Safeguarding Research

A Scholarly Roundtable on GamerGate - Part I

As 2014 draws to a close, #GamerGate continues. A number of articles have been written in both popular and academic publications attempting to describe, critique, and comprehend GamerGate. What has yet to be discussed is the challenge of undertaking research into this amorphous, self-styled online “movement” — what sociologist Jennifer Allaway has designated a “hate group” (2014) — and its proliferation of avatars and media that have banded together underneath the GamerGate hashtag. GamerGate as an online phenomena is many things, but for the researcher, it is primarily encountered as a toxic space where critical inquiry is nearly always understood as a partisan or biased attack (see Allaway; Cross; Goodchild; Lutz; Straumsheim 2014).

Even as it is organised through 8Chan and coordinated in militarised language and tactics through Rogue Star Industries, GamerGate remains fundamentally anarchic, operating via decentralised online media. As Rogue Star’s document shows, GamerGate operates through multiple vectors: a series of hashtags on Twitter that are disseminated, debated, and defended by both anonymous and named accounts; a coordinated economic boycott of games journalism outlets (and their advertisers) that have published thoughtful work critical of GamerGate or the games industry in general; and a proliferating, sophisticated series of mostly anonymous attacks, conducted through multiple forms of social media, against anyone critical of GamerGate’s aims, with particular focus on prominent women in the gaming industry.

While critical work that unpacks the various dimensions of GamerGate continues — including the archiving of its campaigns — there is a need to gather scholars to discuss the challenges of undertaking research in an online environment hostile to study, that actively dissuades critical inquiry into its activities while obfuscating its intentions and motives, and in which researchers have been subject to various forms of online harassment. Evidently, scholars need to analyse a movement capable of rapidly amassing various forms of violence through online and digital media while, at the same time, undertake strategies to protect their own well-being.

This roundtable is part one of a two-part series drawing together scholars who have published on GamerGate in various venues and who are active in researching it (see bios below). Part one asks scholars to reflect upon their experiences in researching GamerGate. The second part will turn to the kinds of scholarly strategies, approaches, and questions required to analyse GamerGate, with more time given to defining and contextualizing GamerGate as an online, decentralised movement with connections to far-right hate groups.

Roundtable – Part I

Participants: tobias c. van Veen, Jennifer Allaway, Katherine Cross, Jenni Goodchild and Michael Lutz (see below for author bios).

tobias c. van Veen (tcV): What has been your experience as a scholar researching GamerGate?

Jennifer Allaway (JA): I was not originally starting out studying GamerGate — the study that I published on Jezebel looked at opinions gamers as a whole had on diversity in game content and how the industry as a whole understood that. Essentially GamerGate attacked that data because they thought it was some conspiracy by the larger industry. As I started to do a content analysis of GamerGate’s behaviours on 8Chan, the first attack was really shaking, because you have four hundred polluted data points. I think one of us academics can talk about how heart-breaking that is, when you’ve poured your soul into something you really care about and all of a sudden you might have to walk away from it. When you decide to throw yourself back into it, studying the group that did this to you, all you can think about is, if this is what they did nonchalantly, because they could, what are they going to do when I look them in the face and critically study them?

I don’t think they’re going to take lightly being called a hate group academically. It was very scary. I had to do things I never thought I would have to do for my personal safety.

tcV: Given that targets of GamerGate have seen a range of online attacks from swarming behaviours on social media to doxing, what kind of technical and safety precautions did you have to undertake to continue your research?

JA: I ended up getting a VPN on my computer and I had no idea what that was before this attack. There’s this paranoia, right? Five different people I know have received threats on their phones — GamerGaters calling them and giving them personal rape and death threats. All of a sudden, I am too afraid to pick up the phone when I see a random number. It literally plays on your anxiety.

I had to go and remove a lot of personal information from school records, my academic papers from the records of the university, because I was afraid of GamerGate hacking my school’s mainframe and getting into it and doing things with it. I had to get 60 character passwords so they wouldn’t get to my address, and that’s really annoying to deal with, and on a daily basis it’s just a reminder — it’s just emotionally burdening.

I want to understand the people who have hurt me and hurt my friends, and for simply trying to understand them, I have to guard every piece of my information. It’s psychologically very hard to explain.

Katherine Cross (KC): That’s the interesting thing for me as well. As a researcher, you are in the midst of this maelstrom, implicated in it, and it is almost impossible not to be directly emotionally involved in a way that is exceedingly difficult to justify in other research endeavours, because as the researcher you are directly under attack. So many of GamerGate’s conspiracy theories and its general weltanschauung about the gaming space positions academics as being part of the problem, especially if you study gender. So any attempt to theorize about them or write about them is to make yourself a target, and some might argue that biases you. I’ve certainly had that charge leveled at me multiple times. One of the most common criticisms — that doesn’t involve four-letter words — directed at my First Person Scholar essay was that it was “too emotional.” I didn’t really agree with that, but the lines they were quoting were things like “GamerGate as a movement has left a lot of wreckage behind it.” And I know that’s informed by standing in the midst of that wreckage, seeing it happen to my friends, my professional colleagues and acquaintances, and also having been directly the target of petty vitriol or hatred. So I have to check myself even more than I would if I was doing any other kind of research, because there is this level of emotional involvement that I have to try really hard to keep at bay, even as it’s its own form of data. I can’t talk about what GamerGate is doing, as an empirical matter, without appealing to that emotional understanding of what it’s like, the phenomenology of being-in-the-midst-of-GamerGate. And that’s been a difficulty for me, certainly, trying to hit that balance, knowing that especially as an academic you’re going to be attacked for bias, simply because the movement has made you a target. The alternative is to silence yourself and I don’t see that as powerful.

