NPR recently did a bit on GamerGate, a movement calling for greater accountability and integrity among video game journalists and “gamer news” sites.
In a nutshell, GamerGate has its origins in a controversy surrounding Zoe Quinn, indie developer of Depression Quest, a game-let centering on living with depression. In 2013, when DQ was placed on Steam Greenlight, a user-driven game submission service, the response from Steam users was unsavory at best; rape jokes, death threats, and the rest of the spectrum of e-harassment the Internet is infamous for followed.
Fast forward eight months, and a disgruntled ex-boyfriend of Zoe’s airs their dirty laundry on a WordPress blog. “The Zoe Post” details, among other things, allegations that Zoe cheated on her boyfriend on several occasions. The rant was published to little effect — that is, until the names of several men listed on The Zoe Post are matched to journalists, bloggers, and devs in the gaming industry. (The Five Guys name and logo quickly became a humorous moniker for the controversy.) The Internet at large cried foul at the implication that Zoe traded sexual favors for favorable publicity for her game.
While the rumors about Zoe eventually turned out to be just that, the controversy sparked questions about the integrity of games journalism. Over the next few weeks, several discoveries were made:
- Journalists from Kotaku, RPS, and several other sites were contributing to game developers through a donation service called Patreon, creating a conflict of interest in their reporting — in theory, journalists could give positive reviews to games they have financial interest in. Polygon and Kotaku have since revised their policies regarding Patreon.
- On August 28th, nearly a dozen gaming news sites published very similar articles surrounding the controversy, with many proclaiming that “Gamers are dead.” A few weeks later, a leaker published information about a private mailing list used “to mold and manipulate game industry attitudes towards pertinent events,” which has been tied to the aforementioned articles.
- #NotYourShield, a banner under which women and minorities in support of GamerGate rallied, was systemically attacked by journalists and game devs, including Quinn herself. (No concise or unbiased source on this, check out this article on GamerGate as a whole for more info — keep in mind that this article has a very clear bias, and doesn’t always cite good sources. Read at your own risk.)
As time goes on, GamerGate garners more attention from bigger names in the entertainment industry. So when I heard GamerGate ring over the radio on ATC, my ears perked up. To my dismay, however, the focus isn’t on the controversy itself, but is instead on the vocal few that have displaced Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, a YouTuber behind FeministFrequency, a channel which has garnered controversy of its own in the past. (Here’s a link dump from various viewpoints, read for yourself.)
In my opinion, the fact that NPR (or any major news outlet, for that matter) has yet to address the concerns on journalistic integrity surrounding GamerGate is of great concern — across the board, the focus of reports on GamerGate has been on every subject except the breaches in integrity themselves. Yes, the doxxing, harassment, and threats toward Quinn, Sarkeesian, and the others is newsworthy, but that doesn’t marginalize the significance of the outright corruption in the gaming news industry. If this trend continues — that is, if our journalists continue to ignore what GamerGate seeks to expose, then the only legacy of the movement will be the unsavory minority that has threatened to rape, kill, and harass these men and women — exactly what that NPR report laments.
I encourage you to read more on the subject, as there’s much that I haven’t covered (or don’t care to cover) here. As always, understand that no source is unbiased.