Gamergate controversy

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The Gamergate controversy concerns a harassment campaign conducted through the use of the Twitter hashtag #GamerGate.[269] Gamergate is used as a blanket term for the controversy and actions of those participating in it, and the loosely organised movement that emerged from the hashtag.



In February 2013, Zoë Quinn, an independent game developer, released Depression Quest. Backlash developed amongst some who believed that it had received undue attention by gaming media.[3][4][5][6] In August 2014, Eron Gjoni, Quinn's former boyfriend, published the "Zoe Post", a 9,425-word blog post that quoted from personal chat logs, emails, and text messages to describe their relationship. The post complained, amongst additional things, that Quinn entered a romantic relationship with Nathan Grayson, a journalist for the Kotaku.[9][10][11] The post was linked on 4chan, where a few claimed the relationship had induced Grayson to publish a favourable review of Depression Quest.[14][15][16][17] 


The campaign was initially referred to as the "quinnspiracy" but adopted the Twitter hashtag "Gamergate" after it was coined by actor Adam Baldwin near the end of August.[22][23][24][25] Baldwin has described Gamergate as a backlash against political correctness, saying it has started a discussion "about culture, about ethics, and about freedom".[26][27] The accusations  were coordinated by 4chan users over Internet Relay Chat (IRC), spreading rapidly over websites like 4chan and Reddit.[10][32] 


Gamergate supporters subjected others to similar attacks. Those against Gamergate were labeled "white knights", or SJW's.[22] Game developer Phil Fish had his personal information, including various accounts and passwords, hacked and publicly posted in retaliation for defending Quinn and attacking her detractors.[36][37] Anita Sarkeesian, who had previously been a target of online harassment in part due to her YouTube video series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, was harassed by a few who took her critical commentary as unfair and unwarranted.[40][41][42] "The perpetrators", Sarkeesian said "do not see themselves as perpetrators at all.... They see themselves as noble warriors".[45]


Sarkeesian cancelled an October 2014 speaking appearance at Utah State University (USU) after the school received three anonymous threats, the second of which claimed affiliation with Gamergate.[46] The threats drew the attention of mainstream media to the Gamergate situation.[52] Wingfield of The New York Times referred to the threat as "the most noxious example of a weeks long campaign to discredit or intimidate outspoken critics of the male-dominated gaming industry and its culture".[8] The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated the threat to attack Sarkeesian.[53]


In mid-October Brianna Wu, another independent game developer and co-founder of video game studio Giant Spacekat, saw her home address and additional identifying information posted on 8chan as retaliation for mocking Gamergate. Wu then became the target of rape and death threats on Twitter and elsewhere. [8][54][55][56][57][58] As of April 2016, Wu was still receiving threats in such volume that she employed full-time staff to document them.[60]


Harassment related to Gamergate continued for several months after the onset of the controversy. Two critics of Gamergate were targets of attempted "swatting"—hoaxed reports to emergency services intended to provoke a SWAT team response at the target's home. The Guardian reported that both swatting attempts were coordinated through the "baphomet" subforum of 8chan.[61][62] Since the initial rush of threats that caused her to flee her home, Wu documented receiving roughly 45 death threats by April 2015; Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen has offered up to a $10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those who have issued these threats.[63] Wu's studio, Giant Spacekat, withdrew from the Expo Hall of PAX East 2015. Wu cited security concerns, lack of confidence in the management and their failure to return calls.[64][65][66]


Actress and gamer Felicia Day wrote a blog post about her concerns over Gamergate and her fear of retaliation if she spoke against it. Her home address and phone number were posted online, leading to harassing letters and phone calls.[67] Actor Wil Wheaton and former NFL player Chris Kluwe additionally posted criticisms of Gamergate. Inasmuch as the latter is widely noted for his use of creative insults, [18][68][69][70][71] Stephen Colbert questioned why men like Kluwe hadn't been threatened by Gamergate, noting that "it's almost entirely women being threatened in Gamergate".[72][73]


Various people, a few of whom requested to remain anonymous, have additionally been harassed for supporting Gamergate.[74] One Gamergate supporter said he was instructed to leave his home after he reported threats to police.[75] An Additional supporter said that she had experienced repeated harassment, including hacking attempts and threats to break her windows.[25][75] YouTube personality Steven "boogie2988" Williams, remarked that a comment on one of his videos included his address and a threat to his wife's life.[74][76] In an interview with BBC Three, Gamergate supporter John Bain, known by his YouTube moniker "TotalBiscuit," said he has been the target of death threats and harassment from trolls who opposed his view on Gamergate. [77] Mike Diver wrote in Vice that threats against Gamergate supporters had been neglected in press coverage.[74] The BBC reported that "misogynist abuse—and vitriolic messages in general—is not limited to either 'side' of the argument".