Jenni Goodchild (JG): The main difficulty I’ve had talking to GamerGate is that they don’t use words in the way everyone else uses words, which automatically makes any attempt of studying or talking to them a matter of playing the definition game before you can get any discussion done. As I do philosophy, I am kind of used to that. That is the kind of thing philosophers do  — but not at this scale. Philosophers will say “I am using this word, in this context, and this is what I mean by it, and now I’ll use it.” Whereas GamerGate just kind of abuses words.

The big thing that got me doing my survey in the first place was that a lot of GamerGate was talking about “objective reviews.” “Objective” obviously does have multiple senses of the word, so I wanted to clarify who was using it in what sense. Quite a lot of them did mean it as “impartial,” which I can agree with, and that is a good goal to aim for, in the sense of not having a personal connection. But a lot of them meant “I want a review free of opinions.” And then you try and explain to them that a review is just an opinion, and they say “no it’s not, it’s facts.” And so you say OK, is saying “this game is good a fact?” and they go “yes! It is objectively good”. And that’s just the point where you can’t have a conversation with them anymore.

I’ve had similar confusion over the notion of harassment. Many GamerGaters say that it’s specifically a legal term, and that it only has a legal definition, and they should only stop it when it’s illegal, and that anything else is tone-policing and about feelings. But that’s not what it means, because the definition includes the legal definition and others. [foot]The Compact OED (3rd Ed., 2005) lists harass as to “torment someone by putting constant pressure on them or by saying or doing unpleasant things to them;” and as the adjective harassed: “feeling tired or tense as a result of too many demands made on one” and “[to] make repeated small-scale attacks on an enemy to wear down their resistance.”[/foot] But they’re obsessed with the idea that if it’s not illegal, it’s not harassment.

So you can’t communicate with that — which is the problem. They say they want people to talk with them, and engage with them, but you can’t engage with anything like that. And I’ve tried. A lot.

JA: When you establish a movement that’s leaderless, and then try and give a leaderless movement a cause, you’re going to get this. The one cause they seem to agree to is something about ethics in game journalism, but then their actions harass women. They try and use some sort of rhetoric to defend that, and all the rhetoric is different. And that’s because it’s a leaderless movement, organically established on the internet, in which anyone can join, and anyone can partake. Which isn’t to say there haven’t been major figureheads who have been inspiring GamerGate and inspiring action — Adam Baldwin, Milo Yiannopoulos from Breitbart, Total Biscuit. There’s been plenty of figureheads who say “I’m going to tweet this,” and then thousands of people then go say things because this one person said something. But for the most part, the reason why it’s been so hard to communicate, or get any kind of consistency out of the movement, is because its just happened organically.

KC: And that’s a major research problem too, because it calls into question what the definition of GamerGate “is,” in a certain sense.[foot]There is a research problem inherent to describing a movement that fancies itself pluralistic even as it appears to have a clear, unified impact that tends in one ideological direction. – KC[/foot] How do we describe what GamerGate is about, exactly? Because GamerGate’s proponents resist generalization — as it implies individuals are responsible for the whole — it opens up academic research to attack, because we have to generalize. I’ve had people attack my writing for saying that GamerGate is a reactionary movement. They’ll say “oh no, I’m a leftist, so therefore you are empirically wrong.” And that’s a major challenge. But I think that the emerging science of self-directed, leaderless social movements, provides a lot of good research guides for some of these questions. Certainly a lot of the colour revolutions, the Spring revolutions, Occupy, there’s an emerging body of research studying the benefits but also the serious flaws inherent to this new, anarchic style of revolutionary organising. And I think that GamerGate is in that tradition, which provides us with a research model for understanding GamerGate.

JA: I also think that quantitative data helps us to establish their actual cause. Because everyone will say it’s a leaderless movement with no consistency, the consistency has to come from data. I’m in sociology, so there’s two schools of thought, quantitative and qualitative data. The two need to work together. Qualitative data can be attacked — if someone undertakes a content analysis, an in-depth look at one section of GamerGate, then GamerGaters will attack saying “well no, that’s what one part of GamerGate says, the other part says something else.” The quantitative analysis of three days of the hashtag was very powerful. Everyone using the hashtag is “in” GamerGate, and involved in the GamerGate discussion. That was far less easy to dismiss. It will be much easier as a researcher to discuss this if the two sides of qualitative and quantitative data can work together in a more cohesive way and have more multi-method studies looking at this. If we do purely qualitative studies, we’re going to see from the GamerGate crowd “well this is biased.”

