You can now purchase Inside Gamergate at Lulu.com
Check the Lulu.com front page for discount codes, you can enter ONESHIP at the moment (August 2017) for free or reduced price shipping.
The hardcopy book will also be available through Amazon – and potentially other sites – in the next 6-8 weeks.
Meanwhile, if you prefer the ebook version, you can also get that via Amazon HERE.
Please leave reviews wherever you buy it and on independent sites like Goodreads. This is an independent publication and relies on your goodwill and word of mouth to get out there.
While you’re at it, check out our cover artist’s sexy Patreon.
Buy it HERE.
I am waiting on proofs of the print version and after print copies are shipping to backers they will be more broadly available, an update will appear on this site when that happens.
This book exists to record, for posterity, the events of Gamergate from the perspective of someone within Gamergate.
There is a real danger that, what with the media bias against Gamergate, that the other side – the right side – will not get recorded. In the future, anyone looking back is likely to encounter an entirely one-sided version of events from people who have been acting very shadily.
As a participant in Gamergate, that worries me.
As a historian, that worries me.
As someone who cares about truth, fairness and accuracy, that worries me.
I think I’m uniquely positioned to give an interesting take on what happened. I know the history, I can properly contextualise it within a timeline of other moral panics and responses. I participated in Gamergate. I’ve seen the aftermath of it. I’ve seen how it influenced things and how it fits into the broader culture war that has characterised the twenty-teens. I’ve been targeted by its enemies, who like to portray themselves as good people, and are anything but.
Mostly I want a record from this side, from this point of view. A counter-narrative to the one against Gamergate. Opposition to the stories being told by those who, despite mainly losing the cultural conflict that was Gamergate, are getting to enter their version of events into the record unopposed.
Gamergate was many things to many people, depending on their perspective. For some it was a harassment campaign, even terrorism, for others a key fight for ethics, against censorship.
Sadly the prior view had all the mainstream attention and is likely to be the only point of view that will go into the long term record.
It’s important, for posterity, to present and record the other side.
I was part of Gamergate. I want to tell it’s own story. I want to correct the record.
The Triggering is a social media event (#TheTriggering) proposed by libertarian commenter and reporter Lauren Southern as a sort of ‘online demonstration’ in favour of free speech and free expression and to raise awareness of Social Justice Warrior interference and threats to those fundamental human rights and to a free internet. Lauren knows better than many the kind of problems that face free speech advocates having both been thrown out of a protest for staging a counter-protest and, more recently, being assaulted (with a bottle of urine no less) for having a different opinion.
The ‘public square’ is increasingly in private hands and under private control, but is also being used by proxy to censor and control opinion. Whether it’s Twitter’s dubiously Orwellian ‘Trust and Safety’ council or Zuckerberg cooperating with the German government to suppress negative stories about immigration, we have to admit that there is an issue and it’s an issue that has been thrown into sharp relief by the conflicts on college and university campuses and the febrile atmosphere surrounding almost any piece of entertainment that intersects – however fractionally – with PC hotbutton issues.
You don’t have to agree with people to agree that they have a right to speak. I’m a left-anarchist and a pragmatic socialist, yet I support Lauren Southern’s right to espouse her Libertarian ideals. I worry about the demonisation of immigrants, but I believe people have a right to express their concerns about that (and genuinely worrying stories are being suppressed there too). There’s suggestions recently that media companies, including social media companies, are going to collude to exclude and undermine Trump now. I would gladly gnaw my own leg off if it would prevent Trump being president, but he has a right to express whatever opinions are most popular at the time and will win him votes. That’s democracy, that’s freedom, that’s the principle of free speech.
I’ve made games and presented ideas that people find objectionable and I’ve been censored, pilloried, boycotted and banned for it (or, more often, for ideas that people have assigned to me) so I’m presenting some of those ideas (games) under discount to participate in #TheTriggering because not only have these games ‘triggered’ people, but shilling a product on a hashtag will ‘trigger’ a whole other set of people.
Exercise your free speech and free expression today. Say something controversial. Air an opinion that might upset someone. Buy some porn, read 1984 or Huckleberry Finn, post a ‘problematic’ joke. Flex those rights and shake the tree, see who actually believes in free speech and who doesn’t.
And for those SJWs blocking the tag, or anyone that posts on it… you’re proving that we don’t need censorship and that you’re capable of maintaining your challenge-free bubble all by yourselves. You’re also proving the need for this event – which I hope becomes as annually celebrated as Draw Mohammed Day.
