Gamergate: Through My Eyes

by Elizabeth “Lizzyf620” Fogarty

Corruption. Politics. Nepotism. Sex. Moral panic. Adam Baldwin. No, this isn’t a Hollywood film. Rather, it is the very real saga that is the video game world’s current controversy, known as Gamergate. While the consumer revolt has garnered a large amount of press between small game publications and mainstream media outlets, a majority of this coverage has failed to include a complete and honest picture of both sides of the controversy, rather selling conjecture as indisputable fact. My name is Elizabeth Fogarty, and for the past 4 months, I have actively fought for the key goals behind the Gamergate consumer revolt. And they are not what you think.

But Seriously, What IS Gamergate?

The Gamergate controversy is the result of a combination of separate, yet related, issues. Firstly it is a call for ethical reform in the games press, primarily in the form of disclosure of either personal or financial conflicts of interest between a journalist and a subject they are reviewing or reporting on. Secondly, it is a response to ideological manipulation of the gaming industry, and the censorship that has occurred as a result of this. These two things are, in fact, related, because we are seeing the praise of this manipulation by members of the gaming press, as well as praise of the censorship of discussion by members of the gaming press. This combination of the lack of objectivity and fact checking with the desire to adjust or omit truths in order to appeal to a particular “group” is in no way exclusive to games journalists, but rather is indicative of a larger, more universal issue in how we all receive news.


You hear the phrases “right wing news” and “left wing news” quite a bit nowadays, yet the truth is, news should not have a wing because facts do not have a wing. Facts are facts. We do not expect journalists to be unbiased. Everyone has bias, we’re human beings who are designed to think and feel. However, when you are in position of power, such as in the case of a journalist with incredible reach, you should put your personal bias and politics aside in the interest of being honest, fair, and neutral. In gaming many articles, particularly reviews, are indeed a combination of fact and opinion. If a journalist knowingly agrees to write a review on a game or company that they have a personal or financial tie to, it is highly unlikely they would be able to position themselves neutrally enough to cover it fairly, and they should either recuse themselves or disclose the conflict.One of the largest issues people take with Gamergate is the origin. Gamergate did in fact initially begin with the Zoe Post. A game developer’s ex boyfriend wrote a blog post detailing the end of his relationship, which had indications of being emotionally and mentally abusive. He outlined the alleged infidelity of his girlfriend throughout the course of their relationship. Several of the names included in the post drew attention to a potential conflict of interest in gaming journalism, most specifically Nathan Grayson of Kotaku (and formerly of Rock, Paper, Shotgun). Many people feel everything that has resulted was a reaction to a female developer having sex. In reality, the developer was a character backstory, and most of those involved in the discussion were interested in the plot of the film. The first use of the hashtag #Gamergate was by actor Adam Baldwin, who has actively spoken on the matter.

Stephen Totilo, Editor in Chief of Kotaku, claimed to have conducted an investigation, and stated that the relationship between Grayson and the developer, Zoe Quinn, began after he covered her game (an assertion that has since been disproven.)

When this potential conflict of interest was brought to light, two other undisclosed conflicts of interest were exposed at essentially the same time (Kotaku’s Patricia Hernandez and Polygon’s Ben Kuchera)

When we, as consumers, began questioning these conflicts, over a dozen articles declaring the “death of gamers” were published within a 48 hour period, from competing sites, some more vitriolic than others. It was later revealed that these journalists were part of a private email list, where discussions took place regarding what to report on, as well as attempted censorship of forum discussion of the topics surrounding the controversy. Ben Kuchera of Polygon is seen in leaked emails repeatedly chastising journalists from competing publications for allowing discussion of the topic on their forums.

In addition to journalists halting, and attempting to halt, discussion of the topic on gaming publication forums, third party sites such as 4chan and Reddit began deleting threads which pointed to potential journalistic impropriety. This occurred to such an extent that even Wikileaks joined the fray.

Many of the journalists involved have installed the GG Autoblocker, which is a program for Twitter that immediately blocks anyone following two or more accounts which were classified as alleged “ringleaders” of the leaderless consumer revolt. This has limited the ability to engage in any productive conversation about the issues.

