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GamerGate refers to the online backlash against perceived breaches of journalistic integrity on video game news sites that occurred as a result of the Quinnspiracy, an online controversy surrounding indie game developer Zoe Quinn’s alleged affairs with a number of men working in the video game industry, including Kotaku staff writer Nathan Grayson.
The Zoe Post
On August 16th, 2014, game developer Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend Eron Gjoni published an online expose detailing their relationship, claiming she cheated on him with several men in the gaming industry, including Kotaku journalist Nathan Grayson. The following day, YouTuber MundaneMatt uploaded a video critiquing Quinn’s game Depression Quest and commenting on the alleged affairs with men working in the video game industry. The video was subsequently removed due to a copyright claim by Quinn for using a still image from the game. On August 18th, YouTuber Internet Aristocrat uploaded the first in a series of videos titled Quinnspiracy Theory, in which he discusses the issue of cronyism in gaming media and the indie game development community. (For more information, please check out KYM DB – Quinnspiracy.)
Ethics in Gaming Journalism
As concerns over the integrity of gaming journalists increased, it was discovered that several were actively contributing money to Quinn’s Patreon account, including Polygon editor Ben Kuchera who had been donating to Quinn for several weeks prior to writing an article about her game. Kotaku writer Patricia Hernandez subsequently came under scrutiny as well when gamers began investigating her alleged romantic relationships with other video game developers. Similarly, many criticized sound designer Robin Arnott for having an alleged affair with Quinn while appearing as a judge in the Indiecade game competition, which gave Quinn an award for Depression Quest.
On August 26th, Kotaku editor Stephen Totilo posted a statement regarding the gaming news site’s code of ethics, announcing that Kotaku journalists would not be allowed to contribute to the Patreon accounts of game developers. The same day, Polygon followed up with a similar statement announcing that all writers must disclose any contributions they have made to developer’s Patreon accounts. Readers later released a statement condemning Polygon’s new ethics policy for being unsatisfactory Some criticized the new policies for being unfair, while others suggested the policy change was the result of sexism and misogyny.
On August 27th, actor Adam Baldwin posted a tweet linking to Internet Aristocrat videos along with the hashtag #GamerGate." In the first week, the hashtag was tweeted over 244,000 times according to the Twitter analytics site Topsy (shown below left). By November, the hashtag had been tweeted just over 1.8 million times in the prior month, with an average of 50,000 tweets per day (shown below right).
Anti-“Gamer” Backlash & “The End of Gamers”
On August 28th, several news sites published articles calling for an end to the “gamer” cultural identity, including The Financial Post, Ars Technica, The Daily Beast, The Stranger, Beta Beat, Gamasutra, Polygon and Kotaku (shown below).
On September 1st, journalists and independent developers involved in this ‘anti-gamer’ movement published a signed open letter to the gaming community, asking gamers to end the harassment towards critics and developers. The following day, software engineer Benjamin Quintero published an article on Gamasutra questioning the strategy of gaming sites deliberately alienating their core readers by denouncing their culture. Shortly after, Quintero tweeted that he had been downgraded by the video gaming news blog. On August 30th, the GamerGate Harassment Tumblr blog was launched, which chronicled harassment of gamers by those associated with the online social justice community.
On September 3rd, YouTuber Boogie2988 uploaded a video responding to accusations of bigotry toward those who support GamerGate (shown below). In the first 24 hours, the video gained over 111,000 views and 7,000 comments.
“Bloggers” vs “Journalists”
Once the calls for journalistic integrity began to grow louder, various writers for mainstream gaming media outlets started publicly rejecting the title of “journalist” and began referring to themselves as “bloggers”. During the PAX Prime 2014 Q&A panel on August 29th, several panelists made a point to repeatedly declare themselves as “not journalists.”. Contrary to the trend however, Kotaku stated that it hired “journalists” and not “bloggers”.
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) 27 augustus 2014
TheQuinnspiracy</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/StevenBeynon">StevenBeynon Kotaku is staffed by journalists. Not "bloggers."
On September 5th, Zoe Quinn posted a series of compiled screenshots from an IRC chat claiming it as evidence that GamerGate was a conspiracy started by 4chan to get people to harass women and gaming journalists. Immediately afterward, the hashtag #Gameovergate was created by Quinn’s followers to mock the gamergate movement.
On the following day, The Escapist Magazine’s Co-founder Alexander “Archon” Macris, visited the IRC channel to cover their side of the story in an article. In the article, the members of the channel shared how all the screenshots Quinn showed were taken out of context to mislead viewers or written by trolls attempting to disrupt the channel who were subsequently banned. Additional chatlogs were provided for the missing context.
“GameJournoPros” Mailing List
After several articles critical of the “gamer” identity were being posted on gaming news websites, people began speculating that journalists had worked together to promote a narrative against gamers that disagreed with them. On September 17th, Brietbart staff writer Milo Yiannopoulos posted a tweet hinting he had obtained information about a “co-ordinated approach” used by journalists who wrote the articles (shown below).
