The GamerGate Controversy is a consumer revolt stemming around corrupt and questionable practices in journalism, specifically in regards to video games. It began on August 24th, 2014, as the result of attempts to cover up and silence coverage of Zoe Quinn's sexual indiscretions and the subsequent massive conflicts-of-interest that would emerge. Ironically, it would be the attempts to silence and suppress discussion of such an incident that led to such incident becoming a well-known phenomenon online and would lead to sweeping changes in both gaming and games journalism as a whole. The entire controversy would span for roughly a year and a half before finally winding down, and becoming the foundation of a consumer watchdog network in early 2015.
GamerGate as a whole is notable to Lolcow Chroniclers for the enormous number of people of interest that emerged because of it. Whilst there were many people that emerged on the side of GamerGate whose actions later led to coverage by this wiki, there were infinitely more people worth further investigation in GamerGate's opposition.
A good part of this seems to have a lot to do with how both communities operate; GamerGate supporters aggressively self-police and will generally go out of their way to report and distance themselves from users that prove themselves an issue - for example, Samuel Collingwood Smith is a supporter but found himself unwelcome after repeatedly trying to utilize the hashtag in several schemes to attack people he disapproved of.
To contrast, GamerGate's opposition does not self-police in the same fashion, and this has often allowed individuals with long histories of troubling behavior to metastasize. Worse, it's also led to cases where GamerGate's opposition has continued its support of individuals who are openly disreputable; examples include GamerGate's opposition lining up to protect Sarah Nyberg after her rampant pedophilia was exposed (to the point of trying to delete evidence of it in the case if Israel Galvez), defending Alison Rapp even after it was publicly shown that she was fired by Nintendo because of her moonlighting as a prostitute, or continuing to claim legitimacy for Zoe Quinn long after she was exposed as doing the very behaviors she was decrying.
- 1 Harassment or Activism?
- 2 Lead-Up and Prelude
- 3 All-Out War
- 4 GamerGate Winds Down
- 5 GamerGate Accomplishments
- 6 Individuals Discussed Involved in GamerGate Opposition
- 7 Individuals Discussed Involved in GamerGate Support
- 8 References
Harassment or Activism?
Whilst many individuals have claimed that the movement is about harassment of women (and terrorism, according to Dan Olson), the truth is that Gamergate is anything but. Whilst there are members of the group that have been involved in harassment, this has been mostly because of its leaderless nature, which means anyone can (and does) claim to be part of the movement.
All currently existing figures when it comes to Twitter show that actual harassment from GamerGate supporters accounts for under one percent of GamerGate-related twitter accounts, going by a study conducted by Women Action Media!, a feminist group. Similarly, the overpowering majority of cases pointed at as "examples of harassment" by the likes of Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu have been responses to something inflammatory they've said/done, have been one-off accounts obviously intended to stir controversy, or outright attempts to false-flag GamerGate supporters.
Conversely, threats and harassment towards GamerGate supporters is both widely-documented and established, and has included death threats, doxing of supporters, and even SWATing attempts. It has gone on to include bomb threats at GamerGate events, and even an attempt to disrupt a meeting between GamerGate supporters and the Society for Professional Journalists. A brief sample of the attacks against GamerGate supporters has been chronicled by KotakuInAction. Many of the attacks against GamerGate supporters have gone to the point of federal crimes and necessitated the involvement of law enforcement. This contrasts, of course, with the prevailing narrative that GamerGate alone is a harassment centerpiece.
During the CON Log Leaks, it was quantifiably established that not only were many of the individuals complaining about harassment outright involved in it, but that several involved with GamerGate's opposition were intentionally trying to bait their own harassment to fulfill a narrative. The leaks would go on to establish that associates of the group that originally led to this controversy attempted actively to quash coverage of it using their connections at the time - establishing firmly that a staggering number of claims leveraged against them by GamerGate supporters ultimately proved to be true.
To further cement GamerGate's innocence on these matters, on December 6th, 2016 a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made towards the FBI's investigations into GamerGate was finally released to the public. The report, which has numerous redactions, elaborates that The FBI managed to investigate several accounts of harassment that was brought to their attention, and those forms of harassment almost without exception turned out to be false flags, with culprits ranging from certain Youtube and Twitter users to members of Something Awful, and verifying that most, if not all of the claims made by GamerGate opponents about criminally actionable behavior were outright lies if not based on incidents caused by anonymous trolls. The complete lack of leads and lack of credibility for any of the threats ultimately led the FBI to close the case entirely.
Between the earlier WAM report that harassment accounts for an infinitesimally small portion of the hashtag and the FBI FOIA report indicating that the bulk of harassment carried out on behalf of the hashtag was intentional false-flags, the evidence is now overwhelming that GamerGate had virtually nothing to do with harassment. Conversely, the CON Log Leaks and Trello Leaks firmly establish that Gamergate's opposition, meanwhile, was.
Lead-Up and Prelude
To understand the lead-up to GamerGate, one has to understand the climate of games journalism at the time, and the events that led to it blowing up the way it did.
Brad Wardell Scandal
Immediately prior to the scandal that ultimately would lead to GamerGate, there was the Brad Wardell scandal. In this incident, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell stood accused of sexual harassment by Alexandra Miseta, a former employee. The entire accusation later turned out to be a hoax and was dismissed with Prejudice in September of 2013, meaning it could not be brought up again. Miseta was forced to publicly apologize.
Despite the entire accusation of sexual harassment provably being a hoax, and such being abundantly clear from Wardell's own countersuit, multiple games journalists who would feature later when the GamerGate scandal began proper continued to claim Miseta's argument was legitimate and uncritically reported on it as such. Kotaku's own Ben Kuchera publicized Miseta's complaints, which detailed horrendously graphic accusations, without contacting Wardell for comment - and without including similar details from Wardell’s counter-suit. Worse, Kuchera put up a version with openly fabricated segments to make the result seem worse - such as claiming Wardell asked if Miseta "enjoyed the taste of semen." Whilst Kuchera later removed this doctored version of his original report, the internet does not forget.