Although several publications willingly updated their ethics policies, many were resistant. Supporters of the revolt began organized email campaigns, contacting advertisers on the websites of the publications and providing evidence of wrongdoing. Multiple advertisers have pulled ads on the sites in question as a result.

It’s unlikely that this call for disclosure and ethical reform appears extreme, or unreasonable, to many of you. Why then, has this become one of the greatest controversies within the industry?

When you accuse someone of doing something wrong, one of two things will happen. They will admit they were wrong, apologize, and change what they are doing. Or, they will accuse you of something much worse. That banal response is what we have seen with Gamergate. Instead of addressing the claims head on and responding to our evidence, the very press we were fighting against painted us as misogynist harassers, intent on keeping women out of the industry. And because they had not only pen and ink, but an audience, they were believed without question.


In recent years, people have been more willing to view video games as a form of art. As a result, there has been an increase in critiques of games, most notably with the Feminist Frequency web series. This series has been accused of “cherry picking” examples, out of context, in order to argue a sexist epidemic in games and their portrayals of women. To be clear: They have every right to say what they are saying, whether I agree or not. However, those involved in the discussion of Gamergate, as well as neutral parties within the culture, have expressed concern over the amount of clout and influence the creators of this series have.

Since the series rose to fame, the industry has seen one title pulled from several stores in Australia for perceived sexism, and Sweden is currently discussing adding additional labeling to games which are found to be sexist, despite a rating system for games already existing. The standards by which this will be measured are currently unclear. Additionally, after Jonathan McIntosh, writer and producer of Feminist Frequency, began publicly speaking out against the game, Hatred was temporarily pulled from Steam Greenlight (it was later reinstated, and shortly after was Greenlit).

There is a demand for the evolution of the industry to leave behind “offensive” tropes and characters completely. However, offense is taken, not given. Games are not sentient beings. They are incapable, on their own, of acting with volition or prejudice. This interpretation happens in the mind of the individual player. It is a widely held belief by those involved in the revolt that artistic and creative freedom should be protected without exception.

A majority of the “other side” of the discussion oppose the goals surrounding Gamergate from an ideological standpoint. Many disregard the call for ethics, some openly mocking it. It’s easy for them to draw an incorrect conclusion because they don’t care about games journalism, and can not fathom how, if they don’t care, anyone else could. They focus on the ideological debate, which essentially boils down to those who support creative freedom, versus those who want specific universal representation of certain types of characters.

As a result of our push against the politicization of the industry, we were minimized to the singular demographic of “white cis male.”

#NotYourShield is a “sister hashtag” to #Gamergate, and was started as a response to this characterization that all gamers were white nerdy man-children. Female and minority gamers spoke out in support of both ethics and creative freedom, while also largely condemning both artistic and spoken censorship. We were met with accusations of being fake, or of internalizing our own self hatred – be it “internalized misogyny” or “internalized racism.” In addition, many of us have been called tokens, shields, gender traitors, and “uncle toms.”

In 1968, Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan II spoke on behalf of free speech: “One man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric.” Works of art evoke diverse and deeply passionate responses in people, be it positive or negative, and as a result, have been the target of numerous censorship efforts throughout history.

Claims of the Harassment of Women

The primary assumption regarding those involved in the Gamergate revolt has been that we are a harassment movement intent on keeping women out of both gaming and the game industry, through threats and targeted harassment. I am not disputing that people have received threats and harassment, because that has happened – on both sides. I myself have received quite a few threats, regular harassment, and I’ve been doxed. Most recently, someone printed out my picture from Twitter, masturbated onto it, and tweeted an image of this publicly.

A vast majority of the threats and harassment on both sides have been the result of online trolls. They target both sides in order to further tension and get deranged laughs out of what is happening. And the truth is, this has happened to both men AND women. I would never claim that my harassment is because of my gender, rather as a result of both my stance on the Gamergate controversy and my involvement in the discussion. Should the threats be taken less seriously? Absolutely not. All threats should be assessed, reported, and monitored. But to place blame on an entire group with no evidence is not only dishonest and unfair, it’s also potentially dangerous to the person who has received them.

