GamerGate debate: Video games, free speech and misogyny

Five passionate voices in the video games culture war face off

In short, a core component of the recent GamerGate uproar is a culture war among some male and female gamers about misogyny in games and the gaming community. A few of the most vocal female gamers and game developers in this debate have been subject to such a vicious torrent of online threats that they were forced to leave their homes. But more moderate pro-GamerGaters say the focus on the threats obscures their message: keeping games free of creeping political correctness and the gaming press free of corruption.

For more of a primer on #GamerGate, watch our piece from Tuesday.

Media discussions about the GamerGate controversy often bring together female gamers and online harassment attorneys. Rarely do we hear from the voices on the other side.

In a live chat Thursday, we heard from five passionate voices in the GamerGate fracas. (Scroll down for their bios.)

Fredrick Brennan

Founder of 8chan

In September, America Tonight profiled Fredrick Brennan as part of our Overcoming Disability series (the 20-year-old Philippines by way of Brooklyn-based programmer has broken a bone around 120 times). Around that time, his pet project – an image-based bulletin board called 8chan – started seeing a wild surge in visitors. The founder of 4chan, one of the most popular message boards on the Internet, had banned all discussions related to GamerGate, so a mass exodus headed toward Brennan's doorstep. Since then, 8chan has become one of the central watering holes of pro-GamerGaters. Brennan expressed his opinion in an interview with KnowYourMeme: "I believe #GamerGate is at its core a positive movement that fights against obvious corruption in journalism and the tech industry."

Deanna Zandt

Social media harassment expert

America Tonight

A media consultant whose clients have included the Ford Foundation and the White House, Zandt is also a member of an online harassment task force – a loose collection of activists, journalists and researchers – trying to combat the spontaneous eruptions of gender hate on social media. It's a volunteer job that keeps her very busy. (This past weekend, she was sending help to "Jackie" from the explosive University of Virginia college rape article after a blogger claimed to out her identity). It also meant that she was in trenches during the grisliest days of GamerGate. She's watched how ugly anonymous mobs can form, the damage they can do and tried a variety of ways to stop them. 

Arthur Chu

Jeopardy! champion & culture blogger

Arthur Chu

Best known for his unorthodox "Jeopardy!" gameplay, which made him an 11-time champion, Chu is also a hardcore gamer. He proposed to his wife at a video game convention through a vintage Sonic game. With this pedigree, he's become a leading male critic of misogyny in nerd culture and a pop psychologist on why some nerdy guys do things like anonymously spew rape threats at women for knocking their games. "I’m definitely not one of the fake gamer girls you fear and loathe so much, especially since I’m not a girl," he wrote in an August column. "So when I tell you you’re being misogynist losers who are making us all look bad, maybe you’ll listen." 


GamerGate supporter

A passionate gamer who asked to be identified by only her first name, Brooke said she realizes that in the GamerGate movement, as "in any group of people large enough," there were those who took it too far. But she just wants to preserve the games she loves.  "I don't have that many experiences in my life where I felt like I really cared about something and I wanted to like stand up for it. And this is one thing that I do really care about," Brooke told America Tonight. "I know that video games have been under a lot of heat and I don't want to see them changed."

David Auerbach

Software engineer and writer

A leading voice on gaming, tech, hacking and the shadowy male-dominated corners of the web, Auerbach went all Sun Tzu on GamerGate with an October Slate article, where he dissected the "16 factions actively involved on either side," laid out actionable steps for its annihilation and philosophized on why the whole way you probably look at GamerGate is wrong: "It would behoove the press and other observers of Gamergate to recognize that the movement’s flaws are, for the most part, flaws of the Internet, of online discourse, and in a larger sense, of humanity, and that the miasma that floats around Gamergate deserves to be attached to society at large….America is Gamergate. Start admitting that, and Gamergate starts dissolving."

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