Snopes recently claimed that Gamergate was nothing more than a dedicated harassment movement, but factual evidence suggests their accusations are far from accurate.
On April 4th, Snopes published an article titled ‘Snopestionary: What Was ‘Gamergate’?, wherein staff writer David Emery proposed that GamerGate “was a coordinated social media harassment campaign that targeted women in and associated with the video game industry, primarily in 2014 and 2015.”
“The relentless, misogynistic verbal attacks — including death threats, rape threats, swatting attempts, and doxxing — that characterized the perpetrators were initially aimed at a particular woman who had been publicly accused of infidelity by a former boyfriend,” Emery claimed. “Over time, the same pattern of abuse was directed at other women (and even some men) who were perceived as defending her.”
He then asserted, “This escalating pattern of mob attacks and abuse went on, targeting multiple individuals, for more than a year,” before suggesting that “Gamergate is regarded as emblematic of the deeply rooted sexist and reactionary attitudes observed not only in the male-dominated gaming industry of that time,but across the internet at large.”
“Two of the platforms from which many of these attacks were launched, 4chan and 8chan (now 8kun), were and are hotbeds of political extremism,” Emery said. “Post-Gamergate, the Trump-worshiping QAnon movement, with its vast skein of interlinked conspiracy theories claiming, for example, that prominent Democrats are satanic child sex-traffickers who drink the blood of babies, was born on 4chan and flourished on 8chan.”
“Observers argue that Gamergate’s attitudes and tactics live on in the abusive activities of today’s online political extremists, who, for example, loose ‘Twitter-mobs’ to attack those with whom they disagree, often singling out female influencers for this abuse,” Emery continued. “Misogyny and anti-feminism are nothing new, but thanks (at least in part) to Gamergate these attitudes gained a purchase on social media that women who work and seek community online — particularly in news media — are still forced to reckon with.”
Yet, despite Snopes’ confidence in their historical recollection, in reality, there exist two very different narratives regarding the social media movement.
The first, as put forth by Snopes, paints Gamergate as nothing more than a collective harassment campaign against women orchestrated by straight white men who felt threatened that they were no longer the exclusive audience or workforce pool for video game developers.
The other and less-hysterical one recalls that the entire ordeal began as a ‘consumer rebellion’ against a growing clique of game industry professionals who were using their positions to promote and award each other’s work, more often than not without disclosing their relationships, that saw bad actors use its objectives as an excuse to abuse others.
As history shows, this more accurate of these two is – by a large margin – the latter.
As alluded to by Snopes, the march to Gamergate began in 2014 when Eron Gjoni claimed that his ex-girlfriend, video game developer Zoe Quinn, had cheated on him with a number of individuals, including several journalists who had offered high praise to her debut game, Depression Quest.
In light of player experiences being vastly different from various reviews of the game, internet users began to dig into what would come to be known as the ‘Quinnspiracy‘ (after the name of her solo development studio) for more evidence of nepotism, in the process having their suspicions magnified by Quinn’s rampant DMCA abuse against individuals discussing her person.
These same suspicions would eventually be confirmed when amateur investigations uncovered various allegations against Quinn, including that she lied about harassment to garner support for Depression Quest, faked her alleged doxxing and harassment by 4Chan, and had been awarded the Indiecade Selection Award by Robin Arnott, one of the men Gjoni accused her of sleeping with.
Further contrary to Snopes’ claims, the group of individuals who would later go on to start Gamergate proper initially came together through their organization of support The Fine Young Capitalists, a crowdfunding campaign whose proceeds were intended for female game developers and various charities.
In fact, this group’s support of the campaign led The Fine Young Capitalists to eventually suffer doxxing, DOS attacks on their websites, and sabotage of their games jam from a number of individuals who would later position themselves as ‘anti-Gamergate’.
Organizers would go on to claim that Quinn had orchestrated these attacks herself in order to promote her own ‘game jam’, all while the gaming press largely ignored The Fine Young Capitalists’ own event.
Ultimately, users who had supported The Fine Young Capitalists – many of whom came from 4chan – ended up raising $13,000 for an IndieGoGo campaign benefitting the group.
Notably, their donation also gave them access to a rewards tier that allowed them to create a character for one of The Fine Young Capitalists’ games, which ultimately led to the Gamergate movement’s mascot, Vivian James.
Additionally, though Snopes paints GamerGate as being a one-sided affair, with ‘evil gamers’ unwarrantedly attacking innocent women and champions of social justice, the latter routinely sought to aggravate the former.
This was perhaps best exemplified when, beginning on August 27th, nine different outlets published pieces proposing that the “gamer” identity was dead – Gamasutra’s article “Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience. ‘Gamers’ are over” going on to become the most infamous – as the expanding demographic of video game consumers rendered these assumed bigoted white men irrelevant.
These initial articles were then followed by fifteen in the following week, and ten the week after that.
It was amidst these ongoing events that the name Gamergate – a play on the name given to US President Richard Nixon’s infamous campaign espionage scandal – was coined by an unlikely source.
On August 27th, 2014, actor Adam Baldwin tweeted out links to a pair of now-deleted videos by the YouTuber formerly-known as the Internet Aristocrat discussing the allegations against Quinn and the industry alongside the simple caption, “#GamerGate”.