Bomb threats have additionally been made towards events attended by Gamergate supporters. A May 2015 meeting in Washington D.C. arranged by writer Christina Hoff Sommers and journalist Milo Yiannopoulos was the target of a bomb threat made over Twitter, according to local police responding to information supplied by the FBI.[78] Throughout "Airplay", an event run by the Society of Professional Journalists in August 2015, multiple bomb threats were made. This led to the evacuation of the building and the surrounding neighborhood.[79]


Ars Technica reported that a series of 4chan discussion logs suggests that Twitter sockpuppet accounts were used to popularise the Gamergate hashtag.[32] Heron, Belford, and Goker, analysing the logs, found that early Gamergate IRC discussions focused on coordinating the harassment of Quinn by using astroturf campaigns to push attacks against her into mainstream view. They additionally describe how initial organisers deliberately attempted to cultivate a palpable narrative for public consumption while internally focusing on personal grudges against Quinn and aggressive sexual imagery.[22] Mortensen, writing in Games and Culture, writes that Gamergate's structure as an anonymous swarm allowed it to create an environment where anyone who criticised it or became its target was at risk, while allowing them to avoid individual responsibility for harassment.[80]


There has been considerable discussion of self-policing and the responsibility supporters of Gamergate share when the hashtag is used for harassment. A number of websites have blocked users, removed posts, and created policies to prevent their users from threatening Quinn and others with doxing, assault, rape and murder, and planning and coordinating such threats.[3][6] 4chan's founder, Christopher Poole, banned all discussion of Gamergate on the site as more attacks occurred, leading to Gamergate supporters using 8chan as their central hub.[31][81]


Gamergate supporters have responded to accusations of harassment in a variety of ways. Many have denied that the harassment came from Gamergate, or falsely accused victims of fabricating the evidence.[22][44] Gamergate supporters have used the term "Literally Who" to refer to victims of harassment like Quinn, saying they aren't relevant to Gamergate's goals and purposes. Commentators have decried the use of such terminology as dehumanizing, and noted that discussions on Gamergate forums most often centre around those referred to as "Literally Who".[11][82] Some Gamergate supporters have denounced the harassment, arguing that the perpetrators are in the minority and don't represent them.[74][75] Gamergate supporters have additionally reported threatening or hateful comments.[83]


By September 24, 2014, over one million Twitter messages incorporating the Gamergate hashtag had been sent.[84] A Newsweek and Brandwatch analysis found more than two million Twitter messages between September and October 2014.[85] Software developer Andy Baio additionally produced an analysis of #Gamergate tweets showing a discussion that was polarised between pro- and anti-Gamergate factions. One quarter of the tweets sampled were produced by users new to Twitter, most of whom were pro-Gamergate.[86] While the number of Gamergate supporters is unclear, in October 2014 Deadspin estimated 10,000 supporters based on the number of users discussing Gamergate on Reddit.[87]


In an interview with NPR's Marketplace, voice actress Jennifer Hale called on the gaming community to improve the self-policing of its small and vicious fringe, and said race and gender barriers persist in the industry.[88] Developer Peter Molyneux considered that the Internet's instant accessibility of social media allows for people to express of-the-moment opinions without thinking about their consequences, leading to a "whole Pandora's Box" of both good and bad issues that society must consider in terms of freedom of speech.[89] Todd VanDerWerff wrote that the Gamergate supporters' message was lost in the vitriolic harassment, frequently directed at women.[90]

Social and cultural implications

Vox said that Gamergate supporters were less interested in criticising ethical issues than in opposition to social criticism and analysis of video games and in harassment of notable women.[93] Ars Technica quoted early members as saying that they had no interest in video games and were primarily interested in attacking Quinn.[32] In First Things, Nathaniel Givens described Gamergate as a reaction to the aggressive promotion of a progressive environment in video game culture,[92] while Carter Dotson blamed progressives themselves for the backlash, which he believed to be a reaction to their negative mode of engagement.[94]


Jon Stone, in The Guardian, called it a "swelling of vicious right-wing sentiment" and compared it to the men's rights movement.[96] Commentators like Jon Stone, Liana Kerzner and Ryan Cooper have said that the controversy is being exploited by right-wing voices and by conservative pundits who had little interest in gaming.[96][100][101] 


