[content warning for descriptions of internet harassment and extreme misogyny]
A fun fact that I learnt today from Wikipedia is that the word “gamergate” means a worker ant that can reproduce sexually and the term is pronounced something like “gamma-gate”. That will be about the only wholesome fact in this chapter. For the rest of it, the chapter covers what Wikipedia entitles the “Gamergate Controversy”. What this chapter is not going to be able to do is give a full and authoritative account of the controversy. Instead, I want to look at some of the precursors to Gamergate that influenced later events in the Debarkle story and where Gamergate intersected with some of the key players in the Sad Puppy Hugo Award controversy.
The major events in Gamergate ran from August 2014 and into 2015 and beyond. However, for this chapter, I will only be looking at 2014. It is also a distorted view of the controversy. Vox Day presents himself as a significant figure in Gamergate but third party accounts do not. Nevertheless, for the purposes of the Debarkle narrative, the influence of Gamergate on Day and the political and personal coalition that arose from that is important. I’m getting ahead of myself though.
I will not be referencing every factual claim about Gamergate but instead I’ll be using four main sources for key events and for establishing the significance of events:
- The RationalWiki article on Gamergate https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Gamergate
- RationalWiki’s timeline of events https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Gamergate
- Wikipedia’s entry on the controversy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamergate_controversy
- The equivalent entry at Vox Day’s version of Wikipedia (Infogalactic) https://infogalactic.com/info/GamerGate
The Infogalactic entry is interesting because it is one of the few pages on the Wiki that is a substantial re-write of the Wikipedia page. The Wikipedia page itself was one of the areas of conflict in the Gamergate controversy, including a protracted edit war as different groups attempted to frame what the nature of the controversy was.
Readers will note, that what I haven’t done yet is introduce the topic and that is because the nature of the controversy, even down to a short précis to introduce the topic, was itself made into a partisan factional conflict. I’ll illustrate with a comparison:
Here is the opening of the Wikipedia entry:
“The Gamergate controversy concerned an online harassment campaign, primarily conducted through the use of the hashtag #GamerGate, that centered on issues of sexism and anti-progressivism in video game culture. Gamergate is used as a blanket term for the controversy as well as for the harassment campaign and actions of those participating in it.”‘Gamergate controversy’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 April 2021, 04:29 UTC,
Here is the Infogalactic version:
“The ‘Gamergate controversy’ occurred when the publication of a sex scandal in August 2014 led to industry reactions that confirmed longstanding rumors of a cultlike clique in the video game industry that conspired to promote unqualified friends as industry experts, write false news stories to promote a political agenda, and blacklist developers and fellow journalists who did not share their politics. The indie clique was also accused of rigging award shows to promote games that members of the clique had invested in.”‘GamerGate’, Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core, , 12 May 2018, 11:20 UTC
Now to be clear, I firmly believe that there is an external reality and that ‘truth’ is meaningful. One of those two paragraphs is a better description of events than the other and it should be no surprise that it is the first of the two. However, if we are looking for a point where the growing bifurcation in the perception of reality became tangible in the way that would dominate our lives from 2016 onwards, then I would point to these two paragraphs. Even so, when considering many of the foot-soldiers in this particular front in the culture wars of the last decade, it is reasonable to assume many of them were convinced that they were genuinely fighting against the “false news” of elite cliques of insiders who operated in a way that was “cult-like”.
But before we dive further into the events of Gamergate we need to look at some of the historical background.
Fans, Chans and Gamers
There are multiple roots to the Gamergate controversy. I’m only going to pick out those that are either immediately pertinent to making sense of events or those that would have an influence on other events in the Debarkle history (up to and including the event we opened with in the introduction: the storming of the US Capitol building on January 6, 2021).
One clear influence was the development of a self-identified ‘gamer’ culture. The history of commercial video games has been broad and diverse, with games variously marketed at children, families and adults. A significant proportion of people buying and playing video games have always been women. By 2014 smartphones, tablets such as the iPad, and handheld gaming devices had further increased the market for video games covering wide demographics. However, a section of the market had been developing since the 1990s that focussed on young men with sufficient resources and time to spend on high-end gaming devices (consoles or PCs) and games that taxed those devices in terms of speed and quality of graphics. Around this developed a competitive culture with all the typical features of fandom including the more toxic qualities. This was further fueled by games with online multiplayer aspects. However, it was also culture with a very dysfunctional relationship between the companies that produced the games and the players, which itself created a climate of mistrust.
