|Vivian James, Gamer Girl|
(About Feminism, Volume II, Number 1)
(see the end for disclaimers and disclosures)
Who is this red-headed girl, and what does she have to do with Gamergate? What is GamerGate? What is all this about? Isn't this some kind of anti-feminist thing? What does #NotYourShield mean? Are the colors of her hoodie really based on a vile rape gif?
[Prefatory Disclaimer: I should note that some of the videos and links here will lead to content which some may find objectionable, primarily due to the amount of "profanity" used; this language does not phase me (primarily because I am very much aware of the origin and history of "taboo words" in the English language, and how they came to be viewed as "taboo" in the first place), but I am aware that some take offense at it. You have been warned, but if you want to know what "Gamergate" is all about, you'll have to sit through some things which you might consider to be offensive. I do not, however, in any way condone the use of slurs by anyone in any of the external references, pro- or anti-GamerGate.]
Two years have passed now since Gamergate became a thing with a name (actually two years and one day since the name was tweeted out as a hashtag and subsequently became associated with the movement known as "GamerGate" or "Gamergate"). A number of dates in August of 2014 could be considered anniversaries of sorts for GamerGate, and so I might have chosen from among them for a specific date to publish this post. I opted to publish on 28 August 2016, the two-year anniversary of the date on which "TotalBiscuit" published his blog post decrying the Bifurcation Fallacy then being promoted about Gamergate, and criticizing people in both pro- and anti-GamerGate circles for falling into the trap of the Bifurcation Fallacy and engaging in simplistic stereotyping of one another. I chose the anniversary of this particular event to publish because I have been, for 15 years or more, calling attention to the harm done to Western societies by various manifestations of Bifurcation Fallacy, and because this particular post was, in my opinion, one of the best manifestations of the entire affair in the earliest days. As it happened, the 28th was also the date on which the push-back from gaming journalists occurred, with the "Gamers Are Dead" articles, and the resulting anger from the gaming community. 28 August seems to be one of the dates regarded by some in GamerGate as the anniversary of GamerGate (see, for example, this video by the YouTuber "Netscape," originally a livestream which occurred on the 28th of August and which was subsequently published as a video on the same date, with the title "#GamerGate Two Year Anniversary Stream").
So then, to reiterate:
Who is this red-headed girl, and what does she have to do with Gamergate? What is GamerGate? What is all this about? Isn't this some kind of anti-feminist thing? What does #NotYourShield mean? Are the colors of her hoodie really based on a vile rape gif? These are questions I shall answer in the course of this blog post, the answers being the results of my researches into the origin and history (and not merely the early history) of Gamergate.
To begin, let's look at the charges of anti-feminism which have been made against GamerGate. If you google "Vivian James," the first result you get is this: Meet the Female Gamer Mascot Born of Anti-Feminist Internet Drama. As you continue exploring your Google search results, you'll find more such allegations. The author of the just-linked piece, though, admits to not being clear on why Gamergate dislikes Zoë Quinn, not being clear on why they would dislike someone they believe to be a pretend-feminist, and not being sure how someone would go about faking Feminism. She links to a reddit discussion about Quinn, which she apparently never quite understood, but then in spite of all her unclearness and unsureness, goes on to repeat the accusations against GamerGate, without any apparent critical consideration of the truth of those allegations, and makes accusations of her own which do not reflect what actually happened (she says, for example, that the people of /v/ came up with the idea of designing their own character for Afterlife Empire, but that's not what happened, as you'll see later in this blog post). But I'm getting ahead of myself.
You want to know what this claim is about? What it's really about? Let's start with the tale of a young woman who never liked video gaming, who decided she was going to do a series of videos about gaming from her perspective of anti-choice Feminism and have them crowdfunded, and the ensuing censorship which some gaming development companies undertook in an effort to cater to her bias. That's right, anti-choice. No, that doesn't mean anti-abortion. It means she doesn't believe in individual liberty; she wants all women to unite under HER vision of Feminism, and help to push HER agenda. It means she is an authoritarian. This young woman's name is Anita Sarkeesian. And gaming journalism took her bullshit, and their own annoyance with being called out on their unethical journalistic practices, and ran with it, in collusion, with insulting claims like "Gamers are dead," accusing gamers of being almost exclusively cisgender, heterosexual, white males, and ignoring the reality that the gaming community is actually, and has been for a long time, very diverse.
In response to Sarkeesian's brand of Third Wave anti-choice Feminism, gamers who weren't interested in having any of her neo-puritanism affect the games they loved (and who later became known as "GamerGate" or "Gamergate" [the name is given both ways, and I'll alternate between the two ways in this blog post]) decided to fund a group of Second Wave Feminists who developed a video game called "Afterlife Empire" through the funding. This was a charity project called a "Game Jam," and the company (The Fine Young Capitalists) restricted eligible contestants, who would design the game, to women only. The eligibility restrictions included Trans Women, but any contestant had to have self-identified as female prior to a certain date, and was also expected to use a name which matched her legal name (which led to charges of transphobia from certain anti-Gamergate persons, which is not the case, seeing as Trans Women were also eligible, since Trans Women are Women, and one of the criteria to make sure they were actual Trans Women, and not Men posing as Women in order to win the competition, was that they had to use their legal names and provide identification from before the date chosen which identified their gender as female). Into the game was put a character created by Gamergate, named Vivian James (sometimes called "Vidya," but usually "Vivian James" or occasionally "Vivi" or "V" for short, whose name was a play on "vidya games," a dialectical pronunciation of "video games"). This red-headed girl in the image here below is one artist's conception of Vivian James, accompanied by an attempt at a sort of mission statement for Gamegate.
