Earlier this week, feminist gaming blogger Anita Sarkeesian had to cancel a speaking event in Utah after an anonymous email threatened a mass shooting. The week before, game designer Brianna Wu fled her home after a barrage of online attacks. And these events are just the latest ugliness in a complicated and long-standing battle called #GamerGate.
The feud purports to be about the corruption of gaming journalism. In August, a male gamer named Eron Gjoni wrote a 9,000-word blog post about his ex-girlfriend Zoe Quinn, alleging that she’d cheated on him with several guys, including a blogger at Kotaku, in order to get a favorable review of a game she’d made. That accusation is demonstrably false, but the post brought to a head a long-simmering culture war among gamers.
On one side, there is a small but vocal contingent of “traditional” gamers — mostly young, male fans of hardcore, first-person shooter games like “Call of Duty” (who’ve been joined by a smattering of internet trolls). On the other, a new generation of women in gaming, like Sarkeesian. In 2012, she started Feminst Frequency, a YouTube series about how badly women are portrayed in gaming, and she has been the subject of threats and harassment ever since. Her Kickstarter to raise money for the project brought an unbelievable torrent of abuse (chronicled here), including a widget to let a user pretend to beat her up.
Sadly, online harassment of women is nothing new, in gaming or other arenas. But, it’s not always recognized as the problem it is, which is why we were happy to see a giant outpouring of support in favor of women in gaming and against online bullying yesterday. The hashtag #StopGamerGate got 50,000 tweets in its first night, with contributions from high-profile feminists, celebrities, and regular people. Here are some of our favorite tweets.