GamerGate: A Quick (Emotional) Check-In

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It’s something everyone knows about me: GamerGate makes me super nauseous. Like, actually physically nauseous. The day that Felicia Day got doxxed, I was nearly apoplectic. Thank goodness for people like Megan Praz, Audrey White and Laura Mandanas who have done amazing coverage in various styles, because I couldn’t do it. Taylor Hatmaker’s work on The Daily Dot has called GamerGate a “misogynistic clusterfuck.” We can now add our very own Carly Usdin to the list of people chasing down this craziness and making sure it gets reported on. Carly produced and directed a YouTube Nation video that goes a little something like this:

Pro-tip, though. Don’t read the comments. My tendency to do the internet equivalent of wiggling a loose tooth is probably what’s giving me such a visceral reaction to GamerGate, which (let’s be totally clear) is a misogynistic clusterfuck. There is nothing redeemable about GamerGate, and anyone still fighting for “ethics” under that hashtag should found a new movement if they’re really serious about greater transparency in gaming journalism. Because GamerGate is about shitting all over women. It doesn’t really matter if it was intentionally started that way (it was) or if that isn’t the intention of all its participants (it isn’t). That’s what the fire-breathing beast is now. Anyone who doubts that need only look at the internet’s reaction to Chris Kluwe, who called GamerGaters hilarious, amazing insults such as:

paint-huffing-shitgoblins

People mostly left him alone, or gave him some digital side eye. And yet Felicia Day, who simply expressed concerns with no insults hurled at anyone, got doxxed. Kluwe, a man-person, understood the disconnect there:

The comments on everything to do with GamerGate read like worst sorts denial and victim blaming with a heaping side of not believing women. It’s kinda sickening. I imagine there are more of you than just me who are getting a wee bit queasy, especially with how connected this all is to rape culture. I imagine that there are more of you who are recalling when you stopped gaming, if you stopped. How you had your mom cancel your Ultima Online subscription when the all-male members of your guild invited you to go on a quest with them and then killed your character and took all the cool stuff you’d amassed over the year you’d been logging on. I imagine so many of you, like me, hung your head and felt like you’d been stupid and just said, “I don’t really want to play anymore, is all.” What were we when we learned that’s how it was, thirteen years old?

So this post isn’t about GamerGate. It’s about you. It’s about you and me and everyone doing the sometimes exhausting work of being a woman on the internet. Of being a woman in the gamer space. So this is your quick check in—how are you doing today? In the face of all the “paint-huffing shitgoblins” in this world, how are y’all? I’m doing pretty okay myself. Here are a few resources for you to be an awesome woman “gaming” this system this weekend. Get it? See what I did there? Gaming?


Great Old Games—use this site to return to the days where, as Wil Wheaton says in his Washington Post article:

…we had to win and lose with grace, or we’d get our butts beaten (literally) by other players. Or, worse, we’d be kicked out! When we played games next to each other on the couch, we could trash talk and razz each other, but we were still in the same room together, and our behavior out of game was even more important than the way we behaved in the game. Playing games with real, live humans prevented any of the poisonous behavior proliferating online today.

And for y’all Windows users, you will be especially happy with that site—almost nothing is Mac only. At least, nothing that I used to play.

Anita Sarkeesian runs Feminist Frequency, a video-essay site that comments on video games from a feminist perspective. You may have heard her name quite a bit because she’s been caught in the GamerGate cyclone. Here she is speaking at XOXO in Portland:

And here she is on the Colbert Report, in case you didn’t see it:

Zoe Quinn, whose disgruntled ex-boyfriend started the whole GamerGate quagmire, made a game called Depression Quest. It’s been out for a while, but for those of you haven’t played yet, you can find it here, available for free (donations gladly accepted).

We often hear about Brianna Wu because she’d been forced from her home by threats, but I find it weird that her game development company, Giant Spacekat and its hit game, Revolution 60 isn’t being talked about in the same breath. You can grab it for iOS devices.

