More thoughts on GamerGate:
So, in recent weeks I've become something of a notorious troll within #GamerGate, particularly because of my rather vocal and outspoken beliefs against them. This is fine in my eyes, I really don't give a shit about what other people think about me, because my beliefs are my own and I won't let any amount of hate I get for them sway me. I've had to learn that the hard way.
Now, since I've been rather heavily involved in GamerGate for a while, I decided it's time for me to write up more of my thoughts on the matter. This isn't going to be much different from the last time I talked about it at length, but since new information has come to light I will do my best to elaborate how I truly feel about these matters.
My opinion on GamerGate remains overall unchanged. I still believe that it is a very misguided movement that is at best unreasonable and at worst outright awful in its methods. I do not believe that EVERY individual involved in the movement is bad, but I do believe that OVERALL they're causing a lot of harm.
Before I address my problems with GamerGate, I'd like to get this out of the way: I do not nor will I ever approve of people who take extreme measures against GamerGate. I've voiced my disapproval of hacking/doxxing attempts that are made against GamerGate supporters before, both in regards to the Escapist DDoS (https://twitter.com/Zennistrad/status/513123389775835136), and when KingofPol was doxxed (https://twitter.com/Zennistrad/status/516241393241841664). The people who do these things are awful people regardless of which side they're on and I don't condone their actions.
So, now that this is out of the way, what are my problems with GamerGate, exactly? Well, there are a few things that I can think of and I'm going to point them out here as best as I can.
1) GAMERGATE PUSHES A VERY CLEAR ANTI-FEMINIST AGENDA, DESPITE THEIR CLAIMS TO THE CONTRARY
This is something that, to me, has been very obvious from the beginning, even before GamerGate was even called GamerGate. Back when the whole Zoe Quinn issue ignited the spark that eventually became GamerGate, the "movement" that it would soon become was spearheaded by two individuals: MundaneMatt and Internet Aristocrat. Both of these people make it VERY clear on where they stand with regards to gender politics, and it's quite clear that they have a major beef with feminism.
But that doesn't necessarily make them WRONG about GamerGate, does it? Well, no, but when you consider their previous political views then EVERYTHING that they say about it is going to come through that particular lens. InternetAristocrat, for example, tried desperately to make the issue of the conflict of interest into one of feminism in his VERY FIRST VIDEO on the subject. (seen here: skip to 19:50: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5-51PfwI3M). And keep in mind that Internet Aristocrat is STILL among the most popular and vocal people involved in the movement, so much so that Adam Baldwin, who coined the GamerGate hashtag, linked to IA's video in the very first Tweet with the tag (https://twitter.com/AdamBaldwin/status/504801169638567936).
And while you could make the argument that GamerGate is not EXCLUSIVELY anti-feminist, and you wouldn't be wrong about that since there are a few feminists supporting it, there simply is no denying that GamerGate was birthed from a lot of anit-feminist sentiments and to this day continues to have strong anti-feminist undertones. Do a search on Twitter for "gamergate cultural marxism" and you'll find quite a few results where people use "cultural marxism" to describe social justice, a tactic that has quite often been used redefined by social conservatives in the 21st century as a means of employing a Red Scare tactic to suit their own agenda (http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2003/summer/reframing-the-enemy). Hell, they've even created their own Steam curator list which is literally nothing BUT a backlash against feminists who criticize video games. (http://store.steampowered.com/curator/6859671/)
So what's wrong with being anti-feminist, you might ask? Well, admittedly, this is almost entirely an ideological gripe since I am fairly feminist-minded myself, but a lot of things. A lot of the backlash against "SJWs", at least in my perception, is rooted in a fear of change. People are afraid of feminist "censorship" because they've somehow gotten it into their minds that games creators being vocally criticized or called out is somehow "shaming" them into submission. This is a view that I am VERY opposed to because I feel it's entirely missing the point of what "censorship" really is and how the video games market really works. Damien Schubert does a very good job of explaining why the "censorship" argument is so ridiculous in his personal blog, Zen of Design. (http://www.zenofdesign.com/no-the-press-didnt-kill-boobplate/)
Secondly, and more importantly, I believe that being receptive to feminist criticism is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for games to evolve as a medium. Sure, we have plenty of well-written and interesting female characters OUTSIDE of the mainstream AAA CoD of Shooty ripoffs (and even then they still don't get nearly as much diversity as male characters do: Jim Sterling does a good job of explaining that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wnTunPrQJo) that are currently the face of gaming, but, well... That's kind of the problem. The face and public perception of gaming is all about male protagonists with brown hair and stubble who represent some sort of masculine power fantasy. Assassin's Creed, Gears of War, Uncharted, Resident Evil, Alan Wake, Infamous, Dead Rising... The list goes on, really.