However, gamer culture was only partly based on video games. The web also offered spaces in which gamer culture could propagate in particular via the video-sharing platform YouTube and by community spaces such as the various game-orientated subreddits on the discussion platform Reddit.
This is only part of the story though.
In 1999 at the University of Central Arkansas, a Japanese student called Hiroyuki Nishimura set up a kind of bulletin board service that he named 2channel. The site was created for Japanese fans to discuss pop culture or indeed any topic they liked. However, by being hosted in the USA, 2channel (or 2chan as it became known) could skirt the stricter internet censorship laws of Japan. As a consequence, the site became something of a free-for-all in terms of content, as well as a popular place for Japanese nationalist and racist politics. The hosting provider of 2channel was a Philippines-based American called Jim Watkins.
The popularity of 2chan led to the creation of similar so-called image boards for English speaking users, most notably 4chan which was created by Christopher Poole in 2003. 4chan helped spawn the hacktivist group Anonymous, whose often absurd campaign against the Church of Scientology is in its own way a kind of clash between phenomenon spawned from fannish cultures. 4chan’s weakly moderated communities were a breeding ground for unusual interests, meme, pornography and right-wing extremism. The site was also vulnerable to people exploiting it to share child pornography and other illegal activities that in principle were banned.
In 2013, frustrated by even the relatively weak restrictions on 4chan, programmer Frederick Brennan established 8chan as a rival imageboard intended to have even fewer restrictions.
The ironic meme culture, shock tactics, use of racist slurs and brigading tactics popularised in chan culture were also influential in more moderated spaces such as YouTube and Reddit and influential on Gamer culture in general.
During the 2010s a kind of ecosystem of environments feeding into each other with varying degrees of moderation had evolved. YouTube and Reddit being mainstream web services with darker reaches and some toxic communities. We have 4chan and 8chan (and a variety of other chans) and we have spin-off places like Encyclopedia Dramatica and Kiwi Farms which help people wishing to engage in trolling and harassment coordinate. At the same time, the internet was home to a growing “manosphere” of assorted forms of semi-organised misogyny, as we discussed in chapter 17. With more women asserting themselves in spaces that many male internet users regarded as theirs, many women found themselves targets of specific harassment campaigns.
in 2007, programmer and game developer, Kathy Sierra became a major target for harassment after writing about the underlying motives of internet trolls in general. The campaign was led by white supremacist Andrew “weev” Auernheimer.
“Inspired by her touchy response to online commenters, Weev said he “dropped docs” on Sierra, posting a fabricated narrative of her career alongside her real Social Security number and address. This was part of a larger trolling campaign against Sierra, one that culminated in death threats. Weev says he has access to hundreds of thousands of Social Security numbers. About a month later, he sent me mine.”https://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/magazine/03trolls-t.html?pagewanted=all
The campaign against Sierra eventually led her to withdraw from conferences and eventually from public appearances, essentially ending her public career.
In 2010, a group of 4chan users began a harassment campaign of an eleven-year old after the child spoke about their sexual activity in a YouTube video. Despite the obvious vulnerability of their target, the harassment included revealing personal details and the use of fake calls to law enforcement to bring police round to their targets family home. The incident is not normally discussed in the context of Gamergate but for our context, it is notable that Vox Day reacted to news coverage of 4chan manipulating the police into harassing with amusement, describing the incidents as being “absolutely hilarious”. The tactics of highlighting a potential victim, ‘doxing to reveal personal information to aid further harassment, and using fake police complaints, continued to be deployed in future harassment campaigns.
In 2012, media critic Anita Sarkeesian launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a video series that would analyse video games from a feminist perspective. Her Kickstarter led to a protracted harassment campaign against her and other women. The harassment campaign backfired as the additional publicity led to her project being funded quicker.
In 2013 video game developer Chloe Sagal was targetted by Kiwi Farms. The harassment campaign would last for years and it may have contributed to their suicide in 2018.
Also in 2013 Zoë Quinn’s text-based interactive story game Depression Quest gained many positive reviews at game review sites. Their attempts to get the game distributed on the game service Steam led to yet another harassment campaign organised at the imageboard WizardChan.
