A year ago this month, shortly Polygamer‘s launch, GamerGate erupted across the Internet. I was at a Boston Indies meetup, preparing to give a lightning talk, when a speaker presented five ways to support women in gaming. One method involved Depression Quest, of which I was already a fan.
Holy crap. From everything I know, text adventure Depression Quest hits the nail on the head. http://t.co/C8WXorOJxq #IF
— Ken Gagne (@gamebits) March 6, 2014
Based on my positive experience with the game, I retweeted the advice to police the game’s reviews, without understanding why it was in need of such.
2. Report Abuse: Flag abusive reviews for Depression Quest. http://t.co/lpAA2axzt0
— Ken Gagne (@gamebits) August 18, 2014
When I discovered the larger context of this advice, I pinged fellow podcasters: are you going to cover GamerGate? No, they said — we’re hoping it will blow over. But within a month, it was evident that GamerGate was not going away. A year later, there have been several pieces published reflecting on GamerGate, with some common themes and lessons.
First, Quinn spoke with her new home’s newspaper, The Seattle Times, about how women game developers fight sexism in industry. The article lists several positive accomplishments within the industry in response to (but not arising from) GamerGate, such as the diversification of Intel and DigiPen; the founding of Quinn’s own Crash Override anti-harassment network, for which she granted Polygamer an interview; and the software being developed by Kim Swift or published by BioWare. But the article ends unhappily:
And whatever message the Gamergaters intended to send about women in games, it’s not the one that necessarily registered.
While at DigiPen, I asked a group of young female students what lessons could be gleaned from Gamergate.
Without missing a beat, they said, “Be careful who you date.”
That may not be the message GamerGaters intend to send, but it’s not the lesson we want women to learn, either. The repercussions of Quinn and Eron Gjoni‘s relationship are inappropriately public and wildly disproportionate. Placing the responsibility for GamerGate’s existence on the decision to date Gjoni is blatant victim blaming. Gamers should be able to engage in intimate relationships without concern that your ex will incite an Internet hate mob against you.
As DigiPen’s students demonstrate, victim blaming is something anyone is capable of, as society has practically trained us to believe the victim should’ve avoided the situation entirely; it takes a conscious effort to avoid. When I wrote a guide to avoiding being doxxed, I asked my editor to review it with victim blaming in mind. Was I inadvertently suggesting that, if someone didn’t want to be doxxed, she shouldn’t let her information out there in the first place? That too is not the lesson we need to learn.Continue reading