The Beginner’s Guide to GamerGate

Are you confused about GamerGate? Stuck wondering why this random internet movement has caused so much controversy online?

Well, be confused no more! Because thanks to our handy dandy guide, you’ll be able to find out for yourself exactly what GamerGate really is. So don’t trust Wikipedia or other questionable sites. Instead, find out the real truth about the movement via Gaming Reinvented’s ‘Beginner’s Guide to GamerGate’!

The Basics

Starting with a few answers about the simplest aspects of the movement.

For example, what is GamerGate anyway?

Well, that’s one hell of a good question really. Many people have come up with definitions for the movement, and the only thing they share in common is that it A: involves gaming journalism and B: somehow revolves around the #GamerGate hashtag on Twitter.

But here’s a good explanation from Kotaku in Action (the official GamerGate subreddit):

GamerGate is a consumer revolt triggered by overt politicisation, ethical misconduct and unprecedented amounts of censorship targeted at gamers.

In other words, it’s a consumer revolt against ethical misconduct in gaming journalism and the attempts by certain individuals (known as SJWs) to impose censorship on the video games industry.

So is this about reforming gaming journalism or fighting SJWs?

Both. Some people are more interested in the former and some people are more interested in the latter.

However, both identify under the general banner of ‘GamerGate’, and both can be found on pro GamerGate forums like Kotaku in Action and Voat.

But how did this movement start?

To cut a long story short, an indie developer named Zoe Quinn was found to have been in relationships with various video games journalists. These journalists were involved with sites that covered her game (Depression Quest) despite not disclosing their relationship and any conflicts of interest it may have led to.

Either way, it was all brought to light by ‘The Zoe Post’, which was written by her ex boyfriend Eron Gjoni.

Okay okay. Fair enough. How did this controversy become such a big deal anyway?

Basically, when people questioned journalists about this behaviour, they responded in an angry and immature way (by blocking people on Twitter and mass banning discussion on internet forums they were associated with) instead of calmly responding to the criticisms and adding disclaimers.

And as anyone who’s been online for a while knows… lashing out at your critics is a good way to cause a massive firestorm of controversy and bring about an internet civil war. Just ask Digital Homicide or Amy’s Baking Company for proof of that.

But hang on, were there any other factors leading up to this?

Oh yeah. Forgot about those.

Basically, gaming journalism was in a real bad place before GamerGate. People distrusted it, various scandals had rocked it beforehand (like DriverGate and Jeff Gerstmann’s firing from Gamespot) and people online had long thought of the industry as a bit of a joke.

So you had all this pressure that had been building up for years, and then the Zoe Quinn fiasco just caused it to explode outwards. In other words, it was like Europe before the outbreak of World War 1. Lots of tensions and treaties and baggage, all of which came rushing to the surface when Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.

Okay, makes sense. So err, what is a Social Justice Warrior anyway?

It’s basically a hypocritical troll/bully that claims to be fighting for ‘the oppressed’ but actually uses this to censor or shut down views and speech they don’t like.

They’d think that because someone had politically ‘incorrect’ views they should lose their job, not be eligible to run for office and have no way to make their thoughts heard simply because they’re ‘evil by default’ for disagreeing with them.

Either way, here are the typical marks of a SJW. They…

  • Cannot tolerate opposing viewpoints (and think that anyone holding them is ‘evil’).
  • Want to censor media and speech that disagrees with them/depicts beliefs they disagree with.
  • Frame everything in terms of identity politics. So science is a ‘tool of the patriarchy’ because many older scientists were white men.
  • Refuse to acknowledge facts or statistics that call their beliefs into question. In fact, many of them will want any facts that prove anything uncomfortable supressed or banned to avoid having to deal with any awkward truths.
  • Conflate criticism of their beliefs or statements with a personal attack.
  • Will demand ‘perfect’ diversity, while pretending their company isn’t one of the least diverse in existence.

Are usually complete hypocrites who themselves grew up in a place of power or privilege. In other words, they’re what certain progressives and left wingers would call a ‘limousine liberal’ or ‘latte liberal’.

So you can believe in equality and not be a SJW?

Of course. Someone who wants more minority representation in media, wants equal rights for all people (including in discriminated against groups) and votes against political ideologues trying to shut down freedom of speech or equal rights is just a typical progressive. These people make up a significant majority of the people supporting GamerGate.

