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The Charge of the Troll Brigade: What to know about #GamerGate

Matt Weinberger | Oct. 30, 2014
There are two ways to think about #GamerGate.

There are two ways to think about #GamerGate.

The short version is that it's a loosely-organized mob of so-called "gamers" rallied around a Twitter hashtag focused on the harassment of women -- primarily, but not only, female game developers -- under the pretense of pushing for higher standards in video game journalism. 

The longer story is that the #GamerGate hashtag has all but taken over a large and growing corner of the web, starting back in August, when a jilted ex-boyfriend wrote a long (seriously, it's basically a novel) blog entry accusing his former girlfriend, independent game developer Zoe Quinn, of cheating on him with a video game journalist (in the spirit of disclosure, that journalist is a friend of mine) in return for positive reviews of her games. Never mind that the journalist in question had never actually reviewed one of her games -- the witchhunt was on. 

From there, things started happening fast. Quinn was at the receiving end of a cavalcade of Internet hatred from "gamers" who claimed to be worried about the sanctity of their hobby, but in practice seemed to be more worried about a woman who dared to invade their hobby. The movement got a name when extremely conservative actor Adam Baldwin, best known for playing Jayne on the short-lived cult sci-fi TV show Firefly,  got involved on Twitter in support of the burgeoning movement with the hashtag #GamerGate. The hashtag stuck, if for no other reason than that people love a "-gate" suffix for anything remotely resembling a scandal.

Death and rape threats became the norm on Twitter and via email for Quinn, ultimately forcing her to move out of her home for her safety after self-described "gators" leaked her address and phone numbers, a tactic commonly referred to as "doxxing." 

And it hasn't been just limited to Quinn: Critic Anita Sarkeesian, host and producer of a series of popular YouTube series called Feminist Frequency that called out antifeminist tropes in video games, was also chased out of her home by death threats. More recently, a lecture Sarkeesian was supposed to give on a college campus in Utah was cancelled when threats of a mass shooting from persons identified with the #GamerGate cause spurred her towards cancellation. Developer Brianna Wu was -- guess what -- also scared into leaving her home after expressing support for the victims of this hate movement. 

Anybody they deem a "Social Justice Warrior" -- their term for progressives who disagree with them -- is subject to the same harassment, and any news outlet that publishes something critical of the movement gets targeted by an organized campaign of letter-writing seeking quibbling "corrections" and loudly demanding that the truth as they see it be heard.

 

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