#GamerGate: What do you want?

Published on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 By Brad Wardell In PC Gaming

Last week I wrote about the Escalation of #GamerGate. I recommended that advocates of #GamerGate come up with a set of objectives while momentum was in their favor.

A Recap

For the uninitiated, #GamerGate is a schism that has formed between the enthusiast gaming press and core gamers. The schism was largely the result of the gaming media allowing their platforms to be utilized by the more radical elements within their ranks to denigrate core gamers as “dead” and “nerds” and “misogynists” in response to a handful of gamers targeting an outspoken feminist game developer who they believed had received unmerited coverage due to her personal relationships with the gaming press.

#Gamergate was coined by Adam Baldwin in response to the gaming media’s aggressive stance towards gamers who expressed their concerns regarding what they believed to be inappropriate collusion between developers and journalists and now represents those who passionately want to see changes in the way the gaming media approaches its subjects.

Jack Thompson II

The situation reminds me of when activist lawyer, Jack Thompson argued against violence in video gamesBack then, the enthusiast gaming press and core gamers ridiculed Thompson’s arguments and at times, targeted him with substantial harassment. Eventually his movement petered out and everything went back to normal.

This time, the crusade against core gaming is being led by self-identified “social justice” activists who believe that video games are inherently hostile to women, minorities, etc.  Core gamers have reacted the same as they did in 2003 with open ridicule and at times, substantial harassment of their foes.  However, this time, the enthusiast press decided to brand core gamers as “misogynists” on the basis that the targets of ridicule and harassment are feminists instead of a male lawyer.

Many core gamers believe that the reason the gaming media has been backing this agenda is because unlike in 2003, they are in bed with the other side financially, politically and sometimes literally. Meanwhile, some in the enthusiast press think that the vocal elements #gamergate are just a bunch of misogynistic lunatics.

What do you want out of this?

I suggested that the #GamerGate advocates come up with 5 objectives to rally around.  With a week of reflection, I’m not sure that’s really a good idea as it would likely just splinter those who support #Gamergate into smaller factions.Nevertheless, a lot of interesting suggestions were made. 

Below are some representations of the objectives people believe #gamergate should have

  • Insist on a full disclosure of relationships (Financial, personal, or otherwise) between the developer/publisher and journalist/publication.
  • Fair and professional representation of all sides during debate (Including twitter and other social media directly related to a journalists writing persona) without censorship of opposing opinions. Where disagreement over facts is present both sides should be represented with relevant proof where available.
  • Fact checking of all articles. Do not report on issues like harassment and bomb threats without first checking the story is real, then also read into all parties involved and relay histories of similar incidents if a pattern is present.
  • Proper representation of gaming's diverse multi-cultural elements. Don't blame 'straight, white, males' for everything. It's extremely unprofessional and deeply offensive.
  • A full apology from all involved in Twitter campaigns, 'gamers are dead' articles, and other anti-GG attacks.
  • A end to journalist collusion in regards to the omission of stories that do not fit in with ideology
  • Report on what games are like, not what they are lacking in terms of perceived social justice.

  • Quit censoring topics based on your personal political biases. If you have a stated policy, stick to that. Don’t pull the rug out because your ideology is losing the debate.

  • Those sites that published articles attacking gamers should publish an editorial apologizing for those attacks.

  • Stop game sites from injecting a political agenda into content, especially things like reviews or interviews. Opinion pieces are fine as long as they are clearly marked as opinion and the comments left open so that respectful, dissenting points of can be heard.

  • Game sites should abandon articles that character assassinate individuals or groups that are related to the gaming industry.

  • The practice of blackballing developers for the kind of games they make, their political opinion or something they might have said needs to stop, everyone should be given a fair chance.

  • Game Sites should have an ethics policy which is easy to find and which clearly lays out policies regarding journalistic standards.

  • Game sites should post a complete renunciation of the claim that Gamergate was "based in misogyny and harassment".

  • Cut off all ties with Silverstring media as well as Patreon support for those who work with/use it.

  • Force the removal of the most egregious actors in the gaming press.

  • Game Magazines and sites need a stated, public policy regarding how they define a conflict of interest. For instance, a conflict of interest is may be defined as any romantic, sexual, or platonic relationship; additionally, any economic relationships through services such as Patreon or Kickstarter.

