We Discuss GamerGate’s Legacy, the Death of AIM on Waypoint Radio


#1

In the wake of an explosive article on the alt-right, we look back at an event we’re still trying to understand.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/qvj53m/we-discuss-gamergates-legacy-the-death-of-aim-on-waypoint-radio

#2

Head’s up, the direct download link goes to the Nick Robinson episode which is…kind of poetic, in a way I can appreciate.


#3

…what version of Carrie is Patrick familiar with?


#4

I appreciate how Austin brought up his thoughts about him and his friends who took GameGate seriously back in 2014 being frustrated that this news seems revelatory. I know from my personal life how hurtful it can feel like to be ignored only to have your exact viewpoint echoed by another after who is praised for it. However, I’ve been a little disappointed on Twitter after the posting of this story of how many people are just using it to cut down those who, in their eyes, didn’t speak up enough now. Even when people like Patrick made a post effectively apologising for not doing more a few years ago, there was a worrying amount of responses that took an admittal of failure as an opening to insult.

In part, I know it’s a selfish thing because I feel personally guilty for not doing enough in the communities I was in to combat it back than (I was pre-occupied with my A-levels and saw it as “a bunch of trolls who don’t understand how game reviews work” - I didn’t see the bigger picture). Still, I really wish people spent more time going after those that continue to not believe in the horrors of GamerGate (or actively took part in it), than to criticie those who’ve since come out against it (just because their judged not to have denounced it soon enough). I know one of the key things in this story is about how many public and private people used progressive stances as a way of deflection from their true intentions, but I really hope that the take away from all this isn’t that anyone who doesn’t perfectly react ahead of the curve should be shunned by the community. One of the most disgustingly effective tools used was to infect a sense of doubt in everyone about each other - a lot of these reactions seem like a continuation of that.

Anyway, I just wanted to say how I appreciated Austin mentioning how maddening it is to have understood this shit back in 2014 (without the need of some detailed analysis) while refraining from belittling those who did need this piece to understand. Maybe most people share this more nuanced opnion and Twitter is just a terrible place to express anything more than gut responses (which is where I’ve mostly seen this article reacted to) - at least, I hope so.


#5

The deep dive into Gamergate was so necessary following the details of that Buzzfeed story. It almost never fails that when some shit goes down in the gaming industry, I look to the folks here at Waypoint to take apart the details in a way that’s both responsible and respectful.

That being said, I had a deeply unsettled feeling reading the Buzfeed story. It brought back the feeling I had on the night of Trump’s election, when I saw Milo celebrating at Trump’s election party. That same feeling has come again and again with this year’s tumultuous headlines, before that with the horrifying racial demagoguery of the Republican primary, and before that with the seemingly unending waves of harassment and barely concealed sexism and racism that was every Gamergate headline.

I used to spend entirely too much time digesting each day’s new GG related shitstorm. A new person spoke up and was doxxed, a new comment section was rendered unreadable, a new mainstream news outlet or advertiser had let us all down by failing in their responsibility of being critical.

In some way, each day’s newest disappointment could have prepared us for the ones that are making this year seem to stretch into eternity. The part that fucks with me the most is how some central GG harassers immediately turned to Trump and found a warm welcome. The attitudes, the tactics, and the disingenuousness of it all are exactly the same, just on a national scale instead of the relative confines of gaming.


#6

I don’t have any nuanced thoughts on this episode (which I think is very good and I appreciate the forthrightness in addressing how Vice is caught up in this in a legally-respectable way), although I do note that if Zacny has had “peace” scrubbed from his lexicon, perhaps his sign-off is “#war”.


#7

For the strategy gamer on staff, that would certainly be “on brand”.


#8

I’m not sure what this says about me, but somehow “the guy next to me started snoring for the third time” sounds like a ringing endorsement of a Blade Runner film.


#9

Great episode! After that article on BuzzFeed, I just would like to look into eyes of those people, who were “of course harassment is bad, of course, and I get harassed too, but” back then. … You know, maybe I would not, actually. Yeah, I would not. Better for my mental health.

I’m gonna ask one thing, what you brought up: what is the best way to approach you guys with criticism? I know some of you read this forum, but it feels too public. Twitter is too noisy. Email?

Also, I’m not dissing anyone, but I had this thought couple of days ago, even before this episode, that I came to Waypoint for Austin, but stayed for Rob and Danielle. More of them, please? (part of said criticism, actually :­) Yes, I know about Idle Weekend. I would also include Danika here, but they keep her chained to twitters, which is important… Oh! Check this: most of what she does can be replaced with IFTTT, so imagine what she would be able to do with free time! Imagine!


#10

It absolutely was meant to be!


#11

They did explain why Danielle and Danika weren’t on this episode though. Danielle was on vacation for like two weeks too.