DISCOUNTED GAMES FOR #THETRIGGERING
Discounts are available for 48 hours ONLY, ending on the 11th of March.
The Little Grey Book [Pay What You Want]: A simple party game that plays off the hypercritical panopticon of social media.
Hentacle [Marked down to $2.50]: A comedy print-and-play card game of tentacle rape, which is such an absurd concept it’s just inherently laughable. Apparently some people fear for the welfare of drawings and genuinely fear being molested by cephalopods. #TeachOctopiNotToRape
Cthentacle [Marked down to $2.50]: A slightly different and simpler/faster version of Hentacle, but with a Cthulhu theme and many, many horrendous Lovecraftian puns. Of note is that poor, dead racist HP Lovecraft’s head used to be used as the World Fantasy Award prize, but this was changed due to conerns about his racism. Short of a visit by Herbert West I don’t really see how Lovecraft’s racism could really be a problem for anyone any more. He’s dead. Then again #RhodesMustFall so apparently we have to erase history and ignore influential figures for wrongthink. Down the memory hole…
Privilege Check [Marked down to $2.00]: The less privileged you are… the more privileged you are. This was the basic hypocrisy behind ‘the progressive stack’ which came to prominence during the Occupy movement. Equality, apparently, is not a good way to treat people and the best way to cure *ism is to be *ist. Irony is missing from a lot of dictionaries it seems. This game triggered the hell out of a lot of people when it came out and it’s a bluffing/tactical card game that mocks the progressive stack.
Gamergate Card Game [No discount, sorry!]: This was SO triggering that it, unlike the material above, was censored off my usual sales site. This despite it containing no graphic depictions of tentacle sex, nor any off colour jokes about racial/gender/etc politics the way Privilege Check does. Just invoking the name of the consumer revolt was sufficient to bring down a gang of crybabies to get it taken down.
If you’re interested in our other products, though none are really as controversial, you can grab our catalogues, which make it easier to find stuff than using the site navigation.
I decided to stop active participation in #Gamergate from midnight on the first of January. It’s customary, when one ‘leaves’ the amorphous hashtag movement, to flounce off with great drama and an enormous speech.
So this would be that.
I’d stress, however, that I still believe very strongly in the original and ongoing issues of Gamergate which are, and you can eyeroll all you like but it won’t make it untrue, more ethical and consumer-serving games media, and an anti-censorship stance.
So why leave and why get into it in the first place?
Why I got Involved
The broader ‘Social Justice’ issues in the creative arts are something I’ve been aware of for longer, and one shouldn’t be fooled by the fact that it dresses itself up in the clothing of laudable ideas such as equality and diversity. The situation we find ourselves in, and which appears to have crested, is a moral panic. As relates to nerd media it’s a replay of the Satanic Panic or Jack Thompson’s crusade against violence in games, just with different actors and set dressing. There’s one important difference this time though, this time there’s ‘treachery’, in that many of the attacks – no less ill-informed and unscientific – are now coming from within the nerd community.
Going back to the 80s and 90s, even in my tweens and teens I was already fighting in the precursor war on D&D and other RPGs. Arguing in presentations at school from religious groups on ‘Doorways to Danger‘, making pamphlets to counter the propaganda that was going around as an English project. Writing letters to help school groups get set up. Running games for the D&D Schools Competition. Reassuring parents and later on arguing with people on the internet or arguing for the educational and other benefits of gaming.
The Jack Thompson affair didn’t require much of your average gamer, since the press was on-side and the claims weren’t taken seriously by most people. They were understood, even by most of those uninvolved in games, to be stupid, censorious and troublesome.
As a metal, goth and alternative fan I also watched the goings on with the PMRC with concern, not to mention the Columbine backlash as it went international.
All of this resonated with the Comics Code issues I’d learned about and the other things which, as an avid reader, I’d learned about growing up. The role of censorship and moral panics against everything from film and TV to comics and fanzines.
Mary Whitehouse was still going when I grew up. Section 28 was governmental policy and even at 13 and not entirely sure what a ‘bender’ was, I knew it was unjust. When I was at college it was the height of the anti-road and hunt saboteur protests, which prompted more attempts by government and tutting citizens who didn’t like ‘crusty jugglers’ to control protests.
In short, I have a long established love of free expression, and have lived through some of the key battles around nerd media and endured several moral panics. There was no way I wasn’t going to get involved in Gamergate when it crossed my path.