People who actually care about the key goals of the Gamergate revolt often speak out against threats, harassment, and doxing. Yes, there are women involved of whom we are critical – Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu, and Leigh Alexander, for example. We criticize posts, we dispute and debate points that they make. Yes, this is happening. No one is denying that. However, I will deny until my last breath these two points: 1) that we are disputing what they are saying because they are women, and 2) we are only disputing the words and opinions of women. That is untrue. We have regularly criticized Jonathan McIntosh. We have regularly criticized Ben Kuchera of Polygon, and Stephen Totilo and Nathan Grayson of Kotaku, and Arthur Chu, who actually does not care about video games, as well as many more. The idea that we are simply “targeting women” for just being women is asinine and often dishonest. But if someone were to actually share all of this information, they’d have to leave the “they’re just woman-haters” narrative behind, and they aren’t willing to do that.

We have questioned the actions of many people, yet are widely portrayed as only criticizing women. The idea that women should be exempt from criticism is insulting and, frankly, meets the criteria for sexism.

In Summation

Ethics matter. If you believe in the right to trust the news you receive, regarding anything, then you must constantly demand more neutrality. Personal biases shaping the delivery of facts only serves to hinder progress, not help it.

Creative Freedom matters. If you believe in the right to think, to feel, to discover, to play, and to create, then you must support and defend the right for others to be able to do the same.

The only proven fact of “offensive” material is whether you personally find it offensive or not. What offends you may not offend me, and vice versa. As long as we have options in games, you have the ability to participate in the hobby comfortably. Removing any of these options helps no one. When you allow things in life to be censored, censorship becomes life.

More diversity in games is a good thing. Developers should be open to this. They should not, however, be pressured into creating a checkbox character in an attempt to please people who will likely never be content.

There are real people on the other side of your computer screen. It is possible to treat others kindly while still asserting your stance.

To learn more about the Gamergate consumer revolt: Talk to some of us.


Essay: “GamerGate”

Trying to take a wide scope to this, GamerGate is backlash of people fed up with lax standards in the gaming industry today. They’re fed up with all the click-bait articles and how opinion overtakes any objectivity in what they call a review nowadays. They’re fed up with how some devs and game “journalists” have been acting lately, with all the namecalling and insults on the sites, in the forums, and on social media. The thing is, GamerGate has many voices, with just as many reasons for joining and goals to accomplish. Guess I should be talking ‘bout my own.

I first heard about this way back when events known as the Quinnspiracy happened. Shame that that’s what the anti-GamerGate folk keep trying to label the current movement as. I heard about a sex scandal and put it off, not being my business in another’s private life even if they are being hypocritical with their message. However, few days later I heard that one of the people she allegedly slept with put out positive press for her game. Went on a forum I used to frequent and asked about it. Got banned for it. Similar things happened on reddit. So I decided to do a little digging myself. Turns out that there was no actual positive review, just some positive mentions and the picture spot for a couple of articles covering a bunch of indie games. Thought it was odd that something so small could be such a fuss, so kept my eyes and ears open. Eventually caught wind of allegations of Zoe wrecking a game jam to promote her own. Checked out both campaigns and found Zoe’s to be highly suspicious.

Then the “Gamers Are Dead” articles dropped. Either way of reading the articles is highly insulting, in that either we are all as the articles have insulted, or that gamers are only those type of folks. Went and looked around on the sites, and all these so-called professionals were acting like a bunch of highschool drama queens on Twitter and FaceBook. They cry out “Harassment!” and “Misogyny!” and have their fans rally around them. At the same time, they cry the same words at anyone who attempts to criticize them, drowning out anything said. Worse is that any attempt at discussion in a lot of places becomes muted or censored. Just check out John Bain’s thread graveyard, and that was a neutral piece. Even 4chan was being heavily moderated, and I haven’t seen anything like that in a while; closest was the attempt at kicking out bronies.

Whole reason why a lot of folks write this off is because they don’t want to think about it too deeply. We live in an age where feeling is overriding rational thought. Games that provoke thought hurt too many feelings to be made anymore, whereas games that make you feel good are being pushed and only those. We don’t want a market to be dominated by games that tell you what to do, what to think or what to feel. We want the choice to be a monster or a villain or not, not for someone or some group to choose for them by not even having it as an option. It should be our choice.