In July 2014 (just a few weeks before the ‘start’ of Gamergate), game developer Brianna Wu published an opinion piece at the gaming/pop-culture magazine Polygon, outlining with four case studies the range of harassment women in the game industry were facing:
“The industry is currently in the midst of a massive cultural shift. There’s a growing disconnect between the nearly half of gamers that are female, and overwhelmingly male population of games journalists and game developers. When you wonder why women aren’t rushing to fix that balance, remember this is the fucking emotional and even physical minefield they’re signing themselves up for. Growing a thicker skin isn’t the answer, nor is it a proper response. Listening, and making the industry safer for the existence of visible women is the best, and only, way forward.”https://www.polygon.com/2014/7/22/5926193/women-gaming-harassment
On August 15 2014, Zoë Quinn’s former boyfriend Eron Gjoni began posting accusations about Quinn in the comment sections of multiple mainstream websites. The accusations included specific claims about people Quinn had slept with, one of whom was games journalist Nathan Grayson who had written for the game website Kotaku. Within days Gjoni’s accusations had been picked up by groups at 4chan and other similar communities and spun it to a specific claim: that Quinn had slept with games journalists to get positive reviews. Later both Kotaku and even Gjoni himself debunked the specific claim that Quinn had slept with Grayson in exchange for a positive review, in fact, Grayson had only written about Quinn once and that was before they had a relationship.
At this point, the harassment campaign against Quinn escalated into doxxing with information about their family’s phone numbers released. Action taken by moderators on Reddit and on other sites to crack down on breaches of rules against harassment and doxxing in discussions about Quinn was then cited as evidence of collusion between Quinn and website owners. The common term for the surrounding campaign was the ‘Quinnspiracy’.
Vox Day comes into the picture via an interesting route. As noted above, Day had been broadly supportive of 4chan in principle, as well as harassment campaigns. However, Day’s first Gamergate related post doesn’t mention Quinn or the surrounding campaign as such. Instead, Day claimed that 4chan and Reddit were undergoing a kind of leftist crackdown with a take over by “SJWs”. Day compared these events to his expulsion from the SFWA.
“My purging from SFWA was, as I warned at the time, a small harbinger of much bigger things to come. Don’t think you’re safe simply because you’re not controversial. It’s not only the controversy they hate, or even the open resistance, it is the mere fact of failing to kowtow to their dogma.”https://web.archive.org/web/20140823080924/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2014/08/another-purge.html
Day hadn’t pulled these complaints directly from 4chan but instead from the forum of one of his manosphere allies, Roosh V aka Daryush Valizadeh. Roosh was (his views have changed in some ways) a particularly disturbing Pick-up Artist blogger with extreme views on rape. Day was directly quoting from a thread on Roosh’s forum already dedicated to accusations against Quinn. What is relevant here is that even at this early conspiratorial fear-mongering of SJW takeovers was the central story. Quoting from the original comment Day had picked up:
“The next day a mod who wasnt outed contacted us. To our horror he told us that the new mods are complete sjws and openly call for permabans for alot of 4chan “board culture”.unknown commenter at RooshV Forum, quoted by Vox Day https://web.archive.org/web/20140823080924/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2014/08/another-purge.html
As we dug deeper we found out that the same thing was happening to alot of subreddits. Normally we would say fuck em. But they told us that tons of non sjw mods had thier accounts sieged and them ip banned.”
A cycle ensued: the harassment campaign against Quinn (and later others) provoked either action from moderators or threats, which was then spun as a feminist or leftist crackdown on the discussion of ‘issues’ (eventually “ethics in game journalism”) and as attacks and censorship against gamers.
