I have been following Gamergate for a while now. I have played video games for most of my life, and I also want to get into the field of journalism, so both of these are great interests to me. When I read articles in Game Informer, a video game magazine, I wonder what we don’t hear about in regards to how the journalist was treated by the company that owns the game the journalist is reviewing. For example, did the company, as opposed to Game Informer, pay for the journalist to come out to test the game? Where did they stay? Basically, what happened behind the scenes that could have affected the journalist’s experience and drove up the review of a game?
In the case of Gamergate, I feel like it is less about journalistic ethics and more about social justice warriors trying to leave their mark on video games. Were I to explain it to a friend, it would go something like this: Zoe Quinn, a female game developer, created a mediocre game called Depression Quest. It received higher-than-expected reviews. Quinn was quickly called out by her ex-boyfriend who said she slept with the reviewers of the game, which led to the higher-than-expected scores. She received a LOT of backlash from seemingly everyone who had an opinion on the issue, including places like 4chan, reddit, YouTube, etc. When these mediums decided it was a bad idea to shame someone for their sex life, they quickly changed the focus to ethics in journalism, specifically gaming journalism.
I liked the article on Gamasutra about how Gamers don’t exist anymore. I think that gamers exist, but the line defining what a gamer truly is has become too blurred to even admit there is a line. Anyone with a smartphone can be called a gamer because they have apps like Candy Crush, Temple Run, and any number of other apps. This also brings up the question of what a gamer was in the first place. We all have our preconceived notions about what a gamer is and the stereotypes that go along with it.
I think it’s great to step back and evaluate the way any system works, journalism included. However, that is not the issue in Gamergate; to say that this movement is about ethics in journalism is untrue. I believe that if a male game developer slept with a female reporter who then reviewed the developer’s game, there would be the same amount of backlash online. However, I don’t think that the male developer would be doxxed and have all of his information publicly put online. I In my opinion, the issue is what Anita Sarkeesian, a controversial feminist critic, says about video games and women developers, gamers, and characters, or lack thereof. Sarkeesian says that, for the most part, women characters are in video games to please straight white males.
I disagree with Sarkeesian’s idea. I think, in general, female characters actually play a part in the story and are not there for eye candy. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule. Lara Croft, early in her career, was the embodiment of Sarkeesian’s idea that women are too sexed up in video games. Also, playing games like Mortal Kombat with scantily clad women jumping and fighting is an example of this. But I think, for the most part, game have moved towards less scantily clad women. Look at Lara Croft then vs. now:
On the left she is sexed up, and is clearly meant to be eye candy for the player. On the right, she looks like a real person (an attractive real person, but a real person none the less). Furthermore, the argument that only women are over sexed up works for men in video games as well. Choose 10 random male video game characters and chances are some of them have bodies that are as, if not more, unattainable as Lara Croft or other girl characters. These characters include basically any character in Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, etc.
As for female developers, now is as great a time to get into the field as any. Indie games have become such a great way for anyone, regardless of gender, to get into the field. The key is to make a game that people actually enjoy. Quinn’s problem was she made a game that people didn’t like, so she tried to boost the reviews of her game.