It’s been a terrible couple months online. Everything from nude picture hacks and doxing to conspiracy theories and bomb threats. The internet is plainly a scary place right now. The sort of thing you’d expect from the start of a classic dystopian novel. The next stage is usually the breakdown of society, if the pattern holds true. But yeah, it’s just been shit. And GamerGate, whether they care to be associated with it or not, have coaxed these incidents. Over what? The idea (not the fact) that the whole gaming journalism industry is corrupt, that they don’t meet journalistic standards and only critique social injustices they see.
In terms of conspiracy madness, I’ve actually been in a similar situation to this, on a much smaller scale. I was a staff member on a gaming site during a time when the staff were in fear of being hacked. It had happened before, though this time it wasn’t clear if the threat was real or not, we couldn’t take the chance that sensitive information about ourselves or other members would be hacked and revealed on the site. Again, this wasn’t a new thing. For months we tried to work together without exposing anything, which meant delaying projects and events the site regularly held, co-ordinating off-site, not posting any sensitive discussion and changing passwords to be longer than 20-characters. During this, we were being told by some members of the community that we weren’t good at our jobs, much like what journos have been experiencing for years. We couldn’t tell them about what was going on in case we forced the hacker(s) to do something harmful. This was all irritating but we coped just by getting on with things. When we were given evidence of the hacker’s identity and others who were involved by an ex-staff member, we had to sit on it. We were waiting to change the site host, one with better security that would be above the hacker’s level. It came about and members were pissed. They liked the hackers even though they had broken the site’s rules, they were just pissed they were banned. We had an equivalent of GamerGate, with certain members they had their own name, catchphrase, banners and everything, very similar and very cultist. Many of them believed we were corrupt for our actions. They demanded the members be brought back. We wouldn’t, they’d broken the rules, severe rules at that. They claimed we were corrupt, we didn’t have the right evidence, it was all wrong, like GGaters have complained. Though we never received anywhere near the amount of harassment that Quinn or Sarkeesian did, we all felt fairly betrayed by our community from their comments. Other staff quit or didn’t return to the site from the constant feeling of being hated, much like I’ve seen a number have journalists have been doing. It was terrible.
So when I see this situation going on, it just brings it all back. I saw no reason for it then and especially not now, on this scale. Whether GamerGate has good intentions or not, the methods have been horrendous and poor. The sensationalised tabloid research, with any sort of connection being used to support their argument, defamation of character, propaganda avatars like Vivian James and Bane, it all reeks of unprofessional, uninformed and illogical conclusions, based on anger and fear and not reason. When the #gameethics emerged from journalists and developers wanting an untarnished and neutral ground to address the issues, it was initially received well, there were actual discussions from people all over the industry. But then it diminished because no one wanted to talk, to actually discuss the problems. GamerGate saw it as oppression when it was open discussion, and as a battle of hashtags, as a competition, as a game. They were congratulating themselves recently for reaching a million #GamerGate tweets. That was proof to me it’s nothing to do with ethics or journalism, because a million tweets and the results are more negative than positive. It’s as if the matter is somehow so casual, when in reality it’s caused so much sadness for no reason than the entitled feeling as if they weren’t getting what they deserved.
GamerGate won’t change everything, at least in the way they want, because it’s not grounded in credibility or consistency. It’s not about journalistic integrity it’s about winning some battle they’ve created. The good intentioned are drowned out by the harassers. This isn’t the right way.