GamerGate is for these Game News sites to have a standard equivalent to journalists in other fields. Either recuse themselves on a conflict of interest or disclose that they do have one. I want to judge a game based on its own merits, not because a writer is friends with the developer. I do not wish for a game, especially in the indie scene, to be overlooked just because another game developer has better connections. Those sorts of shenanigans are what put me off of the Triple A games.

GamerGate is for site owners, developers, and writers on these sites to start acting like professionals. Insulting a portion of consumers is appalling, as is stifling any sort of discussion on the matter. Sometimes I get the feeling that a lot of these people blurred the line between professional and personal relationships. How am I supposed to trust what they say if they hide conflicts of interest? Some claim objectivity can never be accomplished, so there is no reason to pursue it. There is a reason why Archon from the Escapist and John Bain are so highly regarded by GamerGate folks. They do their jobs in a professional manner by not taking sides, and make up for their mistakes, acknowledging them instead of trying to hide it from the internet. They probably get as much harassment and death threats as any one of the vocal people GamerGate is opposed to, but they grow a thicker skin. If you can’t take the heat, don’t dim the lights. Get out of the damn spotlight.

We are the ones who choose our name. We will defend it. We are the ones insulted as misogynerds and manbabies. We are the ones who apologize for our mistakes instead of hiding the truth. We are the ones who call out our own when they act like idiots. We verify and validate. We are mice who roar. We are alive. We are gamers. So let’s play.


Essay: “What GamerGate Means to Me‏”

By Scott “Calbeck” Malcomson

GamerGate is self-evident to anyone who does not look at it with blinders on: gaming culture’s masses, rising up against some of the most extreme stereotyping I’ve ever seen aimed at a discrete group of people.

When it was just a few writers pushing these stereotypes, we all laughed and thought they were trying to be hip, edgy, over-the-top.  Pushing ratings, all just part of the same gaming journalism scene which indulged in click-bait advertising, constantly pushing you to drink more Dew and eat more Doritos.  Just wink and nod, then on to enjoying the next game, while someone shrilly (but distantly) accuses you of enabling rapists because you liked “Hitman: Absolution”.

It wasn’t like we hadn’t heard and dismissed this sort of thing before, in the form of anti-violence crusader Jack Thompson.  Back then, the gaming press recognized the extremism, refusing to side with him.  They called him out for what he was, a poser who ultimately got himself disbarred by pushing his rhetoric until the courts had had enough.  Few, even outside gaming journalism, gave his views any credence.

But Thompson was not a games journalist.  He had no friends in the industry.  No one who would pull their rhetorical punches themselves for his sake.  No one who actually agreed with his lunatic narrative, or at least let it slide to maintain his friendship.  No one relied on Thompson for their next writing gig.

That is the difference in GamerGate.

We are fighting extremism.  We are battling censorship.  We are fighting a clique of industry insiders, who authentically believe they are bettering the world by imposing a moral code via the power of a megaphone.

And we are doing it in the only ways left to us: with our words and our wallets.

We are GamerGate.

Essay: “What #GamerGate Means To Me.‏ “

I was on the cusp of quitting my contributing editor job at RPGFan when GamerGate began. In fact, I had every intention to leave after my latest review was up because I felt it was not worth my sanity to stay in an industry where views had become so polarized and radical that merely questioning the status quo would lead to professional blacklisting. For a labor of love, it was not something I wanted any part of, and as a hobby it had started becoming more trouble than it was worth.

At this point, someone who had been following me on Youtube suggested I join GamerGate on Twitter. I was connected with hundreds of fellow gamers, game developers, and even some fellow game journalists who agreed with my viewpoint of the entire ordeal. It reminded me of why I started writing at RPGFan and for whom I was writing: people like me. People who just wanted to play games, enjoy gaming with others, and wanted nothing to do with the increasing politicization and soapboxing others kept attempting to push into our space.

I grew up hearing my grandparents’ stories about the Communist uprising in China, how they tore people from their houses and shot them in the streets for being “oppressors,” and most of all, the type of dehumanizing and vitriolic language used to justify this kind of hatred. It is telling, then, that the language used by these game journalists to condemn people like me – minorities who want to enjoy our hobby in peace – reminds me so much of that kind of ideologically based hatred. Some call us the equivalent of “house n*****s” during the Civil War. Some have categorized and labeled us as white heterosexual males despite all proof to the contrary. Some, when faced with a lack of recourse, call us self-hating gender/race traitors. It is very upsetting to hear this kind of malicious rhetoric from a group that claims to have minorities’ best interests at heart, in a country my parents came to in order to seek a better life.