I believe that accepting the existence of these feminists criticisms of games and their diversity or lack thereof is not only going to help games become more creative and diverse, but also allow for more people of different demographics to become interested in video games. It really is no secret at this point that "traditional" console and PC games cater to an almost exclusively male interest, which is a damn shame because I WANT video games to become more diverse and have greater audience.
And no, I don't think telling women to "just make their own damn games" is a solution because WE never had to do that. Games have been marketed to us since the 90s and those of us who grew up in that era never had to really WORK to be accepted in games. Why should anyone else have to do that it when we haven't?
2) GAMERGATE HAS HARASSED PEOPLE, MUCH MORE THAN THEY SEEM TO REALIZE
I'm going to come right out and say it: I think that GamerGate has a problem with harassment. A very, VERY serious problem with harassment.
Do I think that EVERYONE in the movement harasses? No, of course not. I've actually met some very cool and level-headed people in the movement and I am very grateful to have met them. However, the existence of non-assholes in GamerGate does not invalidate the existence of actual harassers.
The first thing that many people seem to miss is that they don't always seem to understand what constitutes "harassment" or not. They often claim that what they're doing is nothing more than "criticism" without giving any thought to how they conduct themselves with this criticism.
Let's take a look at the definition of harassment, shall we? According to the free legal dictionary (http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/harassment), "harassment" is defined as "the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands."
Now, let's take a look at some of the things that GamerGate has said, shall we? These are tweets from @TheRalphRetort, @FartToContinue, and @mylittlepwnies3, all of which are fairly prominent within the GamerGate sphere, ESPECIALLY The Ralph Retort and Mr. Fart.
Notice a theme with all three of these tweets? All three of them both included the GamerGate hashtag (to make the tweets visible to supporters who are tracking the hastag) as well as either an @ mention to the person they're talking about or a link to one of their tweets. What POSSIBLE motive would they have to attract followers of GamerGate and then try to direct their attention to the people who they dislike?
Well, the most obvious answer, going by the definition of "harassment" given earlier, is to harass the people they're talking about. They are inciting a mob of their followers to direct their ire towards the individuals who they dislike the most in a way that implicitly encourages them to repeatedly annoy and bother others with the intent of getting them to cave to their demands. And the thing that absolutely cement it into "harassment" territory is that this reaction is just so DISPROPORTIONATE. At best these people said a few less-than-kind things about GamerGate or gamers (which is NOT comparable to actual oppression no matter how you slice it), and at worst they deleted a document on a PRIVATE WEBSITE which they are well within their rights to manage and maintain as they wish.
And the thing is, the harassment is in many ways a LOT more prevalent than many people even realize. Even going back to GamerGate's origins as the "Quinnspiracy", there were several active attempts to humiliate and harass Zoe Quinn, the most notable being tweeting her nude photos specifically to humiliate her, as well as the attempted doxx of Joshua Boggs simply for associating with her, both of which can be found in the full #burgersandfries IRC log with a simple control-F search (http://puu.sh/boAEC/f072f259b6.txt)
And even after the hashtag was coined and GamerGate supposedly put in more of an effort to police themselves, it STILL continued happening. An interview on the Escapist with seven anonymous female developers had almost all of them speak out against the gendered harassment that they believed was a prominent part of GamerGate. Raph Koster, a veteran developer known for his work on Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, has mentioned in his AMA that a LOT of people on the anti-GG side were getting harassed (http://www.reddit.com/r/KotakuInAction/comments/2hgv5x/veteran_dev_saying_ama_here/). And according to him, "here are a LOT more of you than there are, say, IndieFund people. So the typical GGer getting harassed gets it onesie-twosie, whereas the typical person on the other side gets it a thousandfold. With the exception of certain folks like Milo, thuderf00t, etc, obviously."
So yes, while it IS true that there are people in GamerGate who are getting harassed, and I do not think that harassing or doxxing anyone on EITHER side is ever justified, I don't think that saying "but we get harassed too" is ever a valid response, because harassment by gamergate does still happen, and to a much greater extent than anyone seems to want to believe.
And the reason for that? Well, I believe that it's because...
3) GAMERGATE BY ITS VERY CONSTRUCTION ATTRACTS THE WORST KINDS OF PEOPLE TO IT
Let's talk about social justice and feminism again, shall we? Specifically, let's talk about the dreaded "Social Justice Warrior", the scourge of the internet.
