reading, and performing music (which requires a lot of time for practice and rehearsals). How we choose to spend our leisure time, and the entertainments we pursue, is a very personal decision. Just because someone doesn’t share your particular passion is no reason to disparage that choice. You wouldn’t say something like that to someone who said that he doesn’t enjoy watching professional sports; why would you say it to anyone else?

  • Mr Ed

    someone who says they “don’t play video games” to me is like someone bragging about how they don’t read books or listen to music.

    Fascinating, how a human mind could equate a statement of fact to ‘bragging’. Laird it’s not rudeness, it’s just unwarranted extrapolation and inference, which appears to be a very common human trait, which you surely see in legal disputes as routine.

    As for the people who made good TV, they died, as will we all. I don’t have a TV either, that 1960s contraption holds little appeal.

    What really makes me wonder is how the Left finance these magazines etc. surely if the readers are driven off, the money will run out.

    The only answers to complaints of ‘misogyny’ in Games are:

    1. Tough, it sells.
    2. If you don’t like it, outsell it.
    3. It is none of your business, you tyrannical turd.

  • Eric

    So it’s not just a marketing ploy.

    Yes it is. These people went on 4chan and broadcast insults, i.e. they went trolling for nasty email. So of course they got it.

    This is all about a few women (particularly a few who used to be men) who saw a way to get attention.

    And by the way the people who have horned into the center of the limelight weren’t involved in the original controversy, which is that one of the female developers slept with enough game reviewers to make it appear she’d written a good game.

  • Andrew Duffin

    I can’t remember who first said this, but I’m going to channel them anyway…

    I find Video Games vastly educational; whenever anyone starts to play one (or talk about them), I go into the other room and read a book.

  • In fact, currently TV is better than ever, posing tough competition to movies, with TV-series characters being much bigger household names than their movie counterparts.

    Gaming may be even bigger than TV though (as a non-gamer I wouldn’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised either).

  • Incidentally, I too find it irritating when people sneer at what other people choose to do or not to do with their free time.

  • Kevin B

    Is this whole #gamergate thing just another example of the problems with ‘the long march through the institutions’?

    I mean there is no doubt that entryism works. Most of us these days are good little collectivists who accept that it is us that costs the NHS money rather than us that pay for the thing and the hectoring ‘health professionals’ who cost it money. We will happily trot out into the wind and rain for a smoke and if we don’t all eat our ‘five a day’ we worry about not doing so and none of us would dare call a spade a spade.

    We most of us vote for the three main statist parties, (or possibly the eugenicist party), and even our protest party has had to make collectivist noises to garner our vote.

    So, they’ve won. But rather than accept that and go into maintenance mode, they have to keep on pushing until we hit back and it is quite possible that when we do hit back the pendulum will swing a long way.

    The problems with statism are many, but the chief ones are a) it doesn’t bloody work, b) once esconced in the guts of our society the statists fall out amongst themselves, and c) having marched through the institutions, they turn those institutions into laughing stocks.

    It’s not just the media or academia or political parties that are making risible spectacles of themselves, but previously well respected groups like the Royal Society or the BMA or ACPO along with local government, the civil service and all the institutions that civil society has come to depend on.

    So when things go belly up, (and chances are they will), and we don’t have much in the way of dependable institutions to fall back on, it could be quite messy indeed.

    And #gamergate may well signal another step along the road to the collapse of our trust in society.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    I must admit I’d noticed a bit of moaning about the costumes women wear at trade shows, but apart from that this has passed me by. Maybe it’s because I see the marketing, and go straight to YouTube to find out about the game, bypassing the press.

    Or maybe it’s the games I play. There’s a lot of good niche, independent stuff around. Elite: Dangerous being my current favourite.

  • I agree with that, all except for the last line, Kevin:

    And #gamergate may well signal another step along the road to the collapse of our trust in society.

    Au contraire! Never confuse state and statists with ‘society’. #gamergate signals that civil society is alive and well and more willing to pick up pitchforks and torches than previously thought. It signals the collapse in trust of the statist meta-context being pushed by the shrill and increasingly frantic “Social Justice Warriors”, and a hankering that is more widespread that often credited for a return to quaint notions like integrity and objectivity.

