Was Gamergate a Prediction of Trump and Brexit?
The establishment is currently the most hated upon group there is. Feminists deride it as being misogynist and unwilling to change. The Right Wing deride it as changing too much and being too politically correct. Liberals claim it is autocratic and a rich boys club, whilst Conservatives claim it is too liberal and rewarding people based on quotas and skin colour rather than merit.
The problem most people have, is really agreeing on what the establishment actually is. For many people, it is simply those in power, the government. For others this extends to rich people and those with connections to those in power. Some even consider any institution that has considerable sway over the country as part of the establishment, such as the big financial institutions in London or Wall Street in America. For some people the establishment is just the inter-governmental groups, such as the EU or UN, and not individual nation states governments. Others even believe it is something popular or influential, such as large newspapers and broadcasting corporations. This all adds up to create a shadow enemy that can be whatever one wants it to be, it is the resisting force to whatever change one wants to make, the opposition to the individuals crusade.
It’s in this post-consensus climate that Gamergate emerged. If you ask five different people in the gaming community what Gamergate was about, I guarantee none of the answers will be the same. For some it was simple, it was about more transparency in gaming journalism. Some went further, and wanted more transparency from developers and publishers too, as well as hardware manufacturers. Some believed it was about the state of developers catering for the changing demographics of gamers, inserting more females and minorities into games, and creating LGBT characters. Others thought it was about the community at large, and how we respond and treat one another in a changing world. Many thought it was about protecting a ‘gamer’ identity. For a large amount it was just an opportunity to attack people they didn’t like or respect. It was an absolute mess, and was never a coherent cause or debate.
This confusion is where my first point stems from. I was very involved in the remain campaign during the EU referendum, and I debated with a lot of people. The vote meant a different thing to everyone, there were people that believed they were fighting against a foreign power, some that thought they were defeating corruption, some that believed it to be about trade and the economy, for many it was just immigration, but there was a single theme I picked up on from most of the people I talked to that backed leave – a sense of disenfranchisement. They all felt they were in some way or another losing their community, losing control of what they loved, an identity they thought they had slipping away. This forms the basis of what Gamergate would eventually become, a decrepit group of narcissists wanting to isolate the gaming community from change, turning it against any kind of real debate into a revealing commentary on the very real issues of race and sex, that many people thought gone.
If you were involved during Gamergate at all, then you will know what I am talking about. People acted as if the various top websites and gaming journalists were some sort of government of the gaming community, and we had to fight them. The relationship between a consumer and producer was gone – this was personal, and to a lot of people, it was everything. For me, I could never get my head around it. It just wasn’t that important to me – these were news outlets for a hobby, they didn’t have any responsibility in society like broadsheets or the tabloid press do, if you didn’t like their opinions, simply don’t read them. In retrospect, I can see the similarities. People felt these sites were in charge of the community, and they were pushing progressive views they didn’t like, and therefore they had to fight both at the same time in order to preserve their vision of the community – exactly the same way Trump supporters wanted to preserve their view of America and leave supporters their view of Britain.
Of course, what Gamergate was originally about is a moot point. Whether or not some gaming publications were paid for good reviews, or that their staff slept with gaming developers and game them more exposure doesn’t matter, because that’s not what it became. It was taken over almost instantly by the worst people in the community, who twisted it in whatever way they could. For them, women had to be their exact, perfect vision of a ‘gamer girl’ (hate that term) or they had to be expelled from the community. It became about women proving themselves when they shouldn’t have to, about them having to live up to certain standards or they wouldn’t be accepted. It was in effect, sexist. Because there was no formal ‘vote’ or any kind of event that ended Gamergate, the battles were mostly fought across the web in forums, on social media, Reddit and via the comments section on YouTube. People joke about the kind of filth you can find in these places – but those are real people. For a long time people have been different on the internet, either the worst or best version of themselves, unleashing all their views and darkest opinions behind a keyboard without worry, it wasn’t real life. People are now like that in real life. The masks people have been wearing are slowly being removed, the keyboard is being swapped with the megaphone.
For years, we have lived in a generally tolerant society. Racist and Sexist voices were pushed to the bottom, ignored by mainstream society and not given a soapbox. They did not have a platform, so their views hardened, and they became more angry with being outcasts. Gamergate was a chance for them to finally group together and become the loudest voice, the tolerant among us could not keep them down any longer and they rose to the surface, bringing their vitriol with them and creating an echo chamber amongst them that only caused the opinions to become more extreme. It evolved into mudslinging and arguments.
The difficulty tolerant and generally progressive people have, is that we aren’t used to that type of fight. Most of us are used to reasoned debate, based on facts and figures, and a calm discussion of opinion. We aren’t equipped to battle with people that just shout and curse, and don’t care when they are presented with any kind of opposing viewpoint. We lost the fight to remain, and we lost the fight against Trump. Anti-Establishment and disenfranchisement fused with right wing values of independence and selfishness to create the ‘alt-right’. Gamergate was the first example of the true face of society. Everyone thought things were different, the gaming community was just a harsh anomaly, not really representative of the wider world. We should have seen it coming.
If you’re interested in the basics on the history of Gamergate, Gawker wrote a pretty good article. It’s linked here. This was simply my opinion on how the vile outpouring of harassment and misplaced identity that emerged from Gamergate has had clear parallels and most likely effects upon society at large. What do you think? Let me know in the comments section below. (Civilly, if you don’t mind).