Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Jenn Frank . . . so a young woman created a video game that got positive reviews and a few other women gave their opinions on video games . . . how did this spawn such cyberspace hate as GamerGate?
What is so threatening about these gaming women that warrants such violent responses, resulting in Quinn and Sarkeesian being doxxed, forced to leave their homes after online aggressors threatened them and their families, Sarkeesian cancelling a speech at Utah State University in response to a threat of mass shooting, and Frank deciding to end her 9-year career as a freelance game journalist, tired of all the online harassment she was receiving after her piece on Quinn and Sarkeesian in The Guardian came out this past September?
They are not isolated cases either; under the guise of seeking journalistic integrity in the gaming community, GamerGate has extended its tentacles to include other female game developers and the like in its attacks, so let’s examine more closely just what exactly has been going on:
What kind of sparked the whole thing may have been Miss Quinn’s ex-boyfriend, whose mudslinging diatribes against her occurred after the release of her text-based game Depression Quest on Steam. Featured in an article in The New Yorker, Depression Quest paints an intimate portrait of someone suffering under depression and the steps one can take towards a solution, if not a cure. The ex-boyfriend subsequently cyber-slandered Quinn by accusing her of sleeping to the top, including with a journalist from the respected gamesite Kotaku, an accusation later revealed to be untrue. Incidentally, in addition to Depression Quest, Miss Quinn has also been quite open about her views on sexism in games, which may have added fuel to the growing fire of male backlash against her. Tastes a bit like sour grapes…
After a wonderfully successful Kickstarter campaign, Miss Sarkeesian started posting on YouTube videos on the representation of women in video games, clearly and even-handedly stating her views on the still pervasive sexism in games and suggesting that this phenomenon should be re-assessed, given the growing numbers of female gamers each year. Intelligent, well-spoken, and clearly a gamer herself, Miss Sarkeesian conveys with these videos a need to revisit game mechanics to allow for different types of scenarios to be offered for women other than helpless victim or a prize to be won, citing current game titles that provide alternative storylines such as a collaborative effort between two protagonists to reach a common goal.
In short, Sarkeesian wants to see more girl power and heroines saving the day in video games. What’s so threatening about that?
An award-winning game journalist being forced to stop by constant death and dox threats, Jenn Frank finished her Guardian article in defense of Quinn and Sarkeesian with:
“Sustained abuse knows no gender, race, religion or creed. It hurts everybody.”
This is true, for if anything GamerGate has highlighted some serious issues in the gaming community that even the FBI is now looking into. However the upshot of all the craziness (and it is crazy) is that GamerGate has inadvertently spotlighted the brave young women who, like Quinn, Sarkeesian, and Frank, are carrying on, slander, dox, and threats notwithstanding, becoming examples for the very heroines they wish to see more of in the games they play.
And GamerGaters should reflect on why the views of a few game girls could unleash such an aggressive retaliatory response from them . . .