As Gamergate continues to roll forward into the winter, unyielded by numerous games media establishments decrying it’s horrendous actions, many are wondering when this nonsensical “movement” of the targeted harassment of female developers, among other horrors, might end. Some are betting on the fall release stream of AAA videogame titles, and others are waiting for inevitable boredom to set in. The cancerous mob of GamerGate lacks no true goal, they seemingly have zero leadership, and seem to exist solely to ruin lives, for the sake of “vidya gaems.” Yet, they constantly manufacture propaganda, mostly remixed World War Two posters, and continue to insist they are participating in a “movement” to destroy corruption in games journalism by targeting female developers.
There is an ecosystem to GamerGate, there is a consistent logic and organization to their actions. GamerGate doesn’t exist to “protect” games journalism. “#NotYourShield” is an ironic falsitude of manipulation - GamerGate’s hordes of twitter & e-mail spammers, convinced they are fighting a “war” against corrupt games journalists, and believe they are righteous warriors in a movement for good. All the while women are recieving targeted death threats, encouraged to kill themselves, are driven from their homes, and relentlessly harassed on social media platforms. GamerGate’s hordes are not a shield. They’re not a sword, either. They are a grinder - existing and manipulated into wearing down everyone they seek to target; this relentless assault only amplifies the more horrid death and rape threats when they inevitably appear.
I know how this works because I lived it - in an entirely different context, with far less awful goals. A lot of what I’m going to write is admittedly anecdotal, and somewhat unsourced, however - I have seen this mob mentality before, admittedly in better circumstances. I have participated in it before, as nothing more than a grunt soldier in a buzzing horde that existed solely to terrorize, troll, destroy, and dominate - and we were pretty goddamn good at it. It was fun, it was hilarious. We were a bunch of internet strangers that enjoyed having a good laugh at somebody else’s expense. We drew up propaganda, gathered in 300-400 person voicechat groups, listened to melodramatic and acronym heavy State of the Union speeches, and rallied one another into enraging others.
This was achieved by a highly coordinated and organized tactical effort - mostly ramming tiny spaceships into giant spaceships, over and over, until the screams were grinded into dust, and the buzzing silence of the swarm stood dominating over the tryhards that wiggled beneath our landing treads. We were the scourge to be feared, with no sword of Damocles hanging over our head, free from consequence.
Of course, this only was a videogame. We were Goonswarm, and we were the grand villains of a little MMO called EVE Online back in the late 2000s. The thrill wasn’t the actual act of playing the game - it was complex, boring, and a complete timesink with no real payoff unless you had way too much free time. The thrill was being part of an artifically constructed internal culture with limited access, and being part of a shared identity that could make headlines - from the game specific news sites all the way to the New York Times. There were certainly problematic elements within, such as “Jihadswarm,” a play off of the Muslim Terrorist stereotype, as they went around screaming “Allahu Ackbar” while suicide bombing innocent mining operations.
It’s been a horrifying few months, to see the same tactics me and old internet friends in a harmless game used to goof off and have a good collective laugh as we abused the throes of power over a digital galaxy, being used to coordinate a targeted and deluded assault on women in the world of videogames. Everything from artificial mascots to remixed war propaganda to unyielding, repetitive spamming were all core components to Goonfleet. It added an extra layer of culture to a videogame consisting of extremely complex operations to take and hold space in a massive galaxy of danger and wonder. Having private message boards and chats and internal rivalries between groups, being led around the galaxy at a whim in a socialist dictatorship where even a tiny mistake could have massive consequences, and the general throwing around of swears and insults was a hilarious, and amazing adventure that only the Internet and videogames could make possible, and I wish everybody could at some point be a part of something similar.
GamerGate wasn’t what I meant by that, but here it is. It doesn’t exist to fight corruption in games journalism, there is no victory at the end of the tunnel, but it is instead a buzzing horde of harassment and siege warfare. It’s an age old internet mentality of “trolling,” to get a reaction out of someone, no matter the cost. To drive someone from their home and make the news? Hilarious. To take over news headlines, to force someone to anger and shock? Their fault for having a reaction. Driving someone without financial stability out of making games and out of the field? Glorious tears. It’s being able to maintain this stream of victories, these end results of horrific, terrible actions of harassment and threats that are the “thrill” of this semi-organized troll movement.
It’s addictive. The dopamine rushes come hard, and the shared collective joy in conquering a foe and relishing in their anguish is extremely potent. As a lackey in Goonswarm back in the day, we were ordered around by people who spent a lot of time planning, plotting, spying for, and organizing this massive “corp” of thousands. According to evemaps they have 11,753 members currently. (not sure how many are actually active) The last time I was part of an organized fleet taking part in an invasion, it numbered in the 300-400 range. Understanding a larger battle strategy was unimportant - it was the addiction to a constant stream of small victories - Jihadswarm taking down an up and coming corp, scamming new players out of their early spoils, wreaking general galactic havoc - the joy was seemingly neverending.