It’s when you try and censor those you don’t agree with that takes you over to the line to an SJW.

Isn’t GamerGate a ‘hate group’?

No. As per any political movements and brands, some horrible people will be part of it and will attack people online as a result.

But this is just as true of Occupy, BLM, the recent Trump protest marches and just about any other group you can think of. The movement itself doesn’t support or condone hate, nor does the typical person supporting it.

So who leads GamerGate anyway?

No one. It’s a decentralised political movement. There are no leaders.

But why? Why not have a leader?

Because centralised groups are very easy to discredit, due to presenting their leaders as targets for their enemies. Look at WikiLeaks. When Julian Assange was branded a rapist by the government in his country, the project’s reputation basically went straight to hell. When people in say, FIFA were found to be corrupt, the football group’s reputation took a nosedive and never recovered. Basically, a leader is a target, and will either be found guilty of a crime or falsely accused as such to discredit the rest.

Decentralised movements (like GamerGate and Occupy) don’t have this.

What about Milo and Ethan Ralph?

Both are involved yes. But neither ‘lead’ anything. One writes for a conservative news site called Breitbart, one owns a blog called the Ralph Retort.

And what about Anita Sarkeesian? What does she have to do with GamerGate?

Practically speaking, not a whole lot. She’s not popular with anyone involved in it, and she opposed it the minute the stories came out, but the issues with Feminist Frequency are only tangentially related at best.

Okay, fair enough. But why are people I think are morally repugnant involved?

Because freedom of speech protects everyone.

And that includes those with horrible views. Why? Because people with unpopular, often horrendous views are the ones most likely to be censored, arrested or imprisoned if freedom of speech doesn’t exist.

A person making say, typical cartoon 2D platformers in the style of the Mario series isn’t going to be arrested unless things get really, really bad.

Someone who argues for a view the majority despise quite possibly will be. Free speech and anti censorship will always seem to disproportionally benefit people you dislike.

So is GamerGate right wing or what?

No, not really. In a recent survey of GamerGate supporters, the vast majority identified as left wing or liberal. See for yourself:

However, there are two reasons it’s associated with the right:

  1. The authoritarian left doesn’t like it, and brands those they disagree with as ‘right wing’. It’s simple ‘us vs them’ politics.
  2. Certain right wing pundits have taken advantage of it. They see people who hate parts of the left, so consider them an easy source of traffic.

Either way, if the left were for GamerGate, it would be conservatives and the right that would demonising it instead.

What about alt-right? Is GamerGate alt-right?

No. Read my full article on the subject to find out why.

But what about diversity? Isn’t GamerGate mostly white males?

Again, no it isn’t. At least, no more so than gaming in general (though the gaming market does tend more towards men, especially as far as ‘hardcore’ games are concerned).

Has there been doxing or threats?

Yes there has been. What’s more, it’s been against both sides.

Either way, pretty much all these threats were found to be hollow when investigated (like by the FBI here), so it mostly comes down to the usual trolls and idiots.

So hey, whose that girl in the pictures? That Vivian James character?

She’s GamerGate’s de facto mascot.

Why de facto?

Because technically she was designed for the Fine Young Capitalists’ Gamejam in August 2014:

And meant to represent the average female gamer. But because so many GamerGate supporters and sources used the picture, she gradually became associated with the movement instead. Like how Shy Guys were originally meant to represent Doki Doki Panic, but then become iconic Mario enemies after appearing in many games in that franchise.

Still, GamerGate is all over now, right?

No, not at all. It’s been going steadily ever since the end of 2014. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. That happens a lot in the gaming world (just ask Pokemon Uranium fans).

Gamers Are ‘Dead’ and the Media

So that’s the basic stuff out of the way then. Next on the agenda, the whole ‘gamers are dead’ thing that became a media meme a while ago…

Sigh, what’s this about gamer’s being dead then?

Between August 2014 and September 2014, numerous gaming sites posted articles about how the gamer ‘identity’ was dead and traditional ‘hardcore’ gamers an irrelevant audience.

This quickly became seen as a symbol of collusion in the press, and lead to many sites shooting themselves in the foot as a result.

How about GameJournoPros? Seen a few references to that lying around…

And talking of shooting themselves in the foot, this may have been another example. Basically, GameJournoPros was a private Google group where 150 writers, bloggers and editors from different gaming sites discussed their work (and GamerGate).