Kuchera's doctored version of the report and its similarly cleaned-up version that withheld the lack of credibility of Miseta's account resulted in an enormous amount of public backlash for Wardell, who was viciously attacked, receiving death threats, threats to rape and murder his wife and sons, multiple attempts to label his children gay in his wikipedia page, and people repeatedly calling his business associates and claiming he was a rapist. The results for Stardock have been disastrous, since the Kotaku Article still shows up on the first page for his google results. To date, a huge number of affiliates of Kuchera have continued to claim the accusations against Wardell as legitimate, and the attacks against him have gone on to be considered a public example of terrible journalism in action.
Zoe Post Incident and Fallout
"In effect, what Zoe preferred to just telling me the truth, was to convince me I was going insane, pretend she had no idea why, say she just didn’t have time to hang between work and the three friends from Texas she was letting crash at her house for a week and ostracize me for the duration of her newly truncated stay in Boston — all the while Facebook-messaging me nightly to tell me how much she loved me and was concerned about me — unless I tried to figure out anything that would make things make sense again."—Eron Gjoni
On August 16th, 2014, Zoe Quinn's ex, Eron Gjoni, posted an article that was simply dubbed "The Zoe Post." The Wordpress blog post covering his disastrous relationship with Zoe Quinn. The post itself, which was extensively sourced and had considerable evidence, establishes that he was repeatedly cheated on by Zoe Quinn, and that moreover, she was exceptionally abusive. She lied to him constantly, demanded he trust her in the face of overwhelming evidence, claimed he was insane when he did not believe her due to said overwhelming evidence, threatened to break up with him (if temporarily), broke up with him repeatedly only to get back together with him later, damaged his relationship with his friends and loved ones whilst broken up with him, and outright being physically aggressive towards him.
The allegations went on to accuse Zoe Quinn of having a sexual relationship with several members of the gaming press, including Nathan Grayson, as well as several members of the Indie gaming scene, including Joshua Boggs (her boss), and Robin Arnott, who was both involved with Quinn's destruction of the Polaris Game Jam Sabotage and was a judge on her game when it was going through Indiecade. It also alleges that she slept with Brandon McCartin and Kyle Pulver, two additional indie developers, though they have denied this claim. The Zoe Post, unlike the Wardell allegation, was extensively cited with images establishing context, and had tons of information as to what led to the break-up. It's chilling just how accurately Gjoni called a lot of Quinn's more manipulative behavior; much of this would prove prescient when the CON Log Leaks hit. Rather than worry about the impact for Joshua Boggs' wife if the information went public, Quinn's only concern was for her own career.
The aftermath of the Zoe Post was people looking into Quinn's background and coming to the obvious conclusion that all evidence was that she had just been outed as being romantically involved with people who had covered her game or given her press access or positive response in contests. The very first crack in a very large wall of collusion had been exposed by one angry man fed up with his abusive ex's actions. People began demanding accountability - all evidence was that a very real and brewing scandal involving corruption in the indie circuit.
As investigations mounted by citizen journalists, it was discovered that several of the people exposed by the Zoe Post and several who had covered Quinn in the last few months were actively contributing money to Quinn’s Patreon account, including Polygon editor Ben Kuchera - who had been donating to Quinn for several weeks prior to writing an article about her game. Similarly, Kotaku writer Patricia Hernandez subsequently came under scrutiny as well when gamers began investigating her alleged romantic relationships with other video game developers. This was on top of those exposed by the Zoe Post, which established that Zoe Quinn had been romantically involved with someone who positively reviewed her game for a contest (Robin Arnott) and that she had furthermore been sexually involved with an IGF head (Joshua Boggs).
After the Zoe Post, many commentators online, especially those with longstanding connections to Quinn and/or Social Justice, began to condemn the gaming industry, and the culture surrounding it, for being filled with sexism and misogyny. This quickly became the go-to defense of Quinn's defenders, who rapidly began to conflate any discussion of Zoe Quinn and the barrage of scandals she inadvertently helped start as "proof of the sexism rooted within gaming culture." In many cases, Quinn's supporters managed to shut down criticism of her by essentially claiming that any discussion of the Quinn scandal and entertaining the possibility that Quinn may have been legitimately responsible for her own behavior was to enable harassment of Quinn herself and others like her. This same argument would be later made by Arthur Chu during his later appearance on the David Pakman show following up Brianna Wu's appearance, in which Chu repeated the same "if you listen to critics of Quinn, you are enabling misogyny and harassment against women" talking points. Even comparatively mild GamerGate opponents, similarly, showed in discussions that they believe the supporters to be unilaterally guilty of harassment.
Wall of Silence
The press's response, however, was startling. Rather than covering it in any capacity, all attempts were made to claim there was no story to be found. N4G had a story covering it, which was immediately deleted. Then Games Nosh was forced to delete their similar article by their host (though they got it up again later). It later turned out that Zoe Quinn had been involved with DMCAing attempts to cover the scandal, including Mundane Matt's coverage in the Indie-Fensible series. Soon it became apparent that threads covering Quinn were going dark on Quinn en masse.
During this time, several games publications, including Kotaku, essentially claimed they investigated and found nothing wrong, despite the fact that Quinn provably had been involved with Nathan Grayson who works for that very website. A major contributing factor for this blowing up the way it did was that it directly followed the Brad Wardell scandal, which Kotaku knew to be grossly exaggerated when Ben Kuchera put up his sensationalized article on Wardell. Yet now these same publications, who would not stop talking about the allegations as if they were legitimate, were chillingly silent now that a very real and provable scandal was right on their doorstop, and when several journalists for these sites attempted to claim that there was no story to be had, things only got worse.
The situation escalated when discussions of the Quinn scandal started to disappear en masse from Social Media. In short order, it was established that not only were posts covering the scandal receiving "shadowbans" that removed them from public view, but that several of the site's admins were personal acquaintances of Zoe Quinn's and were actively complicit in what essentially amounted to censorship of discussion. Even 4chan, long held as a bastion of online freedom, started to see sweeping thread deletions of threads and banning of users for even discussing the scandal. Mod log leaks later would establish that 4chan's head, m00t, was the individual who began ordering bans of anyone critical of Quinn or supportive of the burgeoning scandal. Moot would later go on to try to claim that the threads were deleted for carrying personal information or doxing attempts, despite no evidence of either being present in many of the threads:
"The decision to remove "GamerGate" threads has been poorly communicated, and that's my fault. Said threads are being deleted primarily because they violate our blanket "no personal information / raids / calls to invasion" rule. Spamming the reports system and creating multiple topics were also a factor, especially given /v/ is one of 4chan's fastest moving boards and has historically struggled with keeping topics limited to actual video games.