That objection to Sarkeesian's anti-choice Feminism being imposed on the gaming industry became the main focus of Gamergate for some involved (while for others, the main focus was objection to unethical practices on the part of video gaming journalists, and for still others, it was both), although its origins had little to do with Anita Sarkeesian, and for most of the people in GamerGate, Anita Sarkeesian herself isn't really the issue; rather, the issue is that there are people, such as Sarkeesian, who have attempted to impose their intolerant perspective of anti-choice Feminism on the gaming industry, which, when realized, would result in unnecessary and pointless limitations on gamers, such as the elimination of any attire for female characters which these neo-puritans believe (or pseudo-puritans pretend to believe) to be objectifying. I was fighting with these people years before the origin of GamerGate, but I never heard of (or at least I don't recall having heard of) Anita Sarkeesian until I started looking into the history of Gamergate, how it got started, what it was and is about, and whether the accusations about the people involved in GamerGate were true or not.
Let me therefore back up and give the origin story of Gamergate and a bit of pre-GamerGate history.
Before Gamergate arose, Sarkeesian was already doing her bit to promote her particular brand of Third Wave Authoritarian Feminism, and had already expanded that to an effort to limit choices in games. The catalyst for the rise of Gamergate, however, was a bit of "he said, she said" involving a female games developer named Zoë Quinn and her now-ex-boyfriend, named Eron Gjoni. I'm not going to get into the "he said, she said" in this blog post (apart from the inclusion of links to other sources which discuss it to a greater or lesser extent), because I frankly wasn't there and have no idea which one is telling a story closer to the truth, but apparently, she had at least one affair while she was involved with him (the allegations made by Gjoni say there were more instances of infidelity). One of the people with whom she is alleged to have had an affair was a Kotaku (a video game website and blog that was at the time part of the Gawker Media network) gaming journalist named Nathan Grayson, and there were accusations that he had promoted a game Quinn developed due to his relationship with her. Some say that the relationship in question did not start until after he had merely mentioned her game in a single article. Again, I wasn't there, and I don't know. But when Gjoni wrote a post about her alleged infidelities and abusive behavior toward him, and the alleged favoritism of Quinn by Grayson due to her alleged affair with the latter, it served as a catalyst for what eventually became Gamergate. The concern was ethics in gaming journalism, and those who would later be known collectively as "GamerGate" believed that Grayson had violated journalistic ethics. Much has been made of this, with some opponents of Gamergate claiming that people involved in GamerGate were guilty of slut-shaming Quinn (and some were), but many anti-Gamergate people have attempted to portray the origin of the movement as nothing but slut-shaming, and that is not the case.
This concern also included charges of collusion between several gaming journalists in the "Gamers Are Dead" narrative. Eleven articles were published in 24 hours, ten of them in the same day, with the same basic claims, characterizing the gaming community as predominantly made up of heterosexual white males, alleging that gamers were largely homophobic, misogynistic, and racist, and accusing the gaming industry of catering to those prejudices. This happened in 2014. To this day, articles are still being written with claims that there have only been a small number of playable female characters in video games, which is absolute tripe, because more and more games have been allowing considerable character customization, including gender choice, since well before 2014. These claims may have been a case of projection, since games journalism was itself not particularly diverse (unlike the gaming community itself, which is, and has been for some time prior to all the false and offensive claims by gaming journalists, extremely diverse):
|(Click image to view larger.)|
But let's go to the catalyst of Gamergate and work our way through the origin and early history of the same.
The date was 16 August 2014. On that date, Eron Gjoni published "The Zoe Post," in which he enumerated his grievances with Zoë Quinn (I have provided the link for those who wish to read it; bear in mind that the material which you will see is a public airing of dirty laundry by one person in a relationship, and gives his side of the story). On the same date, a YouTube user calling himself "MundaneMatt," after having read "The Zoe Post," published a video on YouTube in which he discussed Quinn's alleged behavior and video gaming journalism corruption in connection with her alleged behavior.
The next day, 17 August 2014, a thread was posted on The Escapist website, critical of Quinn's alleged behavior and the lack of coverage thereof by gaming blogs. On the same date, a reddit user called MannoSlimmins, looking into Quinn's past claims, supplied evidence against her claims, and in the course of the ensuing discussion, The Fine Young Capitalists, a Second Wave Feminist group which was interested in helping women make video games, said that Quinn had ruined their Game Jam (that's the link to the original reply, which was edited two days later, the text replaced with a link to an audio statement, but the original reply can be seen here) and later (?) started her own, which, according to The Fine Young Capitalists' reply (as you can see), had no start date, no location, and no judges. (Evidence of later similar behavior on the part of Quinn can be found here.) Remember this. It will be addressed in references provided later in this post.
Also on 17 August, a female games developer using the handle "KC Vidya Rants" published a post on tumblr in which she criticized Quinn's behavior for having hurt the status of women in the gaming industry.
On 18 August 2014, a YouTube video was published by "Internet Aristocrat," in which Quinn was criticized for allegedly using sex in exchange for influence on gaming journalists, and for playing the victim as a means of soliciting financial donations. This video, "Quinnspiracy Theory: The Five Guys Saga," is, at the time of my composing this post, "unavailable." However, it was later mirrored elsewhere on YouTube.