Day’s first “Quinnspiracy” post was on August 21, six days after Eron Gjoni’s first accusations against Quinn. Unsurprisingly Day once again managed to make the issue about himself:
“As for Zoe Quinn, she’s the same sort of no-talent nobody that has been getting serially promoted for simultaneously possessing a vagina while feigning an interest in games for as long as I can remember. I’m old enough that I can remember one of the early girl game pioneers, Brenda Laurel, putting her hand on my leg and expressing an inordinate amount of interest in whatever I was saying back when CGDC was still at the Santa Clara Westin, the only thing that is different now is that a) Laurel had genuine talent and b) the Johnny Wilsons and Chris Lombardis and Mike Wekslers and Terry Colemans of the gaming media had integrity.”https://web.archive.org/web/20171107072226/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2014/08/kotaku-and-quinnspiracy.html
I will stress again that Day was a minor player here and little more than an observer. However, a second theme in the wider campaign is visible — diminishing the relevance and significance of Quinn as a developer. Initially, this might look paradoxical, after all, if Quinn was a nobody then why all the ensuing fuss? The tactic of diminishing the targets of the campaign (reducing them to the term “literally who?”) served three roles:
- as a kind of denial that a harassment campaign was targetting them
- as a way of implying that the victims of harassment were claiming that they were being attacked as a way to gain sympathy and publicity
- as way of further denigrating the victims as nobodies
This diminishing strategy was used on Quinn initially and then, as the campaign widened on the former target of Anita Sarkeesian and then onto Brianna Wu and other women or other people in the games industry pushing back against harassment.
By August 27 both Quinn and Sarkeesian had moved out of their respective homes due to doxxing and fears of violence.
On August 28 the actor Adam Baldwin christens the widening campaign “Gamergate” on Twitter. Baldwin (no relation to the more famous Baldwin actors) was a conservative-leaning actor who had gained some celebrity status in science-fiction circles because of his role in the space-adventure series Firefly.
Baldwin is also our second point of connection between Gamergate and the Debarkle story. However, I’ll need to flashback a year. In 2013, the publicity around Larry Correia’s ‘Opinion of Gun Control’ post (see chapter 19) led to Correia being invited onto a radio show hosted by actor Sean Astin of Lord of the Rings fame. That appearance led to Adam Baldwin contacting Correia on Twitter, leading them to become friends. Baldwin is even name-checked in Correia’s April 2014 announcement on the success of the Sad Puppies 2 campaign, as they both were attending ComiCon and had dinner together.
Correia himself was not an active campaigner for Gamergate and in 2014 touched on the issue in a blog post only once in that year, after Anita Sarkeesian cancelled a talk at Utah State University after major threats to her safety:
“Anita Sarkeesian was scheduled to speak about how women are portrayed in popular media, and especially in video games. Late Monday, someone sent an email to about a dozen USU offices threatening a deadly massacre if she were allowed to speak. It threatened “the deadliest school shooting in American history.”https://www.deseret.com/2014/10/20/20550872/utah-gun-law-that-canceled-usu-speech-is-an-embarrassment
The university was not allowed by Utah law to ban the concealed carrying of firearms on campus, a rule that Correia regarded as right and proper. On the Gamergate issue, Larry had this to say:
“I’ve never gotten into GamerGate here on the blog, but basically Anita Sarkeesian is a professional victim, Social Justice Warrior, who thinks you are enjoying yourself wrong, and if you disagree you are a racist, homophobic, misogynist. If you are a regular blog reader who followed Sad Puppies at all, same thing, same crusaders, same song, different industry.”https://monsterhunternation.com/2014/10/21/fisking-the-deseret-news-anti-ccw-article/
Correia may not have been actively pushing the Gamergate campaign through his blog but as his comment above suggests, his Sad Puppy campaign and Gamergate were “the same thing, same crusaders”. Gamergate campaigner Daddy Warpig had been a follower of Correia even prior to Gamergate but as the campaign continued, Gamergaters found their way to Correia’s blog via numerous routes.
