#GamerGate Update: Yet Another Woman Driven From Her Home

I really wish I could stop posting these links.  I truly do.  But it seems as though #GamerGate (which I’ve written about in more detail here and here) is really enjoying this particular iteration of the Game of Trolling.  You can see the same strategies playing out in comment threads

So far as I can tell, the dominant trolling strategy associated with #GamerGate looks like this:

1) Set up a coordinated attack on a female game developer or journalist in an anonymous venue like 4chan or 8chan.

2) Carry out the attack (including publishing their home address and information about their family, sending rape and death threats, etc) and wait for the gaming media to start covering this latest instance of harassment.*

3) Protest that the coverage is biased because it paints all of #GamerGate (which PURPORTS to be about ethics in journalism) with a broad brush as racists and misogynists.  Declare that this coverage proves the necessity of #GamerGate’s existence.  Ignore the content of the story, which is about people who operate under the #GamerGate banner tweeting things like this to a female game developer

death threats

4) Demand that those who respond with anger to the prevalence of threats like these being directed towards women in the gaming community be “more civil” when discussing the issue.  Accuse same angry commenters of being too emotional to properly discuss the issue.

In other words:

u mad bro

* I was very tempted to use the word “psychological terrorism” here.  The hatred of “social justice warriors” and of feminism that many of these #GamerGate people profess makes it quite tempting.

5 thoughts on “#GamerGate Update: Yet Another Woman Driven From Her Home

  1. It seems to me more important to focus on multi-player gaming culture and, by extension, the various communities that participate in it (e.g. official forums, gaming sites). This is not as deeply connected to women’s issues as people are want to think and is, at the same time, far more deserving of being sensational for by that rationale: this is widespread behaviour and utterly ignored until truly terrible things happen because words are ‘merely’ words. Thus, any analysis of these situations as purely a women’s issue will necessarily miss the mark because such analysis would only be looking at a small, though relevant, part of the issue.

    Tangentially, it’s terribly unfortunate that meaningful criticism of, particularly, Anita Sarkeesian is seen as misogynistic. Much can be said and has been said about relevant counter-examples to her points, cherry picking and overall academic integrity. I’ve seen no rebuttal to these points and, instead, only a doubling-down on critics being part of a misogynist mass that do the critics as much service as she does Feminism.

    When it comes down to brass tacks there needs to be responsibility and the people setting up these environments (in-game and out-of-game) need to properly police them. This is currently not the case and is why my girlfriend and I have both opted out of playing multi-player games: we don’t want to be exposed to it needlessly. And it is needless, as needless as it is supported by the silence that serves as passive assent to the behaviour and the vocal opposition to only parts of that behaviour.
    And we need to be beyond hashtags and ‘social media’ and have real conversations.

    • Thanks for your comment!

      Hmm, a few responses come to mind:

      1) I don’t think that trolling and harassment in gaming culture is solely connected to “women’s issues” (I’m not really sure what that means, actually. I think of sexism as a societal problem that harms everyone, not just a “woman’s issue”) and I agree that we need to come up with systemic ways of addressing this kind of discourse online. However, the particular example of #GamerGate is about harassing women (and their supporters) and so I think it is important to keep issues of gender and sexism in the forefront when discussing it.

      2) I don’t see meaningful criticism of Anita Sarkeesian being described as misogynistic except by those who want to create straw men out of her defenders. I’ve seen and been a part of many discussions about her particular examples that were quite interesting and productive. The only people I’ve seen who say “anyone who doesn’t agree with Anita Sarkeesian is automatically a sexist” are those who want to generate cover for themselves as they continue to lob sexist comments and threats at her.

      3) I think that hashtags and social media are catalysts that can generate real conversations (much like this one!). Of course, one must go beyond 140 characters in order to really get into the meat of any issue. But social media “events” (for lack of a better word) like #GamerGate or Sarkeesian’s videos can be the origin points for further discourse and debate.