Quinn said the campaign had "roped well-meaning people who cared about ethics and transparency into a pre-existing hate mob",[102] and urged industry publishers and developers to condemn the hashtag. She further asked those Gamergate supporters who had any earnest discussion about ethics to move away from the "Gamergate" tag. In Der Bund, Jan Rothenberger wrote that a majority of gamers were distancing themselves from the hate campaigns, and that a few supporters were seeking a new banner because "Gamergate" is now indelibly associated with such campaigns.[103]


Nathaniel Givens said that, regardless of their actions, Gamergate supporters were painted in a negative light due to associating themselves with Gamergate, which was now a toxic term.[92] Alex Goldman from On the Media wrote that Gamergate's involvement in harassment had caused it to lose mainstream credibility, and advised its supporters to adopt a self-identifier additional than gamer as a way of distancing themselves from their worst representatives.[9]

Gamer identity

The Gamergate situation is most often considered to be a reaction to the changing cultural identity of the "gamer". The notion of a gamer identity emerged in video game magazines catering to the interests of an audience that was predominantly young and male. These publications were seen by industry leaders as a means of promoting their products, and the close relationship between gaming journalists and major gaming companies drew criticism.[104][105] Over the years, the growing popularity of games expanded their audience to include a large number of who didn't fit the traditional gamer demographic. Games with artistic and cultural themes grew in popularity, and independent video game development made these games more common, while mobile and casual games expanded the scope of the industry beyond the traditional gamer identity.[90][106][107][108][109]


A 2014 annual survey by the Entertainment Software Association showed that nearly as a large number of women played video games (48%) as men,[110] and this broader audience began to question a few assumptions and tropes that had been common in games. Shira Chess and Adrienne Shaw wrote that concern over these changes is integral to Gamergate, especially a fear that sexualized games aimed primarily at young men might eventually be replaced by less sexualized games marketed broader audiences.[23]

Critics became interested in issues of gender representation and identity in video games.[90][107] One prominent feminist critic of the representation of women in gaming is Anita Sarkeesian, whose Tropes vs. Women in Video Games project is devoted to female stereotypes in games. Her fund-raising campaign and videos were met with hostility and harassment by a few gamers.


Further incidents raised concerns about sexism in video gaming.[90][107][111] Before August 2014, escalating harassment prompted the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) to provide support groups for harassed developers and to start discussions with the FBI to help investigate online harassment of game developers.[111] In an interview on Comedy Central's programme The Colbert Report, Sarkeesian said she believes women are targeted because they're "challenging the status quo of gaming as a male-dominated space".[112]


In late August 2014, shortly after the initial accusations against Grayson and harassment of Quinn, several gaming sites published op-eds on the controversy focused on the growing diversity of gaming and the mainstreaming of the medium, a few of which included criticism of sexism within gamer culture.[113][114] The timing and number of articles published on or around August 28 was seen by Gamergate supporters as evidence of a conspiracy to declare the death of the gamer identity, according to Chess and Shaw.[23] Slate's David Auerbach and The Sentinel's David Elks criticised these articles for alienating their publications' audience by attacking the gamer identity.[115][117] Writing for Paste, L. Rhodes said the antagonism in the Gamergate controversy was a result of the industry seeking to widen its customer demographic instead of focusing on core gamers, which Rhodes says "is precisely what videogames needed".[118] Brendan Keogh of Overland stated that Gamergate "does not represent a marginalised, discriminated identity under attack so much as a hegemonic and normative mainstream being forced to redistribute a few of its power".[120]


Law enforcement

Though Newsweek reported that the FBI had a file regarding Gamergate, no arrests have been made nor charges filed.[133] Former FBI supervisory special agent for cybercrimes, Tim Ryan, stated that cyberharassment cases are a low priority for authorities because it is difficult to track down the perpetrator and they have lower penalties compared to additional crimes they're tasked to enforce.[134] In June 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled in Elonis v. United States that harassing messages sent online aren't necessarily true threats that would be prosecutable under criminal law and, according to Pacific Standard, this poses a further challenge in policing Gamergate-related harassment.[135] Notwithstanding the Court's decision additionally suggested that if threats made over social media were found to be true threats, they should be treated the same as threats made in additional forms of communication.[136]


Wu has expressed her frustration over how law enforcement agencies have responded to the threats that she and additional women in the game industry have received.[137][138] The lack of legal enforcement contributes towards the harassers' ability to maintain these activities without any risk of punishment, according to Chrisella Herzog of The Diplomatic Courier; at worst, harassers would see their social media accounts suspended but are able to turn around to register new accounts to continue to engage.[82]