On 19 August, a news/opinion piece was published on Games Nosh by Chris "Zabant" Heeley, called "Depression Quest Dev (Zoe Quinn) Scandal; Exploiting Games Press for Coverage." A few hours later, the site host asked Games Nosh to take the article down, and it was later removed, but is available again at the time of this writing (linked above). On the same date, Quinn claimed that her Twitter and Tumblr accounts had been hacked and that she had been doxxed by members of the /v/ community (a community of video gamers) on 4chan. This, it appears, was an attempt on Quinn's part to play victim, as inconsistencies were pointed out by another Tumblr user, "The Spectacular Spider-Girl." Also on this same date, The Fine Young Capitalists released their audio statement, and edited their previous reply on reddit to link to the audio statement. Also on this date, John Bain, better known as "Total Biscuit," published a post on TwitLonger in which he weighed in on the events up to that point, primarily discussing Quinn's abuse of the YouTube DMCA complaint feature (in an effort to censor the video published by MundaneMatt on the 16th), and criticized games journalism for what he called "nepotism." Total Biscuit subsequently linked the article in reddit's gaming community the same day, and the editor of that community, the same day, deleted replies to that post.
The next day, 20 August, Quinn posted thanks to the editor of the reddit gaming community for deleting the posts, again playing victim, alleging that she had been doxxed and that all the comments amounted to nothing but harassment and slut-shaming about her private sex life. As the comments are gone, I can neither confirm nor deny their content; however, it should be noted that "Internet Aristocrat" had stated in the video first published on 18 August, linked above, that the outrage was not about her sex life or her alleged infidelities, but rather, it was about the fact that the people she allegedly engaged in infidelity with were in a position to further her career, which, he said, made it a piece of public discourse and "helps to highlight a massive flaw in the fifth estate [by which he meant internet journalism], ... [a] lack of ethical standards." Also on the 20th, Aja Romano published an opinion piece on The Daily Dot, accusing opponents of Quinn of being sexist, and concluding, somehow, that "gaming culture continues to be a threatening place for women." Remember, this was all in 2014. Women had been involved in the gaming industry for years by this time, and while there have been challenges for us (and I speak as a woman who has been involved in gaming for decades and who has work experience in the gaming industry, who therefore knows these things first hand), a claim that the industry or the culture is somehow dangerous or threatening for women is, frankly, not even a remotely credible claim. Later on the 20th, Invision Community published a piece on the story, in which they released a comment from The Fine Young Capitalists pertaining to Quinn's interactions with their game jam. Also on the 20th, Kotaku released a statement in which they claimed that Grayson's "romantic" relationship with Quinn began at some point after he published his article about her.
On 21 August, Heeley published another news/opinion piece on Games Nosh, concerning the harassment and trolling which Total Biscuit had received after he dared to offer criticism of Quinn's work and alleged behavior. So far, not much has been said about Anita Sarkeesian. How exactly does she come into the picture to become the central foe of GamerGate? The answer is rather simple. Quinn was an admirer/follower of Sarkeesian, and eventually, once most of the shitstorm over the so-called Quinnspiracy faded into a dull roar, Sarkeesian remained a focus of some of Gamergate's ire, with good reason, but we'll get into that in more depth a bit later. For now, I've simply detailed how she was part of the original genesis of GamerGate in that she was someone admired by Quinn. Also on 21 August, the 4chan /pol/ board community's ("/pol/ - Politically Incorrect" is 4chan's board for discussing and debating politics and current events) idea (which started the day before) of donating to The Fine Young Capitalists' game jam charity, to support women in gaming and expose Quinn as a hypocrite, spread to the /v/ board community ("/v/ - Video Games" is 4chan's imageboard dedicated to the discussion of PC and console video games, or at least it was, before and during the beginnings of GamerGate, although most of the people who were involved later migrated elsewhere) on 4chan, which eagerly joined in contributing to the charity due in part to their disdain for Sarkeesian's attempts to get the gaming industry to support her anti-choice agenda. The result was The Fine Young Capitalists announcing, on the 21st, that 4chan had, for the second day in a row, been the number one contributor to their game jam charity, Women in Gaming Project, and asking 4chan's /v/ community to suggest a topic for a video they were going to produce. The request from 4chan was "Tell us about great female [games] developers."
The next day was very eventful. On 22 August, The Fine Young Capitalists published the requested video:
|The Original Design Concept of Vivian James|
Initially, the character was referred to only as "/v/'s daughter." However, /v/ then decided to give her a name and a personality:
Thus was born Vivian James, daughter of /v/, on 22 August 2014 (the date still regarded as "Vivian James' birthday"). In addition, the /pol/ and /v/ board communities were asked to select a charity to receive the excess donations to the Game Jam (the final total was $71,496, which was 110% of the fixed goal), and they decided that the excess should go to colon cancer charity, in order to "chemo the butthurt." This choice, for some unfathomable reason, enraged some of their adversaries, who managed to make themselves look like really hateful people as a result of their rage.
|Vivian James in the opening credits of Afterlife Empire|
So let's recap, before we continue, with a captioned image ...