#12

I know (I listened, believe me :­) but I mean in general. When were the last time Rob streamed something? Danielle does that once a month, at most. Sister Gun seems to be a regular now on PUBG streams, which is great. Maybe #hirenatalie would help even more.


#13

After reading your post. I went back and found a conversation I had on social media with my former journalism professor back in 2014. He had heard about it from people in his class talking about it and some Guardian reports of what happened to Zoe Quinn. Most of the staff had responded that it was pretty disgusting (Especially the staff who taught game design) and there was the usual jokes of “Overpriced Distraction Machines”. But there was one thing we kept going to and that was the complete lack of crisis management at Kotaku/Gawker where it all originated. And anyone who saw the Gawker trial will know that Gawker’s editorial had no clue how to manage themselves in a crisis. And the trolls saw that weakness and went for it the minute Stephen Totilio’s editorial that “he wasn’t suspending anyone and the trolls wont win” hit that site. I appreciate that he went with his heart to defend a staffer. It shows a LOT of moral character. But it was never the right move. I know it’s with hindsight. But to bury that matter, he would have put the journalist in question on paid leave and said they were dealing with the matter internally. While the attacks would have kept on coming for a few months. Eventually hearing nothing would have killed the story before it had a chance to evolve. Never mind Gawker had a slam dunk defamation case against Eron Gjoni if they didn’t say anything except “See you in court”. Claiming “publishers and developers are paying for positive coverage and the outlet accepted it” is pretty much libel. And then everyone followed Kotaku, made editorials condemning it. And it was like throwing a gasoline can into a Dumpster fire. The trolls knew they had something they can constantly poke and prod at. And most importantly, get a reaction out of.

Condemnation of the attacks just kept throwing gasoline on the flames. The big Platform holders in the industry could only make bland statements regarding support because the realization of the fact that some their best customers were contributing to the Dumpster fire. And now they are just plain toxic to the industry to the point where whenever a developer goes on record and says “This is wrecking our game” like Jeff Kaplan did with Overwatch. There’s just more insults, more threats and nothing done by Activision Blizzard because they are afraid foot traffic will go to something like PUBG or R6 Siege (And by the way, PUBG STILL HAS NOT BANNED PEWDIEPIE FOR BREAKING THE “NO RACISM” RULE". Just wanted to remind you). It’s affected all daily thinking for everyone in the industry.

Twitter had absolutely no clue what to do at all. Their platform is still easily abuseable and provides a direct hotline to abuse developers, journalists, whoever they please. Arguably, they still have no clue. There was absolutely no effective crisis management at all. And that’s really where Bannon and Milo had a chance to step in and stoke the flames higher and bring them on their side for political gain. It’s easier to convert behind a computer screen than in real life and they took advantage of the so called disenfranchisement of gamers who believed the “Normies” were taking over their hobby. They just painted a picture of an industry kicking them out for “Diversity” even though the industry was already headed that way as more people were playing than ever across the globe. And there’s a constant source of gassoline to spread over that Dumpster™ brand fire. Even the slightest accusations of “Censorship” brings out the frothing rage of the anime avatars. And it was easy to whip that rage up into a far-right leaning image because there was no “Censorship”. No one judging your for the anime games with gratiouitous fanservice. And no one to tell you “Hey being racist is not cool”. Wrap it up with a nationalist bent and it was so easy to manipulate these people. Add in they are typically lone wolves who are experts at bending and breaking the internet and you have a nightmare force. It’s frighteningly easy to see how Bannon and Milo groomed them into a force.

I can only imagine the fustration for Austin and people being targeted about it just seeing the complete inaction and it really comes out during the podcast. It was something unprepared for and also so horrifically managed by the media at the time. It should have gone away by now. But it still lingers constantly that everyone thinks about it when writing. It’s somewhat sad, really. It makes for a less welcoming gaming community and a more fractured one as more news comes out and communities that were considered “Safe” like Neogaf, turned out to be toxic all along. The friendship and comraddery of the early 00’s has all but disapeared. Sometimes gaming can feel like a lonely place.

How an industry intended for fun and leisure ended up as a cultural battleground will remain one of the great mysteries of our time.


#14

While there certainly was plenty that could be done differently regarding the whole controversy around Zoe Quinn and Nathan Grayson, I don’t see how Kotaku putting him on paid leave in any way helps matters. The bulk of the abuse was heaped on Zoe and other women in the industry who were mostly independent. I understand that you have a journalism background and probably like to focus on the “ethics in games journalism” part of the GG fiasco, but I think hindsight has proven that have been a smokescreen for unbridled misogyny and bigotry to spew forth from the legions of assholes that became what is now the alt-right.


#15

“Ethics in game journalism” never came into it. That was clear as day extreme bullshit from Day 1. We discussed the whole time that it was just an excuse to harass women and minorities in the industry. “Ethics” was always a smokescreen for hatred. Where we did analyze it from a journalistic aspect was how it was preventable and how the news cycle became a weapon for harassment once the trolls started feeding it and the media responded by denouncing it.

