How it all started:

  • Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian released her latest installment of Tropes vs Women in Video Games and was promptly deluged with threats of rape and violence. She had to leave her home and contact with the police.
  • Zoe Quinn, developer of the game Depression Quest, had nude photos and personal information released by an ex-boyfriend. She was accused of sleeping with journalists in order to garner positive reviews of her game. There was a call to protest at PAX over the ethical issues in video game reporting.

The latest developments:

  • Intel indicated support for GamerGate and then fauxpologized
  • GitHub removed a major GamerGate repository for being part of a “hate campaign”
  • Now there’s been a call to attack DiGRA, a feminist academic project to analyze video games.

What it means for us:

What do you think about the “extinction burst” theory? Is it wishful thinking or a real phenomenon?

https://twitter.com/alexdecampi/status/504989201432317954

Annie

Other people with animal training backgrounds concurred. And what we’re seeing from these trolls is very much animal behavior.

Sarah

Is it terrible that I hope this is true? The deluge of bad behavior in gaming is just overwhelming sometimes.

Ardo

I find this is true for some trolls and for some instances. However, there are certain instances where remaining silent isn’t an option. I always wish this was true. I’d LOVE for it to be true.

Brenda

When we discuss being “rewarded” for their behavior, what does that mean? You’ll almost always be able to find at least one person who agrees with your point of view and is that enough validation? I hope with more and more people, like Andreas Zecher’s open letter and the International Game Developers Association’s press release, taking a stand it will be lless socially accepted in our community at least.

Claire

I think it’s an attractive an idea but I’m not sure it’s as hopeful as it sounds. An extinction burst in the personal behaviour of many involved? Sure, I’m into that. But then what? When I was little I’d  wonder how there could still be TV shops when everyone I knew had a TV. There’s always the next wave of consumers, and if institutional change isn’t implemented as a result of what the majority are “just learning”, then the next lot is gonna be doing the same thing to some kid only just born.

Wendy

The idea gives me hope. With so many communities standing against them and enacting zero tolerance policies, as well as some game developers standing strong too, there really won’t be anywhere left for them to find approval for their poison.

Megan

Initially I was in love with the idea but it’s akin to waiting for all the sexists and racists to die off — doesn’t seem to be happening, does it? Like, Claire says, we need institutional, systemic change if we don’t want to see another hot-air hate campaign like GamerGate.

Criticism has a fundamental social and cultural importance that GamerGate elides. Without critical thinking of what was traditional or common at the time, we wouldn’t have the innovations in art, literature, technologies, sciences etc if we didn’t ask the important questions. We should also discuss the role of criticism and how its reception shifts when we gender it. Salon discussed an interesting study that talked about the gendered reactions to writers especially female journalists.

Claire

This reminds me of a post I read a while back by a self-publishing author, talking with another about how the concept of “an editor” is a fake nonsense invented to fool rubes. First they conflated copyediting with structural edits, and then they agreed that neither of those things are all that necessary — that all an editor does is re-write a story, and a good author doesn’t need that. Oh my goodness! Please everybody, always take every opportunity to share information and knowledge!

Sarah

Things just get better when more than one viewpoint is considered. Criticism is a really important thing, both in smaller, more personal situations as well as institutional ones. I mean, we had official “crits” in college, where we went around and talked about each person’s work. It certainly wasn’t to fluff up their ego or hurt their feelings (although sometimes it did sting!), but rather to help them develop into better artists. Speaking of gendered reception, I was usually singled out to give constructive feedback, which felt like an immense pressure at the time. I didn’t want to say bad things about someone else’s art! But my attitude changed when I reminded myself I was there to help, not harm, and I had to work against that socialization women get to be nice. I think I was elected into this role because I was older than the other students, but maybe some of the instructors thought the other students would receive it better coming from a woman.

Megan

Hate campaign aside, the fundamental problem with GamerGate is that it doesn’t understand what criticism is and what it is for. There seems to be a sophmoric assumption that game criticism is intended to remove from production all games that don’t meet a critic’s standard — as though they’re writing about games because they weren’t good enough to become an executive of a gaming company. Some criticism, especially consumer advocacy campaigns, are intended to directly influence the market. These campaigns have a pretty poor success rate, by the by. But most criticism is, like you guys have said, about expanding knowledge and dialogue. It’s creative work in its own right that serves a crucial social purpose — asking questions of things that might otherwise be beyond critique.

Does this type of behavior affect you personally, and how you go about your daily internet life?

Sarah

I don’t play in MMOs online. I don’t look at the comments on my YouTube page.

Ardo

I play the occasional video game but not enough to call myself a gamer. This isn’t isolated to just the gaming community as we’ve seen what happens to those who participate in comics criticisms. I decide on whether or not it’s worth offering a dissenting opinion on Twitter and cringe at the possible repercussions of having an opinion because I’m a woman. I disable the comments section on my youtube videos and avoid comments sections on sites that tend to have trolls. It’s sad that the behaviour of trolls results in the behavioural change in women which end up stifling their voice in favour of feeling safe. It’s very similar to the restrictive rules women place on themselves like avoiding secluded places at night in fear of sexual assault rather than policing the potential rapist/assaulter. I hate that it happens and I hate that women feel they need to do it to feel safe.

Brenda

Similar to how I try to be in real life, I try to be aware of how my words will be perceived. I don’t want to sound “judgy” (blame all that yoga) but open to discussion as I know I don’t have all the answers or points of view. At the end of the day, I hope that’s enough to keep harassment at bay.

Sarah

Totally, Ardo. Somehow being a woman on the internet sometimes feels like giant target on my back.

Claire

One of our earliest blog carnivals was inspired by an earlier attack on Anita Sarkeesian, actually. I’m more “look at all the fucks I do not give” these days, but the comic I did then is still a solid re-telling. I’ll say what I want to say, but every time: God, I hope it’s not finally my turn.

Wendy

I’ve been very fortunate to not really have dealt with the horrible harassment some women have had to deal with when playing online, though I think that has a lot to do with the genre I play in. From what I understand, the more competitive online games, such as Call of Duty, tend to be where harassment is most prominent. I prefer massive multiplayer online role playing games, where the focus is more on community, than competition. Subsequently,  I’ve managed to find some very wonderful people in my gaming life — they are out there! That said, I’ve had to argue a point here and there about sexism and racism in the gaming industry and otherwise. Usually, I can hold my own, but if I’m dealing with someone truly ignorant, then I can summon my posse to back me up. I have never censored myself on these opinions for fear of how they might retaliate. But that’s probably because my opinion in a comment or a social media post isn’t loud enough to attract the swarms.

Megan

I have become a brick wall of IDGAF, is mainly how it’s affected me.


***

After the initial explosion of hate died down, Zoe Quinn posted a storify and chat logs from a 4chan chat room. You can see them here. There are admissions in there that for some, the harassment has more to do with Zoe’s personal life (and the simple fact that she’s female) than anything to do with journalistic ethics, as has been claimed.

Anita Sarkeesian has also seen public support from Joss Whedon, Cory Doctorow, William Gibson, and video game creators, some of whom have game clips shown in her series. Women have been writing about their own experiences, their views on the threats against Anita Sarkeesian, and what it’s like to be a gamer. Here are just a few links on the subject, and if you like what you read, please reshare:

http://feministsonar.com/2014/08/no-girls-allowed/

http://profbanks.com/?p=966

http://elizabethsampat.com/the-truth-about-zoe-quinn/

http://www.dailydot.com/geek/zoe-quinn-depression-quest-gaming-sex-scandal/

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/08/the-death-of-the-gamers-and-the-women-who-killed-them/