Regarding a perceived lack of free speech/censorship -- many seem to misinterpret my advocating for anonymous communication and highlighting that it allows people to share things they otherwise wouldn't be comfortable with on other platforms as "you can say and do anything on 4chan," which simply isn't the case. We've had rules and moderators since the site was founded *11 years ago*, and I've only reinforced this statement over the years, a la: https://archive.moe/q/thread/580080/#580135To those who actually want to use /v/ to discuss vidya and not a movement that has outgrown 4chan (a la Project Chanology) -- apologies for the inconvenience."—Christopher Poole, AKA "m00t"
The resulting backlash against 4chan doing this would lead to the creation of 8chan, and subsequently a small but notable migration of users towards the new website. Additionally, similar censorship and derailing attempts begun to be made on gaming websites, including Polygon, Kotaku, and more. Even websites that were tolerant of discussion (such as The Escapist) saw sweeping deletions and attempts to undermine discussion.
The controversy was only growing, despite attempts to stop it.
Media Complacency and Narrative-Pushing
When the scandal that would become GamerGate first began, all reaction and reporting on it, first by the gaming press, then by the mainstream media indicated that something was disastrously wrong, to the point where a huge number of people took notice. On Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites, discussing the issue at all was forbidden, and pushing into too deeply or hard would lead to bans, blockings, and more. Even being critical or questioning of the ongoing narrative was enough to get you targeted, and anyone who asked any question, no matter how genuine, would be met with animosity and condescension, if not outright contempt - you accepted the narrative as it was being pitched as "truth," or you were labelled part of the problem.
There was no gradation, no variance, and no scale. Reporting on events would invariably use the actions of a few - often even fabricated evidence - that was then used to paint an accusation at all who dared show skepticism. The individuals who led to such a situation refused to accept culpability and indeed, even balked at the idea that they were in some way responsible for the issue blowing up as big as it did. An endless recitation of the same story - painting "gamers" as homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic monsters with no redeeming values - was accepted at face value even within otherwise-reputable institutions without a scrap of counterpoint allowed. Whilst those demanding culpability came from an enormous plurality of different backgrounds, cultures, races, sexualities, and personal belief structures, the media elected to paint all of them as right-wing misogynists and anti-diversity racists. This was rote fearmongering, plain and simple.
Skeptics and those with legitimate concerns repeatedly tried to approach the press and uninvolved parties, as did a great many neutrals who brought up the logical belief that no situation was as cut-and-dry as the media liked to make it out to be, and that it was probably worth looking into the rumors, if only to verify that they were, in fact, inaccurate. The response was always the same: outright dismissal and people saying that the opinion was irrelevant. When prominent voices in the field and actual journalists tried to talk common sense, they faced mass-rejection for daring to ask too many questions, and would all-too-often wind up on the receiving end of coordinated attacks intended to shut down attempts to cover the issue.
Anyone with any common sense being exposed to these interactions, who wanted to know more about the issue, or who simply wanted to know all the angles of the burgeoning scandal had to be confused: The journalists involved didn't want to have any dialogue whatsoever with the opposite side, and no attempt to properly investigate the scandal that would blossom into GamerGate was ever really made. Opinion pieces were constantly being reported on as facts and even when outright evidence of malfeasance emerged, as it had during Game Journo Pros, the media chose to pretend it did not exist. Increasingly, it was clear: the media had crafted its message, it was going to go with it, facts be damned, and this choice, ultimately, would blow up in their face when the scandal continued to burn.
Genesis of the Hashtag and The Opening Salvo
On August 27th, 2014, actor Adam Baldwin, fed up with attempts to stop discussion of the Quinn scandal and burgeoning sub-scandals it had led to, created the #Gamergate hashtag in an effort to provide those interested in the developments of the scandal to have the ability to discuss them without hindrance, given clear and present examples of attempts to stop the discussions online. The hashtag became an overnight sensation, tweeted almost a quarter of a million times in its first week alone.
The aftermath of this hashtag starting to catch on would be an unprecedented event. On August 28th, 2014, fourteen allegedly-competing journalistic outlets all ran the same article, with essentially the same talking points, citing the same sources, and covering the same content, on the exact same day, in what came to be known as the Gamers are Dead Incident. The articles each called for an end to the “gamer” cultural identity, and essentially blamed it for all the harassment against women on the internet. As if to follow up this terrible choice with an even worse one, on September 1st, journalists and independent developers affiliated with the barrage of articles on the 28th posted an an open letter to the gaming community, blaming the Gamers themselves for harassing behavior.
The fact that the response to the ongoing scandals was something as heavy-handed as Gamers are Dead only caused the #Gamergate hashtag to explode in popularity by leaps and bounds. By the end of October it would be tweeted 1.8 million times in that month alone, and it would go on to become one of the most successful hashtags in the history of Twitter. Moreover, the implications of the incident were perfectly clear: not only were Gamergate's concerns over ethics in journalism accurate, but that the very journalists involved in such breaches didn't even pretend they were innocent of such allegations.
The true scope of such allegations, however, would become known soon enough.
Game Journo Pros
On September 17th, 2014, Milo Yiannopolous, a reporter for Breitbart, a conservative news site, exposed a secret mailing list known as the Game Journo Pros list, or GJP.
This mailing list, which included contact information and multiple conversations between its members, acted as the proverbial "smoking gun" in GamerGate as a whole - the proof that brought many of the above instances of attempted lockdowns of the Quinn Scandal and subsequently, discussion of GamerGate as a whole, into perspective. One of the members of the group, William Usher, is generally suspected to be the source of the leaks as well as one of the people who has verified its contents.
It became clear that many journalists on many game review sites - including the Escapist, Polygon, Kotaku, and ArsTechnica - not only were openly in collusion with attempts to bury the Quinn scandal from the start and were attempting damage control as the scandal blossomed into GamerGate, but that they were outright financially supporting Zoe Quinn and actively attempting to blacklist people in the industry who went against them. It also covered the Alistair Pinsof scandal, in which the publication Destructoid illegally blacklisted one of its reporters after he exposed Chloe Sagal's attempted fraud.
