Magazine article Media Report to Women

Gamergate, Violence and Video Games: Re-Thinking a Culture of Misogyny

Magazine article Media Report to Women

Gamergate, Violence and Video Games: Re-Thinking a Culture of Misogyny

Article excerpt

The Gamergate hashtag social movement, on Twitter and Reddit, is committed to exposing problematic ethical behavior in game journalism, gaming research, and the gaming industry. Gamergate is also a misogynist social network movement designed to intimidate, harass, and threaten women who happen to work in or be affiliated with the video game industry, including academics who have written on the effects of video games.

While misogyny and video game culture have a long history, including discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace (Raja 2012; Hamilton 2012), the misogyny specific to Gamergate began in summer 2014 when Zoe Quinn was accused by an ex-boyfriend of trading sex with a reviewer for Kotaku to receive positive reviews of her game. The Kotaku reviewer did have a relationship with Quinn, but had not written about her games after starting their affair and had never actually reviewed "Depression Quest," the game for which sex was allegedly traded for a positive review. Facts did not deter a dedicated group of online gamers, using the hashtag #GamerGate on Twitter and Reddit, from harassing Quinn with tactics such as death threats, rape threats, and doxing (the practice of posting personal information online). Those attacking Quinn argued that there are serious problems with ethics conduct in the video game industry and that so-called "social justice warriors," a term used to describe feminists and women who are critical of hyper-sexualization and objectification of women in video games, actively seek to destroy the gaming industry (Ohlheiser 2015). Gamergate, therefore, stood as a polysemic symbol. For proponents, the hashtag represented the decline and corruption of media and game design. For opponents, #gamergate embodied a concerted attack against the increasing number of women working in the gaming industry, gaming research, and game journalism.

#Gamergate did not originate in 2014. It was initially used on Twitter to discuss the Republican Party website, "Colleen's World," which attacked then-Maine State Senator Colleen Madigan (now a State Representative in the Maine legislature) for openly playing the massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft. In 2012, as part of a campaign strategy designed to denigrate Madigan, the website was published and its content suggested that Madigan's online game play left her out of touch with reality and unfit for office (Kilkenny 2012). However, #gamergate came to be used more broadly in 2014 and has since been primarily related to the "anti-social justice warrior" misogynist movement.

On August 27, 2014, Adam Baldwin, an actor most famous for his role of Jayne on the Joss Whedon series Firefly, first used the hashtag #Gamergate linking two videos attacking Zoe Quinn. Baldwin was not the first to attack Quinn but was the first to utilize the hashtag on Twitter. Baldwin's #Gamergate became the name of the misogynist gaming movement and allowed the loosely associated, anonymous, and incoherent movement an opportunity to coalesce around a tangible signifier. #Gamergate is an interesting term for Baldwin to have selected. The hashtag is evocative of Nixon's Watergate as well as the various "-gate" scandals which have occurred since (e.g., Whitewater-gate, Benghazi-gate, Nipple-gate, Pastagate). The hashtag is also evocative of the entomological term 'gamergate' which refers to mated, egg -laying workers in an insect colony. In a gamergate colony all workers are born with the ability to reproduce and for gamergates to differentiate themselves they physically maim their sisters by removing their thoracic gemmae to make them less sexually attractive. Through their physical aggression, gamergates reduce the likelihood of male offspring and increase the likelihood of female offspring (Barrows 2011). While the reference may be inadvertent, linking feminism and female ants, whose function is to generate female offspring and eliminate male offspring, it seems to fit with the movement's anti-feminist arguments. …

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