For games specifically featuring queer goodness, check out Robin’s list of 8 great titles to play. One of these is on my own personal to-do list, Gone Home. If you’re feeling a bit down on being a gamer this weekend, it might be a good time to tackle this story-exploration game.

Also consider checking out Whitney’s epic post about Anna Antropy and her multitude of free-to-play online (and purchasable) games.

If you want to avenge my 13-year-old self on Ultima Online, by the way, it still exists (I had no idea. Ultima was dead to me for quite some time). I cannot vouch for whether or not it’s still as good.


This has been the one-hundred-fourth installment of  Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy tech column. Not everything we cover is queer per se, but we talk about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to web sites you have to favorite to any other fun shit we can do with technology. Header by Rory Midhani.

Staff Writer for Autostraddle, Part-time Faculty at The New School (teaching digital storytelling), Managing Editor for Scholar & Feminist Online at Barnard Center for Research On Women. Follow me on Twitter @AEOsworth or on Instagram, also @AEOsworth.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.

30 Comments

  1. Hey Ali, I’m not a gamer, but your post gave me all the feels. I was probably close to thirteen when the boys started telling me to go home and wouldn’t play with me anymore because I’m a girl.

    Well, screw them. I’m the only girl on a sailing racing team now, and the skipper proudly declares to the misogynistic pricks at the club that i’m the best arms he’s got on his otherwise all-male crew.

  2. Hmm I know what you mean, reading about Gamergate so often leaves me angry and sad too.

    I guess you warned us to not read the comments but I did it anyway and now I m angry and sad again =(

    Although Ive to say watching Ashly Burch being a super cool and smart person definitely makes me feel better about the world =)

  3. Gone Home is great! I just bought The Long Dark for my lady (who loved Gone Home). Post-apocalyptic northern wilderness exploration-style game with a lady option for the sole character? Yes please!

    I can’t wait for Life is Strange to come out next year! If anyone has any recommendations for Gone Home playalikes, lemme know!

  4. the most frustrating this about all this for me is how all the guys I talk to about gamergate are just having fun with it. Fun commenting and debating the “ethics”, fun with the comradery they’re feeling. Which makes talking about it impossible since I can barely hear the word without frothing with rage.

    I didn’t know Felicia Day go doxxed for that post, now I feel a little ill.

  5. The gamergate movement is just one example of the anti-pc backlash our culture is now experiencing. While I’m glad that many social justice movements are becoming mainstream enough to inspire this type of backlash, I’m really worried that things may get worse before they get better.

    I took the time to read through the arguments of gamergate supporters, in case there really were legitimate concerns that were being overlooked, and there just are not any. Basically a lot of people think that writing a review from a feminist/anti-racist/queer and trans positive perspective is in and of itself unethical because it is inserting politics where it doesn’t belong (as though ignoring the problematic aspects of a game is somehow neutral).

    I shouldn’t be surprised that so many people are this ignorant, but it still shocks me.

    • Thank you, yes, I have been noticing the backlash myself and it is troubling. What riles me up the most is this entitlement of the anti-pc people; how dare you harass me with your minority rights demands, they say. How dare you deny me my right to hate speech, discrimination and bigotry, they say. You are oppressing me now, they say. It’s ludicrous and just plain spoiled – which is not at all surprising considering these words are uttered by people in the position of greater social power.

      My girlfriend believes that, having grown up within a hierarchical system, straight white males are simply incapable of envisioning a world of equality, which is why they so often suspect (and accuse) human rights proponents of secretly plotting world domination. It’s difficult to talk to people whose irrational fears and beliefs are so powerful they prevent genuine communication. How does one assuage these fears – and why should it be our job to do so? I’m tired of conversations that begin with a disclaimer.

  6. I’m also not a gamer, but wow do I see a lot of similar attitudes in the sports I do. The article speaks to me about how hostile things were to me doing traditionally male-dominated activities like karate and whitewater kayaking. I stopped doing both of those things in junior high because of the combination of being sick of putting up with the dudes’ hostility and a heavy dose of body shame and what I now know to be dysphoria.