Michael Lutz (ML): I’ve been holding out because — and I suspected this — my experience with GamerGate is incredibly different, and there are many reasons for this. Part of it is that the little bit of scholarly writing I’ve done on this didn’t really get a lot of traffic. The one piece of feedback I got was “this is very well written but it misrepresents the movement” — and that was it. They don’t seem to want to even talk to me anymore beyond that. They will send me emails that are always very cordial. And God help me, part of the reason for this is because I am a man.

I’m also an interactive fiction writer, so they don’t necessarily recognise me as an academic. I released a Twine game a couple of weeks ago called The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo that sort of inadvertently became an extended parable about GamerGate and its unhealthy attitudes. When the game was first posted to Reddit, it was widely assumed that I was a woman — for whatever reason, because it was in Twine, because of the content of the game. There was at least one call to dox me, and then it never took off.  I know there are people being driven from their homes because of this. You think of Western films, there’s a shoot-out, and there are people falling left and right and the one character walks through it because of plot armour — well, it feels like I have privilege armour because I am this dude.

One night, I got a couple of guys who were trying to recruit me.  They were like “hey, look at the charts that we have!” And I was like “whaaat?”. They got increasingly incoherent. It ended up with a screen shot from Halo with a planet blowing up, and the planet was Gawker Media. It was like “here’s what we’re trying to say,” and I was like “you’re trying to blow up Gawker?”

KC: Hearing your experience Michael is quite interesting because — while the reaction to my writing has been definitely not as bad as Brianna Wu, etc., has been experiencing — they are still very cutting, personal attacks, with people saying that I am a pseudo-intellectual using big words, or a Ursula K. LeGuin quote, to make myself sound smart. There’s this haze of static that GamerGate spews that causes you to question and doubt yourself on a fundamental level as an academic. There were people making fun of my university — the City University of New York — saying “oh, she goes to the dumb public school and not NYU,” etc. There were people saying that I was using Hanna Arendt because I was pretentious. It got very, very visceral. I would’ve been grateful if one person had said “that was very well written but you misrepresented the movement.” I would’ve been falling over on my knees grateful saying “yes, thank you.” That was so totally not the GamerGate response to what I had said.

ML: The most vicious response I had was to my game, and it was some guy trying to get a rise, mocking me. The game is a horror game and it opens with trigger warnings. This guy started railing at me for putting trigger warnings in front of a horror game, saying that this must mean that I don’t know what horror means.

JG: They have a weird sense of who’s important, and who has impact. The reaction to me has been really weird. I haven’t had — fingers crossed — any doxing, any threats. No one has really tried to find out that much about me. They seem to not know what to do with me. They’ve repeatedly tried to fit me into some kind of power structure that they’ve imagined in their minds, and I always get treated worse when they think I’m important. There was a week where someone thought I wrote for Kotaku, which I’ve never done, and that week I was getting a lot more vitriol. For awhile they thought I was under the employment of DiGRA, which is weird, because DiGRA in the UK doesn’t pay people. They found this out because I invited a scholar who is a member of DiGRA to talk at a conference. GamerGate read this as her being my boss; they kept saying she was a man, which was weird too. It waxes and wanes depending on whether they think I have an influence on the industry. Much as it would be lovely, let’s face it, academics really don’t have the influence GamerGate thinks they do.

And obviously the gender thing: because GamerGate seems to think that women have a lot of power in this industry, which is just bizarre. The GamerGate worldview is just so nonsensical and non-aligned with the truth of things that it’s hard to work out what they’re doing or why they’re doing something, because it’s so illogical, because everything they’re doing makes no sense.

KC: To add a postscript to that, I should add that I was made the star of my very own conspiracy by 8Chan. In the wake of the First Person Scholar article I had some “research” done on me. I sit on the board of two LGBTQ non-profits, and by this incredibly byzantine logic that required reaching back into the 1930s, GamerGate managed to connect me with the avant-garde media criticism of the New School — which I have no affiliation with. They also threw a lot of transphobia my way, with some people saying I had undisclosed business ties to Silverstring Media, which I hadn’t even heard of until GamerGate.

JG: Apparently Silverstring are running this whole thing.

KC: I get the sense I am missing several paycheques here.

JA: There’s so many delusional things about what GamerGate thinks about power-dynamics. After the initial attack of my data, I put out the Jezebel article, and one person dared tell me to kill myself on Twitter. I sent that over to my friends on social media and we public-shamed that. Since then it’s basically just been the rigmarole of people trying to discredit your work by discrediting you. The level of what I’ve dealt with is minor compared to what others have dealt with. The power-trips that GamerGate puts itself through could in itself be a powerful study of power dynamics. One could study how the GamerGate culture just processes power. One would have to do an ethnography, and get in there — which is not  a fun prospect, in my mind. It’s very related to the collective, leaderless movement mentality, but at the same time, certain members need to assert a level of dominance above other members and prove to other members that they are in control and contributing to the movement by name-calling and doxing. It’s like a proving ground with each other to get “points.” This helps reinforce the mentality within the larger group that it is doing the right thing. It’s almost Pavlovian.