Because of the structural flaws of the major Internet platforms such as Twitter, GamerGate has been permitted to wage it’s campaign of hate unabided and without consequence - sending deaththreats, spamming propaganda, trying to wear down any opposed to the “movement,” trying to convert as many as possible under the guise of “ethics” in games journalism - what essentially boils down to purchasing advice for one of the most massive entertainment industries of modern society.
The AAA videogame industry - a billion dollar operation of megacorporations that wields all manner of tools to drive consumer loyalty and tie down games journalists into an abusive relationship which reduces them to nothing more than a public relations tool - has bred itself a loyal, destructive base of dedicated fans who seek to silence criticism from the gaming press at the opposite end of the pipeline, through any means necessary.
GamerGate is the end result of a corporatist dystopia that has transcended faith beyond what theology was originally capable of, and manages to foster a fundamentalist loyalty that is so dedicated to preserving the status quo of an artistic medium that they are willing to violently threaten the lives of any woman who dare bothers to critique it. Shielded by the sheer spinelessness of Twitter, and the hordes of “well actually” naysayers that deny any affiliation to the violent and constant harassment and threats that are, bizarrely enough, directed to the exact same targets of GamerGate’s alleged “suspects” of corruption - female indie developers and critics. Yet GamerGate insists that this is entirely separate from them, and that they are crusaders for justice - delusion is a poisonous drug.
HOW TO FOSTER A CULTURE OF UNYIELDING HARASSMENT:
Step 1. Get a Mascot
Back in the Goonfleet days, we conquered through the strength of our swarm - low level players numbering in the hundreds, given endless Rifters - tiny ships that served little purpose beyond recon and “tackling” - the act of bumping into a massive enemy ship which prevented it from completing any actions, leaving it open to enemy attack. Thus, we all became Bees. We had an amazing handful of artists that took this adorable little mascot and remixed them into a number of contexts, most popular being the Elton John remix titled “Little Bees,” with an animated stopmotion music video. It’s beautiful, hilarious, and endearing. When times were rough in the heat of battle, we could sing our merry tune in voicechat, and rally to the cause. Again, this was all in good fun, as we were just trolling within the rules of a videogame.
GamerGate, on the other hand, has created “Vivian James,” a young (possibly under legal age) girl dressed in green and purple with red hair (because redheads are the hottest, according to conventional beauty standards) that “just wants to play games” and is sick of “SJWs” ruining games. You see, unable to find a real woman to get behind their targeted harassment of female videogame critics, GamerGate manufactured one. And they jerk off to her. Just searching “Rule 34 Vivian James” turns up endless results of their supposed revolutionary leader - who I might remind you, is constantly portrayed as a young, childlike figure - in numerous pornographic poses and fetish-centric situations. I’m trying to think of any political movement that needed to manufacture its own mascot and then proceed to jack off to her, but alas, nothing seems to come to mind.
Step 2: Get some World War 2 Propaganda and Warp It Beyond Recognition
Nerds have a boner for vintage propaganda - it’s well designed, pleasing to look at, and demands numerous characteristics that they lack - courage, unyielding fervor, loyalty, honor, dignity - so of course historical propaganda from the most demanding period in human history would make a great collective motivator for a mass of pilots waging a war of intergalactic conquest. Goonswarm remixed these historical pieces to communicate necessary and required information to be a part of the organization - to use the tutorial, to celebrate the importance of the low level cannon fodder, to remind players not let mission critical information leak, to lampoon the enemy, to celebrate glorious victories, to indicate current alliances, to illustrate structure and potential roles new members could work their way up to. It was a brilliant remix of culture that helped organize and inform players, while also providing entertaining humor.
GamerGate calls itself a “political movement” to fight “corruption” while communicating internally through remixed World War Two propaganda, regardless of the context. One of my favorite (sarcastic, of course) pieces is the commonly repeated meme to “KEEP SENDING THOSE E-MAILS” to advertising sponsors such as Intel, BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Adobe to stop running ads on websites decrying GamerGate - such as Kotaku and developer-centric website, Gamasutra. This is the true art of the propagandist - to strike at the out of touch public relations managers, who probably haven’t played a videogame since Gran Turismo 3 in college, and see some “ironic” tweet out of context and feel the need to protect their company’s brand by ralling against bullying. By siding with a faux-political “movement” that exists solely to bully and browbeat any opposition into submission, through long and arduous siege warfare, GamerGate has found itself allies through the criminal act of deception and misleading those who almost certainly know better.