After backlash against this perceived coordinated attack led to Gamergate supporters to contact the outlet’s advertisers and voice displeasure with their reporting, Gamasutra lost several of its major advertisers, which prompted Gaker writer Sam Biddle to declare “Bring Back Bullying” in regards to his opponents.
In spite of the charity support given by proponents, the propagation of the NotYourShield hashtag by minority individuals who rejected the media narrative that they were in need of saving, and the discovery of various journalists having written on Quinn without disclosing their own conflicts of interest, the mainstream press continued to paint Gamergate as a harassment campaign.
Likewise, for all of Snopes’ braying that Quinn and other industry professionals were subjected to “death threats, rape threats, swatting attempts, and doxxing”, not only did many of these claims lack any substantiating evidence, but mainstream outlets have routinely ignored the documented instances of such behavior directed towards Gamergate supporters.
Such widely disregarded victims of anti-Gamergate doxxing include Gjoni, Baldwin, internet personality Milo Yiannapoulus, YouTubers JonTron and Shoe0nHead, as well as several Wikipedia editors who attempted to push back against the politicization of the site’s Gamergate article.
Meanwhile, YouTuber Boogie2988 was not only doxxed multiple times for both his support of the movement and his creating of a peition calling on “indie developers, AAA developers, and other folks” to refrain from depicting players in a hateful light, but also claimed to have received a YouTube comment “from a user who posted my home address and said he’d kill my wife and leave me to mourn.”
This harassment eventually extended outside of the realm of those directly involved with Gamergate to practically anyone who either portrayed the movement in a positive light or was perceived to be associated with it.
After conducting an analysis of Gamergate’s Twitter network and concluding that his findings were “incompatible with the description of #Gamergate as a hate group” and in spite of a disclaimer affixed to the end of each of his reports that declared “My wife happens to support Gamergate. I have currently no position on the matter” at the end of each report, data scientist Chris von Csefalvay would find himself set upon by infamous feminist and left-wing activist Randi Harper.
In response to his work, the subsequent three parts of which suggested that said network aimed “to replace established media, which users perceive as corrupt and having lost its credibility”, Harper’s followers inundated the researcher with abusive comments.
These soon escalated into “very graphic and very shockingly violent threats“, including death threats against his wife, which in turn ultimately drove von Csefalvay to announce that he would cease all involvement with Gamergate out of fear for their safety.
This wild and unfocused lashing out would even see the founder and CEO of digital distribution platform Gamer’s Gate step down after he and his employees received death threats due to the mistaken belief that the company was associated with the movement.
Most egregiously on Snopes’ part, however, is their implication that Gamergate was responsible for creating “the abusive activities of today’s online political extremist, who, for example, loose ‘Twitter-mobs’ to attack those with whom they disagree”, as the very existence of such activities among industry employees was a central complaint of Gamergate supporters.
On September 17th, the aforementioned Yiannapoulus published ‘Exposed: the Secret Mailing List of the Gaming Journalism Elite‘, wherein he revealed the existence of GameJournoPros, a private Google Groups mailing list whose membership consisted of editors and writers across multiple major gaming and mainstream news outlets including Ars Technica, Polygon, and Kotaku.
He additionally reported that journalists were seen engaging in such unethical behavior as colluding to drive a widespread anti-Gamergate narrative and promote positive coverage of Quinn’s games and internet presence.
Using an alleged syringe sent to him in the post by a Gamergate detractor as rationale for retaliation, Yiannopoulos would make public the name of all 150 strong editors, writers, and freelancers who were in the group.
Outlets whose associates were seen on this list included Motherboard, VentureBeat, IGN, Destructoid, Game Informer, PC Gamer, Wired, G4, and Gamasutra.
In an additional blurring of the ethical line, the list even featured marketing executives, community managers, and developers from Ubisoft, Activision, WB Games, and Harmonix, as well as the Chairman of the Indie Games Festival.
Gamergate’s fears were further realized by the presence of mainstream news outlets including the Associated Press, CNBC, USA Today, CNet, Giant Bomb, The Verge, the New York Times, and The Huffington Post.
Snopes’ claims are also unsupported by numerical data.
In 2014, Newsweek would commission social media analytics company BrandWatch “to dig through 25 percent of the more than 2 million tweets about GamerGate”.
According to their findings, while the vast majority of tweets mentioning figures like Quinn and Sarkeesian were “neutral” in tone, only a mere 6.8% were “negative”.
That Snopes got the history of Gamergate so wrong should come as no surprise, as their existence as a so-called ‘fact checking’ resource has been marred with controversy and political bents.
For example, just last year, Snopes co-founder David Mikkelson was discovered to have plagiarized 54 articles.
In another example, this time from earlier this year, Snopes initially said that the Biden administration’s plan to distribute crack pipes as part of a plan for racial equity was “mostly false”.
However, after the President announced that these pipes would no longer be offered, Snopes dodged the issue by switching the claim’s labelling to “outdated“, thus allowing themselves to avoid further discussion of that report.
Despite these efforts to reframe the past, thanks to extensive records kept by those with higher standards than their own, every such prominent attempt by to do so results in nothing more than a further erosion of the mainstream press’ nearly non-existent reputation.
Ultimately, what can be said with confidence is that in spite of what the mainstream press continues to profess, Gamergate supporters were far less concerned with any notion of excluding women from video games than they were about saving the integrity of the medium they love.
What do you make of Snopes’ take on Gamergate? Let us know what you think on social media and in the comments below.