Tag Archives: gamergate

FBI releases Gamergate investigation records

Adi Robertson, The Verge:

The FBI appears to have made a serious investigation of some threats, but at least one email thread suggests there were breakdowns in communication with the subjects of them. “We feel like we are sending endless emails into the void with you,” complained one sender. Based on the timing and location details, this was Wu, who published her own account of the experience on the same day. Overall, at least one report indicates that centralizing the investigation in San Francisco limited its jurisdiction. It’s also not clear how familiar some of the FBI agents involved were with common internet services. Twitter is sometimes referred to as “Tweeter,” and one email mentions suspects using “Thor” (probably Tor) for security.

Via Twitter, Wu said that the threats the FBI discussed were only a fraction of the ones she sent them, and that the agency was largely unresponsive to her attempts to provide evidence. “All this report does for me is show how little the FBI cared about the investigation,” she told The Verge. “As I remember, we had three meetings with the FBI, we had two meetings with Homeland Security, we had three meetings with federal prosecutors in Boston. Almost nothing we told them is in this report.” She confirmed that the juvenile mentioned above had been making death threats using his father’s phone; he was apparently grounded as punishment.

This report was actually released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request last year, although at that point, it was difficult to verify whether the recipients had modified its contents. Since “Gamergate” was never really an organized movement, none of the people mentioned in the report are “members” of it, and some incidents predate the controversy, like a bomb threat against Anita Sarkeesian at the 2014 Game Developers Conference. But if anything, this emphasizes that Gamergate per se was one facet of a larger culture war — which it’s now been almost completely absorbed into.

I often wonder why it is I’m so fixated on video games and their culture. I initially started writing on the topic to help bridge what I felt was a chasm between “average joes” and “nerds”. These were worlds I strattled growing up, often hiding my adoration for video games because I was afraid to be uncool.

Later, after seeing my little brother and cousins take to the medium, I sought to bridge a chasm between parents and video games. I focused my writing on the health and education impacts of video games.

Today, in the midst of American uncertainty and woe, I wonder if thinking about video games anymore than escapism is worthwhile. Certainly, there are bigger things. But then I recall Gamergate; what I see as the first emergence of the “alt-right”. As Ezra Klein refered to it on his podcast episode with writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, it was another moment of the merging of partisan and ideological identities:

Ezra Klein: I thought Gamergate was one of the most interesting things to happen in the last couple of years.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Because that had to do with politics, right? Like, why is this happening?

EK: Why did American political sites, Breitbart and Salon, develop an interest in an argument about whether video game sites were unduly influenced by some kind of personal relationship? When you say what happened out loud it sounds ridiculous.

TC: It’s hard to make it make sense.

EK: My big Rosetta Stone in American politics  for the last 20 or 30 years is partisan and ideological identities merged: if you’re a Democrat, you’re a liberal; if you’re a Republican, you’re a conservative. That didn’t used to be true. Once that happened, it set the stage for all of these other identities to align: where you live, who you marry, what you think about 12 Years a Slave, what you think about video game fights on the internet. The stronger this sorting mechanism becomes, the more lethal the collisions between it become.

Video games span a hearty set of demographics. It’s a medium that has taken the entertainment industry by storm. And it’s a medium that enjoys a massive online community, many players of which partake in anonymity. As ideologies and interests merge, it is important foster an inclusive and understood community, especially a community that encompasses the majority of American households.

It is important to write and talk about video games—even in anonymity (looking at me)—possibly now more than ever. And it goes without saying that a large swath of current day writers, artists, and activists were raised on and are familiar with the medium and likely its communities, let alone Tweeter and Thor. 

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Troll Masks

Adi Robertson, The Verge:

How much of it is just an act? How much does it actually matter? How much empathy should we feel when we read something that genuinely seems like a cry for help, when the entire premise of modern-day trolling is that the internet is just a giant game of make-believe, and you’re a fool to do more than point and laugh?

None of this is encouraging, especially when you know that just mentioning it puts you in the crosshairs, too. It doesn’t prove that there’s some hidden decency to reach or some way to impose offline consequences (I haven’t looked up anything about these people’s real identities, and I don’t plan to.) It doesn’t prove anything about what kind of person does this, because someone’s web presence doesn’t necessarily indicate much about their everyday lives. All it proves is that this isn’t some barrage of throwaway insults in a vacuum. Given enough time, whether it’s created out of deep resentment or teenage thoughtlessness or deliberate, sociopathic calculation, even the most one-dimensional troll mask can start to come alive.

Great read.

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Nostalgia, Feminism Top Merriam-Webster’s Words of the Year

Merriam-Webster:

The next two words on the list, nostalgia and insidious, saw huge increases in use this year, primarily because of their entertainment connection. Nostalgia was used in discussions about the television series Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, and other cultural milestones like the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in America. “We saw more than a 100% increase in lookups of nostalgia this year,” says Kory Stamper, an Associate Editor at Merriam-Webster. “It was certainly used in reference to pop culture and television, but it was also used as a way to frame larger political discussions. We spotted examples of nostalgia used in connection with the annexation of Crimea and the defeat of Eric Cantor. People often think of nostalgia as a return to ‘good old days,’ so these uses that go beyond the personal may have surprised some readers and sent them to the dictionary.”

Lookups for feminism were strong throughout the year, as the word was used in many highly publicized comments–from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision to the Gamergate controversy. One big spike came after TIME announced its 100 Most Influential People–a list including Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus, and Pharrell Williams. TIME’s claim that 2014 was the “year of pop feminism” sent many people to the dictionary.

