Where does Gamergate come from?
Gamergate was originally coined as a hashtag, #GamerGate (after Watergate), by Firefly actor Adam Baldwin. It was created on August 27, 2014, in response to a controversy involving Zoë Quinn’s game Depression Quest, which attempted to offer an interactive narrative based upon what living with depression is like. People criticized the game, saying that it was receiving too much coverage for how simple it was and that it didn’t accurately portray the experience of all those with depression. Not long after, Quinn’s ex-boyfriend created a blog detailing that Quinn had allegedly cheated on him with five different guys, one of whom was a gaming journalist who worked for Kotaku. This person didn’t even review her game.
What followed was an online witch-hunt, which had strongholds in Reddit, 4chan, Twitter, and other forums and social media sites. Groups on Reddit and 4chan spun a narrative about how Quinn must have slept with gaming journalists in exchange for coverage of Depression Quest. Quinn and others in the gaming industry had their personal information leaked online, in a practice known as doxxing, and they were subsequently threatened and harassed. One notable person among those being targeted was Anita Sarkeesian, a blogger who approaches her style of video game critique from a feminist perspective. She was later forced to cancel a speaking engagement due to threats on her life. Many Gamergaters (those who supported the movement) believed that they themselves would be forced out of gaming by commentators like Sarkeesian and their call for better representation of marginalized groups.
Gamergaters said that the whole debacle was to shed light on the sometimes unethical relationship between developers and journalists, as the two are often too close on a personal level. Their goal was to snuff out corruption and to spearhead an ethics reform in the industry. Despite this stated goal, there were also attacks on women who commented on the situation. As a result, Gamergate raised concerns about anti-women views in gaming as a whole.
While the main goal is what many were after, the focus of the controversy shifted. One side of the argument felt that the gaming industry was misogynistic and lacked diversity, while the other side felt that women were deflecting the conversation and not addressing the issue of corruption. While some change did occur on the ethics front, this conflict caused the rift between the groups to grow wider.
Who uses Gamergate?
These days, most people who use the term Gamegate refer to the movement, though it has largely died out. This isn’t because people aren’t concerned about ethics and/or misogyny within the gaming industry, but perhaps because they don’t want to be associated with the toxic tactics employed by supporters of Gamergate.
A supporter of the cause is known as a Gamergater.
“I think there has been an increase in consciousness of misogyny among the reasonable/less involved - some silver lining to #GamerGate”
Brian Schulman @smashfactory Twitter (September 17, 2014)
“But it quickly became clear that the GamerGate movement was a mess – an undefined mission to Make Video Games Great Again via undecided means.”
Matt Lees, “What Gamergate should have taught us about the ‘alt-right’,” The Guardian (December 1, 2016)
“Adding to the problem is that GamerGaters can insist up and down that their movement is not about misogyny, but the simple fact of the matter is that whenever a woman has an opinion about a video game, she gets attacked.”
Dan Seitz, “What Is GamerGate? Here’s An Explainer For All The Confused Non-Nerds Out There.” UPROXX (October 24, 2014)