It also established that the group was chillingly insular in nature and that disagreeing with the ideology of the group was aggressively punished in one instance a writer was banished from the clique for simply disagreeing with Ben Kuchera. The group was clearly involved in open conflicts-of-interest as well. Despite attempts to control the damage from the leaks, this incident marked a turning point, where it was now public and obvious that the same people who GamerGate had criticized were directly involved with attempts to bury the story - and were directly involved with attempts to silence discussion of it, as well.
With all the attempts to suppress discussion ending in failure and positive proof now well-in-hand of the media being openly complicit with attempts to cover it up, Gamergate would explode in size over the course of the next month. By mid-September, the consumer hashtag movement would grow into an organized and motivated advocacy group, focusing heavily on making public the information of breaches of journalistic ethics that had been exposed and of boycotting the media outlets that had been responsible for the earlier Gamers are Dead incident.
With GamerGate now in full swing, and attempts to expose the journalists and industry employees exposed thus far only increasing, multiple attempts were made to shut down the consumer hashtag before it could advance further. Multiple counter-hashtags, including #StopGamergate2014 emerged, but none of them seemed to have the presence to even come close to competing with the #Gamergate hashtag, even if they managed to get trending. Humorously, many counter hashtags run by GamerGate opponents quickly wound up appropriated and used to mock GamerGate's opposition. Even worse for the opposition, GamerGate had began to attract national attention - and not all of it was oppositional. Whilst the overpowering majority of press coverage of the movement was outright hostile, these same attempts often inadvertently exposed the hypocrisy of those involved in them.
Attempts to actually debate GamerGate supporters or even concerned neutrals almost always served to show off the fact that GamerGate's opposition often was completely unable to defend its own talking points; during the Huffington Post debate between Brianna Wu and 8chan's Founder, Frederick Brennan, Brianna Wu was unable to best Brennan in a debate and was ultimately forced to accuse him of lying to save face; during her far-more well-known David Pakman Show appearance, she became visibly unhinged when the interviewer asked basic questions and accused him of conducting a hit-piece on her. David Pakman would go on to host additional interviews and debates, the majority of which would not go well for GamerGate's opposition - their primary mode of attack was simply stating that allowing discussion of GamerGate was enabling harassment and misogyny, as seen during David Pakman's interview with Arthur Chu.
This said, GamerGate continued to face opposition from Quinn's clique and others who stood to lose by GamerGate continuing, and continued offenses against the consumer revolt. Many independents also covered the fact that there was obvious false-flagging going on about the hashtag to worsen discourse.
The hashtag's Wikipedia article was quickly turned into a battleground, as Ryulong, later shown to have been paid to do so by Zoe Quinn's associates, turned the article into an attack piece and went on the attack against anyone who tried to make the article into anything other than a declaration that supporting GamerGate means you wish to harass women. Ryulong's ongoing campaign of terror was so notable that not only did it force Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to chime in on the article's problems, but it eventually led to Ryulong being banned from the site entirely due to his aggressive, harassing behavior.
On September 16th, 2014, the American Enterprise Institute YouTube channel upload a video in their “Factual Feminist” series titled “Are video games sexist?”, in which host Christina Hoff Sommers refuted arguments by feminist media critic (and associate of Zoe Quinn) Anita Sarkeesian. In the first three weeks, the video gained over 440,000 views and 7,700 comments. As the video began circulating online, GamerGaters began referring to Sommers as “Based Mom.” Sommers would go on to do several more videos about GamerGate, explaining its supporters' concerns. On October 28th, 2014, Ronan Farrow interviewed Sommers about #Gamergate at MSNBC. His tone was considered outright hostile by many and he was criticized for his handling of the interview as a result.
In an effort to shut down GamerGate discussions and attempts at signal-boosting discovered facts about the latest controversy GamerGate's opposition was embroiled in, GamerGate opponents increasingly turned to block lists and block bots to hedge out potential "problem users." One of these block lists was created by Zoe Quinn associate Randi Harper, and was called GGautoblocker. On November 21st, the Independent Game Developers Association (IGDA) released and promoted this anti-gamergate Twitter blocklist bot, which automatically blocked anyone who followed specific Twitter accounts the readme of the tool describes as "GG ringleaders." Unfortunately, due to the bot's algorithms not being coded very well, the GGautoblocker quickly went on to label a number of accounts that had nothing really to do with GamerGate as "harassers," including Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonalds. More than this, the IGDA suddenly describing over 10,000 users as "the worst harassers" when the list itself was a guilt-by-association blacklist didn't exactly do much to inspire confidence. Even more bizarre, the IGDA's own Puerto Rican chair was placed on the blocklist for speaking out against Geordie Tait, a GG opponent who had advocated a holocaust against GamerGate supporters.
On May 8th 2015, a redditor named BoneGolem created the website deepfreeze.it, which is designed to help consumers determine the reliability of various video game journalism sites. Alistair Pinsof, who had been blacklisted by Destructoid due to his involvement in exposing Chloe Sagal would go on to explain the website as the "future of GamerGate," and instrumental in its campaign to force accountability.
The Tide Begins to Turn
GamerGate opponents continued to fight bitterly to ensure that GamerGate was labelled a "Harassment Group" and "Terror Group," and though the meme was getting pushed everywhere that certain ideologies held sway, it simply wasn't sticking, and the opposition continued to suffer loss after loss - in no small part due to their own actions. For example, Mark Bernstein, another GamerGate opponent, was banned for the exact same offenses that Ryulong was before him. Multiple occurrences similarly happened wherein GamerGate opponents attacked neutral parties for remaining neutral, leading to surreal situations like William Shatner, Anne Rice, and Richard Dawkins all coming out in favor of GamerGate. GamerGate also quickly gained more support as developers proved increasingly willing to speak out in favor of it, such as Eric Kain (creator of World of Warcraft), and Brad Wardell, who justifiably had an axe to grind against the groups that kicked GamerGate off in the first place. Moreover, the academic source of the "Gamers Are Dead" articles were broken down by analysts, who quickly discovered that the studies on them were biased and intended to push a specific narrative from the start.
