TheSixthAxis does not support the group that has become known as GamerGate. We urge our readers and those active in our community to distance themselves from the movement and immediately disassociate themselves with any and all activity done in the name of the group. If you have genuine ethical concerns, please continue to air those publicly and politely but do it away from the toxicity of a movement that now, through the despicable actions of a few, is tainted beyond any possible pretence of the ostensibly noble goals that may have drawn you to them.
For those of you who have thus far managed to avoid it, we encourage you to research the subject further by yourselves and form your own opinion on the matters involved. For the purposes of this editorial, here’s a very brief, very incomplete synopsis of the purported scandal that has come to be known as GamerGate.
It seems to have started with some tawdry accusations pertaining to the private life and possible personal failings of a game developer named Zoe Quinn. Zoe made Depression Quest and has often been something of an informal spokeswoman for certain types of activism in and around the games industry. As far as I can tell, and I try to keep in mind that it’s not really any of my business anyway, Zoe’s private life does not influence her ability to have interesting ideas for games.
But a part of the accusations made against her included one that she had a very personal relationship with a journalist who has worked for RPS and VG247, among others, but now works for Kotaku (Nathan Grayson). Nathan had mentioned her game a few times in articles that were published on Kotaku. One of the accusations was that he praised her work in a space that is incredibly visible, and that act potentially encourages a lot of people to want to experience her work (Depression Quest is available for free, by the way) so he probably should have disclosed his personal relationship with Zoe or excused himself from coverage of her work.
In the aftermath of the accusations and subsequent attacks on Quinn, a number of prominent media outlets also ran editorials proclaiming that the notion of the “gamer” is an outmoded idea which has no place in the modern gaming industry. The idea is that people who think of themselves as “hardcore gamers” and yet often only play one type of game should not be used as the ideal that represents a huge, diverse and often unnoticed group of people who regularly play games. It was generally an exploration of an evolving idea that the metaphorical “gamer” no longer exists, in part because we are now all people who regularly play games and the definition of what a game is continues to shift, redefining itself from moment to moment as the medium evolves and matures.
Some people who would self identify as “gamers” took the idea that “the gamer is dead” literally and felt compelled to stand up for themselves. They assumed that the timing and number of these editorials was not coincidental but a part of some wider conspiracy to support Quinn, orchestrated by those behind the scenes of the video game media who wish to further an agenda – generally assumed to be one of activism for things like transgender issues, gay rights, women’s rights and any other kind of underrepresented or under-explored demographic under the grand umbrella of video game consumers.
GamerGate was, at least in part, born with the idea that the people who consume the output of video game media outlets deserved a little more transparency and a lot more attention to ethical matters. The idea of a mass conspiracy is, frankly, ludicrous. But the idea that those of us who have professional relationships with people involved in the selling of video games should disclose when those relationships become personal is just common sense.
Here at TheSixthAxis, we’ve always tried to champion the idea that questions about the ethics of covering video games should be asked regularly. We’ve always tried to be open when we have a relationship with a game maker that is more friendly than business-like and we always disclose any trips that are paid for by publishers or agreements that have been made with companies to help us cover the things we think you’re interested in.
We support the idea that, as an industry, we should ask the important questions and have the difficult discussions about the ethics of what we do. We should have those discussions openly and with as much transparency as possible because it should be important to those of us who write or talk about games that those of you who read or listen can trust what we say to be our freely held personal opinions and ideas.
But we can not stand with GamerGate. Here’s why.
Regularly, throughout the lifetime of the GamerGate issue, there have been personal attacks made on individuals that are prominent in the representation of what might be perceived as minority groups. People who claim to represent GamerGate have snooped, hacked and doxed (the act of tracing and publishing people’s personal information from a variety of publicly available sources like Facebook, as well as hacking) their way to intimidate and threaten individuals and those close to individuals. People have received threats of rape, mutilation and murder. Just last night, a game developer received a threat against herself, her husband and any kids she might have that caused them to leave their home (her address was included in the threats) and seek police involvement.
Whether or not the foundation or core founding principles of GamerGate were noble, the movement itself is now irredeemably polluted by these actions and the many similar instances of bullying, intimidation and small-minded bigotry around the fringes. It seems obvious that there has always been an element within the movement that has revelled in the illegal activity and ignoble actions but the hateful deeds of those few now threaten to eliminate the possibility of any genuine misgivings being addressed. Why would anyone want to talk to you when there’s a spiteful thug standing next to you, threatening to murder their family?
If you’re serious about the need for more honesty and ethical concern in coverage of video games, you have to be equally serious about eliminating the language of hate and the atmosphere of intimidation that turns many away from this exceptionally diverse medium that is our passion. You have to disassociate yourselves from those that would mire you in the ignominy of hate and violence and inequality. GamerGate is poison but you already have the antidote and we can all heal together.