Via Twitter, I happened upon Rob Pegoraro’s post — A grab-bag of #GamerGate responses — and his comments rang true after following the story for a while and after getting attacked on Twitter by sock-puppet accounts operated by the young and the deluded. #GamerGate has been a big deal in the tech world for a while now, but I think we’re finally seeing it die.
Here are my own thoughts after reading Rob’s piece, and after more than a week of watching this train wreck…
You’re either naive or lying
The call for a “pure” form of games journalism — one free of graft or political intermingling of producers and reviewers — is either
- driven by hard-core gamers that tend to be young and poorly informed about the world, or
- an intentional cover-up of the deep and ugly misogyny that started the whole GamerGate mess, or
- a little Column A, a little Column B
Every industry, every job, and every aspect of public life has ethical dimensions. Some people walk one side of the line while others walk the opposite. That’s life. You have to assess which side a given writer is coming from and take an appropriately-sized grain of salt with what they say. It’s true for every form of journalism, commentary, blogging, prognosticating, business, politics, relationships — everything.
People talk about the cozy relationships of the press and the political class all the time. It’s the subject of TV and radio shows, blogs, books, podcasts, speeches… there’s an endless discussion about ethical dilemmas created by these relationships (and rightly so). But they don’t slap “-gate” at the end of every media analysis show and then threaten to kill a few women for participating in the conversation.
So either GamerGaters are deeply naive about the real world — which is lamentable but means we can ignore them — or this violent call to arms over ethics is really just a cover for the violence itself.
Or, again, a little Column A, a little Column B.
When attacking women, the safe word is “ethics”
I suspect this #GamerGate mess can be boiled down to a simple sequence of events brought about when both kinds of GamerGaters (the naives and the misogynists) came together around the hashtag itself. The “pivot” from misogyny to ethics worked like this:
- A few prominent games voices took note of several things surrounding the dissolution of the gamer identity via the arrival of new thinkers, producers, and ideas as the games world expanded. With just a few posts, the scapegoating and anger quickly gelled around those “outsiders”: women, and especially women that took public positions out of step with hardcore games culture. There were some interesting elements in this phase that focused on ethics, but they were relatively minor. Still, this is where the naives and misogynists first teamed up, but for different reasons.
- The attacks quickly went way over the top, driven by the misogynists, which attracted attention from responsible writers in the games world. Once cooler heads showed up saying, “You guys are disgusting…” the naive attackers realized, “Maybe this doesn’t look so good from the outside…” and turned their attention to the journalists themselves and cried out, “It’s about ethics!” And there’s just enough meat on that bone to make a soup, so it’s the perfect diversionary pivot.
- As #GamerGate flame wars continued to expand (and get automated with bots), it even got the attention of mainstream journalism and culture, but not in the way the GamerGaters hoped. Everyone — outside of hardcore misogynists and naive GamerGaters — was utterly horrified. The full-on mainstream cultural backlash began, including articles in major publications that exposed the horror and didn’t give a rip about any #GamerGate reactions. (Sadly the games press was stunned by the controversy and couldn’t mount an effective backlash themselves.)
Game Over. Insert 25 cents to continue.
So that’s where we are today: #GamerGate Over. Even celebrities are speaking out against it.
The only folks still beating the “games journalism ethics” drum at this point are folks that don’t yet realize the war is over and #GamerGate lost: the naives and the folks that feel guilty for saying some truly awful things.
Pro Tip: If you want to discuss games journalism ethics now — and by all means, go for it — you’ll need a new hashtag. This one’s ruined.