When the hashtag first popped up in my Twitter timeline, I was mildly intrigued. I drift in and out of keeping an eye on games industry news depending on what I’m working on and whether I think it’ll help or hinder, so my first thought was that #GamerGate was something to do with a game that had failed to deliver in some way. Another Mass Effect ending, or whatever the hell that crazy bullshit over COD guns was all about.
When I looked into it, I honestly couldn’t believe people were up in arms about this. As if sending death threats over an ending not matching the player’s vision for a game, or the fact some ruddy imaginary gun fires two seconds slower than it did before, as if that wasn’t bad enough, this time it was the fact that journalists know each other. At least, that’s what GGers kept saying – “corruption”, non-disclosure of relationships, blah blah blah. (For the whole, awful story, others have covered it far better than I.) Like many big, dumb things that happen on Twitter, I made a brief sarky joke about it and then got on with my day.
I got a brief flurry of responses, not a huge number by any means, but more than I have for anything before. In fact, and this was interesting to me, the only other subjects I’ve commented on that have prompted negative twitter responses from randos were: 1) saying I wish someone would kick a high profile MRA dude in the nuts (which with hindsight, probably wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done) and 2) slagging off UKIP. Not that I’m drawing parallels between GG, MRAs and UKIP of course…
These responses fell into two categories – those asking why I felt negatively about GG, which was fine, and a second type that made me more nervous. These ones insisted that I clearly didn’t know anything about either GG, the games industry or games themselves. The subtext to many was that I wasn’t a gamer and therefore had no right to express an opinion. I don’t know why they assumed this. Because I disagreed with them? Because I’m female? Because my Ni No Kuni tweets are interspersed with horse riding anecdotes and retweets of baby sloths? I’m not sure, but although none of the tweets were specifically threatening, the unbridled hostility, the hurry to other and dismiss me, made me uncomfortable. For the first time, I felt nervous at the thought of using a hashtag. (And I know that fear of a hashtag is like the king of first world problems, but it was more what that fear represented that unsettled me so much – the sense of suddenly feeling unsafe just being online, just for disagreeing with some people. About videogames.)
As the death threats and rape threats to high profile critics and developers rolled on, as I saw many people I admire in the industry and outside of it bombarded with unfounded accusations of corruption, I felt… weird. Powerless in a very strange and specific way. The more I read of GG’s complaints, the more I felt that their ire was based on a misunderstanding of how the games industry and journalism work rather than any true unforgivable wrong-doing. But still I didn’t want to use that tag. Because I’d seen others use it and be piled on by the mob and even though as a nobody I was likely safe (they’d hardly go to the trouble of sending me detailed and specific death threats as with Anita and Zoe), even though for someone like me it was no more real than The Matrix, I knew I couldn’t shrug off all those Agent Smiths the way that Neo did.
But then, yesterday as this crap still rages on after TWO MONTHS, there was a ray of light. A new hashtag was trending. #StopGamerGate2014. Started by the self-described ‘Social Justice Healer’ Verendeer Jubbal (seriously follow him on Twitter, he’s the most wonderful sunshine person and I usually HATE sunshine people) this was the push back. This was gamers and non-gamers uniting to say that these vitriolic shit bags need to calm the fuck down or sling their poisonous hooks.
And I felt nervous about using this hashtag too. But then I thought of the people who had literally been hounded out of their homes by the hate mob, and how showing support for them through this tag was the tiniest of gestures. So tiny I could manage to make it. And this time, I guess because there were more of us tweeting the tag and they couldn’t get to us all, only one guy responded. Naturally he assumed I didn’t know what I was tweeting, had no experience of GG or games and was just mindlessly tweeting the highest trending tag like a bot. He even gave me helpful instructions on how to properly write a tweet that conveyed my thoughts (by which I think he probably meant his thoughts, but still). That was it.
Today, as a little dare for myself, I tweeted it again. And no-one. Not a peep. And I let out a sigh of relief. I guess the reason it mattered so much is that I was worried the idiots had won. I was worried that the internet had reached a tipping point where the violent, sexist arsecandles outweighed everyone else. And as the #StopGamerGate2014 tag continues to trend, I can see that that’s not true. I can see that Leigh Alexander was right. The Gamer is dead. And the Gamer rising phoenix-like from the ashes is everyone and that is beautiful.