Also on the 22nd, Aja Romano published another piece on The Daily Dot, in which she reported claims (and her article title certainly suggests that she believed those claims) that 4chan (and specifically /v/) had hacked and doxxed Quinn and Phil Fisher. The comments section of the article is full of objections to the headline and examples of inconsistencies in the idea that anyone from /v/ had done it (for one thing, the alleged hacker had put /V/ in one of the messages posted, and that capital letter isn't right; it's always been /v/ to anyone who was part of that community), as well as a few conspiracy nuts babbling about whatever their particular pet conspiracy theory was (claiming that Quinn is a Freemason, for example, which is blatantly ignorant [there are good reasons Anti-Masons used to be called "Know-Nothings," but that's another topic], since women cannot be members of any regular Masonic body). It was as a result of Fisher then quitting the gaming industry, selling off Polytroncorporation and the IP rights to a game he was supposed to have been working on, and abandoning social media, that I first heard of Gamergate, some time later, after the name "Gamergate" had been given to the group (in a tweet on 27 August, Adam Baldwin used the hashtag #GamerGate, which was the first time the name had been used, and as a result of this, the group began to be known as GamerGate, Gamergate, or GG). My introduction to the whole thing was through two articles, and that was the first I heard of any of this; my only knowledge of the whole thing at the time came from those two articles, and I was still working in the gaming industry at that time, so I was at least somewhat interested. I recall showing it to a couple of colleagues on Staff, but neither knew enough about what was going on to have an opinion. But again, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Still on the 22nd, "Internet Aristocrat" released another video, "Quinnspiracy Theory: In-N-Out Edition," in which he offered further speculations that Quinn had used her relationships in the gaming industry and gaming journalism for personal gain. This video has since been removed, but was mirrored later and is still available here. If you would prefer to watch the series of his GamerGate videos together, you can find them here:
Night fell, but the next day, 23 August 2014, more developments were brought forth into the light. An Imgur album was published with collected evidence that Quinn had asked moderators at reddit to remove any posts about the whole incident on the 19th. Some time after this, reddit admins removed the moderator who had leaked this information. That Imgur album is no longer available (or at least not at the original URL address). However, another Imgur album published on the same date, which supplies evidence of mass auto-banning of reddit users for even talking about Quinn and the gaming journalism scandal, is still available.
Also on the 23rd, Vivian James was referred to (I am uncertain if this were the first time, but it may have been) as "Vivi" in a thread on Know Your Meme:
On the 24th, another YouTube video was published (which has since been deleted), discussing "what really happened" with Phil Fish and Zoë Quinn. What this video said, I don't know, since it's gone, and apparently gone from all of YouTube (a search turned up no mirrored uploads). It was also on the 24th that the IndieGoGo page being used by TFYC for their Game Jam charity was hacked, by someone claiming to have done it in support of Quinn:
|Note the perk for contribution of $2000 or more still shown on the right side.|
On the same date, the 24th, an article by Danielle Riendeau was published on Polygon, a review of a game by Steve Gaynor, with whom she appeared to have at least a close friendship. Her review gave his game a 10/10, and was alleged to be another example of the nepotism in gaming journalism, as seen here. Further evidence of apparent corruption in gaming journalism, this time involving Kotaku, was also brought to light on the same day, as shown here. Related to this were still more revelations on the 24th, not only of alleged corruption, but also of obvious hypocrisy (apparently, sexual themes in video games are perfectly acceptable, if they discourage sex, or at least discourage sexual behavior of which some disapprove ...), some in connection with Kotaku again, as can be observed here. But wait! That's not all! Remember Nathan Grayson? One of the people who was involved in the catalyst for all of this outrage? Yeah, him. On the 24th, yet more revelations of what appears to have been shady behavior on Grayson's part were published, available for your review here.
Then on the 25th, Quinn's Twitter attacks on The Fine Young Capitalists were exposed:
Also on the 25th, someone presented evidence that some gaming journalists were providing financial support to some of the games developers whom they were promoting with their articles, which can be seen here. At this point, one of the claims of Gamergate as to what their concerns are is fairly undeniable: "Actually, it's about ethics in video games journalism." We have seen evidence of attempted censorship, on reddit and YouTube and elsewhere, on the part of Quinn and/or her allies and supporters. We have seen dubious claims of victimhood by Quinn herself, as well as some of her allies. We have seen evidence of hacking attacks on The Fine Young Capitalists by someone claiming to be a supporter of Quinn. And we have seen evidence of inappropriate behavior on the part of gaming journalists. But foes of Gamergate want to make this all about anti-feminism, misogyny, homophobia, racism, and harassment of women (and, occasionally, charges of transphobia and/or transmisogyny are also included), by (cisgender) heterosexual white males. And we haven't even gotten to the naming of GamerGate yet.
The 26th of August brought tacit admission by some companies in the gaming journalism industry that there had been some lack of integrity, as they began to revise their ethical standards. First to do so was Kotaku, which published a note admitting that they had listened to (and discussed internally) concerns of the as-yet-still-unnamed GamerGate, and agreed that personal connections which their journalists had with games developers should and would be disclosed, and that their journalists funding developers created a conflict of interest and that such contributions were to be nixed (a later update allowed for a single exception, which was a reasonable exception). Readers of Polygon issued a statement critical of Polygon's new ethics policies the same day (see the image below this paragraph), and, before the day was over, Polygon announced that they would thenceforth be requiring disclosure of any contributions to games developers by their journalists.
|Statement of readers critical of Polygon's ethics policies|
On 27 August 2014, actor Adam Baldwin tweeted links to both of the videos by "Internet Aristocrat," and included the hashtag "#GamerGate," thus giving a name to the movement of gamers who had been speaking out about nepotism and other unethical behavior in video games journalism:
|The origin of the name "GamerGate" is traced to this tweet by Adam Baldwin.|
On 28 August 2014, rather than graciously admit that they had been held to a higher standard of ethics which would improve games journalism, several games journalists, apparently acting in collusion, published the notorious "Gamers are dead" articles, with another published the next day, insulting their own audience, a rather stupid thing to do, which did NOT result in whatever they thought it was going to do. Here are the articles, with the date and time each was published, for reference (not all of these are considered to be part of the "Gamers are dead" articles):
28 August 2014 (no time stated)
'Gamers' don't have to be your audience. 'Gamers' are over.
