For years now Anita Sarkeesian has been under attack. As a blogger Sarkeesian writes Femenist Frequency, a blog and video series dedicated to examining the representation of women in pop culture. Her work often focuses on touchy subjects within subcultures, making her a target of frequent threats and hate speech online.
Now Sarkeesian is at the center of a months-long controversy within the gaming community. While the "gamergate" controversy has grown to encompass topics of misogyny, games media ethics, and what it means to be a gamer, Sarkeesian has been battling against online threats serious enough that they recently drove her to cancel a speaking event. She recently appeared on The Colbert Report to plead her case against gamergate:
Though Sarkeesian characterized gamergate as "men going after women in really hostile, aggressive ways," the situation has grown more complicated in recent weeks.
Broadly, gamergate is an uproar withing the gaming community that has been raging for over two months now. The name refers to a Twitter hashtag that was coined by former Firefly actor Adam Baldwin.
The controversy began in mid-August when an ex-boyfriend of indie game developer Zoe Quinn posted an extensive and salacious blog post about Quinn's involvement with various members of the gaming media. This led to some limited cries of corruption from gamers, but mostly resulted in harassment and threats specific enough to drive Quinn from her home.
In the days that followed, other women involved in gaming began speaking out against such harassment and telling their own stories. At the same time, large forums and publications dedicated to gaming began heavily moderating discussions of the allegations against Quinn, leading to calls of censorship.
On August 28 several articles appeared on popular gaming websites declaring the entire gaming subculture to be doomed. Many of the articles referred to gamers with hostile language, calling them nerds, socially inept, "lonely basement kids," and worse. These articles lit a spark that prompted the gamergate movement to organize behind a cry of improving ethics in games journalism.
The movement initially focused on bringing attention to an email group set up for games writers to collaborate. However, when a Gawker writer on Twitter advocated bullying nerds, gamergate began targeting the Gawker network's advertisers. Gawker reacted with defiance, insulting one of its advertisers, Intel.
Ultimately #GamerGate is reaffirming what we’ve known to be true for decades: nerds should be constantly shamed and degraded into submission
— Sam Biddle (@samfbiddle) October 16, 2014
Throughout all of this Sarkeesian and her supporters have maintained that gamergate is, at base, about an undercurrent of misogyny that pervades gaming culture. The online harassment of Sarkeesian and others has continued, and the story has now found its way into mainstream publications and TV news.
Last night I tweeted about how toxic forms of violent masculinity can be harmful to men and boys. #gamergate is still harassing me for it.
— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) October 25, 2014