ML: I was going to say, this sounds very familiar to me from my time as an eleven year old boy. Part of what’s really terrifying about GamerGate is their inability to understand how terrible their own positions are. As a white, straight man, I can see where the GamerGaters are coming from. I understand that weird adolescent rage. But something happened in my life that made me not succumb to it in quite this way — I got over this, I got out of it. The pecking order that Jennifer is describing, about showing off, about fitting in with the group, these are things I remember doing with me and my dude friends at age twelve, like “let’s go throw eggs at the teacher’s house,” that kind of thing.

tcV: Except that such “childish” activities today take on the shape of rape, bomb, and death threats, online harassment, doxing, coordinated false information campaigns with fake online personas, and economic boycotts of journalism outlets and their advertisers in an attempt to censor the free and critical speech of primarily women.


Works Cited

Allaway, Jennifer. “#Gamergate Trolls Aren’t Ethics Crusaders; They’re a Hate Group.” Jezebel (13 October): <>.

Cross, Katherine. 2014. “‘We Will Force Gaming to be Free’: On GamerGate & the Licence to Inflict Suffering.” First Person Scholar (8 October): <>.

Goodchild, Jenni. 2014. “GamerGate, Patriotism and C.S. Lewis.” GeekEssays (15 October): <>.

Lutz, Michael. 2014. “Conspiracy and ‘False Activity’ for the Gamers.” Correlated Contents (16 September): <>.

Straumsheim, Carl. 2014. “#GamerGate and Games Research.” Inside Higher Ed (11 November): <>.


Author Bios

Jennifer Allaway is an undergraduate student of Sociology at Willamette University, a game writer, and an independent social researcher whose primary body of work focuses on sexism in the game industry and its impact on game content and culture. Her groundbreaking study exploring these topics, funded by the Carson Program, has been presented at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), PAX Prime, and Indie Game Con, with articles published in Gamasutra and Jezebel. She tweets from @AllawayJ.

Katherine Cross is a Ph.D. student at the City University of New York Graduate Center and a sociologist of gender who focuses on the virtual world. Her academic writing explores roleplaying, virtual embodiment, and more recently, online harassment and its causes. Her academic work has been published in Women’s Studies Quarterly, Loading: The Journal of the Canadian Games Studies Association, and First Person Scholar. Katherine is a Presidential Magnet Fellow at the Graduate Center and a mentor in the CUNY Pipeline Program. She is also a gaming critic who is co-editor at The Border House and who has written about games for Bitch Magazine, Feministing, Polygon, and Kotaku.

Jenni Goodchild is the academic organiser at Nine Worlds, a London based convention which began in August 2013. She’s interested in the intersection between pop culture and theology, especially geek culture, as well as academic outreach to non-academic communities. Jenni has a B.A. in Philosophy and Theology from the University of Oxford, and is currently working on an M.A. in Religious Studies at the University of Bristol. Her work on geek culture and philosophy can be found at and on Twitter @PixieJenni.

Michael Lutz is a Ph.D. student in English literature at Indiana University-Bloomington and an interactive fiction writer.   His academic interests include early modern drama, philosophies of humanism, and media studies.   His work on games attempts to bridge theories of dramatic performance, affect, and psychoanalysis with the phenomenology of play. His work has appeared at First Person Scholar and his interactive fiction has been featured on Kotaku, Polygon, and Wired.

tobias c. van Veen is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Communications at the Université de Montréal and Visiting Tutor at Quest University. Writing in both popular and academic publications, tobias explores political, ontological, and technological strategies that deconstruct forms of authoritarian power. His work has focused on speculative irrealism and decolonization, exodus in dance music cultures, and the posthuman becomings of indigenous and Afrofuturisms. Tobias is editor of the Afrofuturism special issue of Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture (2013) and co-editor with Hillegonda Rietveld of the forthcoming special issue “Echoes from the Dub Diaspora” (2015). Tobias has collaborated with festivals and media arts centres worldwide as Founding Director of and Concept Engineer at the Society for Art and Technology (SAT) in Montréal. Tobias holds an Ad Personam PhD in Philosophy and Communication Studies from McGill University.

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  1. I find these generalizations about #GamerGate disheartening, I expected more when I started reading this article From an academic standpoint I find #GamerGate incredibly fascinating, while obviously not as significant it’s following the leaderless movements of Occupy and the Arab spring. What I find incredibly frustrating though is how most media and academic outlets like this treat GamerGate compared to those movements. Media and academics highlighted the majority rational sentiment of Occupy and the Arab Spring without focusing on the militant elements that taint the movement. I would hope you could do the same for GamerGate in which most of the actors on twitter or reddit feel very strongly about corrupt journalism and identity politics threatening censorship of gaming. GamerGate is not a monolith, it is a bunch of individuals fighting against non gamer moralists trying to impose their morals on a hobby we’ve invested significant amounts of time and money on throughout our whole lives.

    • Well, GG gets a different treatment than Occupy etc. because they’re different things. Plus GG has resulted in an endless cycle of harassment against women. Those other movements haven’t. I’m sorry but there are enough harassers that it’s a defining feature of GG. That horse has left the barn. If you want to be taken seriously, I strongly suggest you drop the GG label.

