Welcome back, my friends, to the harassment that never ends.
It’s not news that GamerGate is fading – the media hubbub has died down, and the last I checked the volume of Tweets to the #GamerGate hashtag has dropped to only about a fifth of what it was in its glory days.
But it’s too soon to say it’s over. Because while the number of Gaters has shrunk, the harassment of GamerGate’s targets goes on, and on, and on. Indeed, for the three “Literally Whos” who’ve been the central targets of #GamerGate harassment little has changed. The death threats, the rape threats, the insults, the harassing Tweets and comments and emails and phone calls all continue.
And then the Gaters accuse the “Literally Whos” of faking their harassment in a bid for sympathy and cash.
Let’s look at each in turn:
1) Anita Sarkeesian
Sarkeesian, the cultural critic whose harassment started years ago when she first announced her plans to make a video series on sexism in video games, recently posted a week’s worth of harassing and threatening Tweets directed at her; there were more than a hundred of them, including numerous death and rape threats, suggestions that she kill herself in the most painful way possible, and assorted other abusive comments bristling with hatred and misogynsitic slurs.
2) Zoe Quinn
As Sarkeesian sorts through her Twitter notifications, game developer Zoe Quinn tries to figure out how to continue her life and her career in the face of unrelenting and irrational hostility and harassment. In an eloquent meditation on the subject on her blog, she writes
I’ve been trying to take a day to just be a regular person, recenter myself, and have the energy to get back to work with the same enthusiasm I tend to have, but every attempt gets cut short by some fresh, new, horrible news about someone trying to get into my accounts, a new asinine conspiracy theory being used as an excuse to dox people I went to high school with, friends freaking out because anonymous message board people are talking about how to mail them bombs, or just another death threat. At least the death threats have become somewhat routine.
Stalked by a restless mob of haters, she’s constantly under the microscope, her every utterance picked at by her critics looking for anything they can use as fodder for their increasingly baroque and fanciful conspiracy theories; as she puts it, she’s faces, every day, “a mob of Nerd McCarthyists nipping at your heels and spinning up TMZ-style blog posts every time you fart.”
Indeed, Quinn recently found herself accused of terrorism for making a joke on Twitter suggesting she planned on “burning hollywood to the ground” if an upcoming episode of Law & Order SVU loosely based on GamerGate ends up having a victim-blaming plot twist.
Do these people honestly believe that Quinn is really planning on burning anything to the ground? I don’t know, and I don’t think it even matters to them; it’s just another “crime” to add to Quinn’s GamerGate rap sheet.
I can only assume that GamerGate will go after the imaginary Hollywood director “Alan Smithee” next; after all, he’s credited with directing the 1998 film Burn Hollywood Burn. Come to think of it, Public Enemy had a song with that name as well.
3) Brianna Wu
Meanwhile, game developer Brianna Wu is facing an even creepier threat: a disturbed and delusional “GamerGate vigilante” who bombarded Wu with a succession of threats that alarmed her enough to contact the police – then, en route to her house, he flipped the Prius he’d stolen from his mom on an icy highway. And yes, this really happened; he posted a video of himself having a screeching meltdown on the side of the road next to a wrecked Prius balanced on its side. (I’m avoiding his name because I honestly don’t want to give him any more publicity.)
He claims that he meant Wu no harm, and merely wanted to challenge her to a “street race” to which she never agreed – apparently thinking that if he scared her enough to flee her home on her motorcycle this would count as a race.
But he also apparently sent a friend to try to “disable her comms” (communications) – the friend evidently never arrived – and tried to convince an online acquaintance with a gun to accompany him for this “op.” Thankfully, the acquaintance refused, and posted what he said was their chat to a message board devoted to trolling. An excerpt:
[2:52:07 PM] [name redacted]: SHE IS WORKING WIth the National Social Justice Party to stop gamers!!!!
[2:52:35 PM] [name redacted]: I SENT ELI UP TO DISABLE HER COMMS WE DONT HAVE MUCH TIME BEFORE SHE ASKS FOR REINFORCEMENTS THOUGH AND I NEED YOU FOR BACK UP!!
[2:52:52 PM] FlyAwayNow – Matthew.N: What? You want me to bring my rifle or what?
[2:53:05 PM] [name redacted]: YEA JUST LIKE IN PAYDAY 2 DUDE ITLL BE SICK
[2:53:36 PM] [name redacted]: IN CASE SHE SHOOTS AT MY CAR I CANT GET BULLET HOLES IN MY MOMS CAR SHE ILL KILL ME ESPECIALLY BECAUSE I STOLE IT
[2:54:10 PM] [name redacted]: WERE GONNA STREET RACE HER SHE WONT BE ABLE TO DRIVE IN THE STORM SO WE WILL BE ABLE TO WIN EASY AND TAKE YOUR RIFLE IN CASE SHE SHOOTS US TOO
[2:54:32 PM] FlyAwayNow – Matthew.N: You’re not laying a hand on my gun.
[2:54:42 PM] [name redacted]: ILL DRIVE YOU SHOOT
And now he seems to have convinced himself that Wu somehow sabotaged his car in an attempt to “assassinate” him. From his video:
I honestly don’t quite know what to make of the threatener or the threats. His behavior is so strange and erratic and almost literally unbelievable that it would be easy to dismiss him as a troll.
But then there is that wrecked Prius. And several years worth of videos on Youtube that suggest either that he’s sincere — or that’s he’s the most dedicated troll since Andy Kaufman’s fake comedian alter ego Tony Clifton, who somehow managed to survive Kaufman’s death.
Is GamerGate responsible for his actions? On the pro-GamerGate subreddit Kotaku In Action, the regulars largely dismissed the threatener as a troll; one accused Wu of being “a disgusting human” for publicizing the threat and being “so quick to paint him a Gamergate supporter.” Never mind that in the video the threatener repeatedly describes himself a “#GamerGate vigilante,” and that he would not have chosen her as a target had she not already been subject to months of vilification from GamerGate.
GamerGate, which is quick enough to take credit for charity work done in its name, shies away from taking responsibility for any of the terrible shit anyone does in its name. And in recent months many of the remaining Gaters seem to have stopped even pretending to care about the victims of GamerGate harassment. Indeed, @_icze4r, the former head of GamerGate’s much-vaunted, now-abandoned “Harassment Patrol” was one of those who egged the threatener on with a jokey supportive Tweet.
It’s a dangerous game they’re playing. As Wu notes
Someone is going to die from your recklessness if you don't look in the mirror and understand the consequences of your choices.
— Brianna Wu (@BriannaWu) February 1, 2015
What any of this has to do with “ethics in video games journalism” I couldn’t tell you.