    I really regret stopping kayaking because I’ve gotten back into it, and I just can’t help but wonder where I’d be with those extra six or so years (probably kicking ass and winning races; though I’m currently doing pretty good on the former and working on the latter). And I’m still dealing with those same attitudes from a lot of dudes that I don’t “belong there” on the river. And it just frustrates me and pisses me off to no end, especially since I already need to be more skilled than them because I don’t have the advantage of testosterone or their momentum from their extra 30-60 lbs on me. It frustrates me when my decision to not run a rapid because I’m not feeling it makes them feel justified to mock me and female paddlers in general as not being “real paddlers” (which, fuck you on both the level of misogyny and on the level of encouraging dangerous, potentially lethal behavior).

    • *high five of solidarity* My best school friend is also in sports and i learn through her just how much crap she has to navigate to pursue her amazing athletic talents. Hollis I hope you post your present and furure kayaking accomplishments around the AS webiverse so we can help you celebrate; would be cool and helpful to hear about.

      Also the TGI athlete network website might be a good place to find support from fellow gender non-conforming athletes; it’s run by a fellow straddler. http://tgiathletenetwork.com/about/ I’m in some of the affiliate facebook groups and they’ve been helpful for me (i also do sports but not as my main gig).

  7. i’m not a gamer but i am in STEM, so i appreciate this post because i can relate with the visceral reaction i have reading about the hundreds of African girls kidnapped for studying physics, or Malala (shot in the face for going to school) hearing about winning the Nobel Peace prize while in her chemistry class.

    i think it’s really smart to have emotional check-ins. more and more, i am realizing that outrage and frustration are not a sign of weakness, but a secret weapon, that tells me things my intellectual brain won’t.

    i have one close female friend in grad school, and we regularly talk about the realities of gender bias and misogyny in our professional lives, and it really helps me realize we’re the strong ones, we’re on the right side of history, we’re doing the right kind of work when we speak out and stand up. if it weren’t for her, though, i would feel more ashamed and helpless.

    i hope Ali and everyone has someone they can do emotional check-ins with, even if it’s on a website, we’re building a better world, seriously.

    the video of Colbert interviewing Anita Sarkeesian, calling himself a feminist and shaking her hand, was excellent. She’s a rockstar for being the strong voice (even when it shook when she talked about the death threats), and he’s a rockstar for understanding the importance of his visibility in a supporting role.

  8. I’m not a gamer either but have been following the story and feeling queasy as well. Sadly the only way I think this clusterfuck could be brought to an end is if it somehow became possible to identify and prosecute the worst-offender shitgoblins, because it’s pretty clear that these people are not interested in being reasoned with.

    As for wiggling a loose tooth, this is the reason I have so far kept my distance from all the Bill Cosby hoopla. :/ It would be good to see an article on it here at AS, where I know the comments would be relatively safe.

  9. I had a little cry the day Felicia Day got doxxed. It really struck a chord with me.

    I’ve only gotten back into gaming in the past year or so. My Steam handle is gender-neutral, my avatar is female but is a FF VII character so doesn’t really tie me down, and I never play with strangers. It wasn’t till all this kicked off that I realised the reason for all those things is that I am afraid. I am afraid that my gender will mark me as different and worthy or criticism or ridicule or worse. And I hate that.

  10. Great article. This site is always a great antidote to the effects of my masochistic comment reading elsewhere online. On a brighter note, this weekend I created a cat army of minions in minecraft who now follow me around on my travels.

  11. For so long, video games have been such a source of inspiration and strength for me. Now, I’ve stopped posting on most of the gaming forums I used to frequent, after pointing out an innocuous factual inaccuracy in a gamergate info post and subsequently being threatened (I don’t hide my gender online, or well, I didn’t up until recently). Now on WoW I don’t roleplay outside my guild, I stay silent in dungeons and raids, and on steam I’ve started roleplaying a fictional character just so nobody can pinpoint my real gender.