Either way, when logs from the group got out, all hell broke loose.

Logs? You mean like the Crash Override ones?

Sure I guess. Turns out that ‘anti doxing help organisation’ was pretty much useless when the same thing happened there.

Okay, fair enough. What sites support GamerGate anyway?

Read some of the lists here. They’ll give you a good picture of the situation far better than I can:

How about anti GamerGate sites?

Again, read the full list here. No point duplicating an immediately outdated blacklist mid article.

What about Gaming Reinvented?

Both Gaming Reinvented and the upcoming Reinvented platform are completely neutral.

Anyone can post an article about a relevant subject, regardless of what they think about it. So in theory, we could have an article by Milo and one by Zoe Quinn right next to each other here.

So where can I discuss GamerGate without getting banned?

Well, quite a few places really. There’s:

And all manner of forums associated with pro or neutral gaming websites. Either way, you’ve got a fair few opportunities open to you.

So not a single cohesive community then?

Nope, sorry. The different GamerGate discussion groups get along about as well as the revolutionary groups in Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

In other words, not at all.

But hey, that’s always the way in politics. Every political group, movement, hashtag and ideology is filled with small groups who only just hate each other less than their opponents.

Okay, moving on. What’s Deep Freeze for?

It lists journalists along with any unethical behaviour they may have committed.

As you can guess, this doesn’t exactly make it popular with the media or said journalists in question.

What about the Kunkel Awards?

Oh, those things. They’re yearly awards for the best in gaming journalism, like the Oscars for films or the Emmys for TV shows. They’re named after Bill Kunkel, an influential gaming journalist who co-founded the first gaming column in 1978.

Either way, they’re pretty controversial all round. The pro GamerGate folks often dislike them for not outright banning/disqualifying sites and journalists for unethical behaviour elsewhere, while the anti GamerGate folk hate how the SPJ (who run the awards) reached out to GamerGate for advice.

Okay, so we’ve got pro GamerGate websites and GamerGate neutral awards. But what about developers? Do any of those support it?

Sure! You can find a list here:

A List of Pro GamerGate Developers (Steam)

And (gulp) what’s with the GamerGate article on Wikipedia?

It’s pretty insanely biased against the movement. This is for two reasons:

  • A lot of bigger media sites dislike GamerGate, and Wikipedia’s ‘reliable source’ rules seem to treat popular sources as more reliable by default. So it can be hard to find ‘reliable’ pro GamerGate sources for the article.
  • A fair few Wikipedia editors oppose GamerGate, and basically control the pages’ edits with an iron fist. Again, it’s a common problem over at that wiki. Too many articles end up controlled by whatever person has the free time to monitor a certain page 24/7 and the stubbornness of a mule to go with it.

How about the links?

These are what we call archive services. They take a page (like say, a gaming article) and keep a copy of it as it appeared on the date it was archived.

They’re used by GamerGate supporters to show a page’s contents before it’s been edited or changed, since non wiki sites tend not to have history tabs.

Additionally, said sites also deny the site ad revenue, which is useful for sending a message that you don’t support clickbait or lies.

Still, let’s move to something else now. Namely…

Specific Controversies Associated with GamerGate

Yeah, this stuff. Aka all the controversies people have associated with GamerGate. Controversies like the recent Twitter bans. Stuff that only somewhat relates to GamerGate.

So why are people getting banned on Twitter?

Because they’re ‘breaking the rules’ there. Which in theory is fine, since it’s a private platform and Twitter are the only ones who can decide if a user is welcome there.

Problem is, Twitter doesn’t seem very consistent in who it bans for what. As a result, it seems like a conservative that criticises a liberal are more at risk of being suspended or banned than the other way around. Even when actual threats and harassment are involved.

Also not helping things is the ‘Trust and Safety Council’, which Twitter consults about harassment and bullying on Twitter. Having a group of neutral observers to query like this is fine, it’s just that said council is pretty much entirely made up of ‘left wing’ organisations that think freedom of speech should be censored so people don’t feel ‘uncomfortable’, with pro free speech and conservative leaning organisations nowhere in sight.

Talking of Twitter, do you know why the GamerGate hashtag doesn’t auto resolve there?

