An open letter to @ShadowTodd on #GamerGate that probably isn’t very well-written

This letter is not to harass, belittle, insult or otherwise attack you. It’s been a few days since our discussion on twitter, and having unblocked you, I noticed that you asked in one of your tweets if I would like to continue the discussion, now that you had calmed down. Your outrage wasn’t something I intended to cause, but I do apologize for causing it.

In answer, no. I didn’t want to continue the discussion on Twitter – as you may have noticed, it is far too easy for conversations held at less than 140 characters at a time (especially long ones with heavy controversy like GamerGate) to spiral out of control and make the entire affair angry and miserable for everyone. On top of that, your opinion on GamerGate seemed locked in and I didn’t think telling you why I was involved would do any good.

However, in the interest of an open discussion, (and on the chance that this will be a positive discussion between GG and aGGro going forward) I’ll leave this last bit of word on the subject in an attempt to explain rationally and calmly why I continue to support GamerGate.

Lemme preface this by saying that threats, doxxing, intimidation, defamation, all that jazz are NEVER okay. No, not even then. I only bring them up because they are a thing that happens and need to be addressed.

*Firstly,* I want to address an issue you brought up multiple times in our brief discussion: the issue of false equivalency. As you’re no doubt aware, a massive amount of doxxing, flaming, threats and generally horrible things have been flying from both sides pretty much from the beginning, even before Adam Baldwin coined the term ‘GamerGate’. However, you claimed in your conversation with me that comparing the two was a “false equivalency”, since GamerGate was “specifically founded to harrass people” and aGGro’s tweets were likely the result of a few bad apples as opposed to the whole group. We’ll ignore the fact that some threats are worse than others (though on a side note, I’m pretty sure mailing someone a syringe full of what is implied to be poison is worse than a sexist slur)

I don’t believe it’s false to say that the two are equal for several reasons.
-There are mountains of evidence for threats from both sides. You’ve already seen GG’s (and I am sorry your friends were threatened) and here’s a compilation of aGGro’s (several of the images are NSFW):

https://jennofhardwire.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/gamers-discussing-gamergate-scandal-are-being-harassed-wheres-the-coverage-this-article-will-be-regularly-updated-with-documented-harassment-of-gamers/

-It is impossible to control who contributes to a hashtag, so a tweet stating ‘you should go die muahaha’ is not evidence of how an entire movement acts, behaves and feels. With organizations like the NRA, the Democrat Party, etc you can get away with generalizing the organization based on individual members’ behavior since the group has a barrier for entry based on their ideology. However, a Twitter hashtag movement is impossible to control in this manner. I could easily go to #KillAllMen and say “Jesus saves – he takes half damage.” That doesn’t mean that #KillAllMen is about Christians playing DnD all of a sudden, does it? Of course not, that would be silly.

-GamerGate was not – as you claim – founded to harass Zoe Quinn for sleeping around. This is a common misconception, but it’s wrong on several levels, so lemme go over the whole story from start to finish. Zoe Quinn was lovers with one of the reviewers of her game, and the reviewer did not disclose this. (Personally, I found this behavior repugnant because she was cheating at the time, but that is both her business and neither here nor there)

(EDIT: Apparently, this is wrong – it wasn’t a review, just coverage. My bad, but it doesn’t change the overall point of the paragraph)

When this was discovered, it raised questions of how impartial about the game he could be, and rightly so; it’s difficult to criticize someone you care about (and/or are having sex with) and reasonable to assume he’d be biased. Had this been disclosed beforehand, or had he simply said ‘mea culpa’ and moved on, this entire incident would have gone completely unnoticed. Instead, a slew of inflammatory articles came out within 24 hours directly attacking gamers as misogynist, racist, etc and stating that the gaming identity was dead/dieing. Obviously, there was a massive uproar about this, and Adam Baldwin coined the term ‘GamerGate’ in response. So in short (too late), GamerGate did not exist during the Quinn scandal and was founded in response to the actions of games media, not a female game developer.

So therefore, saying that someone used a particular hashtag when saying something horrible is not proof about how that hashtag behaves as a whole. I kept bringing up the threats anti-GG had made because by the logic you posed, if GG is a hate movement because you can find tweets threatening someone’s life, so is aGGro. But that logic is wrong, because again, hashtag movements are impossible to control. The fact that it’s even possible to hijack a hashtag should be proof of that.

