If you’ve been following the #GamerGate controversy, there’s been lots of controversy surrounding ethics in game journalism. However, its critics claim that it’s been an attack on women working in tech. Has it inspired women to flock to the tech industry to combat #GamerGate supporters, or caused them to leave because of the actions of several #GamerGate supporters?
For those who are unfamiliar with #GamerGate, the term itself was coined by Firefly actor Adam Baldwin. One of the central figures is game developer Zoe Quinn. According to Gawker, Quinn developed a game called Depression Quest in 2013, and chronicled the developer’s struggle with depression. While it was not well received by game critics, an ex-boyfriend, Eron Gjoni, made a series of blog posts accusing Quinn of cheating on him with five other men. These men work (or have worked) in the gaming industry or in game journalism.
This resulted in her private information being made public (known as “doxxing” to the Internet community), with death threats and harassment being sent her way as a result. #GamerGate supporters cited “ethics in game journalism” as an excuse. Quinn has been couch-surfing ever since, and other female game developers have been “doxxed” as well as threatened.
One of the claims of #GamerGate supporters was that too many developers were getting cozy with game journalists, which is perceived as a breach of ethics in journalism. While numerous females (notably feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian) came to Quinn’s defense, individuals in the Internet communities of 4chan, Reddit, and others continued to demonize Quinn and her presence in the gaming industry. Some people have even gotten SWAT teams to appear at female game developers’ homes (a process called “swatting”) as a way to intimidate them.
Some efforts to appease #GamerGate supporters have been made. For example, Kotaku forbade its staff to contribute directly to developers on Patreon, a crowdfunding website, and other media outlets also updated their ethics policies. Despite the changes, the misogynistic attacks have continued. While many women have risen to high positions in tech companies, such as 2016 Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, some women have left the industry altogether, while others have stayed despite the hostile atmosphere.
Those opposing #GamerGate have found an ally in writer, gamer and former NFL player Chris Kluwe, who unleashed a scathing attack against #GamerGate supporters and misogynists who wanted women to leave the tech industry. When asked whether it would cause women to rally to oppose #GamerGate or cause women to leave the tech space, Kluwe said that the current atmosphere in tech is very hostile towards women because of #GamerGate.
“I think #GamerGate has caused more women to leave the tech industry, because it’s the highly visible face of a much broader problem of misogyny in society in general. If a woman knows that she’s going to have to deal with something like #GamerGate if she goes into tech, that’s a disincentive that makes it far more likely she’ll choose to do something else and spare herself the pain,” Kluwe said.
Kluwe said that men working in tech should oppose #GamerGate and prove that not all men are against women working alongside them in tech. “Male opposition to #GamerGate is very important, because #GamerGate works off the idea that if someone isn’t speaking out against them, then they tacitly support them,” he said. “Men in the tech industry need to be vocal about how #GamerGate does not represent the majority,” he also said. Kluwe men should encourage women to enter tech as well. “Men also need to support women in the tech industry by amplifying women’s voices to encourage other women to enter the field.”
Tech companies have responded to #GamerGate in their own way as well. Scottsdale, Arizona-based developer Axosoft launched a campaign, #ItWasNeverADress, to give women a space to share their stories about working in tech and to find support. The campaign also encourages women to enter the fields of science and technology which have been male-dominated for decades.
According to Axosoft CEO Lawdan Shojaee, “We see our product as a tool, not different from a paintbrush, that software developers use to be as creative and innovative as they want. We view this campaign as being the medium women will use to paint the future for the next generation,” she said on Axosoft’s company blog.
Could #GamerGate galvanize women to change the tech industry? The numbers are looking bleak. According to a CNET article, while women make up 59 percent of the workforce, women don’t have as much of a say in technical or leadership roles at tech companies. Microsoft, Twitter and Google were singled out as examples—each firm reported less than 30 percent of either their workforce, technical positions and/or leadership positions (or all three) being held by women.
Women could also add another effect if they joined or stayed in the tech industry—increasing companies’ revenues. One study showed that including more women and minorities in their firms would increase revenues. #GamerGate should be a rallying point to unite against misogyny and the lack of diversity in tech, not the thing that drives them away.