      And your comment is actually a great example of why we don’t take you seriously. No one is trying to impose their morals on you. Pointing out that there are problems with representation is just criticism, not censorship. The fact that GG doesn’t know the difference demonstrates an incredible level of ignorance, but that seems to be your starting point.

      Another giveaway is that you lump corrupt journalism with identity politics. That’s very misguided. Identity politics are in all the media you consume, I’m afraid to tell you. They’re a part of every culture and every artifact on earth. The only thing “threatening” about criticism centered around identity politics is that it potentially deconstructs the status quo. If you’re a part of the status quo (as I am), then I’m sorry but the world is changing. That’s a good thing and it’s nothing to be afraid of.

      The bottom line is that no one is trying to take anything away from you. No one is trying to censor your games, apart from some politicians. I promise you’ll be able to do plenty of horrible shit in games for as long as they exist. If games are made to represent more diverse types of people, so what? If women or LGBTQ folk aren’t belittled or portrayed in a stereotypical way, so what? What skin is that off your back? The straight white male protagonist isn’t going anywhere, don’t you worry. It’s just that it’s been the default for too long, and we want to see games grow and get better. That’s all.

      • What were the identity politics behind Sonic the Hedgehog? Like, the first game? What did it say about race relations, gender issues, LGBTQ people, etc.? If we’re looking for a more ridiculous example, what about Pong? A more recent example, what about Geometry Wars? More story driven: what about Dust: An Elysian Tail?

        By simply having no connection to human society, do these things somehow promote the status quo? If the status quo is different in 50 years, will the same things promote societal regression? How?

        When people label something “pernicious” and claim that it promotes negative behavior/traits, then the implication is still that something needs to be removed. When it’s done without evidence, it just feels like what I’d expect Pat Robertson to say about Brokeback Mountain; morally degenerate, because reasons. I can’t help but think that it’s all a bit ridiculous, and I can’t help but be a bit offended that I’m being described as a detriment to society through no fault or actions of my own.

        • I was a Nintendo guy so I haven’t played much Sonic, but there are actually people who look at race relations in Sonic (games, comics, etc.). I won’t give names but you can Google them.

          But yes, I certainly get that a story driven game with anthropomorphic characters is much easier to critique for its identity politics than Geometry Wars or Tetris. Still, for something like Pong you can look at the conditions surrounding its making (the early MIT labs, for instance). If you really want to go back, you can look at the identity politics of agonistic (competitive) games, such as the funeral games in the Iliad. Those were essentially ways to demonstrate masculinity and prowess.

          Look I don’t know you so I can’t say if you’re a detriment to society or not. I certainly don’t think that people who play games necessarily are. I play games and have compulsively since I got my NES in 1988. But games which stereotype people are detrimental as they inform the people who play them. There are lots of activities and attitudes which were seen as “just some fun” for a long time that we wouldn’t dare engage in now. That’s not censorship, just growth. And harassers are detrimental for reasons I hope are obvious.

          • I don’t think games that stereotype are always negative. When it comes to men vs. women, we have a ridiculous wealth of real-world experiences that won’t be overwritten by a few seconds of dialogue in a cutscene. It can be trickier with minorities, since a lot of people have minimal experience with minorities and are largely informed by popular culture, but by and large, I think media reflects culture. If media dictated culture, then people would have trouble recognizing that media can be misinformed/stupid/stereotypical.

            In regards to claims that something like Pong will necessarily reflect on the culture that initially created it, I’m never going to think that doesn’t sound silly. You can claim that the culture influenced production, sure, but pretending that 200 years from now, the same game would be favor heteronormativity/white culture/whatever sounds ridiculously silly. Same for oldschool Sonic. Games like Mass Effect, where there are many different types of characters and where the lead is a black woman might contain messages that promote the modern culture, but not all games do or will.

            I could be wrong. It just seems absurd to me in a cause/effect sense.

      • “Plus GG has resulted in an endless cycle of harassment against women. Those other movements haven’t. ”

        Biggest dissent to your comment right here.

        1. How do you personally define harassment here? and why just women? I am genuinely curious. There is no point in debating this if we are gonna be on different pages about this. If you are using the dictionary definition, “aggressive pressure or intimidation.”, then yes women have been pressured and/or intimidated from the actions of GG. And men too. and people who speak out for GG have been harrased as well. Hell, for all I know my comment is harassing you by definition, and if you feel it is I apologize. If that is not your context, please correct me.

        2.I recall countless news stories of the media reporting on the harassment and rape of women in an attempt to discredit them. From what I hear, Occupy fell *because* identity politics got injected into a movement that tried to discuss the corruption of Wall Street. Which leads into your next paragraph.