Gamergate emerged out of the scandal surrounding Zoe Quinn. I was following Quinn on Twitter at the time and, as a sufferer from depression, had previously passed around links to her game ‘Depression Quest’ as an imperfect but helpful tool to help friends and family better understand the experience of depression – from which I suffer. I had defended her against early trolls, encouraged her and even donated to help her out when she was mugged – which I hope was something that did actually happen.
In short, I was invested.
When the scandal around her emerged I wanted information. Here was someone whose work I had supported and who I had helped out. Someone I had recommended to others. Her sexual peccadilloes and indiscretions are none of my business, though I felt sorry for Gjoni for the abuse and manipulation he’d suffered, but I was concerned – as were many others – by the revelations of undisclosed relationships, favours and corruption.
Trying to get information to confirm whether this was, or was not happening was incredibly difficult as all discussion was being shut down, everywhere, even – eventually – 4chan. A completely unprecedented level of censorship on an issue of genuine concern to consumers. Just how rotten was gaming journalism? We all knew it was bad, but exactly how bad was it? Why couldn’t proven, even admitted, bad actors be called out on it? Why were they being protected?
Then the ‘Gamers are Dead’ articles came out and the GameJournoPros list was exposed. Dozens of articles over a few days, in a coordinated attack on gaming media’s own audience.
Not only had gamers been censored, they were now under attack – by their own. Dismissed as misogynists, racists etc simply for pointing out problems, whether it be corruption or ‘criticism’ coming from the ideological overreach of people like Anita Sarkeesian. The ‘Social Justice’ attacks on gaming combined with the nepotism of the Indie scene and the collusion of a particular wing of activist journalism to create a perfect storm and a surprisingly effective false narrative of harassment which, combined with the censorship lock down, prevented the real issues getting discussed – for a while.
Revelation after revelation followed for those who cared to investigate, and lines were drawn.
Gamergate accomplished a great deal, and not just in its own niche.
Many gaming news outlets, albeit grudgingly, began using proper disclosure and adjusted their ethical policies, which was the first, major, underlining point. Bad criticism and ideological gatekeeping has continued, but it appears to have cost sites traffic and trust, and several people their jobs. New sites have sprung up, the audience has become more aware, there’s less trust and more demand for better reporting and the anti-censorship attitude has manifested in numerous other ways.
Gamergate has also helped inspire pushback in other areas, comics, film, TV, atheism and as university campuses have apparently gone insane, there too. It may be the turning point in a much larger culture war against censorious authoritarianism and moral panic on a broader basis.
Certainly I feel more optimistic about the future, coming out of it than I did going in. Despite lost friendship (and new ones made), the lies, the accusations, the nonsense and the hard lessons about just how bad even the general media has become, especially when reporting on technology and internet culture.
So Why Leave?
Why bring an end to my involvement then?
There’s still tons of good people involved and Gamergate has settled – mostly – into a sort of watchdog and ‘call out the stupidity’ role. It’s still doing good stuff and still has a lot of good people in it, but it’s a case of diminishing returns. The less obvious the need for Gamergate as a specific phenomenon, the less people are associated with it (and, I’m sorry to say, the demonisation and lies about Gamergate have had an effect as well).
The less people are associated with it, the more the hardcore fringe of horrible shits come to dominate the discussion and the less people there are to call them out on it. There are also less people to call out and point out trolls, and that further allows Gamergate to be misrepresented and probably, eventually, co-opted.
Lately the more extreme and paranoid elements, always there but previously marginalised, have been able to increasingly dominate discussions, drive away the more moderate and interesting people involved and to almost turn the ‘movement’ into the caricature it was always misrepresented as.
The fight for me was always more about the censorship issues and artistic freedom. Those battles are being fought elsewhere now and by a much broader coalition of interests, including genuine liberals, who are finally starting to speak up and make a difference to turn the tide.
Those issues are being fought in politics and universities now, in the public square as a whole. Even if the fight isn’t over in gaming and other nerd spaces (#1MillionGamersStrong and others), Gamergate itself is now a place of diminishing returns and more can be done in these other places and spaces and by creating. So that’s what I intend to do.
Doubtless I’ll cross paths with GG people down the line, doubtless issues will come up which I’ll help spread around, doubtless there’ll be battles we’ll share.
Over a year ago now I heard there was some kind of scandal involving Zoe Quinn. I was concerned for a number of reasons, not least of all that – as a depressive – I had been promoting Depression Quest as a way to help non-depressed people understand what it could be like. I’d bigged up her ‘game’ a number of times, I’d supported her against what seemed to just be ‘haters’ and I’d even contributed to her fund when she was mugged. So when this came up I was, initially, concerned for Zoe and secondarily concerned that I might have been backing and supporting someone who wasn’t what they appeared to be.