  • Censorship is not acceptable. We expect to be able to discuss our grievances with your websites openly, so long as the conversation is polite and respectful.

  • All news articles must meet the Ms. Walters standards- at MINIMUM two reasonably unbiased sources, with at least one from both sides, must be present. If two sources cannot be found, this must be clearly stated in the article.

  • If your website believes in advocating for a political cause, be open about it.

  • Full disclosure on relationship of journalist and game developer. IE Patreon, Kick Starter, Friend, Lover, Roommate, where did you get the game, etc.

This is by no means a comprehensive list.

Reality vs. Fantasy

A lot of the objectives, demands and hopes I read are fantasy. Demands without leverage are just a form of groveling.  Only objectives that the #gamergate proponents can enforce are, in my opinion, realistic.

I’m friends with a lot of people in the gaming media. I know they’re good people. They’re also honest, trustworthy and full of integrity. They are also convinced that #gamergate is a thinly veiled front to attack women in gaming.  I think they’re wrong. Terribly wrong. But they will not be convinced otherwise. 

I’m also friends with a lot of game developers. And most of them have been horrified by what they see as the self-destruction of the enthusiast press when it comes to their relationship with their most loyal supporters.  Most game developers I’ve talked to about this issue cannot fathom why the gaming press would be attacking their own readership. 

As one fairly well known game developer said to me last week, “What’s really odd is that some of these guys forget that when Cracked or whatever gets back to their usual beat, the gaming press still has to live with these guys [the hard core gamers that make up a large % of the daily page views of these game sites]”.

What I’d like to see the gaming media do

I’m just an old game developer. So I might as well wish for it to rain donuts.   Mind you, I cringe even reading the below points because I hate preachiness and anything that seems coercive. That said, I think the below points would be helpful to them.

  1. Professionalism. Create a policy based on the Society of Professional Journalists. Have your writers and freelancers read it and sign it before accepting work from them. This would cover disclosures of excessive personal or financial relationships between the writer and the subject.
  2. Transparency and Fairness. Create a mission statement for your site and put it in the about area. This would be useful both for readers and those who would submit content to your magazine/site.
  3. Self-Enforcement. Encourage your editors to be on the look out for writers who are trying to pass their political agenda as “news”. Don’t let your platform be used to advocate some cause that deviates from the general mission of site.
  4. House Cleaning. Discourage or eliminate moderators/editors who allow personal political biases to determine what topics are allowed on your forums/website. (For example if you have a policy against topics that might encourage “harassment of game developers” then make sure it’s enforced equally and not just game developers who you politically agree with.)

What I’d like to see #Gamergate do

  1. Vigilance. Support and encourage those maintaining vigilance, providing constructive criticism and doing due diligence on how games are covered.
  2. Resistance. Continue to resist those who would wrongly believe inclusion means one group has to “die”. This means using various channels to disseminate information.  Don’t allow your hobby to be turned into “Hobby+”
  3. Inclusiveness. Vigorously discourage any repeat of the August 28 “Gamers are dead” series of articles by vigorously reminding the media that you’re not going anywhere. Gamers want everyone to play games. Support journalists who support actual inclusiveness – you want more people playing games not just “the correct” people.
  4. Support. Actively support and defend those who are being marginalized for purely political reasons.


Natural Allies

As a reminder: The gaming media’s natural purpose is to be the advocate of the gamer. The media is supposed to be the watchdog making sure we game developers aren’t screwing over gamers. I feel like we’re in this bizarro situation where the game developers are the ones having to defend gamers from the media. It’s backwards. Stop it.

Gamers, by definition, want to play games. They want games to be reviewed based on how fun the reviewer thinks the game will be to their audience. They don’t care what the reviewer’s personal political hang ups are. Game sites aren't supposed to be a therapy couch for narcissism.  I have lots of opinions on life too but I don’t inject them into my games. Maybe it’s easier for me to keep my whacko views out of my games because the financial punishment would be swift and unmistakable. Either way, knock it off. 

What’s next

I don’t think #gamergate will be going away any time soon.  Given the general unpleasantness of the whole affair, I think editors and journalists in general will be more self-aware of their relationships and take more care in what gets published in the future.  Only time will tell.