Later that day, Breitbart published and article titled “Exposed: The Secret Mailing List of the Gaming Journalism Elite,” revealing a private Google group mailing list titled “GameJournoPros,” purportedly used by gaming journalists cooperating to work against GamerGate. The article contained several screenshots taken from the mailing list, which discussed ways to approach the topic of Zoe Quinn and the GamerGate controversy (shown below).
Julian Assange’s Reddit AMA
On September 15th, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange participated in an “ask me anything” thread on the /r/IAmA subreddit to answer about his new book When Google Met WikiLeaks. After Redditor ShaskaOtselot asked for his opinion censorship of GamerGate discussions on Reddit, Assange replied that it was “pathetic.” After another Redditor pointed out that ShaskaOtselot had been shadowbanned, Assange edited the post to point out that a user had been banned for asking him a question about censorship. On the same day, Julian Assange tweeted about this event using the hashtag #gamergate.
It is later revealed that the user was shadowbanned months prior to making the comment for violating site-wide rules and that the mods mistook it as something was mistakenly marked as span and approved it.
Censorship on 4chan
Starting in mid-September, many posts discussing GamerGate were deleted on various board on 4chan, leading many users to question the integrity of the site’s moderation team. On September 17th, YouTuber Dr. Layman posted a video revealing an IP range ban on 4chan blocking users in Germany from posting to the /pol/ (politics) and /v/ (video games) boards.
On the following day, members of the /sp/ (sports) and /v/ boards spammed images of the janitor from the animated television series Arthur with the phrase “He does it for free” aimed at 4chan’s moderation team. On September 19th, 4chan founder Christopher Poole posted an announcement explaining why all GamerGate threads were being removed from the site, claiming that many were violating the site’s global “no personal information / raids / calls to invasion” rule (shown below).
The decision to remove “GamerGate” threads has been poorly communicated, and that’s my fault. Said threads are being deleted primarily because they violate our blanket “no personal information / raids / calls to invasion” rule. Spamming the reports system and creating multiple topics were also a factor, especially given /v/ is one of 4chan’s fastest moving boards and has historically struggled with keeping topics limited to actual video games.
Regarding a perceived lack of free speech/censorship -- many seem to misinterpret my advocating for anonymous communication and highlighting that it allows people to share things they otherwise wouldn’t be comfortable with on other platforms as “you can say and do anything on 4chan,” which simply isn’t the case. We’ve had rules and moderators since the site was founded 11 years ago, and I’ve only reinforced this statement over the years, a la: https://archive.moe/q/thread/580080/#580135
To those who actually want to use /v/ to discuss vidya and not a movement that has outgrown 4chan (a la Project Chanology) -- apologies for the inconvenience.
Exodus to 8chan
After experiencing censorship issues while on 4chan, many supporters of #GamerGate subsequently flocked to the rival site 8chan as an alternative image board with fewer restrictions. Users then began to mockingly refer to 4chan as “halfchan” and sarcastically lamented the site’s demise with the expression “4chan is kill.” Supporters temporarily gathered under the board /gg/, but soon fled to a new board titled /gamergate/ after experiencing a general disagreement of moderation practices that were executed by the original owner of the /gg/ board.
Wikipedia Edit War
On September 23rd, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales tweeted that he would be looking into the edit war occurring on the GamerGate Wikipedia article. Two days later, Wales posted 11 tweets addressing the article, referring to it as a “badly written battleground” (shown below). In the period following, Wales continued to be involved with the page and over time had requested various editors to step back from editing the article.
C.H. Sommers’ Commentaries
On September 16th, 2014, the American Enterprise Institute YouTube channel upload a video in their “Factual Feminist” series titled “Are video games sexist?”, in which host Christina Hoff Sommers refutes arguments by feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian (shown below). In the first three weeks, the video gained over 440,000 views and 7,700 comments. As the video began circulating online, GamerGaters began referring to Sommers as “Based Mom.”
On october 28th, Ronan Farrow interviewed Sommers about #gamergate at MSNBC. Following the interview, many people criticized the interviewer’s behaviour.
Oppressed GamerGater is an image macro series orginally intended to mock the GamerGate community, but later turned into mocking the viewpoints and stances of the opposing side of the controversy. On October 9, 2014, video game developer Brianna Wu tweeted an image macro series titled “Oppressed GamerGater” to criticize the GamerGate community. In reply to this, on the online imageboard 8chan, users started to create new image macros of the character with messages that disagree with the contra-gamergate community. This development was subsequentally shared the next day on the /r/KotakuInAction subreddit.
Brianna Wu Doxxing
On October 10th, an anonymous user on 8chan posted Wu’s address, phone number and email to the /gg/ (GamerGate) board. Several users responded denouncing the post and raising suspicions that it was part of a false flag attack (shown below, left). That evening, Wu tweeted that she was contacting the police after receiving threats from a Twitter account named “Death to Brianna” (shown below, right).