    GamerGate is terrifying. When Felicia first posted her article, I was nodding along with everything she wrote. And then she was doxxed, and it was like someone had stepped on my heart and knocked the breath out of me all at once. I’m sure there are innocent moderates in there who really believe it is about integrity of gaming journalism, and they will insist up and down that the harassers aren’t part of GamerGate, but when a group has no leaders, no clearly spelled out goals and no centralization, those who are part of GamerGate are those who claim to be, and the rest need to own up to that instead of saying “it’s not my problem”.

  12. I’ve been holed up in my apartment for the past 5 days re-playing Dragon Age 2, so this is interesting to come back online to see. I’ve always avoided MMOs and any type of game that is overwhelmingly bro-tastic solely because I’m not interested in having shit-headed strangers ruin my gaming experience. I’m an immersive gamer – I don’t care about the game mechanics, but if you have a good story then I want to play it. I’m fortunately not cynical about video gaming because I only play games that have really good storylines for female characters, but this whole Gamer Gate shit has made me even more apprehensive about looking into gaming communities, on or offline.

    • With you on the apprehension.
      People are so confused as to why I only play the WWII set CoD and never go online. Those people are always dude bro-ish and don’t have any love for the setting only the “aha look at me dude I’m so cool being a soldier behind my controller-ness”

      WWII has special place in my heart that gets me misty eyed like nothing else, no matter how corny the story it will always get to me.

  13. I am 33 years old and have gamed pretty much for as long as I remember (all hail the Commodore 64), and there’s one thing I have never done, ever since the technology became available, and no matter how much I’d like to play these particular games, and that’s game online in MMOs and the like. I remember a guy I worked with once findng out I used to play CoD (single player missions only) and he kept on trying to get me to play the online multiplayer and he’d never understand why I’d say no, even when I explained the kind of response I’d get as a female player. I have since got a rather masculine Playstation name and my steam name is vague enough (plus I have a userpic of a cat) that I don’t tend to get bothered.

    One thing that Gamergate has reinforced for me is that no matter how much I might want to play online games, I can only do it if I have a gender neutral name, or I don’t talk, or I don’t do anything that dares identify that I am female to these gamers, otherwise I’ll get abused or treated like a dumb female etc etc.

    When Gamergate kicked off on twitter I got repeatedly harassed just for commenting on it to the point where I had people spamming me with Zoe Quinn’s nudes because I was defending her. It is classing rape culture harassment too, because if you make a comment you get dogpiled for, if you dare not reply to everyone (because of course they DEMAND you reply to them because they are dudes and they don’t take women not replying to them), you get abused every name under the sun. Rather like the way we get abused for not responding to street harassment, because in every aspect of their lives, apparently men are entitled to a woman’s attention.

    Sorry, that got a bit off track but anyway. Stuff Gamergate for making gaming, a hobby I love and enjoy, into an even worse thing to admit I like. Ethics in gaming journalism, my arse.

  14. My baby gaming heartbreak was when my mother asked me about some what would be some nice video games for the PS2 we got for Christmas. Ecstatic I began talking about Soul Calibur II which had just come out which I had played in the arcade and beat as Talim using only one quarter.
    Guess what my brother got for his birthday?

    I’ve always hesitated to call myself a gamer because I play games for how fun they are to me and my idea of fun some people find uh…disturbing.
    Video games are one the few guilt free no live humans involved outlets I’ve got for my sadistic tendencies.
    Gamergaters? They are but worms to me, but I am not a woman in the industry. Nor I have had the most peaceful life. Someone confronting me, threatening me feels kinda normal. People being nice will probably always feel awkward and sometimes like a trap.

    Still when Bloodborne finally comes out I will probably pretend the monsters whose demise gives my character health back are the painthuffing shitgoblins making the wonder that is video games miserable for people who did nothing but question our flawed world.