Because Twitter tries to stop controversial hashtags from being auto suggested, and they consider GamerGate controversial.

So what was Torrential Downpour?

It was a movement to stop censorship in video game localisations.

Which for those who forgot, mainly got into the news with its focus on Fire Emblem Fates (which removed petting and added lots of memes in the dialogue for its US release). As well as Xenoblade Chronicles X (which removed certain customisation options).

This led to a fight between three groups:

  • Those that thought all changes in localisations were fine
  • People that thought some things should change, but not all of them
  • And those who thought games shouldn’t change at all when localised

Is it dead now?

Yeah, pretty much. It didn’t have the staying power of GamerGate, that’s for sure.

Who’s Allison Rapp and why was she fired from Nintendo?

Oh god, this kettle of fish again.

Put simply, she was an employee of Nintendo’s treehouse who got sacked for having a second job. Which was seemingly as an escort.

Well that’s the simple explanation.

The more complicated one though is that basically, she had written a controversial article about how the age of consent should be lowered in the US. As you can guess, this blew up online.

And then got the attention/infuriated an anti child abuse charity which contacted Nintendo over it. It also led to people investigating her background and finding pictures of her as an escort posing with Nintendo toys or clothing to advertise her ‘services’.

So to avoid bad press, she was sacked by Nintendo.

And then all hell broke lose. Why? Because many in the media blamed GamerGate for it all, to the point it ended up causing a big controversy over how ‘trolls’ seemingly got someone fired from Nintendo.

This wasn’t the case, for obvious reasons. But hey, here’s Nintendo statement that shut it down for good:

Alison Rapp was terminated due to violation of an internal company policy involving holding a second job in conflict with Nintendo’s corporate culture. Though Ms. Rapp’s termination follows her being the subject of criticism from certain groups via social media several weeks ago, the two are absolutely not related. Nintendo is a company committed to fostering inclusion and diversity in both our company and the broader video game industry and we firmly reject the harassment of individuals based on gender, race or personal beliefs. We wish Ms. Rapp well in her future endeavours.

How about Paper Mario Color Splash? What’s that got to do with GamerGate?

Basically, the game has a section where the player has to guess which of five Toads is holding a key.

However, they’re always wrong because the Toads are scam artists, and so hitting the one with the key with the hammer proves that. This causes the Toad running the show to worry about the media coverage, and thinks the public will call it ‘Shufflegate’ if the news gets out.

Which is all well and good. It’s a clear reference to the Watergate conspiracy, with a bit of the old street ball and cup game scam thrown in.

Unfortunately, this was not how it was taken by some people. Like Zoe Quinn, who claimed the thing was a reference to GamerGate and ‘mocked her ordeal’ with the section. The result caused a huge uproar in the gaming media, and led to Nintendo to explain how the section was actually a reference to Watergate and Mario Party instead.

Oh come on, really?

Yes really. It was laughable at the time too.

So what’s the YouTube Advertiser Friendly Guidelines thing about?

It’s a hare-brained scheme by YouTube to ‘clean up’ the site by preventing people from monetising content with ‘inappropriate language’, controversial or sensitive topics, violence or sexually suggestive stuff.

In other words, it basically turns away everyone that has an audience on YouTube. Like the Angry Video Game Nerd, Nostalgia Critic, Angry Joe… even Pewdiepie! Yeah, it’s ridiculous.

How about YouTube Heroes?

Yet another YouTube scheme, this time ‘rewarding’ people for reporting inappropriate videos.

Yeah, you can see exactly where this would cause an uproar, right?

It basically gave people an incentive to false flag everything, making problems with YouTube’s messed up rules and copyright system even worse. As a result, absolutely everyone on the site hated it, the video got downvoted into oblivion and we got this fairly catchy parody song as a result:

So it was more YouTube crap then. What about the UN?

Oh god, this again. Basically, a bunch of SJW types went to UN to complain about ‘cyberbullying’. It was as stupid as it sounds.

Finally, did GamerGate inspire Donald Trump’s election?

Eh, not quite. It kind of foresaw the event, since the media reacted to Trump in the same way as GamerGate (and Brexit before it). But much of it could have applied to any candidate, and few GamerGate supporters actually backed Trump.

And so that concludes our guide. Did you find it useful? Informative? Have anything you disagree with us about?

If so, post a comment below or talk to us about it over on social media today!