U.S. Representative Katherine Clark from Massachusetts wrote a letter to the House Appropriations Committee asking it to call on the Justice Department to crack down on the harassment of women on the internet, saying the campaign of intimidation associated with Gamergate had highlighted the problem.[139][140] Clark additionally hosted a Congressional briefing on March 15, 2015, along with the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus to review issues of cyberstalking and online threats; throughout the briefing, Quinn spoke to her experience with Gamergate, which an executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence described throughout the hearing as "an online hate group [...] which was started by an ex-boyfriend to ruin [Quinn's] life".[141] On May 27, 2015, the United States House of Representatives formally supported Clark's request for increased measures to combat online abuse against women, explicitly pressing for more investigations and prosecutions by the Department of Justice.[142][143]


On June 2, 2015, Rep. Clark introduced H.R. 2602, the "Prioritizing Online Threat Enforcement Act of 2015" to Congress. The bill would allocate more funding for the FBI to employ additional agents to enforce laws against cyberstalking, online criminal harassment, and threats.[144][145][146]


Debate over ethics allegations

Some Gamergate supporters contend that their actions are driven by concern for ethics in videogame journalism, arguing that the close relationships between journalists and developers provide evidence of an unethical conspiracy amongst reviewers to focus on progressive social issues,[5][11] leading to conflicts of interest.[147][148] As evidence of this, they point to what they consider as disproportionate praise that video game journalism has given broadly towards recent games like Depression Quest and Gone Home, which offer little conventional gameplay, require minimal skill to complete, and relate storeys with social implications, while traditional AAA titles are downplayed.[120][127][149] Some commentators have argued that harassment and misogyny within Gamergate has prevented those with valid ethics concerns from being heard.[22] Many of Gamergate's claims have been rejected as ill-founded and unsupported. The Week, Vox, and Wired, amongst others, stated that discussions of gender equality, sexism and additional social issues in game reviews present no ethical issue.[93][150][151][80]


In mid-September 2014, Milo Yiannopoulos published leaked discussions from a mailing list for gaming journalists called GameJournoPros on the Breitbart website, which included discussion of events related to Gamergate. Yiannopoulos and Gamergate supporters saw the mailing list as evidence of collusion amongst journalists, drawing comparisons between it and JournoList.[75][152] In an interview with Vice one Gamergate supporter said, "GameJournoPros exemplifies every single major ethical problem with modern games journalism".[74] The list's founder acknowledged suggesting that journalists write an open letter of support to Quinn in response to the harassment she was facing, but said additional members of the list had rejected his suggestion and helped him understand why his idea was inappropriate.[153][154] Commentators didn't consider the list to represent collusion, observing that it is a standard practise across professions to adopt informal venues for discussing matters of professional interest.[155] Following the leak, the mailing list was closed.[154]


Researchers at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University described Gamergate as a "vitriolic campaign against Quinn that morph[ed] into a broader crusade against alleged corruption in games journalism" which involved considerable abuse and harassment of female developers and game critics.[156] Other commentators argued that Gamergate had the potential to raise significant issues in gaming journalism, but that the wave of misogynistic harassment and abuse associated with the hashtag had poisoned the well, making it impossible to separate honest criticism from sexist trolling.[9][22][90] The authors of "Sexism in the Circuitry" argued that a few Gamergate supporters were "genuinely motivated by a desire to uncover these issues and improve the quality of journalism, like it is, within the game industry", but noted that viable discussion was obscured by the harassment and misogyny.[22] Concerns have additionally been raised when juxtaposing the behaviour of Gamergate supporters with their supposed message: Dr. Kathleen Bartzen Culver, a professor and media ethics expert at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, wrote that while Gamergate supporters claimed to be interested in journalism ethics, their "misogynistic and threatening" behaviour belied this claim. "Much of the conversation—if I can even call it that—has been a toxic sludge of rumor, invective, and gender bias. The irony comes from people who claim to be challenging the ethics of game journalists through patently unethical behavior."[157]


In an interview with Anita Sarkeesian in The Guardian, Jessica Valenti explained that "the movement's much-mocked mantra, 'It's about ethics in journalism'" was seen by others as "a natural extension of sexist harassment and the fear of female encroachment on a traditionally male space". Sarkeesian asked, "if this 'movement' was about journalism, why wasn't it journalists who had to deal with a barrage of rape and death threats?".[126] Writing in Vox, Todd VanDerWerff said that "[e]very single question of journalistic ethics Gamergate has brought up has either been debunked or dealt with".[93] Similarly, Leigh Alexander, then editor-at-large of Gamasutra, described the ethics concerns as deeply sincere but based on conspiracy theories, saying that there's nothing unethical about journalists being acquainted with those they cover and that meaningful reporting requires journalists to develop professional relationships with sources.[107]


