By Ryan McLaughlin
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa.—Since August 2014, a controversy has broken out that has concerned video gamers and feminists alike. This cause has taken on the title of #GamerGate, and it has the misfortune of dividing and demonizing video gamers every year.
An article in Forbes magazine, from Sept. 4, 2014 helped pinpoint the beginning of this controversy. According to Erik Kain, the controversy started with critic, Anita Sarkeesian, and developer, Zoe Quinn. Both women received harsh harassment and multiple threats of injury and against their lives, which caused them to relocate.
Sarkeesian received these threats because of her show, “Feminist Frequency,” which points out misogynist tendencies that she has found within games and gaming. Critics of the show point out holes in her arguments, whereas other haters of the show have threatened her life.
The press took this scandal, and seemingly, blew it out of proportion. In fact, many gaming sites such as Kotaku; Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and Polygon all began writing stories that the gamer was dead. This news sent shock waves throughout the gaming community. The majority of gamers had nothing to do with these attacks and most likely did not know about Quinn before these attacks. These types of stories then started animosity between gamers and the press and caused tension between gamers and feminists.
An article from Gamasutra by Leigh Alexander showed how the image of what a gamer was is now outdated. “By the turn of the millennium those were games’ only main cultural signposts: Have money. Have women. Get a gun and then a bigger gun,” said Alexander. “Be an outcast. Celebrate that. Defeat anyone who threatens you. You don’t need cultural references. You don’t need anything but gaming.”
This mentality was outdated even when Alexander was referring to early gaming. We did not just have masculine power fantasies, but those games were highly successful and played by more than just men. Alexander then drops this antagonist tidbit. “‘Gamer’ isn’t just a dated demographic label that most people increasingly prefer not to use,” Alexander said. “Gamers are over. That’s why they’re so mad.”
On the contrary, gamers continue to exist, and a gamer is not an exclusive title that only men can wear. There are many female gamers out there, as well as female developers and journalists.
Alexander was also referencing another article on Gamasutra, which was written by Brandon Sheffield. Sheffield discussed retiring the word “gamer” in order to make video games more socially acceptable.
“If you want to call yourself a gamer, fine,” Sheffield said. “I can’t tell you what to do. But if you want to start changing the public perception of the game playing public, so that the definition includes everyone who plays games, I say it’s time to retire the word ‘gamer.’”
The next cause of escalation came from a source that was not a gamer. Adam Baldwin became famous in so-called nerd culture from the cancelled show Firefly. He wrote a tweet about the whole affair and added “#GamerGate.” The movement now had a name, and sparks began flying.
As a result, gamers and those watching were forced to take sides. And for what? As far as I can see, no one wins here. If the movement was based on bringing attention to the gamer world, then it succeeded. However, #GamerGate claims that it’s based around ethics in gaming journalism, but it’s not. Anti-GamerGate people claim that it’s feminists trying to ruin gaming, but it’s not.
What #GamerGate shows is how vocal minorities can speak for the masses on both sides. No one has to take a side. In fact, the whole controversy should just be ignored so we can get back to playing the games we love, instead of arguing about what games and gaming should be.