An unusual duality quickly arose wherein GamerGate opponents would steadfastly refuse to enter public debates (or indeed, any forum where GamerGate wasn't immediately condemned), citing, again, the long-running meme that even listening to GamerGate supporters was the equivalent of endorsing harassment, but GamerGate supporters were willing to discuss issues. At South by Southwest 2016, for example, both sides were initially intended to have their own respective panels, GamerGate opponents quickly attempted to have supporters banned from events and when this failed, sent in multiple threats of violence to get the event cancelled entirely. Eventually the Open Gaming Society announced its intentions to talk to SXSW about the event and finance their panel themselves. When it became clear that SXSW was in discussion with the Open Gaming Society, many GamerGate opponents and their supporters flat-out refused to attend the event, including Buzzfeed and the Verge, which had been highly supportive of GamerGate's opposition and which have ties to those in it.
On February 11th, 2015, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit ran an episode entitled "Intimidation Game." For months the episode had been talked up in GamerGate opposition circles as going to "blow the lid off of GamerGate," and when the episode finally arrived, it was a laughably out-of-touch episode that has gone on to be critically-panned as one of the most unintentionally funny episodes the series has ever run. Many of the opponents who originally claimed it would be properly representational immediately backtracked on this, believing that it made GamerGate's opposition look insane. GamerGate's opposition also routinely adopted new language terms, such as Sea Lioning, which became a catchall term for asking polite if inconvenient questions of GamerGate opponents.
Worse, GamerGate opponents kept getting caught in scandal after scandal that irrevocably tarnished their own reputations. This ranged from GamerGate opponents advocating the genocide of GamerGate supporters, to Brianna Wu constantly getting caught false-flagging herself, to incidents like David Gallant's involvement with the TotalBiscuit Incident and his months-long campaign to harass John Bain and have him "De-Platformed" by games publishers.
One of the best-known examples was when Sarah Nyberg, a long-time opponent of GamerGate and associate of Zoe Quinn, turned out to be a pedophile with an extensive history of sharing child porn on networks specifically made for the distribution thereof, as well as a number of horrifying examples of her clearly wishing to molest her own cousin. Nyberg's supporters managed to get Encyclopedia Dramatica banned from Twitter for covering Nyberg's pedophilia, and similarly attempted to delete evidence of Nyberg's wrongdoing. Milo Yiannopolous would go on to cover the scandal and verified many of the allegations with the parents of the child Nyberg was clearly lusting after in her own website's chat logs. Sarah Nyberg first tried to claim the evidence against her was faked, before claiming that the logs were real, but that she was being a "teenage edgelord" and that this made the entire thing satisfactory despite the mountain of evidence against her. In the CON Chat Log Leaks, in August of 2016, it would be revealed that not only were multiple GamerGate opponents in Crash Override Network, Zoe Quinn's alleged "Anti-Harassment" task force, acutely aware of the attempt to get information out about Nyberg's pedophilia, but that they actively ran damage control, essentially getting people banned from Twitter to prevent word from getting out about Nyberg's raging pedophilia.
Similarly, GamerGate opponents were actively trying to shut down any platform that happened to be allowing GamerGate discussion to continue. Dan Olson, operating under orders from Laurelai Bailey would proceed to plant Child Porn on 8chan, and, subsequently, get caught in his false-flag attempt, being subjected to widespread mockery in the process. The Crash Override Network Log Leaks would later establish that this was part of an ongoing campaign to shut down GamerGate support, which ultimately failed.
Another excellent example would occur with Zoe Quinn at a later date. After months of delays and essentially forcing Eron Gjoni, her ex, to stay pinned under a de-facto Gag Order, Zoe Quinn vacated her previous restraining order against Gjoni - the one she claimed was because she felt threatened - when it became increasingly clear that she perjured herself and filed the order under false pretenses.
Even worse, the more and more often GamerGate opponents tried to paint GamerGate as responsible for all their problems, the more they would, almost without exception, tip their hand and show themselves to look even worse. As another example, when Alison Rapp was first fired by Nintendo, she claimed Nintendo had caved to complaints by GamerGate supporters, only to have the Kiwi Farms drop the real reason she was fired: that she had been moonlighting as an escort and Nintendo did not want their brand sullied by association. Despite this revelation, numerous GamerGate opponents have continued to claim Rapp was fired because of the hashtag consumer revolt, despite all evidence to the contrary. Things like Randi Harper being exposed as a legitimate harasser by Breitbart and GamerGate opponents going out of their way to look increasingly divorced from reality in their attempts to stop the consumer hashtag revolt did them no favors.
As more and more evidence began to mount of GamerGate opponents being openly involved in the conflicts-of-interest GamerGate ostensibly formed to combat, they became increasingly unable to control their narrative, and ultimately, began to lose the battle for public opinion. As more examples emerged of GamerGate opponents trying to tie every single national tragedy, regardless of context, to the consumer hashtag revolt, it became increasingly clear that the desperation of GamerGate's opposition was mounting.
As GamerGate continued to advance, more and more game developers, journalists, and professionals in the video gaming field began to came forward in support of the hashtag movement, and as it became likewise more apparent that GamerGate's bad rap had been from a broad-spectrum attack by lazy and corrupt journalists from the start, the group began to gain more and more clout, despite being publicly condemned by the established media of the time.
Operation Disrespectful Nod and FTC Involvement
Being a hashtag consumer revolt, one aspect of GamerGate that got little play from the media, but was nonetheless arguably its most forefront aspect was the systemic boycott engine GamerGate leveraged. The most well-known campaign conducted by GamerGate supporters was Operation Disrespectful Nod, which was a mailing campaign targeting advertisers on unethical video game journalism sites - specifically those that participated in the earlier Gamers are Dead Incident. In the campaign, GG supporters contacted advertisers directly, and asked the advertisers to reconsider their association with these publications. The publications which engaged in unethical behavior were malicious to gamers - the intended audience that the advertisers were trying to reach - so the letters were an appeal to these companies to protect the integrity of their product by severing ties to unethical media. The complained about incidents ranged from the Brad Wardell scandal to the revelations of the Game Journo Pros incident. Within a few months of targeted boycotts, GamerGate had successfully cost Gawker Media well over a million dollars - which was what Gawker would admit to - and the concentrated damage was estimated to be far higher. When Gawker would file for bankruptcy in 2016, several associated with the company directly blamed GamerGate itself for the company's demise.
GamerGate's boycotts weren't solely directed at Gawker. Polygon, Kotaku, ArsTechnica, GamaSutra, and RockPaperShotgun all saw similar boycotts, and though the damage at these sites wasn't as extensive as the damage done to Gawker, it was sufficient to force reorganization at many of these companies. Within the span of a year, many of the Journalists behind the Gamers Are Dead Incident had been forced off their home site and onto smaller platforms, or had left Games Journalism entirely, including Ben Kuchera, Leigh Alexander, and many more.