Experts who have attempted to understand Gamergate's motivations have concluded that, rather than relating to ethics, they're part of a culture war to suppress views with which Gamergate supporters disagree. The Verge's Chris Plante wrote that under the guise of ethics concerns, Gamergate supporters repeatedly attacked him for criticising mainstream video games from the point of view of his social convictions.[158] Columbia Journalism Review writer Chris Ip said "many criticisms of press coverage by people who identify with Gamergate ... have been debunked" and concluded that "at core, the movement is a classic culture war".[87] Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post said that a few of the ostensible concerns about video game reviews are actually rooted in Gamergate supporters' belief that video games are appliances rather than art and that they should be reviewed based on feature checklists rather than traditional artistic criteria.[159] Chris Suellentrop of The New York Times criticised resistance to innovative uses of the gaming medium, and the belief that increased coverage and praise of artistic games like Gone Home would negatively affect blockbuster games like Grand Theft Auto V.[127] After analysing a sample of tweets related to Gamergate, Newsweek concluded that it was primarily about harassment rather than ethics, stating that the sample "suggests that ... contrary to its stated goal, Gamergate spends more time tweeting negatively at game developers than at game journalists".[85] Ars Technica, analysing logs from the 4chan users who initially pushed Gamergate into the spotlight, wrote that the goal behind the hashtag campaign was to "perpetuate misogynistic attacks by wrapping them in a debate about ethics in gaming journalism".[32]


Gamergate has been criticised for focusing on women, especially female developers, while ignoring a large number of large-scale journalistic ethics issues. Alex Goldman of NPR's On the Media criticised Gamergate for targeting female indie developers rather than AAA games publishers, and said claims of unethical behaviour by Quinn and Sarkeesian were unfounded.[9] In Wired, Laura Hudson found it telling that Gamergate supporters concentrated on impoverished independent creators and critics, and nearly exclusively women, rather than the large game companies whose work they enjoyed.[151] Vox writer Todd VanDerWerff highlighted an essay written by game developer David Hill, who said that corruption, nepotism, and excessive commercialism existed in the gaming industry, but that Gamergate wasn't addressing those issues.[108] Adi Robertson, of The Verge, noted the long-standing ethical issues gaming journalism has dealt with, but that most Gamergate supporters didn't seem interested in "addressing problems that don't directly relate to feminist criticism or the tiny indie games scene".[160]

Gamergate activities

Following the accusations against Quinn, proponents of Gamergate began to use the "KotakuInAction" subreddit and boards on 8chan to discuss and organize. Due to its anonymous membership, lack of organisation and leaderless nature, sources differ as to the goals or mission of Gamergate and, with no person or group able to speak for Gamergate, defining it has been difficult.[11] As the threats expanded, international media focused on Gamergate's violent, misogynistic element and its inability to present a coherent message. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Bob Stuart reported that: "Gamergate has after swelled into an unwieldy movement with no obvious leaders, mission statement, or aims beyond calling out "social justice warriors". [...] When members of the games industry are being driven from their houses and jobs, threatened, or abused, it makes Gamergate's claim that it is engaged in an ethical campaign appear laughable."[10] Reporting on Gamergate has additionally been made difficult by the intense harassment that a few researchers have gotten when using the Gamergate hashtag, with a few organisations advising people to not use the term online to avoid this.[161]


Jesse Singal, writing for New York magazine based on a post he made to Reddit, stated that he had spoken to several Gamergate supporters to try to understand their concerns, but found conflicting ideals and incoherent messages. Singal observed Gamergate supporters making a constant series of attacks on Quinn, Sarkeesian, and additional women, while frequently stating that Gamergate "is not about them".[11] The Columbia Journalism Review's Chris Ip said any legitimate message from Gamergate supporters regarding ethics in journalism was being lost in the noise created by harassment, sexism, and misogyny. With anyone able to tweet under the hashtag and no single person willing or able to represent the hashtag and take responsibility for its actions, Ip said it isn't possible for journalists to neatly separate abusers from those seeking reasonable debate.[87] Singal was critical of Gamergate's lack of organisation and leadership commenting on their "refus[al] to appoint a leader or write up a platform".[11]


