Note: I had drafted this piece for publication to be alongside that of my colleagues; however, they couldn't make it to publication. Because this is important, I want to post it here. I wanted to do it sooner while doing the "will they or won't they?" dance. If it has to be here, then at least that's somewhere. I have made some minor edits to make it more of a standalone piece. If you're somehow new to discussion on GamerGate (as it's received national media attention since my initial writing of this), I have also written an article for Indiewire's Women and Hollywood blog explaining GamerGate is a hate campaign as well as discussing sexism in the games industry.
A lot of people in GamerGate keep pointing to the Society of Professional Journalist’s ethics code. SPJ’s code of ethics, which I was asked to memorize in college, has four tenets: seek the truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable and transparent. I’m sure we can all agree that these are things journalists should abide by. I agree with a lot of people in GamerGate that we need to critically examine the relationship between press and developers and publishers, but I am never going to be willing to do it while risking the physical and emotional safety of the women being targeted by certain members using GamerGate for momentum.
As I read the statements in The Escapist's "What Male Game Developers Think of GamerGate" article, the same knot in my stomach appeared as the time a group of anonymous men called me a c*nt for daring to criticize a Soul Calibur V advertisement. The same knot from when I found out a bunch of men said behind my back I couldn’t possibly good at Super Smash Bros because I was “a girl.” It’s the very same knot that I haven’t been unable to unravel before GamerGate even started as I’ve watched more and more women leave the industry because it does not deserve them.
Undoubtedly, many of the views expressed by different developers in The Escapist's article hurt me. What I found even more distressing than the responses was how this article was presented and researched. With extremely edge case hypothetical questions, leading questions, and a selective round of interviews, the presentation of the article was inaccurate. I’m glad the initial title was quickly changed from the initial "What Game Developers Think of GamerGate" to adding the adjective "male" to avoid presentation of male game developers as the “default” while women must be “female game developers” (in this Escapist article). Still, I’m shocked such an obvious thing slipped through in the first place. Furthermore, the opening paragraph, now redacted, slipped into revisionism territory, giving an alternate timeline of events instead of addressing GamerGate’s roots: ones that began with the sole intention of attacking a female game developer. I am not against the idea of asking various game developers for their opposing opinions on things happening around the industry and culture, but all too often people ask men what they think of women’s issues, and the men try to explain the problems away. I saw a lot of that in the article, and some of the men interviewed were harassers (note: their interviews have been removed). I do not think it is ever the duty of journalists to give a platform to harassers. Objectivity doesn’t mean handing a microphone to people whose words enable harassment and death threats; that would be anything but minimizing harm. Objectivity is not always in the middle of “two extremes.”
When women talk about abuse, the default reaction in GamerGate has been to doubt them. The concept of us needing to talk about our abuse in order for some men to listen to us is absurd in the first place. We shouldn’t need to talk about how we’ve been hurt in order for you to stop talking and actually listen. When women speak about diversity, there’s a large segment of people who make dealing with harassment a necessary step in order to call for safe spaces for all people. An article in Jezebel breaks down better than I can why GamerGate is a hate group in terms of dehumanization, techniques, recruitment, and a leader (notable right-wing celebrities and journalists, as well as YouTube personalities).
GamerGate isn’t as much about ethics as it is about silencing feminist criticism of video games and the game industry. Of course, this isn’t evident in only games circles. Comments on Escapist articles about the portrayal of female characters in comics earn very similar remarks, claiming gender-inclusivity is just “political correctness.” To that I ask you to actively listen to women speaking about the problems in STEM, in games, in comics, and in the world.
This is why I urge anyone who wants to start a conversation about ethics in games journalism and the game industry to divorce themselves from #GamerGate. You may not have gone into the hashtag with ill intentions, but people are using it to coordinate attacks on women. By using that hashtag in this climate, you are condoning the behavior that has sent three women running from their homes in two months. We’ll be ready to have that ethics conversation once we feel safe.
I also urge for more coverage of this issue and everything surrounding it. GamerGate didn’t pop up out of thin air. Women have been harassed in gaming for as long as I’ve been alive. It is our responsibility as journalists to cover this with empathy for those being attacked, along with fair reporting that isn’t afraid to point out the problems in this industry and in the press.
I sat here at my desk wondering whether to issue this statement anonymously. GamerGate has made it clear that women are targets of much more severe harassment than men are. Women walk around with targets on their backs, and becoming vocal makes the target easier to spot. I am tired of keeping quiet due to fear. I know many will tell me to shut up, that I’m mistaken, or that my experiences are invalid – all things I am used to hearing because I am not a man – but I will not stand by as I watch this community and this industry run women into the ground.