The Buzz | Game and Players
According to many sources, #GamerGate began in August 2014 with a manifesto written by Eron Gjoni accusing his ex-girlfriend Zoe Quinn (game developer) of cheating on him with five men, one of whom was a game review journalist, and it was suggested that she received a favorable review for her Twine game "Depression Quest". This prompted backlash from the gaming community, to the point where Zoe's personal information was leaked online. This discourse simmered until it boiled over into the Twittersphere.
The topic of conversation then turned to the ethics of game journalism. As Mortensen reports, "the barrage of hate messages online and off-line increased when a group of journalists wrote articles questioning gamer identity", and this is where the pivot happened in the gaming community. The gaming community immediately got their defenses up and ultimately lashed out as they felt threatened. Their identities as gamers were being called out, and by females, no less - encroaching on their precious territory and in their minds forcing them to protect their gaming world as they knew it - and there was no room or tolerance for female perspectives muddying the waters.
This brings us to the swarm.
The Swarm | Strategy
Mortensen states that "it is vital to keep in mind that GG was not a unified group—the individuals of the swarm were not the whole". Some strategies that GG supporters used to defend their territory are documented in the article. An example highlighted by Mortensen was Joshua Goldberg, one of the more prolific participants in the GG discussions, who often uses double-sided arguments when posting in online forums, effectively muddying the waters himself.
Another example cited is that GG supporters as online participants are also quite astute at "doxing, revealing otherwise hard to find information about individuals, happened frequently to opponents or critics of GG". But, it was difficult to prove that they were behind the attacks due to the swarm effect.
Mortensen also characterizes gamers here: "Players of digital games are an active audience group, used to participate through gaming and in meta-discussions, and known to act out if annoyed". It is as if they had been training for #GamerGate, and they brought their tricks and bravado forward in full force. After all, doxing as a strategy has proven time and again effective in destroying the enemy.
This brings us to the payoff.
Crescendo | Information Set
Mortensen states that GG...
...is a teaching moment for how ideals of freedom can facilitate harassment and silencing strategies, and a clear lesson in how certain online structures support tight, self-reinforcing echo chambers.
And, the cacophony reverberates. Mortensen reports that "GG’ers were channers, tumblerinas, and redditors. They produced endless videos and live streams." The barrage of messaging from GG'ers reinforces other GG'ers.
Van der Werff (2014) discussed United Kingdom-based games journalist Leigh Alexander (one of the journalists to write about the "gamers are dead" genre), and her theory about why the online backlash, primarily against female opponents, had gotten so vitriolic - and that is the changing nature of the video game industry itself.
"What I think is going on is that there's a cultural spasm happening that nobody expected that accompanies this mainstreaming of video games and the diversification of video games," she says.
Cunningham (2018) states that "the availability of software such as Gamemaker has allowed for the development of independent game design, which has opened up possibilities for women to be video game designers outside of the confines of the video game industry". With the democratization of game development underway, more women will be able to enjoy independent game design outside of the parameters of the video game industry.
Increased representation in the industry, along with male allies continuing to publicly support women, will hopefully move toward sustainable change in the system we live, work and play in, and make a difference in present and future online discourse about games, gaming and the opportunities therein. We need to change the conversation.