University of Oxford research fellow Anders Sandberg observed that the Gamergate debate "has been a train wreck hard to look away from". He argues that the vituperative nature of the discourse is the result of its origins in imageboard subculture, which values anonymity and promotes the kind of mob behavior, where any publicly stated claim could justifiably result in a wave of hostility. Noting that those rules are "radically different" from additional subcultures, the result was that "when the Chan culture touches additional cultures of discourse there will be fundamental misunderstandings about the quite nature of what a discourse is supposed to be."[162]


Ryan Cooper of The Week highlighted an analysis by writer Jon Stone: "[Gamergate] readjusts and reinvents itself in response to attempts to disarm and disperse its noxiousness, subsuming disaffected voices in an act of continual regeneration, cycling through targets, pretexts, manifestoes, and moralisms".[101] Christopher Grant, editor-in-chief of Polygon, said that Gamergate has remained amorphous and leaderless so that the harassment can be conducted without any culpability.[163] Grant said that meant that "ultimately Gamergate will be defined—I think has been defined—by a few of its basest elements".[87]

Over time, the Gamergate movement's focus has broadened from video games into an aggressive campaign against both the news media and what they call "social justice warriors," like with Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker Media.[164]

Efforts to impact public perceptions

Early in the controversy, posters on 4chan focused on donating to a self-described radical feminist group called The Fine Young Capitalists (TFYC), who had been embroiled in a dispute with Quinn over a female-only game development contest they had organized. Advocating donations to help TFYC create the game, posters on 4chan's politics board argued that such donations would make them "look really good" and would make them "PR-untouchable".[95][165][166]


To respond to widespread criticism of Gamergate as misogynistic, Gamergate supporters adopted a second Twitter hashtag, #NotYourShield, intended to show that a few women and minorities in the gaming community were supportive of #Gamergate and critical of Quinn and Sarkeesian. In the 4chan post that Ars Technica said might have coined the hashtag, this was framed as a way to "demand the SJWs stop using you as a shield to deflect genuine criticism".[18][32][34][167]


Ars Technica and The Daily Dot reported that a series of logs from 4chan chat rooms and discussion boards indicated that the #NotYourShield hashtag was created on 4chan. Ars Technica noted that a large number of of the avatars for accounts used to tweet the tag seemed to be sockpuppets that had been copied from elsewhere on the internet, and compared the hashtag to #EndFathersDay, a hoax manufactured on 4chan using similar methods.[32][168] Quinn said that in light of Gamergate's exclusive targeting of women or those who stood up for women, "#notyourshield was, ironically, solely designed to be a shield for this campaign once people started calling it misogynistic".[169] Arthur Chu wrote that the hashtag was an attempt to gearing (finance) white guilt and to prevent allies from supporting the people being attacked by Gamergate.[170] Members of 4chan have said that most of the information was taken out of context or misrepresented.[169]


In March 2015 Tim Schafer mocked the #NotYourShield campaign throughout a speech at a gaming convention, referencing the belief that it was largely composed of sockpuppets, and was immediately faced with a barrage of harassment and abuse. A campaign dubbed '#SchaferSocks' followed soon after, raising money for individuals in need of socks. The outraged response to Schafer's remarks from within Gamergate was mocked by a large number of of its opponents, who tweeted support for Schafer.[171][172] In a later interview with Polygon Schafer clarified that he saw Gamergate as using #NotYourShield as a shield against criticism. He added while he recognised a few might be using the tag for legitimate reasons, he felt "it exposed a lot of the ridiculousness of [Gamergate] through the overstated reaction".[173]

Targeting advertisers

Gamergate supporters were critical of the wave of articles that followed the initial outbreak of the controversy, interpreting them as an attack on games and gamer culture. Gamergaters responded with a coordinated email campaign that demanded advertisers drop several involved publications; in a five-step 'war plan' against organisations that offended them, a Gamergate posting described how they would choose from a list of target organizations, pick a grievance from a list others had compiled, and send a form letter containing it to an advertiser.[174] Intel reacted to this by withdrawing an ad campaign from Gamasutra in October 2014. After a number of game developers criticised Intel for this, arguing that it could have a chilling effect on free speech and that it amounted to supporting harassment, Intel apologised for appearing to take sides in the controversy[175][176] and resumed advertising on Gamasutra in mid-November.[177]