        “Another giveaway is that you lump corrupt journalism with identity politics. That’s very misguided. Identity politics are in all the media you consume, I’m afraid to tell you”

        I’m afraid it’s the exact same situation in GG as occupy. The people accused seem to be injecting and amplifying the identity into GG. These are important matters to discuss, but it is never a good idea to go after two big things at once. It seems that people want to make GG’s grievances seem like a non-issue by bringing up “more important” cause to go by. Not only is that a logical fallacy (relative privation), but it makes it seem as if these people have to right to control other people’ actions in their own individual lives. If that’s the case, why are we discussing Gamergate at all (once again, both sides), when we can be in Africa helping out the children making the world a better place? Oh, and by the way:

        “The only thing “threatening” about criticism centered around identity politics is that it potentially deconstructs the status quo”

        I’m black. so supposedly, this “decontruction” is supposed to benefit me, unlike yourself. My opinions still stand. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted a future where people are judged by the content of their character. He was speaking in the context of African Americans at the time, but the same ideas apply to white men like yourself. Someone’s words should not be anymore objectively true because they are less “represented” or “priveledged” in society’s eye; I’m just as wrong if I say 2+2=5, you’re just as right when you correct me and say it’s actually 4.

        • 1. No, your comment isn’t harassment. If I told you to leave me alone and you didn’t, however, then it would be. Or if you said something to threaten or intimidate me it would be too. My understanding of the term is that it also consists of repeated behaviour. Ask any woman in tech or games and they’ll be able to tell you better than I. I don’t think I’ve ever been harassed, but given my demographics that isn’t surprising.

          I’ve been watching GG for months now and yeah, the vast majority of the negative attention has been directed towards women. Some men get it too, the “white knights,” but we don’t get it nearly as bad. I just don’t think it’s a coincidence that this whole thing started because of a woman’s supposed sexual indiscretion. And when it did get heated, who got the most ire? It certainly wasn’t the dude… you know, the journalist. And then when it was proven that nothing shady ever even happened, GG still kept going after her, and still does.

          2. I think we may have missed each other here. I never said that we shouldn’t look at one issue because another is more “important.” I don’t believe anything’s a zero sum game and never have.

          3. Again, I think there’s some misunderstanding here. I don’t think one’s privilege necessarily makes them more or less qualified to talk about things, with one important caveat: when it’s about privilege and sexism/racism. I’ve never been on the receiving end of racist or sexist behaviour, from individuals or society at large, so I’m really not in a position to say things like “Oh it’s just a joke. Lighten up” when someone feels offended. I just have to listen. And that’s what GG is horrible at.

          I can’t say what will or will not benefit you as an individual. I just think racist and misogynistic stereotypes are bad and that seems obvious to me. We’ll never be totally rid of them but if we can lessen their presence as much as possible then that’s a good thing in my eyes.

          • “1. No, your comment isn’t harassment. If I told you to leave me alone and you didn’t, however, then it would be. Or if you said something to threaten or intimidate me it would be too. My understanding of the term is that it also consists of repeated behaviour.”

            This sort of definition can really be stretched a bit. Say I accuse you of being wrong, with evidence, in some hypothetical situation and you tell me to go away. I continue to push my point innocently because I believe you really should be corrected on this, and you eventually accuse me of harassing you. Then someone else brings up the same point but you don’t answer them. Then someone else does, etc. Does this whole group get accused of harassment?

            “I’ve been watching GG for months now and yeah, the vast majority of the negative attention has been directed towards women. Some men get it too, the “white knights,” but we don’t get it nearly as bad.”

            I won’t argue – Plebcomics and GMShivers definitely got some flak for being pro-GG (losing her job and needing a big publicity boost in order to make it through Greenlight, for example).

            “I just don’t think it’s a coincidence that this whole thing started because of a woman’s supposed sexual indiscretion. And when it did get heated, who got the most ire? It certainly wasn’t the dude… you know, the journalist. And then when it was proven that nothing shady ever even happened, GG still kept going after her, and still does.”

            Here’s the thing, she was the initial focal point, the starting point. If the indiscretion was revealed around the journalist and not the developer, I like to think that it would have revolved around him a lot more, but because it all started with the “Five Guys” fiasco and then the corruption in games journalism was unveiled, the focal point slowly started shifting over there.

            And I can promise you that anyone who truly cares about ethics in games journalism has been wanting to ignore her for a while in order to get to the actual issue, but she keeps inserting herself back into it (the most recent example being Let’s Talk About Ethics In Games Journalism). If she really wanted to be out of the discussion she would have stopped talking about it, but instead she keeps talking about it and uses any response she gets, GG related or not, to slam GG members, for something they’re not responsible for.

            And I just have to say that the timeline that was given really needs a bit more detail. I honestly can’t see a romantic relationship popping up the day after a positive article was written. They had to be good friends beforehand. Do you really think someone would go from “no relationship whatsoever” to “romantically involved” in such a short window of time? It just smells really, really off.

            “I’ve never been on the receiving end of racist or sexist behaviour, from individuals or society at large, so I’m really not in a position to say things like “Oh it’s just a joke. Lighten up” when someone feels offended. I just have to listen. And that’s what GG is horrible at.”

            That’s pretty much what #NotYourShield is. They want to talk about their own experiences but they go ignored by the mainstream media because of a pro-GamerGate standpoint, or they’re used by the media as a scapegoat. See if you can find someone on NYS who’ll talk to you about their experiences?

