Learning from Gamergate, too late
It’s five years since Gamergate, and the New York Times has published a collection of articles
looking back at the impact of the hate movement that masqueraded as a campaign for higher standards of video games journalism.
Looking back, it’s clear how Gamergate set the template for modern harassment and information warfare. It was all about gaslighting and disorientating your opponent, a tactic that we can see among mainstream politicians these days.
It also helped lead us into a world where ‘culture war’ dominates political debate, and young men are radicalised to commit mass shootings. Suck them in with topics they care about — video games, perhaps, or why girls won’t go out with them — and gradually convince them that women, or immigrants, or Muslims, or Jewish people are the real problem.
One thing that’s striking about the New York Times’ serious look at Gamergate is that it comes far too late, when the damage has been done. Press coverage of Gamergate at the time certainly existed, but it wasn’t covered in as much depth as it could have been, because journalists really didn’t want to put their hand in that toilet.
Call Gamergate a hate movement and you’d face days of tweets and emails that varied from uncomfortably overly-polite requests to redress your 'bias,’ to outright threats. Women had it the worst by far, of course, but many male journalists shied away from touching the story — it was just too much hassle.
Journalists can only do so much to counter a movement like Gamergate, but if it had been called out more robustly and unanimously at the time, perhaps its practices wouldn’t have crept so far into so many parts of our culture today.
As journalist Max Read wrote on Twitter
about the New York Times’ Gamergate retrospective:
“To me the lesson from this (very well written and put-together) project should be: what is happening *right now* that the times is too afraid or confused to cover, but will be covering with a slick package in five years? and how can it institutionally adjust itself to cover it?”
I’d say other media companies should ask themselves the same question, too.