      • You need to look further into (2), as there are growing numbers of people, especially females, criticising Sarkeesian’s work, her academic integrity and behaviour. From what I have seen neither she nor her defenders have put up any defence of her work and that is important to keep in mind: it’s all defence of person, defending against the bullshit ad hominem, instead of defence of ideas.

        Some people are complete fuckbags and they cause as much problem for people giving meaningful, if angry criticism as the people naively supporting her cause for Feminism and support of women’s issues.

        Please, look deeply into criticism of Sarkeesian’s work. Females deserve a strong, critical voice and they deserve greater inclusion. There’s no doubt about this and there can be no doubt about this. And at the same time they deserve a better voice than someone like her.

      • I think you misunderstood my (2). I’m not saying that there have been no meaningful criticisms of Sarkeesian’s work. As I said, I’ve been in conversations criticizing her work. I’ve taken issue with some of the examples she choses. And no one that *I’ve* seen is blindly dismissive of such criticism so long as it is offered in a constructive spirit. Those “critiques” that are couched in angry misogyny or in a dismissive “let me lecture you, little miss” tone (“you need to look further into this issue”) are, I think, seen correctly as attempts to troll. Perhaps that is part of the problem: gamers who come into the discussion with the (perhaps unconscious) assumption that they Know Best, that none of the feminist voices in the conversation could possibly be as knowledgeable and as invested in gaming culture as they are (an assumption that is rooted in privilege, not in some deep rooted hatred of women) is alienating to those who have to endure such sexist dismissals of their point of view and their lived experience everyday.

        Sarkeesian isn’t The Voice of Females in Gaming (whatever that might mean), nor does she claim to be. Rather than picking at Sarkeesian’s work and finding reasons why her project should be dismissed out of hand, her critics would be better served developing their own contributions to gaming’s sexism problem.

        That said, I very much appreciate your comments. And I totally agree that feminist criticism of games and gaming culture needs more voices and more perspectives than a single YouTube channel. I hope that Sarkeesian’s videos will someday be seen as the start of a productive conversation and not its conclusion.

      • As a final point about Sarkeesian, I firmly believe she needs to be readily exposed and dismissed. There’s too little that is positive to come out of the sludge her work exists in and any real attempt to salvage it ends in getting to much on anyone doing the salvaging. Some of the core notions can be kept and should be built on, sure, but the rest needs to be discarded and started up again by people (males and females) that are genuinely interested in the debate, in the art and craft of gaming and the ethical issues contained therein. As it stands it’s quite clear Sarkeesian is not and real attempts at such demonstration ends up over-explaining to show the obvious.

        With that said, I’ve been poking my girlfriend to use her voice for quite some time now. As an intelligent female her voice is necessary and as a skilled, caring gamer she has the chops to shut down all but the staunchest trolls. Truth be told, with the lone exception of FPS games I’ve learned how to be a better player by watching her and I feel in no way emasculated by saying it. I’m damn proud of her and have been for years.

        As a final thought and at risk of sounding arrogant, my particular education (BA Philosophy/MA Theology, viz. critical thinking degrees) makes this whole mess nauseous. The most aggressive trolls are emboldened by a lack of meaningful societal sanctions, the white knights are emboldened by an apparent cause they can get behind, and in all of this the real ideas and the people attempting to have real conversations are lost to the formerly-mentioned and ‘social media’.

        I firmly believe we can have academic discussions outside the confines of a classroom setting, we simply need to be willing to approach the issues with all due epistemic humility and as little vitriol as possible. And we need to be clear about making it about the issues.* Pop culture injections are helpful, they take the sterility out of the whole mess, but too much makes it more about the presentation than the ideas themselves. This is where we are currently.

        And, finally, as someone who doesn’t receive comments very often and sees thoughtful comments and civil discourse even less: THANK YOU for this bit of back and forth.
        *People’s feelings are going to get hurt and those hurt feelings need to be discarded in order to progress further and further to obtaining the right ideas.

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