“We’re fighting the good fight across the internet. We won’t win soon, but we’ll fucking win.”Commenter “@GamersGate2014” https://monsterhunternation.com/2014/10/14/french-grimnoir-cover-prints-on-sale-25-off/#comment-47370
Meanwhile, Day was still pushing his usual misogyny and self-promotion:
“Notice that it’s all the same lunacy that we’ve seen in the SFWA, only not quite as out of control because there are more barriers to entry. Quinn-van Valkenberg tends to remind one of a female John Scalzi, albeit with less talent for self-promotion. Game development is hard work and requires some logical thinking as well; it’s not just a simple case of scribbling a few short stories, sending them to a female friend who will publish them in some barely qualifying market, then calling yourself a writer and spending the next twenty years going to cons, talking about books you’re never going to write, and relentlessly trying to push the industry leftward. The SJW problem in gaming and their tedious, decades-long crusade for More Women tends to revolve around the journalists because that’s the one area where absolutely no talent or mastery of the subject is required anymore.”https://web.archive.org/web/20140830002956/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2014/08/a-female-dev-on-quinn-debacle.html
Day had multiple motives for aligning himself with Gamergate at this time. As well as the misogyny, trolling and anti-SJW rhetoric, Day had something to sell:
“My own game now in development, FIRST SWORD, came under some criticism from the likes of Manboobz and other petty SJWs a few months ago because I made it clear there will be no female fantasy gladiators. Historically speaking, female gladiators were the light comic relief between the real action; they were often set against midgets, for example. These complaints had no more effect on my design decisions than complaints about prostitutes had on Rockstar or complaints about scanty armor on female characters have had on every game company everywhere. But it is more than a little ironic to see that there are pinkshirts who will actually complain about the fact that I am refusing to design female slavery, in which women would be literally bought and sold as property, into a game.”https://web.archive.org/web/20140913231652/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2014/09/video-game-sex-war.html
The game was intended to be a gladiator-themed fighting game set in Day’s fantasy world of Selenoth but we’ll come back to the company developing the game in Chapter 33. The relevant point to the story of Gamergate is that those involved were a toxic mix of the cynical and the credulous. 4chan culture was replete with people attempting to get an emotional rise out of other users. At the core of it was people who gained genuine pleasure from internet feuds regardless of the content. That pleasure from pointless arguments wasn’t created by the internet but modern technology allowed such feuds to be more toxic and far more damaging. Beyond that were people who saw Gamergate as a front in a culture war where aggressive tactics and less-than-true propaganda was justified by a righteous cause and beyond that were a larger, more gullible mass of people who identified as gamers who were falling for a hyped-up story that they and their hobby were under attack. It was a perfect environment for grifters to find ways of monetising the gullible or using Gamergate as self-promotion.
The attempts to monetise Gamergate started early. Just over a week after the first accusations against Quinn, a far-right activist and you-tuber Davis Aurini began soliciting funds to make a critical documentary about Anita Sarkeesian at a price tag of $15 thousand dollars a month. YouTube itself was a major platform for self-promotion. Gamergate aligned you-tubers such as the Internet Aristocrat and Sargon of Akkad used the controversy to boost their profile.
Vox Day gained two major allies as part of the career-boosting power of Gamergate. One, Mike Cernovich was, like Day, a blogger who up to this point had been mainly focused on pick-up artistry and general anti-feminism. Cernovich had little impact on the later Sad Puppy events of 2015 but would play a significant role in political events of 2016 and beyond.
The second (and more famous) figure was Milo Yiannopoulos, at that time a journalist at the right-wing website Breitbart. Yiannopoulos also latched onto Gamergate relatively early and prior to the adoption of the ‘Gamergate’ name. His first piece for Breitbart on the issue was on September 1, 2014, and explicitly framed the issue in the title as “Feminist Bullies Tearing the Video Game Industry Apart”.
“It’s easy to mock video gamers as dorky loners in yellowing underpants. Indeed, in previous columns, I’ve done it myself. Occasionally at length. But, the more you learn about the latest scandal in the games industry, the more you start to sympathise with the frustrated male stereotype. Because an army of sociopathic feminist programmers and campaigners, abetted by achingly politically correct American tech bloggers, are terrorising the entire community – lying, bullying and manipulating their way around the internet for profit and attention.”https://web.archive.org/web/20181018100006/https://www.breitbart.com/europe/2014/09/01/Lying-Greedy-Promiscuous-Feminist-Bullies-are-Tearing-the-Video-Game-Industry-Apart/
Yiannopoulos also latched on to one of the recursive claims that helped fuel Gamergate’s growth:
“Let’s be honest. We’re all used to feeling a niggling suspicion that “death threats” sent to female agitators aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. And indeed there is no evidence that any violent threat against a prominent female figure in the media or technology industry has ever been credible – that is to say, that any feminist campaigner on the receiving end of internet trolling has ever been in any real danger. Even in the most famous American case, that of Kathy Sierra, there is no evidence the target was ever at risk.”ibid
A common right-wing talking point is to minimise or outright deny the level of discrimination, intimidation, violence or even deaths that groups targetted for hate face (women, historically racially discriminated against groups, LGBTQI people, disabled people and others). This tactic extends beyond the more overt bigots towards the broader and more libertarian inclined right who regard measures to prevent attacks on victimised groups as government overreach. Minimising or denying the problems is intended to undermine calls for legislation against hate crimes but it is also used to either implicitly or explicitly claim that advocates for victims are lying and that news stories about hate crimes are somehow leftist propaganda.