I briefly logged on to the infamous IRC chat that was discussing this to try and get more information, got a few links and comments and went looking around.
While I was getting to the bottom of things, it all kicked off.
It was obvious that there were problems here and while the sex scandal aspect gave people some prurient ‘lulz’ it was also clear that there was potentially a serious problem with regard to the games media. A problem that raised questions that needed to be answered.
We all knew games media was rubbish, biased and agenda-laden, but ‘being crap’ is not necessarily the same thing as being corrupt. We already knew that games media was full of bribery, threats and so on that were skewing reviews (the average review score is 7/10, not 5/10, showing part of the problem), but people had largely adapted to this and become suspicious.
Here, however, we had indie developers, who had been held up as the wave of the future for a new, more moral, more ‘progressive’ games world, showing to be just as riddled with conflicts of interest and other ethical issues as anyone else. This was only confirmed by the rampant censorship of discussion about these issues – by the games the media that was under scrutiny – and the steadfast refusal of anyone in a position to do so to address the issues. Instead the whole thing was reframed into the existing (also overblown) narrative of online harassment and (also overblown) hostility to women in technology, which was nothing to do with anyone’s concerns.
The ‘Gamers are Dead’ onslaught and the revelation of the GameJournoPros email list – and the shenanigans that went on there – only upped the ante and are the things that really launched Gamergate into a full blown event and ‘movement’. It’s also what exposed further corruption and got people digging and boy, did they find a lot of things that were wrong.
For me, though, Gamergate is merely one aspect of a much bigger culture war. It’s a microcosm of the broader issues where it’s ‘reals versus feels’, where genuine, very real and honest concerns about corruption and bad practice get misrepresented as misogyny and where that mere accusation is SO powerful that even after concerns have been vindicated by the Society for Professional Journalism, that misogyny and harassment narrative continues to be pushed.
The broader battle is similar, one of a rift and a split on the political ‘left’ between left-libertarian values (classical liberalism) and left-authoritarian values (what you might call an extreme version of progressivism).
Classical values of individual autonomy, choice, freedom of expression, artistic freedom, the value of reason and enquiry are not exactly being challenged, but being misrepresented by people who cannot see past identity politics – what a person is – to actions – who a person is.
- Gamergate wants ethical games journalism, and because some of the people they are concerned about are women they get tarred with a misogyny brush and shuffled into the ‘women in tech’ and ‘online harassment’ arguments, which are not what it is about.
- Sam Harris wants to criticise Islamic ideology and theology and to discuss the possibility of applying reason to questions of morality and ethics. He gets called a racist and ‘islamophobe’.
- Are you concerned about artistic freedom? Then you’re everything from a misogynist and racist to a rape apologist.
And so it goes, politics, art, music, fashion, comics, games, television, movies, science fiction fandom, writing. Everywhere there are these emotive attacks that bypass reason and force the moderate, intellectual side of the debate onto the defensive (because who wants to be called a racist, right?)
The discourse is damaged to the point of being virtually irreparable. Universities have become safe spaces, in that they’re now safe from the ravages of intelligent thought and free enquiry and those same, highly damaging ‘values’ are being imposed everywhere else.
To me, then, after a year, buoyed up by seeing Gamergate vindicated I see a chink of light in the clouds. A possibility that, perhaps, reform and change is possible not just in games, but everywhere. Those attacks no longer have the power they once did. We know we’re not sexist, racist, bigoted or whatever else might be thrown at us and without that power over us what reason remains to take these extremists seriously?
It has been a tough year. It’s cost me friends who bought into and couldn’t see past the harassment/sexism narrative to the truth. It has cost me work – I should have been anon. I’ve been censored, vilified, driven to the point of suicide by lies, libel and genuine harassment. There’s plenty of people who don’t understand and make no effort to understand but, on the other side of things I have made many new friends, found a like-minded community of brilliant, mutually supportive and very creative people and I’ve participated in making a huge positive change in games and beyond.
Moving post-gamergate – and I intend to cut down my direct participation after #GGinBrum I think the best takeaway is to start doing more positive things as part of this new community that has emerged in games – and further afield. Ignore the crazies and ‘get shit done’ because if there’s one thing we really have learned about the opposition, it’s that they don’t really make or do much of anything, and what they do make or do isn’t successful.
Perhaps that’s how we win in the broader context.