In addition to targeted boycotts, GamerGate was highly successful at getting the Federal Trade Commission involved with affairs of Game Journalism. The FTC directly got involved in the affairs of several gaming websites, provably because of GamerGate's direct attempts to inform them of the situation, and wound up enforcing both disclosure guidelines (to force sites whose journalists cover a game or person of interest they're friends with or financially involved with to disclose that relationship) and covering native advertisements (ads disguised as news). GamerGate also successfully reported Gawker Media for FTC violations, and the only reason the FTC didn't take action is because Gawker ceased to exist before they could.
Interestingly, the fact that the FTC was looking into various websites would explain why a curious incident regarding the firing of GamerGate opponent Bob Chipman occurred - Chipman had a lengthy series of undisclosed connections (including financial ones) to Zoe Quinn and her associates, and was actively trying to get discussion of GamerGate shut down on the site as well. Chipman's violations were sufficient enough to attract the attentions of the FTC - which GamerGate had already riled up - and he was ultimately fired.
For a campaign that GamerGate opponents alleged had nothing to do with Games Journalism, its focus was clearly on that above all else.
SPJ Airplay and Bomb Threats
On August 15th, 2015, almost on the one-year anniversary of GamerGate, the Society for Professional Journalists held a forum on GamerGate. The SPJ event, known as Airplay, aimed to address concerns about journalistic ethics and accurate reporting raised by GamerGate supporters. While the Society for Professional Journalists attempted to bring several GamerGate opponents to the table for debate purposes, they all systemically refused, citing the exact same talking point that has been referenced repeatedly in this article: That to enable discussion of GamerGate as a whole was to enable and encourage misogyny and harassment. Without an opposing viewpoint, however, it went forward with two segments featuring pro-GamerGate voices making their case to several journalists and neutral game developer Derek Smart. While the SPJ's directors refused to endorse the event, Michael Koretsky, the SJP affiliate hosting the event, went forward with it anyway. The discussion itself was covered extensively and Derek Smart gave his own testimony towards his feelings on the hashtag consumer revolt (that its fears were essentially legitimate) after the event.
The response by GamerGate opponents was apocalyptic, alternating between trying to dismiss the event and going directly on the offensive, with several death threats made towards event attendees. Despite that, the event went on to have some productive exchanges with the non-#GamerGate side of the room, namely journalism ethics expert Lynn Walsh, and journalism trainer Ren LaForme. Koretzky took the moderating duties and guided them through a discussion of some of the biggest ethical lapses the pro-#GamerGate panel had witnessed, with the collective attended journalists agreeing that they were serious lapses and laughing at the notion that Gawker Media or any of its associated outlets should be taken seriously.
Koretsky was notable for actually challenging the Pro-GamerGate side of the platform to make their case, which they did, between Milo Yiannopolous, Christina Hoff Sommers, and even Derek Smart agreeing as to areas where the attempt to cover GamerGate had seen phenomenal laziness, though this did result in quite a bit of bickering as Koretsky made himself clear. That led to a discussion of the problems with anonymous sources, and at the point where Walsh was wondering what would actually be worth covering about #GamerGate, the answer provided itself because the entire facility had to be evacuated due to bomb threats.
GamerGate Winds Down
Following the SPJ Airplay Debacle, GamerGate's opposition rapidly began to clear the field. Various websites, including Encyclopedia Dramatica and the Kiwi Farms had begun to cover the behavior of several of the loudest voices in GamerGate's opposition, which, almost to a man, were not only later proved to be just as corrupt as GamerGate supporters had alleged, but that there was a staggering number of people of interest among them. Fittingly, they also covered people of interest amongst GamerGate's supporters, though there was significantly fewer of the latter by the very nature of the hashtag movement. Many of the people uncovered by the investigations of such groups discovered individuals with lengthy histories of bizarre behavior, often going back years or even a decade or more before GamerGate ever began. As claims by GamerGate opponents grew ever more outlandish, and as more and more evidence began to appear, GamerGate's opposition lost more and more credibility.
Even more interesting, the combination of targeted boycotts, public revelations of wrongdoing, and active attempts to make public the actions of the Gamers Are Dead Incident led to them migrating away from Games Journalism. Some outlets closed down, others downsized. Several had GamerGate opponent members quit over GamerGate even getting a platform, and others were fired because of their actions during Gamergate. Leigh Alexander, Ben Kuchera, and many others wound up either migrating to other websites or leaving Games Journalism entirely.
The biggest source of the loss of credibility of GamerGate's opposition, however, was none other than Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn's disastrous appearance before the group UN Women Commission on Cyber-Violence Against Women and Girls (CVAWG) on September 15th, 2015. The entire crux of the conference was on so-called "Cyberviolence," which the conference attempted to establish as in any way, shape, or form criticizing, questioning, or insulting identity politics ideologues and GamerGate opponents online, especially when they have long histories of lying. Both Sarkeesian and Quinn talked at length about how they were subjected to "cyberviolence" online, and their testimony established that the bulk of this "cyberviolence" constituted legitimate criticism and disagreement. Things quickly got worse when it was revealed that the report the UN Women proposed was filled with statistical inaccuracies, dead links, and multiple links to discredited crackpots:
"It is the “New Violence,” as Democratic Presidential pre-candidate Lyndon LaRouche was the first to precisely characterize it at the time. It is the use of Nintendo-style games, and related means, to transform young children and adolescents, as well as law-enforcement personnel into “Samurai”-style programmed killers.—UN Broadband Commission Report on Cyber-Violence Against Women and Girls, quoting Lyndon Larouche
The report was loaded with similar pieces of outright lunacy and justifiably drew criticism from across the board - civil rights activists, advocates for internet freedom, academics, the ESA, third-party groups like the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, and mainstream press alike. The report was such an embarrassment to the UN Women that they were forced to take it down entirely, pending an "edited" version with corrections going up later. Over a year later, the edited report has yet to go back up on their website, though archives of the original report exists. The aftermath of this was an absolute bottoming out of the credibility of GamerGate opponents, especially the ones lionizing Sarkeesian and Quinn. GamerGate's harshest critics had been handed a serious blow by the mainstream press and were now conflated with a bogus account that tried to claim Pokemon was turning children into murderers and advocated mass-censorship of the internet at large.