With Gamergate, Yianopoulos was taking this denial a step further. Women (on the whole) were being targeted for harassment but if women complained about the harassment then they would be depicted as exaggerating or lying, which was then cited as examples of how “feminists” were attacking “gamers”…which of course helped fuel further harassment.
In October 2014 Kathy Sierra (see above) explained the dynamic in a blog post that was republished in Wired.
“It begins with simple threats. You know, rape, dismemberment, the usual. It’s a good place to start, those threats, because you might simply vanish once those threats include your family. Mission accomplished. But today, many women online — you women who are far braver than I am — you stick around. And now, since you stuck around through the first wave of threats, you are now a much BIGGER problem. Because the Worst Possible Thing has happened: as a result of those attacks, you are NOW serving Victim-Flavored Koolaid.”https://www.wired.com/2014/10/trolls-will-always-win/
The very act of pushing back against a harassment campaign is used as fuel for a harassment campaign and as that campaign is fundamentally aimed at discrediting the victim in the eyes of other people on the internet, the pushback is cited as evidence that a victim is a terrible person, which is used to draw other (more gullible and easily influenced) people into the campaign. Any steps that are taken against a harassment campaign (copyright takedown notices, appeals to moderators of forums or even just publically complaining about it) are then cited as attacks on a community and as authoritarian censorship. In the classic bully move, these kinds of actions are regarded as fine when in-group figures do them.
Yianopoulos quickly become an active participant in Gamergate, using Breitbart to further fuel the controversy with the release of details of a game journalist email group. Several journalists were using the group to discuss the growing Gamergate issue and this discussion was framed as further evidence of games-media plotting against gamers.
As 2014 progressed the focus of Gamergate became the targetting of advertisers of gaming magazines. The strategy was to punish critics of Gamergate, using the logic that the “corrupt” journalists must be the ones criticising Gamergate on the grounds that Gamergate was a campaign against corruption. These email campaigns scored some notable successes with chip-manufacturer Intel withdrawing its advertising from the game magazine Gamasutra in October 2014. However, coverage of Gamergate in mainstream media was increasing which led to it being harder for Gamergate’s framing as being about “ethics in journalism” to fool tech companies into effectively cooperating with a campaign that was being openly manipulated by troll-communities and right-wing extremists.
Push back from the owners of various platforms where Gamergate was being coordinated was slow and insufficient to prevent the campaign from spreading. 4chan enforcing rules against users posting personal information of others had led to a shift of Gamergate traffic to the smaller rival 8chan. That increase in traffic was both good news and bad news for 8chan — the increased traffic made the site harder to run but also the increasing attention being paid to Gamergate meant increased media attention to the kind of content being hosted on 8chan.
In November 2014, The Daily Dot revealed the extent to which 8chan was hosting child pornography and paedophile content.
“On numerous public forums, 8chan users share graphic images of children, plus links to hardcore child pornography. No content is hidden. Thousands of posts are accessible within two clicks of the homepage. 8chan’s founder, Fredrick Brennan, created the site in response to what he sees as the ongoing and vast loss of free speech on the Internet. On 8chan, “anyone can say what they want and mean,” Brennan told the Daily Dot.”https://www.dailydot.com/debug/8chan-pedophiles-child-porn-gamergate/
It is not clear if Vox Day was an active user of 8chan at that time and, of course, many users of the imageboard may well have been unaware of the extreme material in other sections of the site. However, Day continued to promote 8chan as a source and its founder Brennan as an authoritative source, sending more of Day’s followers to 8chan.