In mid-October 2014, Sam Biddle, an editor for the Gawker blog Valleywag, made a series of derisive tweets that stated that "[u]ltimately #Gamergate is reaffirming what we've known to be true for decades: nerds should be constantly shamed and degraded into submission" and "Bring Back Bullying".[178] In response, Mercedes-Benz temporarily pulled advertising from Gawker and Adobe Systems requested that Gawker remove its logo from Gawker's advertising page while stating that it "stands against bullying".[174][179][180] Adobe later clarified that it had never been a Gawker advertiser and explicitly disowned Gamergate.[181] Gawker reported losing thousands of dollars as a result.[180][182] Biddle later stated that the tweets were jokes, and apologised for them.[174][178][183] Commenting on the actions of Intel and Adobe and the public response, trade publication Advertising Age warned advertisers that responding to Gamergate was a "lose-lose situation", and that brands "not responding are in better shape than those who have".[184]


In an attempt to further damage Gawker's income, in late October a few Gamergate supporters initiated "Operation Baby Seal". This campaign aimed at removing Google's AdSense and Amazon's Associates advertising platforms from Gawker by mass-reporting obvious violations of the ad agencies' terms of service in Gawker's published content. Vox's VanDerWerff identified that while efforts to convince advertisers to pull ads isn't new in the history of journalism, this new tactic of targeting the ad providers is on a grander scale and has the potential, if successful, to financially harm Gawker. He said that with the campaign Gamergate seemed less interested in exposing ethical lapses, and more concerned with shuttering sites it doesn't agree with.[185] The name is based on a Wondermark webcomic parodying Gamergate supporters, causing them to at times be nicknamed 'sealions'.[186][187][188][189]

Gaming industry response

Gamergate led prominent industry professionals to condemn the attacks for damaging the video gaming community and the public perception of the industry.[148][190] Vanity Fair's Laura Parker stated that Gamergate led those outside of the video game industry to be "flooded with evidence of the video-game community as a poisonous and unwelcoming place", furthering any negative views they might have had of video games.[191] Independent game developer Andreas Zecher wrote an open letter calling upon the community to take a stand against the attacks, attracting the signatures of more than two thousand professionals within the gaming industry.[91][106] Many in the industry saw the signatures "as proof that the people sending vicious attacks at Quinn and Sarkeesian weren't representative of the video game industry overall".[192] Writing for The Guardian, Jenn Frank described the tactics used in the harassment campaign and the climate of fear it generated through its attacks on women and their allies, concluding that this alienating and abusive environment would harm not only women but additionally the industry as a whole.[193] Games designer Damion Schubert said that Gamergate was "an unprecedented catastrof**k [sic]", and that silencing critiques of games harms games developers by depriving them of feedback.[194] Several video game developers, journalists, and gamers from across various gender, racial, and social backgrounds adopted new Twitter hashtags, like #INeedDiverseGames, #StopGamergate2014 and #GamersAgainstGamergate, to show solidarity with the people targeted by the harassment and their opposition to the reactionary messages from Gamergate supporters.[195][196]


The Electronic Frontier Foundation characterised Gamergate as a "magnet for harassment", and notes the possible financial risk for companies dealing with it on social media platforms.[197] The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) issued a statement stating: "[t]here is no place in the video game community—or our society—for personal attacks and threats".[198] At BlizzCon 2014, Blizzard Entertainment president and co-founder Mike Morhaime called on attendees to treat each additional with kindness and demonstrate to the world that the community rejects harassment. His statements were widely interpreted as referring to Gamergate.[200][202][203][204] CEOs of both the American and European branches of Sony Computer Entertainment, Shawn Layden and Jim Ryan respectively, said the harassment and bullying were absolutely horrific and that such inappropriate behaviour wouldn't be tolerated at Sony.[205][206][207] The Swedish Games Industry issued a statement denouncing the harassment and sexism from Gamergate supporters.[208]


Responses to Gamergate have encouraged the video game industry to review its treatment of women and minorities, and to make changes to support them.[212][213][214][215] Intel pledged more than $300 million to help support a "Diversity in Technology" programme with partners including Sarkeesian's Feminist Frequency organisation and the IGDA, aimed at increasing the number of women and minorities in the industry. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich stated in announcing the programme that "it's not good enough to say we value diversity, and then have our industry not fully represent".[216][217][218] Electronic Arts (EA) COO Peter Moore told Fortune "[i]f there's been any benefit to Gamergate, [...] I think it just makes us think twice at times".[220] Speaking to the Seattle Times, IGDA executive director Kate Edwards said, "Gaming culture has been pretty misogynistic for a long time now. There's ample evidence of that over and over again... What we're finally seeing is that it became so egregious that now companies are starting to wake up and say, "We need to stop this. This has got to change."[221]


In response to a perceived conflict of interest between game developers and journalists, Kotaku and Polygon adopted policies of prohibiting or disclosing Patreon contributions to game developers respectively.[15][25][222][223][224]