By contrast, people in GamerGate have been accepting, generous, and inclusive. They have reminded me the joys of sharing my passion with complete strangers who may or may not have anything else in common with me. They’ve reignited my desire to write about the games I play. They are people from all walks of life and various minorities. By contrast, game journalists are homogenized to the point of near self-parody.

I will no longer be walking away from my position at RPGFan. GamerGate has shown me the importance of staying in that position, because there are good game journalists who just want to share their love of gaming with the world. Even with a voice as small as mine, game journalism deserves better than to be represented by the lackadaisical and unprincipled bigots that are currently its loudest and most humiliating voices.

The stone we cast might raise only the smallest of waves, but see how they crash upon the shore!

Ashton Liu
Contributing Editor

Essay: “Why We’re Here.”

I am a gamer. I am alive.

I was brought into this mess when I heard about Reddit being censored. That’s right, I’m a pre-‘Gamers are Dead’ GamerGater. I happen to believe mass censorship is wrong and not allowing people to speak their mind because you happen to dislike the words coming out of their mouth shows both your lack of moral integrity and your intellectual cowardice.

“When you cut out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you are telling the world you fear what he might say.” – Tyrion Lannister

I’m really glad this is how it started for me, because, if I may tell you a secret?

I was almost on the other side.

And that still scares me. They almost had me. Had me believe that one of the most inclusive groups of people I have ever been a part of were universally despicable just because they said so. Had me suspend any scepticism towards their motives, for fear of being shunned. Had me believe that the very act of asking questions would make me evil, despite it being a value I’ve always taken pride in.

“When you gaze long into an Abyss, the Abyss gazes back into you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Fortunately, I blinked and turned away.

This was not easy, and I will have to take a serious look at everything I believe related to this matter once this is over. These scars will be with me for a long time.

But when I look back at the I would’ve taken pride in standing for with not a hint of self-awareness, all I feel is disgust. The abuse flung in our direction by the people who control the narrative and the public opinion, without realising how much their lies damage the cause they profess to champion is despicable. The future they are fighting for is already here.

Power corrupts, apparently, and when you believe yourself to be fighting for the oppressed, anything becomes permissible. Never mind that the ‘oppressed’ are telling you to piss off. That just means they don’t know any better. ‘The Social Burden’, indeed. Never mind that you are using every oppressive tactic you can come up with just to keep these so-called ‘oppressors’ down.

“The media you’re criticising says you’re a hate group, therefore, you are not allowed to criticise the media.”

I am sorry for ever being a part of that.

I am here because I am tired of having my culture shit upon. I am tired of seeing gamers being slandered as exclusive hate mongers. I am tired of the journalistic elite fostering an environment of fear within the gaming community by painting gamers as vile terrorists who will practically attack a woman on sight. I am tired of being told that I should hate and want to change a group of people I have never been more proud to be a part of.

And when it turns out that, despite all the shit-slinging, deflecting and a myriad of other examples of intellectual bullying, we turn out to have been right on nearly everything we’ve suspected? That we were lied to start to finish by people who considered themselves untouchable? That just gets me mad.

“I am not upset you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

There is no coming back from this. After all we’ve been put through, after every time we’ve been spat in the face for asking questions, I am no longer interested in compromise. I am no longer interested in peace. I am no longer interested in conversation.

Game journalism is in need of a hard reset.

You expected you could insult and abuse us and we would simply roll over and take it.

You’re about to find out how wrong you were.

I am a gamer, I am alive, and I am not going to stop.

100% completion, goddamnit.


Essay: “Runic Knight”

I think in order to understand my feelings on gamergate, I have to share my experience with it. Gamergate was something I watched come into existence. I was one of the first posters to talk about the released Zoe Post when it first dropped on the escapist, weeks before “GamerGate” itself. It was where I cautioned people against using Zoe’s actions described in the post as an attack against feminism and social crusaders at large. I also commented on how if the accusations were true, she would have done more damage to the public perception of  female developers then any who came before her. I did not know how close I may have been with that remark.