On October 13th, MSNBC covered #Gamergate with Eric Johnson and Brianna wu during which Wu claimed the death threats she recieved came from #Gamergate and 8chan.co (shown below, left). On October 14th, Frederick Brennan and Brianna Wu were featured on a Huffpost live segment in which Wu blamed Brennan and #Gamergate for her doxing, after which Brennan refuted the mistakes of Brianna’s explanation (shown below, right).
On October 14th, YouTuber Anita Sarkeesian tweeted that she canceled her talk at Utah State University when her requests were denied for pat downs or metal detectors after receiving death threats (shown below).
That evening, the hashtag #StopGamerGate2014 began trending worldwide on Twitter, accompanied by tweets denouncing the GamerGate movement as misogynistic and promoting violence toward women.
YouTuber MundaneMatt subsequently posted a video addressing the hashtag, arguing that the majority of the GamerGaters were not represented by those who were sending threats (shown below, left). Meanwhile, YouTuber Boogie2988 posted a video calling for a compromise between the two sides (shown below, right).
The David Pakman Interview Series
On October 27th, David Pakman began a series of interviews on prominent figures in #GamerGate by interviewing Brianna Wu with questions about the hashtag and her death threats she had received. Towards the end of the interview, Brianna accused David of conducting a hit piece interview.
- On October 28th, Breitbart reporter Milo Yiannopoulos was interviewed during which he gave his side of the story and his view on #Gamergate.
- On October 29th, Pro-Gamergater Jennie Bharaj was interviewed to discuss her views on the issues of video game journalistic corruption and fraud.
- On October 30th, David interviewed Gaming comentator and critic John Bain (TotalBiscuit) to discuss #GamerGate, Journalistic ethics, harassment, gifts, bribes and more.
- On November 4th, Pakman interviewed “Nerd Culture” blogger Arthur Chu about #Gamergate and the critical responses towards #Tweetlikenotyourshield.
- On November 5th, 8chan.co’s Admin Fredderick Brennan was interviewed about his site and its relation to #Gamergate.
- On November 6th, Canadian feminist and video game writer Liana Kerzner was brought on to discuss #Gamergate.
- On November 7th, Matthew Rappard from The Fine Young Capitalists was interviewed to discuss their involvement in #Gamergate and the doxxing of Zoe Quinn.
- On November 10th, David took a break from interviewing individuals to explain his own opinion about #GamerGate in response to comments from followers of the series (shown below).
On November 14th, CBC released an article covering #Gamergate in which they portrayed Milo Yiannopoulos and David Pakman as GamerGate Supporter and showed Pakman’s video on his opinions of Gamergate while labeling Pakman as a “Harasser of Women.” David Pakman later released a video in response to this.
IGDA Twitter Block List
On November 21st, the Independent Game Developers Association (IGDA) released an anti-gamergate Twitter blocklist bot created by Randi Harper which automatically blocked anyone who followed specific Twitter accounts the readme of the tool describes as “GG ringleaders”(shown below). Due to the tool not analyzing the content of the blocked users, various independent developers and the chairperson of IGDA Puerto Rico, Roberto Rosario, ended up on the list. The link was taken down a day later alongside an official reply from the IGDA.
“Takes a list of the supposed ringleaders of GG, looks at their follower lists. Generates a list of sheeple following more than one account, as well as a list of your followers that might be questionable. This does not rank users. It doesn’t look at bios, it doesn’t look at hashtags.”
On February 1st, 2015, Twitter user @KachoArinoDesu tweeted a screenshot of an edited Brianna Wu tweet asking if “pineapple on pizza” was a euphemism for “penis” accompanied by the hashtag “#PizzaGate” (shown below).
That evening, GamerGate supporters tweeted various pizza-themed jokes with the hashtag, including other edited tweets by feminist figures like Anita Sarkeesian (shown below), many of which mocked GamerGate criticisms. In 24 hours, the hashtag was tweeted over 18,900 times according to the Twitter analytics site Topsy. Meanwhile, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales posted several #PizzaGate tweets which were subsequently posted on the /r/KotakuInAction subreddit (shown below, middle).
Also on February 1st, YouTuber MundaneMatt uploaded a video titled “WTF is #PizzaGate,” which explained the origins of the hashtag and how it could be helpful for the GamerGate cause (shown below). On February 2nd, The Mirror published an article about #PizzaGate.
David Pakman Show – CBC Labels David Pakman ‘Harasser of Women’ for GamerGate Interviews?
Wikipedia Talk Page:Gamergate_controversy – Jimmy Wales tells Tarc to refrain from further editing of the page
Wikipedia Talk Page:Jimmy Wales(archive177) – Jimmy Wales tells Ryulong to step away from further editing of the page due to his animosity towards David Uuerbach
David Pakman Show – Nero / Milo Investigating Brianna Wu Restraining Order
David Pakman Show – TotalBiscuit on Ethics, Was Offered Free Stuff for Reviews
David Pakman Show – Arthur Chu Angry with Interviewer, Defends Tactics
David Pakman Show – 8Chan Admin ‘Hotwheels’ Denounces Brianna Wu Doxxing & Harassment