If you consider yourself a gamer, chances are you know what GamerGate is. If not, welcome to the biggest video game world controversy.
The controversy that rocked the gaming world started in August. Zoe Quinn, a game developer, was accused of trading sexual favours to get positive reviews from a game journalist. These allegations were brought forth by her ex-boyfriend.
GamerGate started off shining a light on ethical issues around gaming journalism. But some say it’s more than that. Quinn is a known feminist and, to some, her being a woman is what is behind the backlash.
Leader-Post reporter Mark Melnychuk, who also blogs about video games, said it’s not about the ethics anymore.
“It’s almost gotten to be a joke about how people who follow the movement keep insisting it’s about ethics in video game journalism and I think it’s hard to argue that,” he said.
Quinn has received numerous threats including death, along with supporters like Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist blogger who was forced to cancel a talk at Utah State University over threats of a shooting. “If you kind of trace the history of how this exploded and how it started, a lot of it has to do with prominent women in the gaming industry,” said Melnychuk.
“I’ve both received and seen my friends and colleagues receive harassment fuelled by the GamerGate movement over the past few months,” said Eden Rohatensky, full stack developer at Vox Media. “This includes death threats, threats to loved ones, rape threats, and personal attacks.”
“It’s frustrating to see that women who critique something that I believe is art, need to fear for their lives,” Rohatensky said, who has done her fair share of blogging about the gaming world.
“Women are coming in, they’re asking for games that aren’t what (male gamers) want to play and then women who are game developers are making (games) for them,” Melnychuk said. “Then people who are in game journalism are writing about them, talking about how great they are.”
The video gaming world has drastically changed over the years as it is no longer just young men who play. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 48 per cent of gamers are women. A 2014 ESA report started “women age 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game playing population (30 per cent) than boys age 18 or younger (17 per cent).”
“I think a lot of it does have to do with Zoe Quinn and the fact that Zoe Quinn was a woman,” Melnychuk said. “There still is a really, really a lot of sexism in the gaming culture.”
“It’s not just about Zoe Quinn...or Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend that slammed her in the post. I think it’s really more about that these conversations taking place,” said Roz Kelsey, University of Regina instructor for kinesiology and health studies who was behind the “Man Up Against Violence” campaign last month.
Misogyny that happens in the gaming world is now being brought to light, according to Kelsey. More conversations are beginning to happen over the way women are represented and treated in the gaming world as the number of women gamers continue to rise.
“The main theory is (gamers) feel video game journalists...are in bed with feminists in the industry trying to change things, so I think they think game journalists are too close to these advocates for change in the industry,” Melnychuk said.
“GamerGate is not about ethics in journalism,” Rohatensky said. “It’s about quieting those who want to see different races, genders and sexual identities represented in games. It’s fuelled with hate.”
“I think a lot of guys are used to it being like a boys’ club,” Melnychuk said. “I think (GamerGate is) something that will probably go away eventually as soon as people get used to the fact that women are out there who want to play video games.”