See, in my time I've actually had some experience with the absolute worst of social justice. As a brony I have had to deal with quite a few Tumblrites who were, to put it mildly, just a little bit unhinged. They acted in ways that were unreasonable and were VERY overzealous in their pursuit of calling out and correcting the flaws in the Brony fandom, to the point where a few of them even did things that were outright ILLEGAL. So I'm more than aware of people who act incredibly awful in the name of social justice.
But the thing is, the VAST majority of people who complain about SJWs are not, in fact, simply complaining about these overzealous Tumblrites who do some really and genuinely shitty things. The vast majority of the time what they are complaining about are those who question or challenge their behavior in any meaningful capacity. When people say "I don't mind social justice, just social justice WARRIORS", the majority of the time what they mean is that they want social justice that doesn't actually challenge their beliefs to any significant extent. It's telling when someone as incredibly mild as Jim Sterling routinely gets called an SJW simply for expressing beliefs that games need to push for more inclusivity in terms of both games and gamer culture. It got so ridiculous that he made an entire video out of it (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/jimquisition/9695-Quit-Using-The-Term-Social-Justice-Warriors).
So what's my point? Well, my point is that a LOT of the people who complain about SJWs are, in fact, bigots in their own right who see ANY attempt to call out their shittiness as hostile and will lash out against ANY attempt by society to progress beyond their views.
Some of the views who are held by more prominent GamerGate members include:
* MundaneMatt, who prior to GamerGate made a video trying to explain why "t*ts or GTFO" isn't sexist, and argument which relies ENTIRELY on the sexist stereotype that women on the internet are "begging for attention." (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GudcQm8vRb0)
* Internet Aristocrat, who among other things posted an extremely transphobic video where he described trans women as "wanting to cut their penis off and call themselves something different." (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BD-7w-LLNdw)
* Davis Aurini, co-author of the Sarkeesian Effect who tried to argue that "Racism is a Personal Problem" and has admitted that "on paper he is a white nationalist." (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTGoJjzXI5U)
* Milo Yiannopoulos, who called gamer rapists less than a month before GamerGate started (http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/08/14/Players-as-young-as-12-and-13-are-being-raped-by-dorky-weirdos-on-Grand-Theft-Auto), has been in legal trouble for not paying his employees (http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/mar/01/the-kernel), is openly transphobic (http://mediamatters.org/blog/2014/09/17/breitbart-asks-have-they-cut-chelsea-mannings-p/200792), and is HIMSELF an incredibly unethical and biased reporter (http://www.zenofdesign.com/milos-sloppy-biased-video-games-reporting/).
* 28DansLater, mod of one of GamerGate's main discussion hubs on Reddit, who defended a literal rapist by calling any attempt to call out the rapist "hate speech" (http://www.redditlog.com/snapshots/1075357)
* Adam Baldwin, inventor of the hashtag, who is just an all-around conspiracy theory nutjob. (https://twitter.com/AdamBaldwin/status/515301576919875584)
These people are people who are attracted to the GamerGate controversy because it is LARGELY a platform to promote an anti-social justice agenda, which they oppose by nature of themselves being the exact kind of bigots that social justice is trying to rid the world of. With them it is quite obvious that their definition of "corruption" includes anything which would cause society as a whole to question the beliefs that they hold because in THEIR mind they believe that their ludicrous views deserve equal platform in the media no matter how ridiculous or bigoted their are. And just to repeat, yes, I AM aware that there are a lot of more reasonable who support GamerGate but they are almost always drowned out by the anti-SJ noise that proliferates so quickly due to the support of the more extremist voices in the movement.
And GamerGate, being only loosely organized at best, doesn't call them out on their shittiness because they are either in line with them ideologically or just don't WANT to call them out because...
4) GAMERGATE WILL LATCH ONTO ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING THAT WILL CONFIRM THEIR EXISTING BELIEFS
GamerGate is, simply put, not interested in critical thinking. They will do everything within their power to handwave or ignore complaints about them, labeling anyone who tries to be reasonable by dismissing them as a "troll", "concern troll", or a "shill".
This same sentiment, of course, is reflected in the way they IMMEDIATELY jump to the worst possible conclusion based on incomplete or out-of-context information. This has happened multiple times, including people saying Zoe Quinn lied about her iFred donations (she didn't: https://www.facebook.com/ifredorg/posts/373372282788073), saying Anita Sarkeesian lied about being driven out of her home by threats (she didn't: https://twitter.com/davidahilljr/status/510594440788856833), saying that Leigh Alexander's "gamers are over" article was meant to be taken LITERALLY (it wasn't: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1scc2sd), calling Ian Miles Cheong a Nazi based on an IRC log (which he made MORE THAN A DECADE AGO and later apologized for: https://twitter.com/stillgray/status/506869944999374849).
