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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.

As for claims that it's about ethics in video game journalism, those claims don't really hold water: Despite organized efforts from the Gator crowd to obfuscate the issue by starting ancillary hashtags like #NotYourShield (as in, "feminism isn't your shield against criticism") and token donations to charity, a recent Newsweek analysis of  #GamerGate hashtag usage shows that most of the messages go towards video game developers, not video game journalists, and that of those, most of them are targeted at women. Just for starters, Quinn has received over 10,000 tweets with the hashtag, while the journalist she allegedly had the affair with has received around 700. While #GamerGate does have some high-profile supporters, especially among those who identify on the right of the political spectrum, it seems pretty clear where the real focus is. But any attempt to address this divide gets met with the now meme-worthy catchphrase "actually, it's about ethics in video game journalism," which has the nice corollary of disavowing association with people who make horrible threats without actually having to distance yourself from them.  

For an object lesson in that regard, look at Chris Kluwe, formerly of the New York Jets, who wrote a scathing takedown of the #GamerGate horde. (I'd reprint portions of it here if not for all the cursing.) Meanwhile, nerd-favorite actress Felicia Day wrote about how uncomfortable the GamerGate movement makes her and how she was afraid to express any opinion for fear of kicking the proverbial hornet's nest; her home address and other personal information was leaked online within an hour of posting. 

Not that critics have been immune from #GamerGate's all-seeing, all-awful eye: When Gawker's Sam Biddle joked on Twitter that people sick of all of this should "Bring Back Bullying" to stop #GamerGate, the brigade descended in force to pressure Adobe into publicly disavowing the site. This was preceded by video game industry news site GamaSutra seeing Intel pull advertising after correspondent Leigh Alexander wrote about the death of "gamer" as an identity, which is pretty ironic considering that #GamerGate's stated goal of higher ethical standards in video game journalism would seem to be at odds with the tactic of getting advertisers to affect editorial content. But that's to be expected, given how each and every one of the Gators' claims about corruption in the games media has been emphatically disproven. It's also worth noting, in fairness, that both Adobe and Intel apologized for their parts in this, though Adobe never actually advertised on Gawker and Intel hasn't yet resumed its Gamasutra ad campaign

If this seems completely silly, you're not alone. Many try to couch Gamergate (the movement as opposed to the hashtag) as an "Us vs. Them" kind of thing, but it's really the one-sided campaign of terror perpetrated on the unwilling by bullies -- again, ironic, given the claims against Biddle and the repeated insistence that anybody who wants GamerGate to go away is bullying them into silence. For the case in point, satire site Clickhole summed it up nicely with a piece called "A Summary Of The Gamergate Movement That We Will Immediately Change If Any Of Its Members Find Any Details Objectionable."


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