28 August 2014, 6:00 a.m.
Anita Sarkeesian Threatened with Rape and Murder for Daring to Keep Critiquing Video Games
28 August 2014, 10:50 a.m.
Feminist Video Blogger Is Driven From Home by Death Threats
28 August 2014, 11:16 a.m.
It's Dangerous to Go Alone: Why Are Gamers So Angry?
28 August 2014, 11:25 a.m.
Sexism, misogyny and online attacks: It’s a horrible time to consider yourself a ‘gamer’
28 August 2014, 11:54 a.m.
Fanboys, White Knights, and the Hairball of Online Misogyny
28 August 2014, 1:21 p.m.
An awful week to care about video games
28 August 2014, 1:30 p.m.
[UPDATED] A Disheartening Account Of The Harassment Going On In Gaming Right Now (And How Adam Baldwin Is Involved)
28 August 2014, 3:29 p.m.
Gaming Is Leaving “Gamers” Behind
28 August 2014, 4:05 p.m.
Misogynistic Trolls Drive Feminist Video Game Critic From Her Home
28 August 2014, 7:57 p.m.
A Guide to Ending "Gamers"
28 August 2014, 8:00 p.m.
We Might Be Witnessing The 'Death of An Identity'
28 August 2014 (no time given)
The End of Gamers
29 August 2014, 12:00 a.m.
The death of the “gamers” and the women who “killed” them
At least one of these articles includes a video in which gamers are mocked for seeing what the video refers to as "a conspiracy." And yet, fourteen articles all published within 24 hours containing essentially the same narrative, in multiple games journalism outlets ought to suggest at least some sort of collusion. The collusion would later be confirmed by Milo Yiannopoulos (I'm no fan of Yiannopoulos, due to his intentionally provocative antics and some of his socio-political and economic views, but he has at least occasionally done some decent journalism).
The first video response to the "Gamers Are Dead" articles was published on the same date as the majority of the articles, 28 August 2014, by MundaneMatt, and can be seen here:
Some of the articles repeated claims by Anita Sarkeesian that she had been subjected to harassment including threats to the point that she had left her own home. In response to these claims, I will offer a video by one "Sargon of Akkad," a gamer and YouTube personality who was involved in Gamergate (although this video was published nearly 8 months after the "Gamers are dead" articles, it is relevant to the claims she has made about harassment; the Dorito earrings are in reference to an earlier scandal involving gaming "journalism" which is sometimes called "DoritoGate"):
Also relevant in this connection is a discussion by "One Angry Gamer" published in September of 2016 called #GamerGate Never Harassed Anita Sarkeesian, According To Crash Override Network.
Another video made in response to the "Gamers are dead"narrative was this (also published after the fact, but not as much later as the video from Sargon above, this one published with less than a month having passed, on 24 September 2014):
Also on 28 August 2014, the International Game Developers Association, concerned over reports of harassment and the like, published the IGDA Board of Directors Statement on Harassment.
Also on 28 August 2014, "TotalBiscuit" published a blog post titled "This game supports more than two players," in which he leveled criticisms at both pro-Gamergate persons and anti-Gamergate persons, but mostly criticized the Bifurcation Fallacy which was being used to oversimplify the situation and the stereotyping being done by both sides. There were and are more than two neat little packages into which the various people on both sides can be put. This more complex reality would soon contribute to the rise of the #NotYourShield hashtag, but that would be a few days later (3 September).
Also on 28 August 2014, Christina Hoff Sommers, a noted Second Wave Feminist, tweeted out a defense of gamers:
On the 29th of August 2014, "The Co-Optional Podcast Ep. 47 Ft. JonTron" was published on YouTube, recorded on the 26th:
Also on 29 August 2014, an article was posted at Return of Kings by Eric Crowley, questioning the origin of the threats against Anita Sarkeesian: Did Anita Sarkeesian Fake Death Threats Against Herself?
On 30 August 2014, Chris "Zabant" Heeley of GamesNosh published the article "#Gamergate: The silly sounding, but sincere call for Fair Representation of ‘Gamers’ within the media." In this article, Heeley attempted to make some sense out of what this was all about, and noted that the narrative being pushed by anti-Gamergaters was not supported by the "sheer amount of civil and rational discourse" going on at Twitter by those who identified with the hashtag.
Also on 30 August 2014, Alexander "Archon" Macris of The Escapist published a post in the fora there, affirming the site's dedication to journalistic integrity, noting that standards would be revised for contributors being included in their Twitter feed, and noting that The Escapist has been, since its first issue, about gamer culture, that they would continue to use the term "gamer" to refer to "a games enthusiast," and rejecting the "Gamers Are Dead" narrative.
