The Attack On Nancy Pelosi Is Another Stark Reminder Of The Dangers Of Gamergate

If you dig deep enough, you eventually hit Gamergate. If you ask anyone in gaming to tell you the biggest news story in gaming this decade, you're likely going to be hit with one of gaming's more positive moments, something that happened on stage with Geoff Keighley in his sneakers and a room full of people cheering. Even the more negative answers would likely be very insular – workplace scandals at Activision Blizzard or Ubisoft, streamer controversies, or a delay, cancellation, or controversial studio departure. We're so quick to move on from our past in gaming that Gamergate barely even registers for most gamers outside of the extremely online circle of press and developers. It has been reduced to a footnote. But it might be the biggest news story not only in gaming, but in the entire history of the internet.

Even when Gamergate is spoken about, we discuss it on a very granular level – as a thing that specifically happened to Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, and Brianna Wu, or as the birth of the memes about "ethics in journalism hyuk hyuk". An extremely brief overview is that in 2014, Quinn launched a game called Depression Quest. It was a meta look at video games with atypical gameplay, political undertones, a social viewpoint, and took away violence to focus on education about mental health. These days, a lot of games on the indie scene follow that blueprint, but at the time it was a fairly unique idea. It reviewed relatively well, leading to (entirely false) accusations that Quinn had slept with reporters in exchange for high scores. This led to an explosion of toxicity initially aimed at Quinn, then far more broadly at female developers and games journalists in general, before exploding further to include anyone in gaming whose politics differed from Gamergate's extreme right-wing views, which solidified into a violent, unceasing hatred at Gamergate's core.

Related: Taylor Swift Fans Are Copying Gamers’ Worst HabitsDepression Quest was a decent indie game with fresh ideas and imperfect execution. The people who were involved in Gamergate did not care about it then, and those involved now likely don't even know it exists. Gamergate crystallised on forums like 4chan and is at the root of many of society's biggest problems today. Milo Yiannopoulos was recruited by Steve Bannon because of his work stirring up division and hatred during Gamergate, leading to the growth of Brietbart, the election of Donald Trump, the birth of QAnon, and the January 6th Capitol attacks. Bannon and other architects behind the tidal wave of alt-right populism sweeping up the disenfranchised angry men in the West, the ones handing them tiki torches and ropes for their gallows, all either participated in Gamergate or studied its spread. The man who broke into Nancy Pelosi's house with the intent to kill her with a hammer was radicalised by Gamergate.

Gamergate has been one of the biggest lightning rods in political recruitment of the internet era, perhaps the single-largest. What's crucial is that the people involved never cared about Gamergate in the first place. Nobody involved cared about Zoe Quinn, Depression Quest, or even the lie that she had slept with reporters. All they cared about was being abusive to women. Sarkeesian was a mildly controversial figure on the internet pre-Gamergate because of her feminist pop culture blog, and she was dragged into Gamergate just because she was the next woman in line that people hated. Wu had no connection at all until she spoke out against Gamergate, at which point she was propelled into the centre as another victim to be torn to shreds.

What was most telling for the three woman at the middle of it was the rampant amount of rape threats they received, underlining that misogyny was the true motivator. It ballooned quickly into hogwash about ethics (highly coded language for no politics except the status quo of ours), and then abandoned its cause altogether to simply be a rallying cry for young men displaced by the fact gaming was no longer theirs alone and specifically catered to all of their basest desires. The blackpill movement, AKA the incels, also has deep roots in Gamergate. It doesn't matter what you pick. If you dig deep enough, you eventually hit Gamergate.

When Bannon told his throngs of followers and soon-to-be Trump voters "Let them call you racist… wear it as a badge of honour," he was co-opting the Gamergate playbook. Gamergate was freedom for these people. They no longer had to pretend. They could call women sluts and openly talk about whatever depravity they wanted, and they would be welcomed. Everything dark and noxious inside of them was funnelled into Gamergate, and became fuel for Trump's train to the White House. All the while, the noxious substance grew stronger, never depleting, endlessly regurgitating itself because there is always someone new to hate, always a new Other. Maybe it's women in video games. Maybe it's Mexicans at the border. Maybe it's 12 year old trans girls who want to play softball. It doesn't matter. If they're not like you, they're fair game. A Gamergater attacking Nancy Pelosi should not surprise us. For a campaign that wanted to take politics out of gaming, Gamergate has injected gaming deep into the veins of our politics.​​​​​​​

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