This past summer a massive scandal rocked the gaming community. The ex-boyfriend of Zoe Quinn, an indie game developer, posted a blog entry accusing Zoe of cheating on him with a gaming journalist from the website Kotaku in order to secure positive press for one of her games.
This sparked a firestorm in the gaming community bringing to light concerns over the integrity of gaming journalists and problems of misogyny and sexism in video games and the gaming community.
Almost immediately gamers on the websites like 4chan and Reddit began harassing Quinn, and attacking her character. She has been the victim of death threats and threats of sexual violence, and has had her personal information stolen and released on the Internet.
A number of weeks after the initial story broke Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist media critic, posted a video series criticizing parts of the gaming industry for being sexist. She began receiving similar threats and personal attacks. She even received a mass shooting threat at a lecture she was to give at Utah State University.
Most recently The Guild actress Felicia Day, came out with her criticism of the controversy and within hours she had received similar threats and attacks.
At the same time other male celebrities, like Wil Wheaton and former NFL punter Chris Kluwe made social media posts critical of the Gamergate controversy, and received no harassment.
The problems of journalistic ethics in gaming journalism, and sexism in video games are things that definitely need to be discussed. But attacks, and threats against people who discuss them, especially women, who seem to be the only ones being attacked, bring down the entire community.
These attacks are what get talked about in the news, not the topics that generate them. When death threats and sexual harassment are the biggest news in the mainstream media it makes the entire industry and community look bad.
The gaming industry has made huge strides toward being a more socially accepted medium and activity. Online game streaming site Twitch is the fourth most visited website and was recently bought by Amazon for nearly $1.1 billion. A lot of colleges have competitive gaming teams now. Video games are being accepted as being an art medium, telling stories as deep and beautiful as any movie or novel. Video games aren’t just for children any more. They’re for families, adults and anyone else that appreciates good story-telling and art.
The Gamergate controversy brought up a lot of problems in the gaming community. But parts of the community, hidden in the anonymity of the internet, are spoiling whatever good can come from this. They’re ruining the public image of the video game community and industry.
If gamers want the public to accept video games as art and as something more than just a way to waste time, then they need to be able to have the discussions brought about by controversies like this without threats or harassment and allow criticism to take place. Critics should never be made to fear for their lives for trying to dissect and analyze an art form.
Open criticism and analysis are what makes art.