On the same date, "InternetAristocrat" published his third video (which is, I believe, linked above in the full collection of his GamerGate videos, but here's another mirror for this video by itself), and "MundaneMatt" released another video, suggesting a possible conflict of interest on the part of Leigh Alexander in working for a gaming PR consulting firm while also writing for Gamasutra:
For her part, Leigh Alexander had also done something, less professional than MundaneMatt's video, on the 30th of August 2014, on Twitter:
Also on 30 August 2014, someone anonymously posted (at Pastebin) information given by a former co-worker of Maya Felix Kramer (Zoë Quinn's PR rep), which alleged bullying, career sabotage, and other unethical behavior on Kramer's part, and specifically mentioned TFYC.
Christina Hoff Sommers, on 30 August 2014, tweeted again, this time talking about how gamers were being bullied:
On 31 August 2014, Vice blogger Helena Horton tweeted out that Gamergate was a reason to kill all men, as preserved in this tweet. I'll reproduce the image here for my own archive:
On 1 September 2014, Milo Yiannopoulos published an article in which he wrote:
Instead of addressing allegations of corruption, examining their own prejudices and giving consideration to an industry-wide failure to provide any kind of acceptable service, the games press rounded on its own readers, accusing them of bigotry and misogyny and refusing to acknowledge that the community was sick of being lectured to and guilt-tripped on a daily basis by hypocrites and liars.
You can read the full article here (and it is worth reading, especially if you would like some idea of what has been going on under the name of "Feminism" in the past few years, because it's not the same thing as the Feminism women in my generation grew up with; I will advise you to take a few grains of salt with you when you go to read it, as Yiannopoulos has an axe or two to grind, and seems to revel in his reputation as a "provocateur"): Feminist Bullies Tearing the Video Game Industry Apart.
Also on 1 September 2014, Jenn Frank published an Op/Ed piece in The Guardian in which she devoted a single sentence to gamers' concerns about corruption and the lack of integrity and ethics in gaming journalism, and dismissed it as nothing but a tactic to conceal what she alleged was the actual agenda of gamers, namely, a sexist attack upon Sarkeesian and Quinn. The focus of her article was on these two women and how they were, in her mind, being harassed for being "brave" women. Here is a link to the article:
How to attack a woman who works in video gaming
The first comment on the op/ed is worth quoting. It was written by Jennifer Reed:
"We" including countless women are not harassing Anita and Zoe. A SELECT MINORITY within the gaming community are harassing her, and that is extremely offensive to people such as myself who love the gaming community and have never been harassed for being female. Those people do not represent gamers. We do not hate women. This hasn't even been about Anita or Quinn for the past several days. If you want to see some positivity, check out the #GamerGate tag. A lot of us are supporting women including Christine H Sommers.
The second comment, by one "BearMode," is also worthy of note:
The entire crux of this conflict has not been about harassing women, but about exposing the incestuous relationships between various gaming journalism outlets and the game developers they clam to be there to criticize.
Before the day was over, someone on Reddit exposed connections between Frank and Quinn and Kramer, asking rhetorically if there be "any cases where gaming journalists aren't corrupt." Further, a video was released by Walter Bryn, wherein he narrated the results of the investigations done by "CameraLady," pointing to still more corruption in the independent games scene, PR connected thereto, and the Independent Games Festival (IGF):
On the same date, 1 September 2014, "Operation Disrespectful Nod" was launched. This was consumer activism, in which gamers contacted the companies which were buying advertising on the sites which had published the "Gamers Are Dead" articles to complain about those sites' mischaracterization of the gaming community, and to ask the companies in question to stop advertising on those sites.
On 2 September 2014, "A Woman’s Perspective on #GamerGate" was published at GamesNosh, in which the author pointed out that the core message of Gamergate was being lost in much drama over gender, but that GamerGate is not about gender. I reproduce this important portion of the article:
The gaming media is what matters to many supporters of #GamerGate. We are asking for a better standard of ethics from gaming bloggers. We are asking for more transparency and more disclosure. We are asking that all indie game devs get a fair shake and there is no favoritism. We are asking that opinions and editorials are not reported as news and/or fact.
The opposition of #GamerGate seems to be systematically ignoring those of us who are women and who support #GamerGate. In the past few days, I have connected with countless other women on Twitter through this hashtag. We are ignored by many members of the media who make this out to be a gender issue. We don’t fit their narrative. If we were not ignored, then #GamerGate would no longer be a gender issue and the requests for a better standard of ethics would be at the forefront.
Also on 2 September 2014, "TotalBiscuit" released a parody of Shania Twain's song "That Don't Impress Me Much," satirizing pretentiousness among some independent games devs.
On the same date, Boogie2988 started an online petition "asking indie developers, AAA developers, and other folks to stop branding gamers as neckbearded, misogynistic, hatefueled, ignorant, homophobic, idiots."
Also on 2 September 2014, Benjamin Quintero published a blog post on Gamasutra called "Can We All Just Get Along?" Among other things, Quintero wrote:
I'm trying to find reasoning in what game's journalists are thinking when they set out on a tirade against the people who basically keep them employed. I could be wrong about this, but I never considered players of games to be nearly as enthusiastic about combing the web for articles and clicking on ad riddled pages to read singular opinionated pieces that belittle their intelligence.
