There are always at least 2 sides to a story, so let’s explore the events leading up to the cyber mudslinging fest that is GamerGate.
Looking at the two sides, it would seem on the outset that “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet…” since one side is about journalistic integrity, the other about supporting women in games. Both are legitimate issues that somehow have met and since produced quite a surprisingly ugly result. Why?
Let’s start with The Fine Young Capitalists (TFYC), who in August 2014 wished to promote women in games through an Indiegogo campaign, offering women an open call for game ideas. TFYC would pick out the 5 best ideas and have the general public vote on their favorite game. The winning concept would be developed into a game and while most of the proceeds would go to charity, the game designer would still take home a small percentage. Here is the arena where conflicts arose and the name Zoe Quinn first became a source of friction.
Disagreeing with the way TFYC’s campaign was set up, Miss Quinn apparently was quite vocal online re her opinions, causing others to question TFYC’s intentions. The fact that 4chan was a major sponsor of the campaign also sent out a red flag to some, since many of the subsequent attacks on Quinn and other women gamers came from the site; however 4chan being a general forum for all walks of life, it would be hasty to group everyone on 4chan as pro-GamerGate. If anything, the fact that 4chan supported TFYC’s initiative for promoting women game designers should counter this notion.
Things continued to escalate when Phil Fish, creator of the hit indie game Fez, got involved. As a seeming consequence to his public support of Miss Quinn in the wake of her ex-boyfriend Eron Gjoni’s cyber attacks, Fish got doxxed, his personal and financial details all exposed online, which led to his decision to put his company Polytron up for sale and leave the games industry all together. Though there is still argument whether the dox was real or not, Fish’s announcement certainly added to the drama of the whole thing.
Although the series of events all happening in and around August 2014 may have snowballed into the ugliness that ensued, it seems both sides achieved their own victories, given their initial goals. Whether or not the rants of Eron Gjoni were well-founded is beside the point since they did bring the issue of journalistic integrity into the spotlight, which has been notably compromised in the games industry. Upon discovering some game journalists contributing to Patreon campaigns, both Kotaku and Polygon have since put restrictions on this practice, deeming it a conflict of interest.
As for the women game developers out there, GamerGate has certainly brought attention to what changes need to happen in game design to accommodate a burgeoning demographic of female gamers.
In conclusion, sifting through all the dirt and mud flung around, GamerGate has ironically produced some positive results, a win-win in fact. Go figure…