GamerGate will literally latch onto anything that they can that confirms their own narrative. The attempt to "fact-check" DiGRA is TRANSPARENTLY biased; GamerGate couldn't be any more clear that their intention is not to critically examine both its flaws and strengths but to find EVERYTHING they can to debunk it.
This is really not anything new. GamerGate operates under much of the same logic that has been seen for the past two years with regards to Anita Sarkeesian. L0G1C B0MB on Youtube does a very good job of exposing just how desperate people are to craft a narrative out of seemingly innocuous or disconnected fact in order to spin Anita's videos into some vast conspiracy to manufacture her own victimhood for profit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_D4l0izPVM0
The same thing is seen here in much of GamerGate: conspiracy theories that use anomaly hunting methods to find bits of data and information that do not appear to fit the generally accepted narrative and IMMEDIATELY seizing upon them as evidence of some kind of conspiracy, without giving ANY thought to alternate explanations or otherwise assuming the worst possible motive. The simplest explanation is never sufficient, and the malice always trumps every other motive.
And the worst part is that even when their claims are debunked they continue to make the exact same mistakes, over and over again. They never learn to question people who are telling them everything that they want to hear, and they never learn to question their own assumptions. As long as it fits the conspiracy narrative, they'll act on it first and only LATER do they stop to check if it was actually true or not.
Despite this, they manage to convince themselves that they're justified because their mantra of "ethics" is one that is actually a real problem within games journalism. Problem is...
5) GAMERGATE IS NOT ANYWHERE CLOSE TO THE ROOT OF THE ACTUAL ETHICAL PROBLEMS IN GAMES JOURNALISM
One thing that GamerGate seems to miss is that most of their detractors actually don't have a problem with their stated goal: better ethics in game journalism. It's no secret that games journalism is unethical: it's been like that since practically forever. The simple truth of the matter is that video games were built from the ground up as little more than an advertising press to hype up the latest releases.
This fact is actually the REASON why so many games journalists are pushing a "feminist agenda" as many in GamerGate like to claim. After years and years of only talking about the latest Halo or Call of Duty or whatever new game is going to be hyped up this summer, game journalists are FINALLY getting a chance to talk about something ELSE. They finally have a chance to take a break from the hype machine and actually talk about games like they're something MORE than a product of pure functionality, like they're something to be critically examined in greater social contexts.
At least, that would be the simplest explanation, and as we've stated before, the simplest explanation is never sufficient for GamerGate. So what's the real problem with games journalism, then?
The answer is simple: the AAA game developers are the ultimate source of corruption in the vast majority of games journalism. Developers have power, power enough that they can essentially strongarm every major gaming news site into covering exactly what they want exactly when they want it. This has happened time and time again: in 2007 Jeff Gerstmann was fired from Gamespot for giving a bad review to Kane and Lynch: Dead Men. In 2012 Geoff Keighley held an interview with a games website which featured product placement for Mountain Dew and Doritos in a promotional Halo 4 event, which jokingly became known as "DoritoGate." Youtubers like TotalBiscuit are offered free review codes in exchange for paid branding deals (http://www.gamesreviews.com/news/09/totalbiscuit-reveals-shadow-mordor-code-branding-deal/), and Game Informer, one of the longest-running print publications in games, is owned by GameStop. Jim Sterling ended up getting "greylisted" by Microsoft shortly after being hired by the Escapist (http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=717131), and Destructoid was straight-up blacklisted by Konami for a JOKE (https://twitter.com/JimSterling/status/375994991002152960).
The real root of the problem with game journalism ethics isn't so much with the journalists themselves as it is with the big-name publishers who hold the games press in an iron grip. But this doesn't matter to GamerGate, because as far as "ethics" are concerned the ONLY ethical problems in games are those that involve criticizing both games and gamer culture. GamerGate is perfectly comfortable with games journalism being unethical as long as it does not question their position or challenge their beliefs.
GamerGate, simply put, is a very deeply flawed movement, both in its ideology and in its methods. Despite having a few valid surface-level complaints, the movement has repeatedly stumbled over itself, barked up the wrong tree, and buried its head in the sand when it comes to pursuing real issues, both in games journalism and in themselves.
So to anyone asking me if I support GamerGate, my answer is going to be a resounding "no."