Even with Quinn trying to divorce herself from it and deny any knowledge of the report, no spin on Earth was going to be sufficient to turn this around.
The ripple effect from this incident was profound, worsening ongoing failures by GamerGate's opposition all around. More and more, GamerGate was getting unbiased coverage from the press, and by December of 2016, the truth was unmistakable: GamerGate, for all intents and purposes, had won its battle.
In many cases, this victory was less of GamerGate itself securing any victories (though there was quite a few) so much as its opposition being so vitriolic, hateful, and openly corrupt as to garner popular opinion against them. Incidents like criminal behavior directed towards GamerGate supporters and the SPJ bomb threats likewise did the opposition no favors, and as time went on, additional information begun to surface that only painted the situation in an even worse light.
Though GamerGate wound down, it did not go dormant. The hashtag, once used for consumer advocacy and boycotting, now came to be used as a watchdog hashtag, and many communities initially established because of GamerGate continued in this new capacity, including the KotakuInAction subreddit, 8chan's GamerGate-Related boards, and numerous communities across Social Media. The hashtag continues to see surprising prevalence even to this day, with the bulk of its users utilizing it to spread awareness about various ongoing events involving game journalism and censorship.
At the end of it all, GamerGate had accomplished quite a few things during its roughly year-and-a-half long run:
- GamerGate caused a multitude of sites to add disclosures to articles and reviews to indicate that a given writer has supported a given game or product on Patreon, given an endorsement deal, or been financially supported by a given company or organization, including PCGamer, IGN, The Escapist, Eurogamer, Gameranx, and many more. Eventually even Kotaku and Polygon caved and added such disclosures to their own ethics policy, allthewhile denying GamerGate had anything to do with it.
- It had successfully gotten the FTC involved with native advertisements and to enforce the new affiliate disclosure guidelines on various websites. This forced sites with a long history of hosting glorified advertisements as news stories, like Kotaku, the Verge, and Polygon to actually disclose the fact that they are paid advertisements and not news articles. According to the response from the FTC, GamerGate is directly responsible for this one (and the one above as well).
- GamerGate threw targeted boycotts at a number of especially corrupt sites that had either been involved with the Gamers Are Dead Incident or had been directly involved in yellow journalism and attacks on GamerGate supporters, including The Verge and Gawker Media. GamerGate's involvement with contacting advertisers against Gawker was so prevalent and so damaging that for many, Gawker was flat-out running without ads and had to hide its sponsor page to prevent additional loss of advertisers. Though Gawker itself admitted to GamerGate dealing "seven figures" worth of damage to the company, most estimates by outside groups as substantially higher, due to the compound effects of chasing away advertisers, and the true damage may never be truly known. What is known is that Gawker extensively covered how GamerGate was costing them money, and several of its employees blamed the death of the company more on GamerGate than on Hulk Hogan's lawsuit that eventually bankrupted it!
- Virtually every prominent journalist involved with the Gamers Are Dead Incident has been either fired, laid off, stepped down to a platform where they have substantially less influence, or simply publicly discredited. This was true of Leigh Alexander, Patricia Hernandez, and Ben Kuchera, just for starters. Other platforms that lent their voices to attacking GamerGate, such as Sam Biddle, Arthur Chu, and Ryulong likewise found themselves either the subject of controversy (Chu's apparent threats towards venues allowing GamerGate meetups), or wound up losing their platform entirely (Biddle going down with Gawker itself, Ryulong being permanently banned from Wikipedia).
- GamerGate established Deepfreeze.it, a website dedicated to analyzing and ranking games journalists based on their number of ethical breaches, and chronicling cases of rote corruption. The site itself has been extensively updated since its inception, and is widely considered a quality resource.
- GamerGate has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity, including UNICEF, the American Suicide Prevention Organization, and The Center for Bullying Prevention, as well as donating en masse to The Fine Young Capitalists, which Zoe Quinn had previously sabotaged and bragged about doing so on twitter, because it was in direct competition with her own Game Jam.
- GamerGate was arguably the first major loss Social Justice suffered within its own sphere of influence (I.E. within Social Media). Despite the full support of the mainstream press, the involvement of numerous game journalists, and an enormous amount of political and social capital, Social Justice was unable to stop GamerGate from scoring major wins against it - repeatedly co-opting hashtags, utilizing public pressure, and successfully fighting disinformation campaigns. The impact was such that virtually every group to follow has borrowed chapters from GamerGate's playbook, and can tell what to expect by learning from what happened previously.
- Of relevance to this website, however, is the enormous number of people of interest that emerged from its coverage, and have been responsible for some of its most fascinating examples. From people claiming GamerGate is actively trying to murder them, to people trying to justify their own terrible behavior, to people willing to go to extravagant lengths to declare people guilty of pedophilia (to protect an actual pedophile), GamerGate is a resource invaluable to groups like the Kiwi Farms. There has not been a single event in the internet's history to cause so many Lolcows to emerge at the same time, and it's arguable that we may never have something like this happen again in our lifetime. To someone who follows Lolcows, GamerGate is truly the gift that keeps giving.
Individuals Discussed Involved in GamerGate Opposition
- Brianna Wu
- Andrew Dobson
- Ahuviya Harel
- Alison Rapp
- Zoe Quinn
- Chloe Sagal
- Sarah Nyberg
- Nora Reed
- Alex Leal
- Kiva Bay
- Bob Chipman
- Mark Bernstein
- Jonathan McIntosh
- Brian Stewart
- Joshua Goldberg as "Tanya Cohen"
- Phil Fish
- Jake Alley as SecretGamerGirl
- Antony Aguilar
- Israel Galvez
- Alex Lifschitz
- Randi Harper
- Laurelai Bailey
- Dan Olson
- David Gallant
- Peter Coffin
- Jessica O'Brien as VoidBurger
Individuals Discussed Involved in GamerGate Support
- Samuel Collingwood Smith
- Homer Carlos Garcia
- Lord RainbowDash
- Daniel Keem
- Yuval Levanthal
- Joshua Goldberg as himself and "MoonMetropolis"
- GethN7's Medium - The Asp in Gamergate's Bosom
- One Angry Gamer - WAM Report States GamerGate Isn't a Harassment Campaign
- Sargon of Akkad - Who is Harassing Anita Sarkeesian?