In 2014, more than ever (and for reasons other than Merriam-Webster’s), I seemed to obsess over the idea of nostalgia. It coursed through many of my pieces including Hail Mario, Golden Age Thinking, and Iterative vs. Redesigned Experiences. It also seemed to be a common theme strewn out through several of Nintendo’s recent first-party titles: The Excitebike Arena in Mario Kart 8, NES Remix, and the plethora of new characters and legacy nods in Super Smash Bros. to name a few.

On the topic of feminism, it is very interesting to see just how large the Gamergate conversation has become. 2014 felt like a truly remarkable year for the feminist movement and this list offers a small shred of proof.

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‘A Passionate, Limited Core’

MIT lecturer Michael R. Trice on #GamerGate numbers, emphasis his:

In both the case of tweets and RTs about 500 accounts create half of the total volume in the conversation. Regular daily participation floats around 3,000 users. Then there’s a large body of several thousand accounts dipping a toe in the conversation.

This suggests that however organized or unorganized the movement, the conversation around #GamerGate on Twitter has a central core limited to a few hundred highly active accounts. The total mass of the conversation is in the tens of thousands, though over 80% of those members are involved on less than a daily basis.

Interesting case study. Social media can certainly act as a megaphone for tiny groups and individuals. These small groups get even louder when they play to our natural sensitivity toward criticism, threats, and negativity. An 8-year-old kid and sound as legitimate and scary as a group of fully capable 28-year-old adults.

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Chris Kluwe’s #Gamergate Piece

Chris Kluwe:

All the real gamers? They’re the developers now, the reviewers, the writers and the players who remember a time when you couldn’t download a virtual copy of your game, but instead had to go to a Toys“R”Us and hope they had it in stock. The real gamers, both men and women, look at your frantic rantings about “ethics in videogame journalism,” and they shake their heads sadly, wondering how you could get sucked in by some script-kiddie /b/tards and conspiracy-nut celebrities gleefully using you as a smokescreen for misogynistic hate. They look at the rich diversity of games that exist now, and they are THRILLED, because no one ever thought we’d get this far, and real gamers like PLAYING GAMES.

I know game developers, personally. I know game reviewers, personally. You know what else I know? That both developers and reviewers know each other quite well, because this industry used to be very small. One where you had to be a gamer to want to make a game, or to write reviews, because the money certainly wasn’t NFL money. It absolutely wasn’t the billion-dollar industry it is now, with games pulling in just as much as blockbuster movies. It was a group of people, doing what they loved, making games, and playing games, and a lot of them are still there, and they’re friends!

In true Kluwe fashion, this piece is delightfully entertaining, well written, and cuts the bullshit.

Speaking of Toys”R”Us, remember these things? Am I dating myself?

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‘An irredeemably dark version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’

T.C. Sottek writing for The Verge:

Still, it’s important for reasonable people to speak up, if only to set the terms of reality — something Gamergate’s most hardcore supporters don’t even seem to grasp. Gamergate’s echo chamber is an endless rabbit hole of paranoia, like an irredeemably dark version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The entire affair is built on trolling, counter-trolling, anger, and ignorance; Gamergate’s forums exhibit deranged skepticism in almost everything, including vicious doubts about every woman who speaks up against harassment and threats. Entire threads have been devoted to accusing Sarkeesian and other recipients of hatred and violence of running false-flag campaigns to elevate their own status. In their world, everyone who’s not on their side is a “shill” who’s lying for attention.

Not long ago, I was celebrating the social brilliance of Twitch Plays Pokémon; a weeks-long, virtual slog with an estimated 658,000 participants that, looking back, actually had tremendous potential for mass frustration, intimidation, and organized harassment. Instead, the community-at-large generated spontaneous and fascinating politics, factions, deities, usurpers, and home-brewed mythology that eventually panned in favor of progress and the completion of the game.

Needless to say, I am completely floored by the idiocy and insanity of Gamergate.

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One Hell of a Talk from Anita Sarkeesian at the 2014 XOXO Festival

Anita Sarkeesian, XOXO Festival:

For these detractors, it is easier to believe that I’m a skin-bleaching, mind-controlling, video-game-hating, scam artist involved in a masterful long-con than it is to believe that the tide is turning in gaming. That larger numbers of developers and fans are challenging the sexist status-quo and embracing the ideas and critiques expressed in my work and the work of many other women doing the same cultural criticism.

That about sums up #gamergate. We are extremely fortunate to brave folks like Sarkeesian facing this head-on.

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Poisoned Well

Zoe Quinn, as quoted by The Guardian, on Gamergate:

I think right now the well is incredibly poisoned: it’s likely a losing battle and that’s incredibly disappointing. I also feel like discussing ethics and fairness is antithetical to a campaign originated in and motivated by a fair bit of misogyny and harassment.

Does it say anything that my Twitter usage, gaming news consumption, and overall web browsing is down by a considerable amount?

It is exhausting to think that digital mobs and trolls may never be stopped due to the anonymous and unquantifiable nature of the digital space. I was young and dumb too, saying things in Quake and Starcraft chat rooms that were likely horrific by today’s standards. But I was an in monitored child. It wasn’t until real classroom debate, introduction to socially aware music and film, and being called out for my idiocy in person by a respected peer that I wised up.

Is that what we are dealing with? Are these children? Adults? Are they bluffing for fun? How many are there? A handful? Dozens? Hundreds? What failed their social growth?

In the real world, we can identify the source of seemingly monstrous shadows. In the digital world, shadows are the source.

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