So Why would putting someone on paid leave and saying “We’re investigating” help? Simple, you go to the ground because it will help suffocate a non-story regarding a private matter that only has tenuous allegations. Trolls only have speculation and one side. You smother the non-issue by putting out a boilerplate “We’re investigating it” so editorial can hear the facts in private and make a decision. We know now the accusations were false and had no merit thanks to a court ruling. You try not to feed other outlets or trolls in this matter. Especially since it’s an intrusion into what was a private domestic matter someone tried to make public for the sake of harassment. It was never “newsworthy”. And when there’s no news on it, it leaves the cycle. And you work to reduce harassment by not giving it coverage and letting it play out in a private matter. You deprive it the oxygen of publicity. Trolls won’t have much till they get bored because there’s no news instead of the constant deluge that happened at the time. You’d have a few desperate clingers on but they would run off and get bored when it wasn’t working and it was clear the matter was staying internal till there was a legal resolution.

When it comes to the news cycle. People can get bored of stories. Eventually they either get resolved or peter out of news unless an outlet is really creative in stretching it out (See the UK’s Daily Express and their unhealthy obsession with Princess Diana for example). Trolls also get bored of the news cycle, they less information they have (And information they didn’t need), they abandon it and move on when they don’t get the information.When there was constant talk about it and take after take coming out. The news cycle became weaponised. Conspiracies were lit up which propagated harassment over every single little thing they could think about on their subreddits. The aim should be to reduce talk about a private matter and prevent harassment instead of dragging it in public. Granted, Twitter and social media does no favors. But there’s a lot you can do to prevent it that was not done in 2014. Especially because it was a private matter and there was no newsworthy justification to intrude, especially since it was an allegation. Not a fact. Which Kotaku should have really made clear. Allegations are allegations till they are proved or disproved in court. No comment on the matter should have been given even if you have the correct moral urge to protect your staff and the people involved.

We know it turned out to be bullshit and it was a harassment campaign full of lies. This was proven in court, no less. I know what was proposed and discussed is a bit of “Dark Arts” style editorial maneuvering commonplace in the UK papers. But it’s also valid in terms of preventing intrusion into private matters. Especially as there was no valid public interest in this case at all no matter how much Eron Gjoni tried to frame it. Was “Gamergate” preventable? I’m not sure. There were plenty of other times women could have been targeted over some bullshit “Ethics” accusation that would have kicked it off since. But that was the flashpoint we got. It was disgusting, but it happened. And now we’re left with a subculture of a subculture that thinks harassment is OK to get what they want. And usually what they want is to shut down voices of Women and People of colour.

“Ethics in gaming journalism” can go jump off a cliff though. It was a vector for harassment from the day it started and that was always the intention and I resent any implication that people with a journalism background don’t care for it. I know it’s not your intention, but being analytical isn’t being emotionless. A lot of people in the media cared at the time that it was being used for harassment and they still do now that it has steeped into real news and the constant weaponisation of the news cycle for trolling and harassment of people from all walks of life. It’s horrific and needs to be stopped. And that’s why looking back at it and saying “How can we do better?” is something I do want to discuss and I think should be discussed.


#16

It may have something to do with the institutionalized sexism and racism in American society. The same institutionalized bigotry which has always existed in this supposedly apolitical artform and entertainment culture we call games and gaming.

In fact, there’s a new book out devoted to unraveling, and combating the fallout of, this very “mystery.”

We know now the accusations were false and had no merit thanks to a court ruling.

Is your implication that we didn’t know that GamerGate’s “allegations” against Zoe Quinn and Kotaku were “false” before the court ruling?


Are people, including victims of GamerGate, attacking Patrick Klepek on Twitter because he didn’t speak up enough? That sounds awful.

Or it would be, if the insults were coming from the sources you suggest they’re coming from. See, I’m having some cognitive dissonance here. Please allow me to elaborate.

I’m assuming that this is the thread you speak of, in which Klepek says, “Every day, it’s clearer GamerGate was ground zero for our current hellscape. Too many of us failed to do the right thing. We were cowards. So many long, pointless conversations about “Should we say anything?” So much wasted time. So much bullshit.” Am I correct?

Based on those tweets and their responses, have people been using Klepek’s apology as an excuse to attack him? Yes.

But are those people feminists, victims of GamerGate, and others? Are they liberals and leftists using this opportunity to tear down a good ally? Not as far as I can tell.

The people using his “admission of failure” to “belittle” him? (Content warning: extremely gross tweets.) They. Are. All. Gamer. Gaters. These are not people angry that Patrick isn’t perfectly “ahead of the curve.” Nor are they trying to “shun” him out of the community.