- One Angry Gamer - DLC Codes Used as Bribe To Tarnish Gamergate
- Boogie's Twitter - Murder Threat Against My Wife
- Meepsheep's Twitter - Selling IA's Personal Information
- KotakuInAction - Margaret Pless SWATs Mike Cernovich
- Breitbart - DC GamerGate Meetup Disrupted by Bomb Threat
- SPJ Airplay Gamergate Discussion w/Bomb Threat Coverage
- KotakuInAction - Compilation of Doxing and Threats
- JaimArchive - CON Log Leaks
- One Angry Gamer - FBI Closed GamerGate Case Due to No Actionable Leads Or Evidence
- Shacknews - Stardock CEO embroiled in Lawsuit
- Little Tiny Frogs - Vindication
- Stardock - Miseta's Public Apology
- Penny Arcade Report - Ben Kuchera's Doctored Brad Wardell Expose
- One Angry Gamer - Stardock's CEO calls out Kotaku and the Games Media for Being Trolls
- The Zoe Post
- Internet Aristocrat - Five Guys Burgers and Fries
- Lolcow Wiki Archive - KYM's Collage of Quinn Connections
- Lolcow Wiki Archive - KYM's Collage of Patricia Hernandez Allegations
- Magnotron - Gamergate - A Tale of Two Interviews
- Games Nosh - Zoe Quinn Scandal
- Mundane Matt - DMCA Notice and Removal
- Reddit Shadowbanning Chronicles
- Kotaku - Zoe Quinn Discussion
- KotakuInAction - Comprehensive Overview of Censorship on Reddit
- 4chan Mod Log Leaks
- Adam Baldwin's Twitter - First #Gamergate Tweet
- Open Letter to the Gaming Community
- Breitbart.com - Exposed: The Secret Mailing List of the Game Journalism Elite
- Breitbart.com - The Emails That Prove Video Game Journalism Must Be Reformed
- One Angry Gamer - If You Said Something You Regret, Be Prepared
- Breitbart.com - They're Onto Us
- William Usher - Alistair Pinsof: The Sour Side of Games Journalism
- One Angry Gamer - Cut it Out Or You're Not Welcome
- One Angry Gamer - GJP Emails Show Collusion
- One Angry Gamer - IGN Contributor Has Meltdown Following GJP Leaks
- David Pakman Show - Arthur Chu Interview
- GamerGate May Be the Target of a False-Flagging Operation
- Wikipedia - Jimmy Wales chastises Ryulong
- Gamerghazi - I'm Ryulong
- Christina Hoff Sommers - Are Video Games Sexist?
- Christina Hoff Sommers - What Critics of GamerGate Get Wrong
- KotakuInAction - Christina Hoff Sommers' Interview on MSNBC
- IGDA - GGAutoblocker
- KotakuInAction - KFC is on the GGAutoblocker
- TechRaptor - IGDA Names 10,000 Worst Offenders in Online Harassment
- TechRaptor - Deepfreeze Could Be the Future of Gamergate
- Ralph Retort - William Shatner Gives His Thoughts on GamerGate
- Sargon of Akkad - Why Gamers Had To Die, Part 1
- Sargon of Akkad - Why Gamers Had To Die, Part 2
- Sargon of Akkad - Why Gamers Had To Die, Part 3
- South by Southwest - Why We Cancelled Two Panels
- OGS - Dear Community
- Buzzfeed Threatens Withdrawl Over Cancellations
- The Verge - Boycotting SXSW Unless It Bans GamerGate
- KotakuInAction - The Epic Ragequit of Geordie Tait
- LeoPirate - To Catch a Predator
- LeoPirate - Pedophile Internet Defense Force
- Breitbart - Leading GamerGate Critic Exposed as Pedophile and White Nationalist
- Breitbart - Nyberg Claims to Be a Teenage Edgelord
- LeoPirate - CON Chat Leak Reviews
- KotakuInAction - Dan Olson is fucked
- Allthink: GamerGate - The Modern-Day Watergate
- Allthink: Trello Leaks Reveal More Cruelty and Corruption
- Ralph Retort - Zoe Quinn Withdraws Gag Order
- Indie-Fensible - Turnabout #GamerGate!
- Breitbart - Articles about Randi Harper
- Breitbart: How GamerGate Hater Arthur Chu Got Me Laid
- David Pakman Show - Mercedes Carerra/Chris Kluwe Debate
- Armed Gamer: Not Everything is About GamerGate
- The Observer - Blame GamerGate's Bad Rap on Smears and Shoddy Journalism
- BreitBart - GamerGate Anti-Bullying Campaign Costs Gawker Over a Million Dollars
- SelectAll: Did I Kill Gawker?
- Hot Air: GamerGate Scores Again With Updated Disclosure Guidelines
- KotakuInAction - FTC Confirms GamerGate Success
- One Angry Gamer - Freedom of Information Act Request Reveals Gawker Violations
- GamerGate - SPJ Synopsis and Bomb Threats
- Derek Smart - About the SPJ Airplay Debate
- BreitBart - SPJ Debate Suspended due to Bomb Threats
- Techraptor - SPJ Airplay Afternoon Recap and Bomb Threats
- BreitBart - Leigh Alexander Quits Game Journalism
- Polygon - I'm Taking a Break
- AlphaOmegaSin - Un Women Advocates Online Censorship
- UN Women's Group Calles for Internet Censorship
- Washington Post - UN Women has a Radical, Dangerous Vision for the Web
- Chronicle of Sarkeesian and Quinn's Speech to UN Women
- TechDirt - UN Women Releases Questionable Report
- NY Magazine - The UN Women's Cyber Harassment Report is Really Bad
- VentureBeat - UN Responds to ESA Criticism of CVAWG Report
- JaimArchive - UN Women Cyber-Violence Against Women and Girls Report
- UN Women Report Quotes Lyndon Larouche
- Vice - Zoe Quinn Disappointed in CVAWG
- LeoPirate - GamerGate Accomplishments
- KotakuInAction - Yes, FTC Confirms that GamerGate is Responsible for Affiliate Disclosure
- Hot Air - GamerGate Scores Again with FTC Updates
- Politico - Gawker Discusses Cost of GamerGate
- Gawker - How We Got Rolled by the Dishonest Facists of GamerGate