*Second,* (i promise these won’t all be as long as the first secion was) your assertion that GamerGate has not accomplished anything of merit is just plain untrue. I’m not going to talk about what they’ve changed in regards to ethics policies at various websites, since you’ve already stated you feel that such was corrupt of them. GamerGate has funded numerous charities, including Child’s Play, Action Against Hunger USA, United States Fund for Unicef, Toys for Tots, extra life, and 32 different charities through a JustGive.org charity drive. Numerous websites updated their ethics policies (including IGN, the Escapist, Eurogamer and others), helped Cytherea (a porn star from Utah) get back on her feet after her home was broken into (she was also sexually assaulted), and even adopted a sea lion for 5.5k. In addition, the Fine Young Capitalists (who are pro-GG) held a contest for female developers where they gave the best pitch $50k and 6 months to develop their game.

*Third*, you stated outright that you could not be in support of GamerGate without also supporting harassment. This is an absolute statement and is a form of false dichotomy – I can support neighborhood watches without supporting the KKK (seriously, the KKK bills itself as a neighborhood watch group – look it up), I can support free speech without supporting slander, I can like This is How We Roll without hating your review of it and I can support ethical reforms without supporting death threats made by others who also claim to support ethics reforms. And I am most definitely in support of ethical reform in the games industry – even if 12 articles all stating the same message isn’t corrupt or collusion or whatever you want to call it, it’s certainly alarming, and the fact that the articles attacked its consumerbase is amazingly arrogant.

*Lastly,* there is definitely a need for GamerGate in the industry. Totalbiscuit explained this better than I could (and since he’s deeper into that part of the industry than I am I’ll take his word for it) but the short of it is that large gaming news websites are no longer pro-consumer. You were right when you said that publishing an article attacking your own audience isn’t corrupt in and of itself (though I would argue that 12 of them across multiple websites IS), but it does show contempt for the people that news groups are supposed to be working for and informing: the consumer. Games media cares more about publishers and developers than the consumers they’re supposed to be informing, which does lead to corrupt and unethical behavior. Reviewers and publishers regularly negotiate with each other to get as high a review score as possible in exchange for money and/or exclusive reporting opportunities. EA had the information for 40k accounts stolen, and was able to keep the press from reporting on it until a whistleblower WITHIN EA tipped them off – that’s something that should never happen if a news site has integrity. This has been a problem in the games industry for years, GamerGate is just these issues coming to a head.

I’m not going to ask you to flip to pro-GG based solely on what I’ve said, that would be ludicrous. I’m just hoping this softens your stance somewhat and makes things a little easier next time you discuss GG with someone. I also hope this came through more clearly than my previous attempts – I have a bit of a problem communicating, this was very much off-the-cuff (assuming I understand the meaning of the phrase – unprofessional, impromptu, not edited much?) and honestly I’m both hungry and tired as f#$@ right now. There’s probably a typo or two somewhere.

Best wishes,
David Burton
aka HalfTangible

Well… that was more long-winded than I’d planned. Wish I could pump out words like that for my novel.

…Wait, you seriously read all that? O.o Uh… thank you. I’m… kinda out of things to say.

…Um…

Vivian James needs a cyborg crocodile sidekick.

That can FLY. AND TALK.

Scratch that, we ALL need cyborg crocodiles. Dibs on the laser-eye one!

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One comment on “An open letter to @ShadowTodd on #GamerGate that probably isn’t very well-written

  1. Very very well done. You kept on point and you explained yourself in a calm and very informative matter. I wish all GG discussions could be like this. But as you stated “The character limit” is a problem in this.
    I find myself doubting the movement once in a while. The trolls and aGGro attacks makes it hard to focus. And there is a pull to “follow the flow” no matter that it is.
    But articles and posts like this is why i keep going. We rarely focus on what we have done good. And get bombarded with what we have done wrong. Sometimes its easy to forget in the middle of things.

    Thank you for this post (Even if it was directed at Todd), It helped me as well to understand why i should keep my head up and keep fighting.

    Much love.
    Morb-ID

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