Gamergate: Not Just an American Phenomenon

In August 2014, Zoe Quinn, a female game developer, was the topic of a series of blog posts by her ex-boyfriend claiming she cheated on him with journalists in the gaming industry. This curious public shaming spiraled out of control into a frenzy of rumors concerning Zoe’s personal life. All of a sudden, Zoe Quinn was a familiar name in the gaming world for outlandish reasons, and the issue escalated to the point where Zoe was receiving death threats from random internet users. Quickly afterwards, the hashtag “gamergate” was picked up and the controversy delved into two separate issues: ethics in games journalism, and sexism in the video game industry. This blog post will be focusing on the latter of those issues.
One of the most popular blog posts about Gamergate came from actress Felicia Day. Day, who’s quite popular in nerd and geek culture, wrote a blog post about how she now thinks male gamers she sees on the street might greet her with contempt rather than smiles, due to the Gamergate controversy. She struggles with the fact that people who share her same interests find fault with her just because of her public opinions on Gamergate. In her post, she urges anyone who is passionate about gaming to maintain their enthusiasm, despite the hardships that have surfaced in the gaming universe.

This led to a large variety of responses from bloggers in every corner of the internet. Kotaku, a large gaming news site, immediately points out that Day was doxxed, meaning her personal information was publicly posted, after she posted her blog. The writer of the Kotaku post even goes on to say that he fears for his safety just for supporting Day publicly.
Daily Dot, another internet culture news site, posted a story similar to the Kotaku story, pointing out the irony of Gamergate supporters, who are striving to achieve ethics in the games industry by doing unethical things. The Daily Dot post also points out that there are Gamergate supporters who do not support the doxxing of Day.

Arthur Chu wrote a post on Salon.com pointing out similarities between his life, nerd culture, and Felicia Day. He points out that, growing up as a nerd, he often felt he and his passion were attacked for just being who or what they are. He then drew a parallel to Day, saying this is how she must feel right now. It’s ironic, too, because it’s the nerds who are now making fun of people for being who they are. Even if who they are is a fellow gamer.

The gamergate controversy has blown up so much that the issue has gained international attention, and it has started a global conversation on sexism in the gaming industry. BBC News published an article on Gamergate, spreading Zoe Quinn’s message that Gamergate “must be condemned”. This news article acts as a survey of the blogging activity that erupted in response to Gamergate, giving readers a chance to objectively look at what has happened. The article provides examples from Twitter of the online abuse that female gamers have experienced from the events. A similar article from a German publication, Der Bund, also aims to address the ongoing problems in the gaming community.

German reactions to Gamergate ran further than what was originally explored in the Der Bund article, however. Much like in America, social media played a pivotal role in spreading gamer’s responses. Using the hashtag #sosehengameraus (roughly translated to: “this is what gamers look like) German gamers shared photos of themselves, some also including tags like #happygamer or #gamerpositive in order to put a face to their avatars and humanize themselves. The hashtag allowed both professional and amateur gamers to come together in a positive manner. Additionally, as Roman Rackwitz points out in his blog post, #soshengameraus highlighted a constructive side of the gaming industry: collaboration. In addition to bringing gamers together, the hashtag served to bring industry professionals “face-to-face” with those who actually play the games.

The hashtag itself was started by Dr. Linda Breitlauch, Germany’s first professor of game design. After she changed her Facebook photo in February 2015 to include the phrase “so sehen Gamer aus,” she encouraged others to share their photos and #soshengameraus was born. Taking a quick scroll through the tag on Twitter, it is hard to deny the positivity. It is also readily apparent that Breitlauch’s main goal of breaking the stereotype of what a gamer looks like has been achieved. Instead of an overflow of photos of bespectacled, pimply, 15-year-olds, #soshengameraus highlights the diversity of German gamers, particularly women. As compared to American reactions to Gamergate, which lobs a considerable amount of hate at women, #sosshengmeraus instead accepts and includes women.

The French perspective comes from Le Monde’s digital and tech blog, Pixels, who wrote a #gamergate post in September 2014. Much of the blog is largely curated responses from other blogs and gaming writers. Through its collected tweets and comics from corners of the Internet, however, the writer’s opinion is clear: most of the people tweeting #NotYourShield and getting up in arms about Gamergate are in the wrong. There are reactionary social media knights who come in complaining about female chauvinists and social justice warriors (SJWs), but few actually present logical arguments as to why. The blog takes the stance that if these men were to acknowledge the intense sexism in the gaming world while also calling out unproductive or harmful “feminists,” Gamergate would actually be worth people’s time. Instead, it simply sounds like men who have gotten their feelings hurt or don’t want to take responsibility for a culture they’ve helped create. The very last line is snarky and gets to the heart of the author’s emotions on the topic immeadiately: If people on the Internet used a quart of the energy they used on #GameGate to save net neutrality, I would be much more reassured with the world.”
As seen through various social media mediums, the international response to Gamergate has been incredibly varied. Each perspective has its own nuances, but each has brought up an important dialogue about who can be considered a gamer, the stereotypes within the gaming world, and the implications that come along with being an active member within the gaming community.

Post by: Sarah, Hanna, Sam, and George