            And I just have to ask – is it that you truly believe you haven’t experienced racism or sexism, or is it that you really don’t look for it? I’m sure you could find some examples in your life of preferential treatment if you looked, but if not then I apologize.

            “I can’t say what will or will not benefit you as an individual. I just think racist and misogynistic stereotypes are bad and that seems obvious to me. We’ll never be totally rid of them but if we can lessen their presence as much as possible then that’s a good thing in my eyes.”

            I agree, which is why GamerGate being portrayed as a misogynistic stereotype is bad, when there’s a large diverse group of people who want to talk about ethics in games journalism lumped in with a group of people who legitimately hate women and want to use the tag as a weapon.

            Racist stereotypes and sexist stereotypes are actually useful in some form or another for storytelling though, so people shouldn’t be actively denied usage of them. While reduction of stereotype usage may or may not be a good thing, it should be done through positive instead of negative reinforcement – using positive examples and suggesting replacements that don’t affect the story are a good start. Decrying the usage of them without suggestions for replacement and forcing change via threats of non-coverage or other such actions should be avoided.

          • On one hand I agree with you that harassment is repeated undesired attention. On the other… I think that if someone is talking ill of a group of people they are absolutely bonkers to not expect rather sour attention from that group of people and that attention shouldn’t be construed as harassment.

      • Don’t you think ‘endless cycle of harassment against women’ is a bit of a hyperbole considering that the whole thing has only been going on for a few months now? I suppose it’s technically true that GamerGate has resulted in harassment of women (men too) in much the same way that the improvement in maritime technologies throughout the early colonial era resulted in a boom slave trade. Technically true, but does it really mean anything? Should we have scuttled all our boats due to the taint of slavery? I say this as someone who thinks the GamerGate label actually should die by the by, just for an entirely different set of reasons.

        > The only thing “threatening” about criticism centered around identity politics is that it potentially deconstructs the status quo

        That’s untrue, what criticism centered around identity politics does is it discourages developers from doing anything that might offend people and a willingness to be offensive is sort of necessary in a number of pursuits, the most obvious of which is comedy. In a vacuum it wouldn’t matter, but the problem with game reviews is that they have historically been used to simply say ‘is this game something worth playing’ and not to say ‘does this game treat people fairly’, so when the purpose of reviews suddenly changes like this, it comes with a period of time where people expect reviews to act as a consumers guide and treat them as such when they are really acting more like movie reviews where everyone already knows that the reviewers are mostly not worth listening too on much and that you go to see something like Transformers because it’s fun regardless of what the reviews are.

        But in the meantime, you have developers who will be trying to play to the desires of the reviewers rather than the desires of the audience because the developers think that the audience cares what the reviewers have to say (and really, expressing to developers that the reviewers are no longer representative of the audience is what the people who consider themselves part of Gamergate should have been focusing on rather than trying to financially harm annoying websites). That’s the real danger in poltiicized reviews and it’s probably a short term one because… let’s be real here, no amount of feminist rhetoric is going to change the fact that sex sells and that risque humor is popular among the masses and if devs start avoiding that it’ll start cutting into their bottom lines and someone else will come along and eat their lunch.

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  3. What you’re saying sounds good, but then someone like FemFreq compiles hundreds of hours of evidence proving her argument and it’s still not good enough. She’s told she’s “cherry-picking” or whatever. As soon as you give evidence then the evidence isn’t sufficient. It’s maddening so many people have (wisely) just stopped trying.

    And while I don’t think censorship is restricted to government necessarily, a private site has the prerogative to allow whichever comments they choose. GG has plenty of forums for letting their voices be heard.

    • “What you’re saying sounds good, but then someone like FemFreq compiles hundreds of hours of evidence proving her argument and it’s still not good enough. She’s told she’s “cherry-picking” or whatever. As soon as you give evidence then the evidence isn’t sufficient. It’s maddening so many people have (wisely) just stopped trying.”

      In the case of examples such as Hitman Absolution (people really hate bringing this one up but it’s such a big example in her video that it’s impossible not to) it really sounds like she just got bored and started playing with a corpse and decided to go with it for a video. “Hundreds of hours of research” doesn’t really seem plausible when you watch the Hitman Absolution example – exploiting an oddity in the physics engine as an example of misogyny doesn’t seem like a well formed argument to me.

      “And while I don’t think censorship is restricted to government necessarily, a private site has the prerogative to allow whichever comments they choose. GG has plenty of forums for letting their voices be heard.”

      I would usually agree with you on this point. Usually. But when you’re writing opinion pieces on something that can potentially influence the industry in a good or bad way, then immediately shut all your comments so that no-one can show that you’ve made a mistake, then delete any comment on your forums that seems to imply you’ve made a mistake, then go and call anyone else who cares about you making a mistake a misogynist or whatever the insult of the day is, it just seems to be going much too far.