On 3 September 2014, "Ninouh90" created the hashtag #NotYourShield which, according to the GamerGate Wiki, << has many different meanings to many different people, but one of its primary focuses is to highlight the diversity of gaming and of "Gamers". It also stands to be a symbol that corrupt journalists, media companies and bloggers are 'not your shield' from criticism. >> This hashtag has been used by many who support Gamergate who were being ignored (or worse, accused of being sock puppets) by both gaming journalism and mainstream media, as well as Sarkeesian and Quinn themselves, pushing the narrative that GamerGate was nothing but a lot of teen and twenty-something, cisgender, heterosexual, white males. I (Giovanna) am a bisexual woman of mixed ethnic origins and a member of Generation X. These "journalists" do not speak for me, and I will not be their shield in their attempts to deflect valid criticisms by accusing the critics of sexism, homophobia, racism, and so on. I myself will criticize them for the same lack of journalistic integrity, and I will myself criticize Sarkeesian's Authoritarianism masquerading as Feminism, and I myself will condemn efforts of neo-puritans and pseudo-puritans to impose their own neurotic desires for censorship on the gaming industry.
Also on 3 September 2014, "MundaneMatt" published another video:
Other videos also published on the same date, 3 September 2014, include this one by "EventStatus":
A great deal more occurred after the 3rd of September 2014 and before the end of 2014 which could be included in this post about the origin and early history of Gamergate, but 1. they are, for the most part, beyond the scope of this post (a notable exception is the question concerning the colors of Vivian James' hoodie, which I will address below), and 2. I need to stop somewhere. I reckon the creation of the #NotYourShield hashtag, and the videos by MundaneMatt and EventStatus on the same date, are a decent stopping point, as these were challenges to the narrative being pushed by the anti-GamerGate people, and showed the narrative to be false. Gamergate continued on after the end of the year, and in fact continues to this day. I will therefore add a few notable references as what might be regarded as "appendices" to the main body of the post. There were also events which preceded "The Zoe Post," and I have touched upon these to some extent, but, while several of them produced underlying tensions which contributed to the birth of GamerGate, they are themselves not considered to be part of Gamergate, except as "prehistory." In any case, both this "prehistory" and a more complete history of GamerGate have both been presented elsewhere (notably here and here, which were my two main sources for this post, supplemented by my own searches, the GamerGate community on Google Plus, and links supplied to me by il mio caro).
A claim which has been repeated often is the allegation that the "purple and green" of Vivian James' hoodie was chosen because the colors featured prominently in a "meme" (actually a .gif) which was apparently at one time posted fairly often in 4chan. I'm not going to include the .gif file, nor a link to it here. This blog may be intended for mature audiences, but it's not intended to be X-rated. Those whose curiosity gets the best of them can find the image with relative ease. On 19 September 2014, The Fine Young Capitalists issued a statement "On conspiracies," wherein they addressed the question of the colors used in Vivian James' hoodie (pointing out and explaining apophenia, for example), and on 30 October 2014, the question was posed at reddit, which led to a discussion thread, in which was said, among other things, that since the artist was "Anon" (an anonymous user) of the /v/ board at 4chan, getting an answer would be difficult. In the same thread, reddit user ThriKr33n posted:
Purple is also the main background colour of /v/, and the green for the clover, 4chan's logo.
I personally would like to point out that a cartoon redheaded girl wearing green and violet predates any Dragonball imagery by decades, and that my first view of the original design of Vivian James put me in mind of the same girl:
|Daphne Blake of Scooby Doo, Where Are You? who became a part of our culture in 1969|
As has been pointed out already in the link to the reddit discussion on this question, it would be difficult to get an answer from the person who anonymously posted on /v/ almost two years ago and gave the gaming world the first image of Vivian James. If I had to hazard a guess, however, I would think that Daphne would be a more likely inspiration in the choice of colors. In short, there's no way to know, but it seems like a baseless allegation in an attempt to cast further aspersions. I think Vivian James is a cute design, and I've used violet and green together for several years in my signature art, and was intentionally picking out clothes that had both violet and green or purple and green, a long time before any of this. The colors go well together, and ultimately, I am going to go with aesthetics as the explanation of the colors of her hoodie.
On 5 September 2014, The Young Turks Community Contributor and avid gamer Nick Daneliak broke down the real issues behind Gamergate in this video:
On 25 October, TYT Nation did a livestream about GamerGate, later published on YouTube here (warning: this video is over four hours long):
On 27 October 2014, Christina Hoff Sommers released the following video:
On 15 November 2014, this video was published by "Video Game Journalism (YTheAlien)":
And I think that video alone says a considerable amount.
On 18 January 2015, this video was posted, showing why Sarkeesian is so disliked by Gamergate:
On 16 April 2016, the findings of a study on sexism in video games and its relation to sexist attitudes in real life, "Sexist Games=Sexist Gamers? A Longitudinal Study on the Relationship Between Video Game Use and Sexist Attitudes," by Breuer Johannes, Kowert Rachel, Festl Ruth, and Quandt Thorsten, was published in Volume 18, issue 4 of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. Among other things, the abstract says: "Controlling for age and education, it was found that sexist attitudes—measured with a brief scale assessing beliefs about gender roles in society—were not related to the amount of daily video game use or preference for specific genres for both female and male players."
