The XX Factor

Has Gamergate Finally Burned Itself Out?

Gamergate was ultimately not successsful in targeting a female Independent Games Festival judge.

Photo by Cate Gillon/Getty Images

Is Gamergate winding down? If you look at the #gamergate hashtag on Twitter, it would seem not, as it continues to be a constant stream of people pushing a reactionary agenda while claiming to advocate for ethics in gaming journalism. But there’s reason to believe that the movement is rapidly losing its effectiveness. In October, Gamergate was able to organize its online shock troops to persuade companies to pull their ads from websites they deemed unfriendly. This month, however, they are not finding the same success.

Game developer and critic Mattie Brice—who is an outspoken “social justice warrior,” to use the derogatory term employed by so many Gamergaters for the outspoken liberals they’re against—was one of hundreds of judges for the Independent Games Festival. Brice, frustrated at the constant heat coming from Gamergate, jokingly tweeted that she would use her immense power for the dark purposes of misandry:

Gamergaters knew an opportunity when they saw one and put on a great show of being offended by this tweet, which they read, or pretended to read, as literal. And so things proceeded as they do when Gamergate targets someone: harassment and demands for the target to lose honors or income. Initially, it seemed to be working, and Brice was forced to resign as a judge. But the Gamergate victory didn’t last for long. As soon as the folks at IGF realized that the voices calling for Brice’s head were just a bunch of Gamergaters with no genuine beef, they openly apologized for screwing up. It wasn’t a nonapology we-refuse-to-take-sides statement like those offered by Intel or Adobe either. “We want to unequivocally express our solidarity with all those who have endured harassment over the past several months, if not years,” IGF’s statement read. They apologized to Brice in particular and asked her to return.

IGF’s stand against Gamergate did not happen in isolation. The past few weeks have seen a bunch of high-profile humiliations for the cause. Stephen Colbert devoted a segment on his show to exposing how Gamergate’s purported concern for “ethics in gaming journalism” is simply a cover for silencing women who offer feminist opinions on games. Michael Morhaime, the CEO of the gaming company Blizzard, took time during this year’s speech at Blizzcon to denounce Gamergate. And the unofficial motto of Gamergate—“actually, it’s about ethics in game journalism”—has morphed into Internet shorthand for someone arguing in bad faith, complete with a Tumblr of memes to drive home the point.

So what’s next? As David Futrelle at We Hunted the Mammoth documented, Gamergate organizers at 8chan—a site set up for Gamergate after 4chan booted them—are now trying to save their movement by shifting tactics, mostly by moving off Twitter and toward Tumblr. At this point, the only thing that could probably breath some life into their movement would be a rebranding effort, getting away from the word Gamergate and trying to find a new cover story that doesn’t include the words ethics and journalism. Maybe that will happen, but in the meantime, Gamergaters are losing control of the narrative.