  • Rich Rostrum’s comment above deserves attention — he links to a comment by Ken Burnside, who is a reliable witness. The emails described seem nasty and unprovoked; I wonder what is going on there.

  • D. Neilson

    The worst part is the knuckle draging home invasion fantasists make any real debate impossible. It is like going to a debate with a person in the midst of a psychotic break being on one side. No matter the merits of the topic of discussion it is going to basically devolve into hurried attempts to get the crazy in a straight jacket and on some thorazine. While you would much prefer to debate the merits of a proposal to say expand your local municipal park.

    The truly horrible part is I really do not believe these are made up accusations, there is just a small group of what are essentially malcontented barbarians waiting for a reason to get up onto their obscene soap box, and rave. I am not sure if this due to anonymity created by the internet, or just that these horrible little trolls have always existed, and the internet acts as a amplifier for them.

  • Andrew Duffin:

    I think you’re channeling Grouch Marx who made a similar comment about TV.

    Groucho also said regarding books, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

  • Rich Rostrum’s comment above deserves attention — he links to a comment by Ken Burnside, who is a reliable witness. The emails described seem nasty and unprovoked; I wonder what is going on there.

    No Rob, I disagree. Join the dots. Eric who posts above is correct, these people either fish for responses they can then ‘react’ to for fun and profit (mostly the later), or just invent them if they don’t get what they need. It is a HUGE mistake to assume the people in question are conducting a good faith discussion merely from an opposing view point.

  • Oh and the HUGELY important issue here is:

    Stop talking about people threatening Anita Sarkeesian or Brianna Wu or anyone else within the context of GamerGate because…


    Even if the threats are true (and it is a big if) it is simply unrelated, much as some people would like you think otherwise.

    That is what the anti-GamerGate people are trying to do, re-frame a debate in which they are getting their arses handed to them, over and over and over again, from being about game industry corruption and games punditry corruption… into being a debate about misogyny and “forcing women out of the games industry” (as if most gamers actually give a fuck).

    These are simply unrelated issues even if that is all that anti-Gamergate folks want to talk about, as a way of stopping people talking about what GamerGate and NotYourShield are really about.

  • Paul Marks

    The Frankfurt School of Marxism (the “Critical Theory” crowd) hard at work again.

    Of course the easy way for games companies to sell shoot-shoot games (without being attacked by the left) is to make the baddies “Big Business”. Say lots of rich “capitalists” with big noses – who have blue and white flags.

    Sadly I suspect the temptation (the temptation to go along with the left – in order to have a quiet life) will be too much to resist.

    By the way, I know that many of the founding members of the Frankfurt School were Jewish – but they left that behind long ago.

  • Rob

    Interesting. The only thing I had read previous to this on the subject was an article on the BBC news website which framed the issue entirely as one of a misogynist gaming industry threatening women. There was no mention of corruption in game reviews, or anything at all about reviews.

    I naturally smelled bullshit at the time, given the source and the narrative. I didn’t realise quite his much bullshit was there ready and waiting to be upnosed, as it were.

  • Rob

    Actually, the thing which strikes me most is that a significant number of people can be so bonkers as to turn fucking computer game journalism into a Marxist cesspit.

    You can understand them capturing the Dept for Education or the BBC, but reviewing computer games? These people are mentally ill, utter fanatics.

  • Sadly I suspect the temptation (the temptation to go along with the left – in order to have a quiet life) will be too much to resist.

    Actually no Paul. Believe it or not, businesses such as Mercedes-Benz, Intel and Nissan have stopped advertising with the guilty sites. For example they are dropping Gamasutra and Gawker like they are radioactive, such is the scale of the ‘revolt’ (keep in mind the gamer demographic is a very valuable one commercially and not just for games). The bad guys (and gals) are actually losing this one.

  • “… an article on the BBC news website which framed the issue entirely as one of a misogynist gaming industry threatening women. There was no mention of corruption in game reviews, or anything at all about reviews.”

