It is not necessarily the normal course for a stereotype. You know the one, about gamers and tech-heads being zit-faced, overweight, lonely guys in their mothers’ basements, and all that.
That is to say, normally such people work to overcome those stereotypes. And often it is difficult. Even Bill Cosby will tell black people to whiten up.
And then there is GamerGate, a situation we referred to last month as (ahem!) “a pretty minor scandal”.
About that … er … um … yeah.
Now just work with me here, for a moment. Please.
This is a purely behavioral phenomenon. That is to say, we might recall those who would combat racism or sexism by undertaking racist and sexist rhetoric. You know, the old argument about how there are women, and then there are bitches; or there are black people, and then there are niggers. And it is tempting to tell people to not live down to bad stereotypes, but that’s the point. Bad behavior is bad behavior, and it really shouldn’t matter what color one’s skin is or what they have between their legs.
But this? Gaming is not quite the same as being black or female.
All of which is our own little preface; the real point here is that Brianna Wu has responded to threats against her life and the lives of her family:
They’ve taken down women I care about one by one. Now, the vicious mob of the Gamergate movement is coming after me. They’ve threatened to rape me. They’ve threatened to make me choke to death on my husband’s severed genitals. They’ve threatened to murder any children I might have.
This angry horde has been allowed to wage its misogynistic war without penalty for too long. It’s time for the video game industry to stop them.
Gamergate is ostensibly about journalistic ethics. Supporters say they want to address conflicts of interest between the people that make games and the people that support them. In reality, Gamergate is a group of gamers that are willing to destroy the women who have invaded their clubhouse.
The movement is not new. Two years ago, when Anita Sarkeesian tried to crowdfund a series of videos critiquing the hypersexualized female characters of video games, they threatened to kill and rape her. The movement reached fever pitch – and got its name — when a jilted former lover of indie game developer Zoe Quinn published transcripts of her life online. Gamers who were outraged over charges that Quinn’s game Depression Quest had received favorable reviews due to an alleged romantic relationship with a journalist, seized the opportunity to shame and terrify her into hiding. Now, Gamergate is a wildfire that threatens to consume the entire games industry.
Over at Kotaku, Stephen Totilo tried to round up the latest effort by the GamerGate movement to address journalistic ethics:
Game developer Brianna Wu fled her home last night, following what is becoming a distressingly frequent case of women in the gaming scene expressing fears for their safety due to online harassment.
Wu, a developer in Boston who recently released the well-received Revolution 60 mobile game, said on Twitter last night that she and her husband had called the police and left their home to stay elsewhere after receiving a spate of vile Tweets that included death threats and the couple’s home address.
And this is why GamerGate is such a sick joke unto itself.
The whole thing actually rises to the level of terrorism. Amanda Hess of Slate tries to explain that one for us:
For months, a slice of the gaming subculture has waged a campaign of online harassment against prominent women in the videogame industry, including game developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu and feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian. The reasoning behind the targeting of these women is too batshit to unspool here—if you’re interested in falling down the rabbit hole, Deadspin has a decent primer on “Gamergate”—but what’s clear is that some people just don’t like seeing women play, design, and discuss video games, and seek to punish them with “virtual” violence.
Quinn has previously detailed how her online critics have spread revenge porn, harassed her family, and released her personal information in an attempt to terrify and silence her. Last Saturday, Wu fled her home after an online stalker posted her address and threatened to rape and kill her in a series of gruesome tweets. And this week, administrators at Utah State University received an anonymous email threatening to carry out “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if they went through with a planned campus event featuring Sarkeesian; she canceled the talk over Utah’s gun laws, which prevent the school from banning concealed firearms at the event ....
.... But it’s rare for incidents of online harassment to spark a federal investigation at all. “It was never a matter of not caring,” Ryan told me of working on the cyber squad, but “the volume of work coming in every day was absolutely staggering. We had to do triage, almost as if we were in a war zone, deciding which patients to treat first.” Cases that posed a serious risk of physical harm or a significant loss of property were prioritized, as were threats to children. When agents are busy investigating operating child pornography rings, they don’t have the bandwidth to look into casual threats against adults. (And if the investigations are unlikely to be successful, they sink further down the list.) In addition, Ryan told me, agents might choose to investigate high-profile incidents—those involving celebrities or newsmakers—that they think might create “a deterrent effect” for similar crimes. Perhaps the Gamergate harassment has risen to that level: Some of the threats against Sarkeesian are being investigated by the FBI.
Again, yes, really. Some gamers are threatening mass murder for the offense of letting a woman speak.
It does little good to point to the lack of any decency or courage about these anonymous trolls aiming to feel better about their own damning stereotypes; cowardice is a cheap, overabundant commodity in any marketplace where justice meets sex and gender. And this is actually one of the rare occasions when the stereotype in effect exceeds its South Park caricature.
Yes, it really does come down to this.
Because, you know. Video games.
And girls! Icky, icky girls!
Anonymity helps when one seeks to hide the face of cowardice. Let us see if any of these gamers have the courage to stand in public and say it out loud.
And it should also be noted: Wu’s response in The Washington Post asks why men in the tech industry haven’t made more noise about the GamerGate atrocity. Unfortunately, the answer is simple: Marketplace dynamics: speaking out would be bad for business.
And, yes. Something about cowardice goes here, as well.
Wu, Brianna. “Rape and death threats are terrorizing female gamers. Why haven’t men in tech spoken out?”. The Washington Post.
—————. “This was just sent to me, a new meme called Oppressed Gamergater”. Twitter. 9 October 2014.
—————. “The police just came by”. Twitter. 10 October 2014.
Totilo, Stephen. “Another Woman In Gaming Flees Home Following Death Threats”. Kotaku. 11 October 2014.
Hess, Amanda. “A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls”. Slate. 17 October 2014.
“Make Love, Not Warcraft”. South Park. Comedy Central. 4 October 2006.