This isn’t a story about Gamergate.
For maybe a month now, that pseudo-scandal has been unavoidable in certain thoroughfares of the Internet. Claiming to fight for “ethics in gaming journalism,” its adherents have succeeded only in driving successful female game developers and critics out of their homes.
“I have not been able to find a single explanation of a coherent Gamergate position,” wrote Frank Lantz, director of NYU’s Game Center, earlier this week. Here’s his definitive encapsulation of the movement’s emptiness:
It remains completely unclear what is being called for or denounced. As far as I can tell there are no useful ideas with which to engage here–only an inarticulate mess of confused feelings, uninformed opinions, and second- and third-order meta-arguments.
From this nothingness—this recursive, cult-like illogic—has sprung pain and exhaustion. On Twitter, where much of this misery has been on display, women have gotten rape threats, murder threats, and been “doxxed”—that is, their home address tweeted at them among all those promises of violence and rape. The abuse, too, has erupted with little warning. One hour the site seems normal; the next, there are promises of a mass shooting.
On Twitter, the sum effect has felt draining, disturbing, and pivotal.
The videogame industry borders countless other cultural communities that have strong online presences, including tech, science fiction, fantasy, comics, and film. That whole swath of allied arts gets labeled “nerd culture” like it’s a minority subculture, but it commands tremendous, unprecedented attention in the U.S. and around the world. Three of 2014’s four highest-grossing films, after all, were about superheroes, aliens, or giant robots—and the fourth was The Lego Movie.