The Electronic Entertainment Expo 2015, which is used by the major video game publishers to reveal new titles in development, included markedly more female protagonists in these new games, as well as more visible presence by women at the event overall. Some commentators characterised this as a response to Gamergate and a rejection of the misogynistic harassment Gamergate had perpetrated.[225][226][227][228]

The game Batman: Arkham Knight references Gamergate with hashtag, #CrusaderGate, which the Riddler used to unsuccessfully try to rally the Internet against Batman; bemoaning its failure, the Riddler describes those who use the hashtag as "idiotic and easily roused rabble".[229]

Responses outside the gaming industry

"Intimidation Game", an episode of the American crime drama television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, first broadcast on February 11, 2015, portrays a fictionalised version of the Gamergate controversy, including a character a few observers said resembled Sarkeesian and whose storey seemed based on those of women involved in the controversy.[230][231][232][233]

Anita Sarkeesian was named as one of Time magazine's list of the 30 most influential people on the Internet in March 2015, and later in the magazine's Top 100 Most Influential People of 2015, citing her role in highlighting sexism in the video game community in the wake of the Gamergate controversy.[234][235] She was additionally highlighted as one of Cosmopolitan's fifty "Internet's Most Fascinating" in a 2015 list due to her efforts to curb online harassment.[42]


In the run up to the 2015 Hugo Awards for science fiction writing, organised groups voting in bloc (the "Sad Puppies" and a Gamergate-affiliated splinter group led by Vox Day, calling themselves "Rabid Puppies") completely filled the nominations for five categories with white male authors who wrote action-oriented storeys without social commentary. The Los Angeles Times, Wired, The Atlantic, and additional reports described the campaign as a backlash against the increasing racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in science fiction, while members of the bloc gave a variety of reasons for their actions, saying that they sought to counteract what they saw as a focus on giving awards based on the race, ethnicity, or gender of the author or characters rather than quality and bemoaning the increasing prominence of 'message' fiction with fewer traditional "zap gun" sci-fi trappings.[236][237][238][239] Ultimately, vote tallies suggest around nineteen percent of voters followed these groups' suggestions,[240][241] though except Guardians of the Galaxy, none of the works nominated by these groups won an award. Conference members preferred "no award" to any nominee in the five categories filled by these groups.[242]


Twitter was criticised for its inability to respond and prevent harassment over the service. Within the United States, Twitter and additional social media sites aren't liable for content posted by third-parties of their service under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (1996), and this removes any legal pressure for these sites to police malicious content like harassment and threats.[136] Brianna Wu, shortly after fitting a target of harassment, stated that Twitter facilitated harassment by the ease with which anyone could make a new account even after having an earlier account blocked, and challenged the service to improve its responsiveness to complaints.[243] Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic said Gamergate is an "identity crisis" for Twitter, as, by not dealing with harassing users as Facebook has, the platform is failing to protect victims and losing readers.[244] Early in the Gamergate controversy, software developer Randi Harper started the "Good Game Auto Blocker" or "ggautoblocker", an expanding list of known Twitter accounts that were tied to the Gamergate hashtag which can be automatically blocked, therefore reducing the degree of harassment received.[245] In November 2014, Twitter announced a collaboration with the non-profit group "Women, Action & the Media" (WAM), in which users of Twitter can report harassment to a tool monitored by WAM members, who would forward affirmed issues to Twitter within 24 hours. The move, while in the wake of the Gamergate harassment, was due to general issues of the harassment of women on the Internet.[246][247] The report, released in May 2015, determined that of 512 reported harassment instances by the tool throughout the month of November 2014, twelve percent of those were tied to the Gamergate controversy based on the ggautoblocker list, with most harassment occurring from single-instance accounts targeting a single person.[248]



An on-line abuse panel (itself the subject of controversy) at the 2016 SXSW festival noted that there was no technological solution to the problem of harassment given human nature;[253] although policy changes have been made, the larger issue is more societal than platform-specific.[254] Also, the sheer volume of the material to be vetted was noted as being problematic by the corporations involved.[255]


Referring to this discussion in a speech for Women's History Month, Barack Obama said "We know that women gamers face harassment and stalking and threats of violence from additional players. When they speak out about their experiences, they're attacked on Twitter and additional social media outlets, even threatened in their homes."[256] Obama urged targets of harassment to speak out, praising the courage of those who had resisted online harassment. "And what's brought these issues to light is that there are a lot of women out there, especially young women, who're speaking out bravely about their experiences, even when they know they'll be attacked for it".[256][257]


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