This is the hilarious contradiction of GamerGate - they position themselves as a political movement, yet communicate within their circles through war propaganda, using war propaganda language. From crappy Photoshops of Metal Gear Solid Online to Warhammer 40,000 to Bane’s army in The Dark Knight Rises to 1984 to Halo, GamerGate has convinced itself its fighting a battle for the ages - to defend corporate manufactured entertainment products from the evil, liberal, underpaid critics and indie developers that can barely keep their head above water. You know, they say in the military, that if you’ve found yourself in a fair fight - you’ve planned it poorly. GamerGate is a seemingly guaranteed victory for its followers - not because they’re right, but because they have the resources to browbeat their targets into submission.
This is the twisted irony of GamerGate deluding themselves into being a righteous movement while appropriating World War Two propaganda: they know this isn’t a movement. Wars aren’t won in a singular melodramatic victory of good defeating evil - its won in long, arduous sieges of attrition that drive the enemy far beyond the point of no return. This is the twisted enlightenment of GamerGate’s true criminals - the violent threat makers and the doxxers and the harassers who get off on violating the personal and private lives of their targets - that they know they’ll “win,” regardless of the lines they cross, regardless of how cruel they become, because our society has failed to catch up to the reality that women online can be targeted and harassed out of the public sphere given enough time and attention. They’ll capitalize on the desperation of their victims, who demand that games media establishments decry GamerGate whilst GamerGaters decry games media for unfounded claims of “corruption,” writing off any media establishment that doesn’t embrace their awful, sexist, and racist viewpoints.
Step 3: Consistently Redefine Victory into a Dishonest, Nonsensical Construct
GamerGate’s upper echelons have no consideration for their shield. Their shield exists only to amplify the power of their more lethal attacks, to delude and dissuade and distort the reality of what they seek to accomplish - raw, unfiltered terrorism of those who seek to dissuade the status quo. After driving multiple women from their homes out of fear, the mainstream news coverage made GamerGate a highly unattractive organization - so after sicking their hordes upon anyone who dared to declare GamerGate a hate group, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, they chose to strip advertisers. And they’ve succeeded. Intel, Adobe, BMW, and Mercedes Benz have cancelled their advertising with those that have called out GamerGate.
Now, I will be brave enough to say I feel a great deal of discomfort with demanding billion dollar corporations continue their advertising agreements with certain websites. To have anti-GamerGaters making demands of international capitalist organizations of profit extraction creates a rather uncomfortable aura of neo-capitalist worship, the same crime GamerGate is guilty of as they “defend” AAA videogames from the evil Social Justice Warriors who are sick of women and racial minorities being treated as cannon fodder. One starts to wonder if this move is almost intentional - to decry legitimacy of the cultural critics of mainstream videogame values by proving they’re just as guilty as corporate worship as the GamerGaters they rally against.
This is the secret of a propaganda war - first you deligitimize your enemy, and then you prove your inevitable superiority over them, wrapped in the language of “freedom,” “creative expression,” and whatever nonsensical logic you wish to put forward in the defense of the status quo - which, let’s face it, has led to some pretty amazing games. However, we can expect better from the medium, and GamerGate is nothing more than the destructive, nebulous mass that desires to stand in that way.
GamerGate takes advantage of fundamentally broken platforms such as Twitter and 8Chan that choose not to care about the well-being of their users - profit is a far more crucial priority than human decency. If we were in a time where these sort of disputes were resolved by fistfights in the street, GamerGate would be a bunch of out-of-breath dweebs covered in bruises and tears, as they begged for mercy. They get off on these toothless threats, such as threatening university shootings, because they know they’ll illicit a reaction, regardless of their credibitility.
This is the victories they get off on, and this is what GamerGate gets off on carrying out in their war of attrition - because of course a bunch of videogame obsessed nerds don’t have the cojones to carry out a school shooting over videogames, and how dare you consider the legitimacy of an angry white man shooting up a bunch of opinionated minorities in impotent rage.
Except this isn’t a popularity contest, GamerGate. This is the future of a growing artistic medium, and intersectional feminism as its champion.
GamerGate treats their campaign like a game - a battle for the ages to save their precious corporate manufactured videogames, not too similar from so many videogame plots to save the world. In reality, it’s a concentrated assault on female critics and developers for the sake of entertainment. It is the great cultural deficit of our time, that we have created and developed such a pathetically dangerous, and fundamentally unsympathetic ecosystem of delusion which allows delusional, conspiracy laden nonsense such as GamerGate to exist.
However take heed in one fact - there is no history that will be written that paints GamerGate in a sympathetic, much less triumphant light. And that is the victory that truly matters in the end, no matter how hard they fight, no matter how much they threaten and harass human lives - they are nothing more than a footnote in this great medium’s history for culutral relevance. That, my friends, is the denial that will never be broken.
Game was over long before you ever started, GamerGate.