Gaming has always had problems with sexism, from the overtly sexist ‘Duke Nukem’ games to the more subtle issues like the gender balance for playable characters (current statistics stand at 15% of characters being women). So we know that gaming has some growth and improvement to do in making it a more gender inclusive medium. However a new hashtag called #Gamergate has decided to stunt that growth. Its purpose was to point out the conflicts between journalists and developers but had a sinister side that targets those women how have managed to get into the male dominated sector that is gaming.
Gamergate began earlier this year when an indie game developer Zoe Quinn sustained a substantial amount of harassment from gamers originating because her ex-boyfriend Nathan Grayson wrote a blog post about her. This post contained several allegations, including that Zoe had a relationship with a journalist from a video game news site ‘Kotaku’ which resulted in her getting favourable media coverage for her new game, which were later shown to be unfounded. At the same time a feminist writer Anita Sarkeesian also received backlash, and by backlash I mean harassment and abuse, for her video series critiquing the paradigm of women in video games. Both received death threats and were doxxed, i.e. their personal addresses were publicised online.
The message of Gamergate is supposed to be around the ethics of gaming journalism. So often those who are supposed to report and critique are usually in bed with the developers, literally in the case of Zoe Quinn if you believe her evidently bitter ex-boyfriend, but such a movement has fallen into the all too common gaming misogyny trap. The ethos behind the movement is clouded by the way in which these gamers have responded. They have gone out of their way to not only release personal details, which are a huge violation of privacy, but have made overtly sexist remarks and given death threats. Somehow the followers of Gamergate believe that victimising and threatening to kill a person is somehow more ethical than the relationship between critics and developers. How is that right? How has someone’s safety been deemed irrelevant and threats of rape are deemed necessary?
Now before you run off and say, “Well, I believe in Gamergate but I don’t think that the actions of a few should represent the many”, I would like to point out one very important fact that the majority of threats that were made were made to women. A prominent video game player and ex-trekkie Wil Wheaton went on Twitter to talk about Gamergate and received negative responses and the common “I think we should talk about the ethics in journalism rather than sexism” type replies, but he never became a victim of doxxing or threats. The few men who have been doxxed usually resulted for being in support of women game developers. Whenever threats are made to women they usually revolve around rape, an easy way for these male harassers to remind women that they still hold the power and that at the end of the day they only see them as a piece of meat.
Gaming needs a culture change, and it needs it fast. Such discussions cannot be taken seriously if they are resulting in personal attacks on an increasingly diversifying medium. Men need to get over their sense of entitlement when it comes to video games. Threats of rape, threats of abuse and threats of mass killings are completely unacceptable and if we collectively as gamers want to have a better community then this needs to stop. In essence gamers need to grow up.