The only tweet that came close to what you describe? Just this one, which said, “Minorities and saw it coming and screamed and yelled but the industry and journalists didn’t listen. That inaction should haunt all of them.” Is demanding the industry and journalists do better belittling? Meanwhile, the number of likes Klepek’s tweet has gotten is close to 1,800.

The harshest comment I’ve seen anywhere, as far as examples of someone whose angry with those who “needed” the Buzzfeed article “to understand,” comes from ToddInTheShadows, who said: “Don’t know if I’ll ever be able to truly convey my disgust at those who looked at the face of evil and were too stupid to recognize it. I’ve been trying to not be too harsh on people but today I cannot choke down my disgust at so very, very many people.” And he’s right. Nobody should have needed this article to know the truth.

Now, if the people who you fear will drive allies out of community are individuals like Zoe Quinn, Sarah Jeong, and others? I say, let them be angry. They’ve been maligned Cassandras, as Quinn put it, for years.

That it takes an article written by a man for us men to believe the truth about GamerGate, and the behind-the-scenes backstabbing? Is that not an even greater insult?

One focus of this podcast’s discussion is about not being afraid to weigh in. Women who say, “I’m so tired of men telling me they’re feminist and then literally doing nothing to speak out against sexism, misogyny, and sexual assault” make a good point. Remember the common refrain that companies should keep silent? As the crew mentioned, the women who worked for those silent companies were harassed anyway!

(Side note: Lux Alptraum, the woman behind that last quote, even sympathizes with the challenges men face if they speak up. In a different thread she says, “I know exactly what it is like to not be able to speak out against the bad behavior of men because you fear for your career and safety.”)

So, I want to make something very clear, to you and anyone who’s reading, because it plainly needs to be said: the anger we’re all seeing across the internet, by those affected by GamerGate, with people who could’ve spoken up, but didn’t? It’s not about us white dudes not being woke enough. It’s about feeling betrayed. Zacny identifies a big concern coming out of the Buzzfeed article as “deciding who to listen to in good faith.” Or, as this woman says, she’s “checking to make sure all the men who have sexually harassed me and my friends are tweeting their disgust about Weinstein.”

Your point is that you want people, all people, to be patient and empathetic, yes? I agree that we should be charitable to those acting in good faith. But right now? We’re seeing palatable anger by people who’ve been gaslit for years. Or told to be quiet by lawyers. Or told “both sides”. Let them be angry.

Yet, in spite of it all, I understand your response. I grapple with the desire to react defensively all the damned time. Like someone who spoke to Dr Nerdlove recently, we’re afraid that anything we say “is going to get [us] smacked down because [we] said or did something wrong.” Honestly, I strongly recommend that anyone feeling like they, as “well-meaning dudes,” will get their head “ripped off” for speaking incorrectly read Nerdlove’s thread. Because as he says, the lesson from the Buzzfeed article should be for all of us to, “Fucking listen when folks are telling you that shit is happening. Then maybe we aren’t going to have to go through another “wait, GG/Milo/Breitbart/etc. was BAD after all?” soul-searching moment.”

Ultimately, when we act defensively we’re essentially saying—in response to proof that even supposedly good men will collaborate with the Alt-Right—hey, please focus on our feelings.

One more thing. Nothing I’ve said hasn’t already been said by women on this forum and much more succicntly.

Talk among yourselves. I’m out.


#17

Sorry to focus on a small part of such a lengthy response, but who is Alex Lifeson? That’s the guitarist from Rush, unless there’s another dude by that name.


#18

I don’t wanna derail the conversation on the meat of this episode, but I just needed to say that I definitely also downloaded the not-System of a Down “cover” of the Zelda theme from Napster/Limewire/Kazaa. Almost excitedly threw my phone across the room when Austin mentioned that.


#19

No. I’m saying they always were false and had no merit and I apologize if my grammar made it not sound that way. But in terms of a legal and reporting perspective. Allegations are reported as allegations till proven or dismissed in a court of law. A court ruling is pretty definitive which is why I used it as an example. It didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. But having it in writing carries weight.

I’m so sorry. I confuse names a lot and I have no idea how that implanted in my head. I mean Eron Gjoni. Thank you for pointing it out


#20

Hearing all those AIM stories was really enjoyable and novel because even though I’m in the same age range as y’all, poverty kept me from having a computer until late into my college career and I didn’t even get home internet until 2011 or so. Whenever I hear about someone talking about the rich lives they lived online I wonder what kind of person I may have been had I access to some of those online communities, though considering how comfortable with irony and sarcasm I was as a teen it may have not been great. The combination of online lives and harassment this episode makes me want to recommend the most recent episode of Danika’s podcast Logged Off, where they cover both of these subjects in good, earnest ways and (again) helped me appreciate the complex, rich lives people can lead online.