In the mess of misinformation in 2014, Day could breathlessly pass on claims that were simple fabrications. On November 6 2014, Day publicised a supposed leak from the head of Gawker media that owned the games site Kotaku (a major target of Gamergate). He expressed some scepticism about the supposed leak which implied that the media group was infiltrating Gamergate but summarised his position:
“From what I’ve seen, more people than ever are lining up behind it as it becomes increasingly obvious that #GamerGate is not about harassing women given the fact that there hasn’t been any harassment beyond that supposedly directed at LW1, LW2, and LWu back in August.https://web.archive.org/web/20141105005547/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2014/11/gamergate-is-doomed-again.html 
GamerGate concerns one thing and one thing only. People designing, developing, and playing the games they want to design, develop, and play. Everything else flows from that.
The thing is, it doesn’t actually matter if this is fake, real, or a real plant meant to sow discord. The lesson for #GamerGate is the same. Ignore the moderates, ignore the placators, ignore the tone-police, and keep doing what you’re doing. The only thing a 4GW organization has to do in order to keep succeeding is a) don’t stop, and, b) don’t centralize.”
A few days later Day cited 8chan’s founder, Fredrick Brennan (aka “hotwheels”) that the leak was in fact a fabrication. However, as Day had made clear in his first post on the leak, that the leak was fabricated was neither here nor there:
“I found it hard to believe that anyone, even a drama queen like Denton, could be that melodramatic, so it’s not exactly shocking. But I also think it will be amusing if anyone thinks this will have any effect whatsoever on GamerGate. Death threats, media attacks, fake leaks, drinking the blood of innocents, it makes no difference at all.”https://web.archive.org/web/20201111191051/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2014/11/hotwheels-explains-nick-denton-fraud.html
Gamergate continued to grow and remained a major news story through 2015 and into 2016 with its capacity to cause harm undiminished for many months. However, even before the end of 2014, its influence was waning rapidly. Early victories depended on several factors:
- Isolated victims whose protests against being targetted was used to fuel further attacks
- Corporations failed to understand what was going on and hence concede to demands to what they took to be a consumer-led campaign
- The lack of any central, identifiable Gamergate leadership made it easy for supporters to rationalise any harassment as being a minority of Gamergaters or as external provocateurs
However, as Gamergate’s enemies list grew in size and began to encompass figures such as the founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales, harassment victims were less isolated and mainstream media coverage became more focused on the harassment aspect. The impact of Gamergate led to mass media coverage which led to people (including potential advertisers) being better informed. The consumer revolt aspect of Gamergate undoubtedly existed — discontent among gamers was a ready motivation to draw people in. However, Gamergate as a campaign had little or no intrinsic connection between the events and actions in the campaign to any positive outcomes.
Ignoring much of the above from the misogyny, the harassment, the connection to far-right extremists or child pornography and somehow cutting away all the overtly shitty bits of Gamergate and focusing just on the idea of it being a campaign about “ethics in journalism”, Gamergate was unfocused, lacked clear demands and had poor connections between the actions activists were taking and making progress in those vague demands.
At Vox Day’s Wikipedia semi-clone, Infogalactic, the article on the controversy gives us access to a parallel world where pro-Gamergates won the frantic edit wars that occurred at the real Wikipedia in 2014. The Infogalactic article was written by a former Wikipedia editor who regarded the eventual Wiki version as misleading. It stands as an attempt to describe Gamergate in its best light while still retaining links to common facts with the rest of reality. Yet, you can read this more positive spin on the article and still be none the wiser as to what the supposed “ethics in games journalism” campaign was supposed to do or how it was supposed to do it. Under the user name “Fenris”, Vox Day commented on the article saying:
“The article is much improved. Well done. However, too much of it is about the reaction to #GamerGate, criticism of #GamerGate, and the impact of #GamerGate versus #GamerGate itself. Now, perhaps that is appropriate for a page dedicated to the GamerGate controversy, but none of it is actually related to what #GamerGate is. My suggestion is that we have two separate pages, one about #GamerGate per se, and another about the overall controversy. The media may not be able to describe #GamerGate, but those of us who are GamerGaters certainly are. As it stands, there is more discussion of the Literally Whos than there is of any GamerGate figure, operation, or meetup. Remember, we are NOT limited by the Wikipedia notion of “reliable sources”. “Fenris 19:16, 21 October 2016 (UTC) https://infogalactic.com/info/Talk:GamerGate
Gamergate continued on for many months, well into 2015 and 2016. Nearly five years after Vox Day’s comment at his own encyclopedia, no “separate page” about GamerGate per se was ever created. As a campaign about “ethics in journalism,” it achieved nothing other than to cause a lot of emotional pain and to leave many of its more naive supporters confused and frustrated.
