Rio Hondo College Newspaper

El Paisano

Rio Hondo College Newspaper

El Paisano

Rio Hondo College Newspaper

El Paisano

Gamergate: a discussion on ethics and misogyny

When it was announced months ago as an episode in development for the long-running Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, February 11th’s “Intimidation Game” became a small talking point in an overall larger narrative. This long running serial television show has only displayed, for better or worse, what sensationalist writing can do to a discussion. Gamergate, as I wrote about it in its infancy last September, has evolved dramatically over the last several months. Mainly, it has become a battle over ethics and journalistic integrity versus accusations of misogyny and harassment. The truth of the matter is that both sides of this fight are ultimately right on individual points.

People who are pro-Gamergate (shortened for brevity as pro-GG) argue that there is a long standing tradition of cronyism and nepotism that has overtaken video game journalism and news coverage. Over the last 6 months, time and again the video game press has done what they can to suppress and deny any wrong doing.

The first major push to quietly end the conversation before it began can be called the “Death of the Gamer” phase. In what seemed like a coordinated event, nearly all major online outlets for video game news published a story that said the culture and lifestyle of the average gamer was over. There was plenty of ad hominem to be found including calling anyone who sided pro-GG “basement dwellers”, “overweight neckbeards”, “childish”, and so forth. The narratives being written were telling one thing over all: the people who wanted the truth were not intelligent enough to understand what the pressures of a job in journalism really were.

Soon, video after video began their lives hosted on YouTube. Many different people discussed at length all of the information available at the time. Some suffered copyright claims to have the videos removed. Others saw a major backlash, by the aforementioned SJW crowds in my previous article, from across social media. However as the outrage at a lack of discussion continued, censorship grew more widespread. From YouTube to Kotaku, Reddit to Twitter, the administrations saw fit to delete and destroy entire comment sections and threads about those seeking what kept being shut out of view.

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As part of the”Death of the Gamer” arguments, the journalists at large began to accuse people who identify as gamers to strictly be white, cis-gendered (meaning they identify themselves as the gender the were born as) men who simply didn’t want women or people of other races as part of their supposedly “exclusive” club. As a backlash, people began to speak out against that accusation. What’s considered the first and most famous to have started the hashtag trend on Twitter, user @Ninouh90 wrote, “I love games, and I’m black, so to all you who claim to be fighting for equality I’m #notyourshield for your agenda.” People from all walks of life began to speak out after this message spread. Men and women of all races, sexual identities, ages, and locations used #NotYourShield to describe how they felt safe and secure in the community they loved so dearly. It was yet another misstep by those spinning the narrative.

It was widely believed by those pro-GG that there was a massive effort to denounce them going on behind the scenes. In one of those rare instances where conspiracy became reality, it turned out they were right.

Only a few weeks after #NotYourShield began to trend, writer for online outlet Breitbart Milo Yiannopoulos published an article that confirmed these suspicions. It was shown to him, and subsequently his readership, that the editors-in-chief of every outlet that posted a “Death of the Gamer” article and many of their staffers wrote to one another and shared information in a Google group known as GameJounoPros. In it, discussions on how to present the information in a way that would defame pro-GG were discussed. Not only that, but inside this group it was decided which sites would get exclusive interviews and content from game publishers so that traffic could be shared as equally as possible between them all. Cronyism, it was revealed, ran rampant.

As it had for the entirety of the situation, the only place that was a safe haven for discussion remained 4chan. Widely considered one of the internet’s most controversial websites, people under anonymity are able to discuss any issue they desire. Unfortunately, the owner of the website Christopher Poole took it upon himself to begin censoring and deleting any and all mention of GG while banning users who dared to. What followed was a mass abandonment of the site to 8chan, a board with a similar structure. 8chan became and remains the least censored place to discuss GG updates.

In an attempt to drive a wedge further between what at this point are warring factions, child of a wealthy upbringing Brianna Wu took to CNN in an interview claiming more of the same in regards to white men and misogyny. What she did highlight that was new were alleged threats of sexual harassment and doxxing. Some of these threats were legitimately made, however no confirmed evidence of people stalking her home as she claimed have come forward. It is only be her word that she claimed to have had to move.

The unfortunate truth is that there are a number of outliers taking initiative to create these threats and even make good on some. Yiannopoulos had his information doxxed and was sent a letter with a syringe that had been filled with a mysterious liquid. Voice for many pro-GG user King of /pol/ was sent a large knife with a threatening letter as well. Many people on all sides are harassed by “trolls”, users who create chaos for its own sake.

After all of this, YouTube personality David Pakman took it upon himself to have a series of discussions with people from all sides of the conflict. His goal was to remain as impartial as possible to allow for a discussion of the facts. He had both pro-GG and anti-GG people alike come to speak with him. His discussions are considered some of the most revealing about what has been going on over the course of events. One person not included in these discussions is another YouTube personality Anita Sarkeesian.

Sarkeesian, and her partner and writer Jonathan McIntosh, call their presence Feminist Frequency. Calling herself a professional feminist media critic despite a lack of credentials, Sarkeesian had successfully Kickstarted a series of videos discussing misogyny in video games. The proposed project was to include 12 videos covering a breadth of topics as well as a full curriculum for use in classrooms. This project raised just under $160,000 of its asking price of only $6000 on June 16, 2012 with a project completion estimated by August of that year. As of this writing, February 12th, 2015, her project has yet to be completed.

For this and many other reasons including tweets asking for donations to a personal account, it is widely believed that Sarkeesian and McIntosh are highly skilled con artists. Their social media postings are nearly always inflammatory in some way. Without “poking the bear”, so to speak, there would be no money coming in to fund whatever it is they claim to be working on. Sarkeesian has taken her 15 minutes of fame from the internet to television. She appeared on the Colbert Report as well as, most recently, a segment on ABC’s Nightline. More hyperbole and sensationalism than fact, this piece only served to highlight how easily a narrative can become the “truth” if said often enough by different media.

Because of her influence and of others like Wu the overarching narrative of anti-GG has become that of feminism and misogyny. Claims of a men’s only club (again, consistently shut down by #NotYourShield users) that can’t handle a change in the industry are their main talking points.

However, there are many successful women in positions of power throughout video games past and present. Carol Shaw was designing Atari games before I was even born. Pinball sound designer and musical artist Suzanne Ciani worked on the innovative Xenon. Roberta Williams was the creator and co-founder of Sierra Entertainment, as well as writing their highly successful King’s Quest series. More recently you have Jade Raymond, who was the Managing Director of Ubisoft Montreal and gave the greenlight to the now major franchise Assassin’s Creed. Amy Henning wrote the wildly successful Uncharted series for developer Naughty Dog. The list goes on and on.

Despite this evidence, the battle continues. On one side there is pro-GG whose objective has gone far past transparency in just gaming journalism and seeks the truth in all media. On the other, anti-GG seems to only want to conflate sexism and misogyny into the mix despite calling for a reform of gaming culture and development.

No matter what, I will continue to follow this story as it develops. As a lifelong gamer myself, I have a deep personal interest in the outcome of this controversy. I do my best to remain impartial, but I will always follow where the most evidence points me. Simply put, that’s what ethics in journalism is all about. Being honest about one’s intentions in their writing. Disclosing ties to an industry or person one may be writing on. Conflicts of interest are meant to be put into the forefront, that people might get the most out of the stories of the day without fearing misinformation. I hope that is a trend that catches on.

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