    Game on y’all and give those shitgoblins your R2 trigger finger. 😀

  15. *tw sui*

    I’m a massive gamer, and this summer started playing Minecraft with a new bunch of guys who I knew from the hobby that we all do (though I’d met none of them in the flesh, we talk on Facebook often). After it initially being fun, a few of them started to pick on the 2 girls who were part of the group. The other girl stopped playing, as she’d not been so into it, while I carried on playing because I’d put a lot of time and effort in.

    Anyway, their griefing escalated and continued onto Facebook where they started making pages to brag about what they were doing. People joined in and started making personal attacks and, long story short, I tried to kill myself. Which I didn’t tell them.

    I’m so sick of what it means to be a girl gamer. You get picked on merely because you’re a girl, and lad culture means that all the guys jump in. If you show that you’re upset, they just spurs them on. If you don’t react, they carry on until they get a reaction.

    I’ve had a more positive experience playing Destiny recently. The guys I raid with are mostly from the US military, and treat women with a lot of respect. This is a stark contrast to the attitudes of my English Destiny (male) friends, who are far more interested in “banter”.

  16. Super late to the party… The day you posted this, I was finally starting to feel better because nothing GG had popped up on my newsfeed for awhile. I didn’t comment at the time because I was like, “don’t pick at the scab, just let it go and let it heal,” since I had been such an emotional wreck over it for weeks.

    Then yesterday I inadvertently discovered that they’re all over Brianna Wu again because she dared to get financial assistance from her parents for her first big project when she was a teenager and I just

    (Here comes the rage!frustration again)

    Like, how many rich/successful people (read: MEN) have gotten help from their parents? I mean, even if they didn’t flat-out just fully inherit literally everything, they at least got money from them to start their own businesses? I am fairly certain it is close to 90%! Where’s all the rage there, guys? But I guess it’s okay because those are (mostly) men?

    So now GamerGate has driven my emotional stability to the brink again. That’s why I really appreciated this post when I first saw it, because seriously? This whole thing has done a huge number on me. I have been a gamer my whole life and I’ve felt so betrayed because I actually never experienced misogyny/exclusion until now. I know, it’s unbelievable. I think it’s because I didn’t have access to any wifi-enabled consoles apart from the Wii until last year, and I don’t like PC gaming, so I never played online (apart from Mario Kart). I had my group of online/IRL gaming friends (mostly girls) and I was really into watching game-related tv shows and stuff (like G4/TechTV back in the day–some of those shows still run in Canada so I stream them) so I felt really connected to the “gaming community” and I had NO CLUE. I feel so gullible. I always just figured that the stupid games industry was the biggest problem, what with their gross plot points, but that most players felt the same way I did and idk. I think back on how I’ve ranted about the portrayal of women in video games on my blog for years, figuring most gamers, if they ever saw it, would be like, “hey, yeah, I think so, too.” (Or at least just ignore it!) I never would have expected a reaction like this, for saying such non-inflammatory stuff. All these years I was apparently just somehow managing to miss the harassment brigade and it’s SUPER TERRIFYING

    Anyway, THANK YOU for this post, because this whole thing has been so upsetting and it’s so hard to find a safe place to let it out without fearing retaliation ♥

  17. Ok I wanna say my perspective on this old issue is a bit different. So I first found it through a pro gamer gate perspective and I notice a couple other things that others might not.

    Ok when it comes to Anita Sarkesian. Ummmm most of her content is under researched and spreads some down right lies. I won’t hate her for it, but my biggest problem is the fact that she disabled comments so no one could have a discussion. Instead of creating a discussion around sexism in video games she tried to make her opinion fact. So I dislike that. However she isn’t that big of a deal in my eyes.

    GamerGate itself definitely had women hating aspects due to it being an Internet movement. However it did originate when there was a rumour that a developer paid for a review with sex, which should not be ok. It was just rumours, but after lots of bullsh*t regarding paid reviews and such this kinda became a last straw. So the movement started in a desire for ethical journalism. However many misogynists joined and it became trash.

    So I agree with the original intention. I want more ethical games journalism, but I can’t stand the sexism that’s in the movement. Please don’t hate me for this I am just trying to show a different perspective and I’m willing to discuss and have a debate over it.

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