As the two-year anniversary of the beginnings of GamerGate drew nearer, on 22 June 2016, we got this commentary from Christina Hoff Sommers and Camille Paglia (for anyone who's been living under a rock for the past 50 years, Camille Paglia is one of the icons of Second Wave Feminism; while I disagree with her on Transgender issues, she's generally one of the rational voices in the spectrum of Feminism):
In a related discussion published two days earlier, the two touch upon some of the underlying causes of the sort of anti-choice Feminism espoused by Sarkeesian:
On 5 July 2016, Liana K published a video on YouTube called "Objectification Theory in Video Games: Just the Facts (Gamer's Guide to Feminism)," which may be seen as a response to the *ahem* exaggerated claims of such "critics" as Anita Sarkeesian.
On 21 August 2016, Brad Glasgow published a post on the social network Allthink, with the title "No, Gamergate is Not Right Wing." While I do not agree with all of his conclusions (and I note that I was not consulted for any of his polls, but I will also admit to not being well-known as a supporter of GamerGate), I do agree that Gamergate is not a Right Wing or Reactionary movement; it's a consumer revolt movement, which is made up of a very diverse group of people, who have a wide variety of perspectives on any number of questions. The solidarity we share is based on our love of games and gaming, our general agreement that video games journalism ought to be held to a standard of integrity, transparency, and professional ethics, our tendency to believe that censorship is generally undesirable and unnecessary, and our affirmation that video games do not belong to any one social, political, or economic demographic.
We are gamers. We are alive. We are diverse. We are Not Your Shield. We are GamerGate.
Now, "Where's the 'love story' in all of this?" you ask? Is is not obvious? The love story is the story of gamers and our love for the games we play, our love for our hobby, our love for our already very diverse community, our love for gaming and gamers being treated fairly and represented honestly. So "Vivi and Gigi" in the title represent Vivian James ("Video Games" or Vivi) and GamerGate (or GG).
It turns out the FBI investigated all of the reports of harassment, threats, etc, and concluded their investigation finding no credible evidence to support the claim that Gamergate was or is a harassment campaign, as reported here:
The FBI Investigation into Gamergate is Closed
Disclaimers and Disclosures:
Disclaimers: Yes, my name is Giovanna. Yes, it's my real name. No, I'm not Giovanna Barreto, Head Producer of The Fine Young Capitalists, and in fact I had never heard of her before I dug deeper into the origins of GamerGate for this blog post. The identity of name had no bearings on my findings. The only "vested interests" I can be accused of having in my examination of these questions are the fact that I am (and have been for a long time) a gamer, that I have worked in the gaming industry, that I find anti-choice (that is, authoritarian) Feminism to be an affront to rationality and tolerance, and that I support variety and choice for gamers in games. This latter does not mean that I believe that "anything goes" should be the policy, but merely that I think many limitations are unnecessary, irrelevant, pointless, and even detrimental (in several ways). Giving players more available options is good for both the gaming community and the gaming industry, and, for what it's worth, society as a whole (because presenting bifurcation fallacies betrays limited imagination, contributes to limiting the imagination of others, and serves to perpetuate the poisonous assumption which I and others have at times referred to as "monopolistic dualism").
A few Disclosures (some of which are probably not revelations to people who have read my blog or followed me on Google Plus), in order to nip in the bud any allegations against me by opponents of Gamergate:
- I am female.
- I am of mixed ethnic origins.
- I am bisexual (while this should not require a disclaimer, I feel the need to provide one, since bisexual persons are still subject to considerable misunderstanding and misrepresentation: bisexual does NOT mean polyamorous, and I am not polyamorous, although I don't condemn those who are, as long as they respect the exclusivity of the relationship I'm in; I am involved in an exclusive monogamous relationship, and not interested in being unfaithful to my man).
- I am of Generation X.
- I am progressive, which refers to my views on social issues.
- I am a civil libertarian, which ought to be self-explanatory, but in case it's not, it means I support the protection and increase of civil liberties, and oppose infringement on those liberties; it does NOT mean that I support the irrational pseudo-philosophy of Ayn Rand or the so-called Libertarian Party.
- I am to the left of center (but not quite far left), which refers to my views on economics.
- I am not A feminist, but I am feminist (sex-positive, mind you, and by no means androphobic, and also in support of autonomy instead of kissing the ring of whichever "feminist" is trying to impose her own personal vision of Feminism on the movement as a whole), which is to say that I am informed by some of the things which some feminists say, but Feminism (or rather, some perspectives under that umbrella) is only one of many philosophies which inform my perspective, and it is not my worldview. I absolutely do not support Authoritarianism masquerading as Feminism.
- I believe in social justice and human rights for all, including all the colors of the LGBTI rainbow, and have advocated for the same for a considerable amount of time (I was also a Moderator at an LGBTI support group for a few years, beginning back before all the Gamergate stuff got started, and would still be in that position had the group not been deleted by the host somewhat recently, for reasons which have not been made plain to me or the group owner, but we do know that the host deleted all groups, and not just ours), but I am NOT part of what is sometimes referred to as "the regressive left," and I am NOT what some people mean when they speak of "SJWs."
- I have been playing and refereeing RPGs since the first hardback rulebooks for AD&D were coming out, and video games for about the same length of time.
- I have worked in the gaming industry, for more than one company, on no less than three different games, in a variety of capacities, and my work experience was almost ten years (and yes, I could still be working in the industry, but my reasons for not doing so are currently my own reasons which I may eventually discuss, but not at this time).
Previous blog posts in my "About Feminism" series:
A Few Comments about Feminism (aka "About Feminism, Volume I, Number 1")
Art About Feminism (aka "About Feminism, Volume I, Number 2")
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