GamerGate: Ethics? What Ethics?

Content/Trigger warning for links: Miosgyny, violent threats, sexism, racism, antisemitism and slurs.

GamerGate has been covered as a hate movement by various places from Kotaku, to the New York Times, to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the BBC News. However, they often decry that these are a few people in their vast movement which is “actually about ethics in gaming journalism”. However…

You cannot claim to be about ethics in journalism when you break literally every journalistic code in the book. Ethics is defined by “moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior”. This is obviously a very broad and subjective term. However, GamerGate is specifically about journalistic ethics in gaming journalism. Interesting considering that gaming and reviews are something subjective, as with all arts.

So let’s look at ethical standards already in place for journalists. According to the Society of Professional Journalists there are four main points an ethical journalist should follow. These points are broken down into smaller points, almost all which are broken by GamerGate as well. However, this article will stick to the four main points.

“Seek Truth and Report it.”

GamerGate was founded on misogynistic rumors that have repeatedly been proven false. They adhere to them still. They still adhere to these rumors and ideas, despite them having been proven false repeatedly. They use the idea of ethics as a cover.

“Minimize Harm.”

GamerGate has chased various women from their homes, created turmoil in their work, & attempted to destroy their lives. Zoe Quinn, Felicia Day, and Brianna Wu, have all been doxxed, just to name a few prominent cases. They continue to threaten every place these women work for, write for, or present for. They threaten these places with violent and often misogynistic threats. They perpetuate racist stereotypes and caricatures of these women as well, especially Anita, whom is often drawn as Le Happy Merchant, a cartoon founded directly in antisemitism.

“Act Independently.”

GamerGate is a hivemind. They function together as a pack. They are spoon fed their opinions and what to think without critical thinking. They do not act independently and refuse to drop GamerGate in order to do so. This is exactly what the hashtag of GamerGate is meant to do as well, anonymity and pack mentality. Places like 8chan and /r/KotakuinAction, two massive pro-GG boards, prove this. I will not link these places for obvious reasons.

“Be Accountable and Transparent.”

This anonymity creates a world where they cannot be accountable for their own actions or the actions committed under their flag. Every time GamerGate does something, it becomes a circus of “NUH UH! NOT US! WE DON’T DO THAT!” This has been the response when Felicia Day, Zoe Quinn, and Brianna Wu were doxxed. When someone is doxxed, despite the fact they are first blamed for their own doxxing, GGers then refuse to believe one of their own did it. They do not hold anyone in their group accountable for their actions despite the fact that they often do it under the GamerGate movement and name. Not to mention, they fly their flag as “ethics” when doing just the opposite. There is no transparency because there cannot be transparency without accountability. Their own anonymity makes certain for this.

So how can a movement “actually about ethics in gaming journalism” be about ethics while being unethical?

Simply put. It. Can’t. If you break every ethical code you are fighting for, you are not actually for ethics. In order to ask for ethics, you need to embody those ethics you wish to see. GamerGate does not do this, in any sense of the word. This becomes even more clear when you look at their main demand, according to them, which is ethics in gaming journalism.

Ignoring the fact that gaming and thus, gaming reviews, are subjective and that objective game reviews are an oxymoron, let’s take a deeper look into this demand. As previously stated, one of the big hubs for GamerGate is the subreddit /r/KotakuinAction. This is a spin-off of /r/TumblrinAction. Both of these places exist to mock people they deem Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) or people who believe in the causes of social justice and thus point out racism, sexism, transphobia, ableism, and other forms of oppression in society and gaming. According to GamerGate, Kotaku has ‘fallen’ to these people and is thus a hub for their ideas and ideals. For GamerGate, anyone who have vehemently opposed GamerGate is a SJW which includes people like Felicia Day, Anthony Burch (head writer of Borderlands 2) and his sister Ashly Burch (of Hey Ash Whatcha Playin fame), Tim Scafer (Double Fine) and most recently the CEO of Blizzard, Mike Morhaime. There is also a list of game developers who have come out against GamerGate. Even entire organizations have come out against GamerGate such as the Entertainment Software Association.

Back on track, Kotaku is one of the sites that GamerGate believes embodies the reasons their movement exists. The site is unethical which means that they are not independent in their reviews or posts, they are not transparent, and various other things GamerGate has deemed unethical (such as discussing misogyny in video games and being anti-GamerGate). One of the biggest issues that GamerGate has pointed out is that the numbered system of reviews tends to be biased, and guess what, Kotaku agrees with that! In fact, Kotaku has an entire article about their reviews and why they do them the way they do. These reviews are transparent, without numbers, and point out both the positive and negative of a game with a simple yes/no/not yet to whether or not someone should play a game. These articles are long and in-depth reviews, with reviewers having often put many hours into a game, regardless of how much they liked or didn’t like it.


Source: Kotaku

Looking at how Kotaku does reviews, listing not only basics about the game, but often length, what modes, and so forth the reviewer played, there should be no concern over the ethics of Kotaku reviews. However, there is. Kotaku is the bane of GamerGate. Why? If this was about ethics in gaming journalism, specifically how game reviews can harm the gaming industry with how much emphasis is put on the numbers, why is GamerGate so against Kotaku? Because GamerGate is not about ethics. They have a list of places to boycott, not because of a lack of ethics, but for simply pointing out what GamerGate is, a misogynistic hate mob.

GamerGate, as the misogynistic hate movement it is, is also about silencing critique of the gaming culture and its downfalls. Anyone who discusses the rampant misogyny in the gaming world is immediately against GamerGate. They focus on those who dare critique the culture and its precious binding glue, video games, while also calling for reviews of games (which they believe to be an art) objective and unbiased. The real movement behind GamerGate, no matter how much they proclaim it’s about ethics is about one specific thing; preventing change in the gaming world and keeping gaming a boys only club in which women are not allowed to critique their precious masculine power fantasies.

There are no ethics here.


Author: Lucian Clark

Lucian Clark was born and raised in South New Jersey. Recently they published their first novel, a dark romance, titled Cemetery Drive. Their works have been featured across numerous platforms such as The Advocate and in anthologies like Werewolves Versus and Postcards From The Void. They've also been featured on several podcasts to talk about horror, activism, and their writing. With a passion for all things spooky, horrific, and queer, Lucian can often be found on social media talking about werewolves, rats, and My Chemical Romance. When not actively writing or reading, Lucian is also the curator of the queer horror website, GenderTerror, which features original art, stories, interview and more. They can also be found playing video games or with their pets (currently some rats and a cat). They are active in local and national social activism with a focus on LGBTQ+ rights and reproductive justice.

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