      There are seperate discussion forums, but most of them seem in league with the people who want to shut down criticism – 4chan, usually a place where you could at least get a voice or two heard, shut down all discussion on the topic, the two major gaming subreddits on Reddit shut down all discussion and most subreddits were banned until KiA was allowed to stay for no explicit reason, many gaming forums locked down all discussion of it including NeoGAF (who locked it to one thread where if you go against the overwhelming opinion you might be banned). If 8chan didn’t exist and Reddit didn’t decide to allow discussion then who knows where the discussion could actually be had. It’s a massive problem when most of the big gaming communities which would be appropriate to talk about this seem to act out that comic that’s floating around. “Ethics in games journalism? You must hate women!”

    • Dear Dr Hawreliak,

      As an academic, it is unwise to tell your readers that they do not know what they are talking about. It gives a bad image and indeed contributes to the general negativity surrounding this whole fiasco, which is had germinated in an environment in which large numbers of people already feel marginalised – not least by sneering academics. Simply stating that Feminist Frequency has provided the evidence is not persuasive, given that large numbers of very popular commentators (non-academics, at least not in the Arts and Humanities or Social Sciences) have critiqued those videos to a vast audience. Rather than dismiss non-academics, perhaps it would be better instead to outline why the evidence presented is compelling and the methodology employed is sound?

      And let’s be honest here Jason (if I may), the methodology did not appear sound from where I was sitting. I know full well that carefully selecting source material for effect is perfectly reasonable when illustrating examples of a given phenomenon. However, the obvious question is ‘So what?’ If the research is designed to highlight the ubiquity of various tropes within video game narratives, then citing isolated (if numerous) examples does not achieve this. Mario rescuing a passive princess does not constitute a trend. Demonstrating such a trend, and thus evidence of the over-reliance on outmoded narrative devices in video games, can only be achieved by quantitative statistical analysis of the qualitative source material. This kind of research occurs all the time in the Humanities and Social Science (Content Analysis, Discourse Analysis, Coding, Prosopography – to name just a few notable methodologies used to interrogate such evidence) – I saw no evidence of any kind of systematic approach to the evidence in Feminist Frequency’s videos. In fact, Feminist Frequency employs the kind of approach to evidence that went out of fashion in the 19th century with the professionalisation of scholarship.

      I’ve seen some academics respond to Feminist Frequencies critics including the youtuber ThunderF00t (a professional academic biochemist), to suggest that these practises are normal in the Humanities and Social Science and that Thunderf00t, an outsider to these disciplines, simply does not understand the methodologies employed. OK, so enlighten us.

      • Well, I’m going to have to disagree with your opening sentence. As an academic, it’s precisely my role to point out ignorance where I see it, especially when such ignorance is responsible for harassment, and especially when it’s directly related to my research area (I won’t be commenting on matters concerning biochemistry). Otherwise the climate change and evolution deniers rule the discourse. The stakes aren’t quite so high here but (hopefully) you get the point. Contemptible positions put forth by a contemptible group are deserving of contempt. I won’t apologize for that.

        I and many others have tried in vain to have good-faith discussions with GGers. It does not go anywhere. At this point I have to say I’m beyond caring whether academics look bad to GG or not. The whole DiGRA thing shows most don’t have the slightest clue what we do anyway.

        And FemFreq already put forth an argument and provided plenty of supporting evidence to back up her claim. I’m sorry but I just don’t agree that you need a quantitative/statistical analysis in all cases. If you want to use quant analysis to disprove her claims, have at it. I’m sure a number of journals would gladly take a look at it.

        I’ve (unfortunately) seen many of the video “takedowns” of FemFreq and they are, without exception, poor in their argumentation. I think there are fair criticisms of the series but the people you refer to have not made them.

        • Fair enough regarding what you see the purpose of academia as – and I have absolutely no love of GG either – but it’s the approach I question and the reductive nature of the narrative. There are ways and means of pointing out errors and ignorance which stimulate debate and understanding, and there are those which just rub people up the wrong way. Part of the problem which turned a petty dispute on wizardchan into a global online phenomenon was the reductive dismissal of GG and everying and anything that was said by those who adopted the label. It created the space for trolls and the media obsession, which quickly entered the territory of a full blown moral panic just fed that.

          And the issue isn’t just that you look bad to GGers, it is the danger of extending the divide between academia and the wider community as opposed to looking to bridge it. I’m sure that you did attempt good faith discussions and it is disappointing that it wasn’t reciprocated – but the question is, which GGers? Did you attempt to initiate a dialogue with some of the more popular sensible element of that “community” (a misleading term), such as John Bain? I found the failure to create a dialogue with individuals such as Bain, with a very few exceptions, not only to be a disappointment but a lost research opportunity. But, there we are.

          Incidentally, I totally agree that the conspiracy theories regarding DiGRA were nonsense.

          As regards critiquing Feminist Frequency, I have little desire to engage in such an exercise – first, I am not qualified for such an endeavor; and second, I’d rather the pair of them just respond to critique (valid or otherwise), explain the methodology, and set the record straight. Unfortunately, because of the trolls I understand why that is unlikely to happen. That said, it would be very good to read a proper full length history of the gaming industry and how it has approached questions gender, represent the past, incorporated historical gendered tropes, etc. As a specialist in this field, would you be able to suggest any good work in this area?

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