    Well, there’s a shocker, Rob. And of course, this is how they used to get away with it: the broad Left circled the wagons, and the few dissenting voices on the outside were marginalized to the point that the casual observer assumed they were cranks. Or worse. But that doesn’t work any more. We now have an instant answer to the question, “Is it just me… ?”, and it’s a resounding, “Hell, no!”

    As for the triviality of entryism in videogame journalism, isn’t the whole point of the Frankfurt School method that it’s kind of self-perpetuating? Nobody said, “We must capture games! Go forth and Enter!” It’s just a bunch of Lefty kids who think this is how you do journalism. The subject doesn’t matter.

  • Fred the Fourth

    The intense nastiness does not surprise me one bit. Professionally, I see dishonest and unethical behavior all the time, driven by vastly smaller sums of money than are at stake in the gaming biz. Combine the lucre-chasing with the small-stakes viciousness of the academia-like debate, and Viola! Horrible music for all to hear.

  • Schrodinger's Dog

    This is a most heartening development.

    I’d heard of GamerGate, but didn’t really know anything about it, until I followed the links in Perry’s article. It really is good to know the liberal left can be defeated.

    I used to say that America’s National Rifle Association was about the only example of a right/libertarian organisation with grassroots support and political clout. It now looks like I’m now going to have to add gamers to the list. And libertarians everywhere would do well to carefully study their playbook.

    As for ‘Social Worker Fights The cuts 7’, thanks Mr. Ed. It brightened up what is otherwise a rather dull day.

  • Mr Ed

    I have dug a little into this, and my search for life-as-self-parody did not take long. It appears that one of the Social Justice Warriors has a Game called ‘Depression Quest‘. To quote from the site:

    Depression Quest is an interactive fiction game where you play as someone living with depression. You are given a series of everyday life events and have to attempt to manage your illness, relationships, job, and possible treatment.

    But do you ‘win’ by not being bothered due to depression? Quite why these people have any prominence is the big worry. Rob has them in a nutshell.

  • Eric

    Quite why these people have any prominence is the big worry…

    That’s the crux of the scandal. The developer of Depression Quest, who goes by the name Zoe Quinn professionally, rose to prominence the old fashioned way – by sleeping with game reviewers and their bosses.

    The others, like Brianna (nee Bruce) Wu showed up the same way the appearance of Al Sharpton’s bus signals the end of a ghetto riot.

  • Adam Maas

    One of the challenges of the entire thing is the fact that most likely at least some of the death threats are unsolicited and did not originate from SJW’s.

    Simply put, the 4Chan crowd learned with the Jack Thompson affair that if you are sufficiently numerous and obnoxious that you can shout a critic down. Are these threats misogynist? in text most probably, but the actuality is that those writing them most likely aren’t, they’re simply very well trained at being thoroughly obnoxious.

    The flip side is that 4chan is a loaded bazooka ready to be aimed at anyone critical of mainstream gaming and the SJW’s and Gaming media just fired it at their foot.

    The irony is these tactics are used by the left constantly. But compared to the 4chan crowd, the SJW’s are babes in the woods when it comes to trolling and flaming.

    The end result is that the SJW’s are being sidelined by the 4chan crowd while the serious gamers abandon the media outlets that supported the SJW’s, leading most likely to their failure.

  • CaptDMO

    Steel Ferret:
    “It is not a difference of opinion, it is a lie, bought and paid for.”
    It is not a difference of opinion, it is a lie, bought and laid for.
    Because…misogyny…and feminism…and “disparate impact”…or something.

  • “Win”, Mr. Ed? “Win?” I feel uncomfortable with your micro-agression of outdated patriarchal right-wing paradigms.

  • Mr Ed

    The Daily Telegraph, predictably, follows the Guardian on this. The comments tend not to.


  • Rob Fisher

    I think there are parallels with this argument in science fiction: http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=6085 I need to blog about this.

  • Ah, we used to link to Armed and Dangerous but it got lost last time we upgraded platforms. Fixed.

  • Mr Ed

    It seems that the French Left don’t like Assassin’s Creed, showing their predecessors for what they are.