However, in other ways, Gamergate was far, far from being a giant fuss with no positive outcomes. For Vox Day it meant new followers (and for Larry Correia as well). It was a radicalising and polarising fight that helped recruit many people into a nexus of political allies, including online misogynists, ironic imageboard trolls, white nationalists and supporters of radical internet free speech. It also promoted a central and abiding myth. Gamers were told that their hobby was ‘really’ run by a cult-like clique that conspired to promote unworthy people and spread propaganda to promote a leftwing agenda and blacklist people from work who did not share the objectives of that agenda. It was a myth that was easy to apply to other industries or, indeed, to the world in general.
We aren’t done with Gamergate in this story but for now, we still have more of 2014 to catch-up on.
Next time: time for a break and visit to the land of fanzines, File770 and the work of Mike Glyer
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamergate
-  not that there weren’t many precursors, including views on climate change or the Iraq war. Within SFF fandom kerfuffles, RaceFail09 did have a recursive aboutness dimension to the argument but did not resolve into factional camps defined by how they described what RaceFail09 was. Notably, while the factions in the Sad Puppy kerfuffle had warring narratives, the very concrete issue of who did and didn’t win the Hugo Awards makes it a much easier subject to point at saying “that’s what this was” (or it should but as this is chapter 28, maybe not…)
-  not that only young men have expensive consoles or play so-called AAA games, just that the underlying commercial decisions had that focus. In fact, according to Pew Research centre’s 2015 report, more women in the US-owned a game console than men https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2015/10/29/the-demographics-of-device-ownership/
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2channel#History
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imageboard
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4chan
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anonymous_(hacker_group)
-  A site initially created to record disputes on LiveJournal but which evolved into a more toxic site that encouraged harassment https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encyclopedia_Dramatica
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiwi_Farms
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jessi_Slaughter_cyberbullying_case
-  https://web.archive.org/web/20100809002128/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2010/07/dont-f-with-4chan.html
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiwi_Farms#Suicide_of_Chloe_Sagal
-  for example https://www.ign.com/articles/2013/02/19/a-game-about-suffering
-  https://kotaku.com/in-recent-days-ive-been-asked-several-times-about-a-pos-1624707346
-  “social justice warriors”
-  https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Roosh_V#Rape
-  https://monsterhunternation.com/2013/01/12/quick-update-talking-guns-with-movie-stars-and-crashing-my-truck-into-a-lake/
-  Day also mentions his work on a cooking game called ‘Hot Dish’. His role in this game would lead to detractors of day on Reddit to rename him “Teddy Spaghetti”. Also, spoilers, the game ‘First Sword’ was never finished.
-  see for example SF fandom’s great staple war as discussed briefly in Chapter 2
-  https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Davis_Aurini
-  http://wehuntedthemammoth.com/2014/08/24/a-proposed-new-anti-anita-sarkeesian-documentary-promises-to-give-voice-to-the-loudest-silent-majority-the-world-has-ever-known/
-  https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Sargon_of_Akkad
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Cernovich
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milo_Yiannopoulos
-  e.g. our Debarkle protagonists, Vox Day and Larry Correia have both cited the moderation of comments at blogs such as John Scalzi’s Whatever or at Tor.com as evidence or leftwing authoritarian censorship but both of them (naturally) moderate the comments at their own blogs
-  “LW1, LW2 and LWu” is an application of the dismissive “literally who” term to the first three targets of Gamergate, Zoë Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu. “4GW” means “fourth-generation warfare” or the kind of distributed cell-like insurgency that Day believes will dominate modern warfare.
-  or as I like to call it “Voxopedia”
-  From the discussion page “Speaking as a veteran editor, this is what I had hoped to see on Wikipedia when the editor disputes were resolved. Instead, even after Arbitration and all that, it turned into a sort of no-man’s land. Even after two years, it will probably remain as a prominent scar on Wikipedia for quite some time.”
-  [additional note] Zoë Quinn uses they/them pronouns which have been corrected in the main text but not changed in quotes