Gamergate is an empty hashtag that's escalated into discussions on journalism, making us blind to the discussion that actually should be had.
#Gamergate. The term that both evokes passion, fury and thousands of sighs. What is Gamergate really and how did it get to where it is today? Confusion might be one of the better words to describe the hashtag itself, especially amongst the public, but also inside the gaming community.
The story famously (?) begun with indie game developer Zoe Quinn being accused by her ex-boyfriend of having a romantic relationship with a Kotaku-journalist. This led to several accounts of harassment towards Quinn for possibly gaining positive coverage through her relationship with the journalist. When others in the industry showed their support of Quinn they too received threats and harassment, some to the point where they feared for their own safety. Females in the industry such as indie game developer Brianna Wu and media critic and feminist Anita Sarkeesian became new targets in the controversy, and the hashtag spammed social media, especially on Reddit and 4chan.
It was at this point that the origin behind the hashtag slightly dimmed, and the focus was directed towards ethics in video game journalism, and several international media outlets started reporting on the hashtag with split reactions. Anti-feminism mixed with misogyny, trolling on social media and sexism in games. The angles in which the story developed were numerous, and it seemed as if every news outlet had a different approach and opinion on the matter. In the end it all ended up as a melting pot of confusion, anger, trolling and, yet again, a wave of negativity towards the gaming industry from everyone outside of the community.
As a gamer myself I too feel enraged and tired of the discussion, not because of the subject matter, but because of what it has become - something way beyond what the actual story was. There have been plenty of occasions where people have asked me about the hashtag, what it means, why it became what it was, and who is right in the matter. Even if I’ve tried to explain it to those outside the community who often only know what they’ve read in a newspaper headline, usually along the lines of either sexism in games or harassment on social media, I can’t help but often reply with “forget about it.”
For what’s unfortunate about the hashtag is not only the actual events that have taken place, but the fact that an important discussion in the industry has been drowned in misinformation, trolling and a one-in-a-million event that shouldn’t have been the reason behind the hashtag.
The hashtag itself is an empty one because it lacks a face, a leader to drive it in a healthy and professional manner. Sure, the story began with Quinn, but ended up in a battle between feminists, anti-feminists, journalists and gamers who simply doesn’t want to face another wave of news headlines bashing gaming yet again.
Having been a video game journalist for a while and having spoken to journalists for all kinds of different video game publication I’ve never come across signs of a publication being negative towards female journalists. Most publications are positive to more females in the industry, and why wouldn’t they? The gender gap between gamers is pretty much gone, and the journalistic world is not oblivious of this. Just like every other journalistic platform women are accepted and appreciated. What the discussion could (and should) have been on wasn’t journalism.
The discussion on sexism in the industry, especially related to games, is relevant, but shouldn't be connected to the hashtag. Yes, it’s a widely known fact that certain games objectify women,but this isn't related to the video game industry alone, but every other entertainment platform, especially in film and music. The discussion of sexism and objectification is one that should be ongoing throughout all entertainment venues, and even if they all, games included, are moving in a positive direction, there is still much to be done. But this isn't a discussion that should be connected to Gamergate.
That's where the problem lies - the confusion on what we should be discussing. Many have forgotten about Quinn and the episode which started it all, and even more of us have no clue what game she even developed (no offence, Quinn). Pulling video game journalism into the equation was a bad move because it wasn’t really what the story was about.
The story was that someone possibly had a relationship with someone to get good press by one news outlet. One. At this point the discussion should concern Kotaku and their inner workings, and not the entire industry.
As the story escalated and more women came out with their stories the discussion should have changed.The harassment that women experienced on Twitter, Facebook and especially 4chan and Reditt is something should have been the main discussion. How can we regulate social media and how can we put an end to how people use it to ruin other people's daily lives?
The fact that we as a community have started other discussions has only led to one thing - the rest of the media yet again finding a negative aspect of the gaming community.
We as gamers are throwing gasoline onto an already powerful flame that is burning the gaming industry via the judgemental words of the press. As gamers we all hate when the media blames games for violence, anti-social behaviour and laziness amongst the youth, and now through our crusade for or against Gamergate, even if we understand that it's not about the industry discriminating women, the rest of the world might see things differently.
In their eyes, gamers are harassing women and gaming journalists are working in an unethical manner. Not good for us gamers, is it? Not only are we violent, lazy and anti-social beings, but we now hate women, feminists and video game journalists. That, and ruining social media with trolling.
In the end, Gamergate was never about ethics in journalism, but harassment of women on social media. It has shown us how powerful social media can be, how it can ruin people's lives as well as ruin crucial debates that should be had. That's what the discussion really should have been about. Unfortunately, now it's evolved into an evil circle of negativity spreading through the gaming community on the women that have taken a stand for something they believe in, and even if their opinions might not be accepted by everyone, they should still be heard. That's what discussions are - several sides of a matter that are talked about and reasoned for or against. But the fact that we condemn them, hate them and harass them for having a different opinion on something is not cool.
And yet again everybody outside of the gaming community are happy, because they yet again have a reason to hate the gaming world.
Hopefully, we as a community have learned three things from this controversy. One, we need to realize that harassment in social media is something that needs to be discussed seriously. Two, we need to stop hating each other in a world where everybody else hates or misunderstands us. Harassment is unacceptable, no matter who is the recepient. And Three - we need to learn how to discuss something.