As time went on, I saw reddit eat itself in deletions and censorship. I watched people investigate the topic after the gaming media refused to. I watched censorship grow from reddit to other sites and forums, and saw connections between zoe and friend and mods involved be revealed as to why they were being censored,  giving rise to the “Quinnspiracy” as people saw the death of discussions on sites traced back to her interference and personal friendships. I watched people cry out to the gaming journalists to cover the story and do something about the ethical and professional failings. And I watched the gaming news media close ranks, scorn and mock those asking for integrity as nothing but “misogynists”, and ultimately create the drive that fueled GamerGate in full. From there gamers were called dead and insulted amid dozens of simultaneous, planned articles, twitter exploded with fury and insults, gamers mobilized in response and battlelines were drawn.

At every step I watched gamers, confused, frustrated and attacked, try to reach out to have their concerns addressed, only to be spat on, insulted, threatened, called terrorists, harassers and worse. When the gaming news media would not report on the topic, gamers looked into it themselves. When their discussions were censored, they asked why. And when they found evidence of dishonesty and professional conflict of interest, they tried to go to the sites’ management and editors themselves first. At nearly every turn gamers were snubbed, insulted, accused and blamed for having the audacity to expect integrity. It was only much later that I and many others realized the amount of collusion involved in the industry.

To me, gamergate represents the outrage, confusion and betrayal many gamers felt at how the gaming journalists abandoned all pretense of duty towards the being the voice of the audience they report to in favor of trying to dictate reality and cause change through information control. It represents the fundamental disconnect of what the gaming journalist’s role in the gaming community actually is, who they have to answer to and who ultimately will decide if the sites they are on will exist in a year or not. Gamergate is a call to end tyranny of a journalistic press that sought not to report on gaming itself for the community, but to try to change and shape the community to fit their ideological stance.

It is a consumer revolt against an abusive and industry-harmful business practice, and an attempt to rid a deep seated corruption that gamers have seen hints of for many years now, but only recently saw the full depth of it reach.

Runic Knight

Essay: “Cadi”

I joined #GamerGate to try and understand why all the social justice inclined people I looked up to or followed in the geek community, were totally glossing over the outing of an abuser, to the point of enabling said abuser and victim shaming the victim.

It started with Dr. Nerdlove’s “Extinction Burst” article. I read it, it wasn’t unusual for him to call out toxic behaviour in the geek community, and thought “oh great, more shit from the minority of loudmouths.” Days later I was compelled to find out what actually happened, I guess Boogie’s petition must have popped into my FB feed a few times that made me wonder what was going on, and I happened across the original Escapist megathread thanks to Google. There were already 400-odd pages by that point but I started from the beginning. I hadn’t yet read thezoepost, but about 80 pages into the thread it seemed like there might be more to this than was reported.

So I read it and was apalled.

It wasn’t some “screed” by a “jilted ex-boyfriend”. It was very obviously a warning to anyone close to that relatively obscure indie developer to watch out because she was an abuser. And the “jilted ex” was actually a victim of abuse, that had done the incredibly brave thing of outing the abuser and was now getting a fuck-ton of grief for doing so. I saw it for what it was, and believed his intentions because I could completely understand why someone would do that in a “would also, if I could” kind of way.

It was completely baffling that even the good Doctor had missed this aspect, since he’s recognised the signs of male abuse victims in reader questions in the past, and has talked about it on his site. The mass censorship of the discussion anywhere but The Escapist further clued me in to something being not quite right here.

The massive web of connections people had found behind the scenes was fascinating, the Indie-fensible! videos and GameJournoPros leaks were shocking, and the continuous gaslighting from the anti-#GG media was disturbing. The last four weeks have felt like a perpetual opposite day, where the supposedly progressive and social justice anti-#GGs were using tactics they often accuse trolls of in their own spaces, being openly racist and sexist towards #GG members posting in #NotYourShield, and doxxing, harassing and abusing people for daring to disagree with them. I just couldn’t pull myself away from it all.

So here I am, 4 weeks later still hooked on the events of #GamerGate, still supporting, still trying to find out why people have taken leave of their senses and are protecting an outed abuser, and enjoying the break #GamerGate has afforded my mind from recent events IRL.

#GamerGate has restored the faith I lost in the gaming community because of the clickbaity gaming press.