There’s this story in the video game world called Gamergate. Many articles have covered what happened, what allegedly happened, and the wake of all of that.
In a nutshell, what started out as someone thinking a woman slept with a journalist to get a favorable review, which was based on her ex claiming she cheated on him, turned into a combination of legitimate concern for journalistic integrity in the gaming world; and downright, honest to badness, misogyny.
The worst part of all of this is that a small group of people, using threats of violence and disclosures of personal information, like home addresses, have committed the definition of terrorism: using fear to silence people.
And what boggles the mind is that this is all about video games. VIDEO GAMES.
There’s a label which I always thought was just another noun – gamer. A person who plays games. Not even worthy of the level of Trekkie, let alone Trekker. And yet, to a small group of what we must assume are young or middle-aged white men, this word is like the name Mohammed. I am not using that lightly. The most vitriolically vocal of the Gamergate group is using online versions of the same tactics as the most extreme and violent of the jihadist followers. Extremist jihadists have threatened death to novelists, actors, directors, and artists because of their works that reflect their opinions of Islam. Even just making a drawing of Mohammed can result in death threats, and in at least one instance, an artist was killed because of a film he made about Islam. And why? Misinterpretations of the Quran, and feeling threatened that their way of life will change.
In a similar way, the gamers in Gamergate who have hounded female pundits and analysts with threats of induced suicide, rape, and murder, demonstrate similar strategies. They have decided that something is sacrosanct – video games. They have held up a term as unassailable – gamer. And in reaction to anyone who disagrees with them, they threaten violence. It’s hard for me to see any difference between Gamergate radicals who threaten violence and Islamic radicals who threaten violence. In each case, their reaction to free speech is to threaten death.
Of course, it isn’t every person who has latched on to Gamergate who is responsible for these threats, much as is true that not every Muslim is responsible for the threats Islamic terrorists make. Also in the same way as there are calls for moderate Muslims to stand up and decry their extreme brethren, so too must those who are only interested in “journalistic integrity” decry those who are using Gamergate as an excuse to attack innocent people. And make no mistake – these women are innocent. Even if they’d done every single thing they were accused of, they are still innocent in the face of death threats, rape threats, invasion of privacy, etc.
Let me make this 100% clear: there is NO excuse when discussing a topic about ENTERTAINMENT, whether it be video games, movies, TV, comics, etc. to EVER THREATEN ANYONE. EVER.
It is reprehensible to even think it could be justified. Anyone who defends the threats is JUST PLAIN WRONG.
It just makes me so angry at the stupidity.
What will happen next? It’s hard to know. But one thing I can say for certain: because some women-hating online terrorists are going around acting as reprehensibly as you can in a virtual world, it’s going to give game developers pause as to who they want to sell games to. So Gamergaters: you thought that a few women criticizing the games you love and some other women making games you thought were stupid threatened the future of the entertainment you enjoy? It didn’t. What does threaten your favorite games are the small group of assholes who have decided that they can’t share the term “gamer” with anyone else.
EDIT: It’s been brought to my attention that some who are proponents of Gamergate may have also been threatened with violence and may have been doxxed. I can’t confirm specifics, but at first blush anyway, it seems a legitimate assertion. Let me be clear that anyone who threatens or doxxes over a discussion is an asshole and an idiot. Full stop, no matter what side their target is on.
That said, I will not change the title of the post. It has to be clear to anyone who is paying attention that Gamergate is now a lightning rod for these kinds of trolls. Unfortunately, therefore, I think it’s a requirement that any time anyone uses the term, they need to remind people that threats and doxxing are not acceptable. It won’t likely stop those people in the short term, but in the long term it might actually sink in. And I’ll retcon a bit – while I am not going to change the post, the title now has a new meaning to me. Anyone who doesn’t decry the negatives of Gamergate and still uses the term, in my view, is tacitly accepting everything that’s being done under that banner. If you don’t want to bother, then don’t use the term, in my opinion.
If we don’t police ourselves in this, we risk some entity coming in and doing it for us someday. That would not be good.
Eliot has been orbiting show business for over 20 years as an improv comedian, video director, and general guy you might barely recognize. Currently best known for his work on the comedy podcast Never Not Funny: The Jimmy Pardo Podcast. He wrote previously for MacEdition.com, and is working on a collection of short sci-fi and weird tales that will probably be published someday. He is also one of three principals in Modest Games.