The #GamerGate Files: Misogyny in the Media

The #GamerGate Files: Misogyny in the Media

Dustin Kidd, Amanda J. Turner
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0212-8.ch008
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The GamerGate controversy exploded in late 2014 and seemed to pit feminist game critics against misogynistic male gamers who were defending their territory. GamerGate has been filled with intense anger on all sides, and has even resulted in threats of murder and rape. This chapter attempts to explain why so much hostility erupted over what appears to some to be a feminist critique of gaming and to others to be a misogynist-gamer critique of feminism. At heart is a surprising debate about mainstream gaming vs. indie gaming, and discomfort over changes to the notion of what counts as gaming and who counts as a gamer. The authors use online ethnographic methods to piece together the various elements of this cultural narrative from the online and social media contexts where it unfolded.
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Video Game Cultures And Masculinities

The computer games industry largely began with individual programmers or researchers tinkering with computer equipment as early as the late 1940s.1 Primitive games developed along with burgeoning computer technology, largely as a hobby for technologically savvy students and workers. One major consequence of the historical development of video games as a field is its highly gendered, raced and classed nature. Because video game development, particularly multiplayer computer game development, stemmed from computer researchers in university settings (mostly in England), this industry bears the legacy of that origin. Those involved in computer research at universities would have been largely white, male, and upper-class. Those who created these games for fun were the ones who played them, and so this group was the original audience for video games.

After this first era of video game programming and play, commercial video games first became available in the early 1970’s at home, before transitioning into public spaces such as bars, nightclubs, and arcades (Williams, 2006). After this initial success, and a spectacular crash in the late 1970s and early 1980s, video games experienced a final (and lasting) resurgence in the late 1980s. Throughout this time, discourses around video gaming have helped shape our cultural stereotype of who a gamer is. In an analysis of news media coverage of video games, Williams (2003) found that from the 1980s through the mid-1990s media fairly consistently referred to video games as both masculine and for the young, with strongly biologically deterministic language in reference to gender difference and language which positioned video game play as something adults should be ashamed to engage in. In each case, the message changes around 1995, with coverage after this point emphasizing both female and adult play (Williams, 2003). This stereotype this earlier coverage created seems to largely persist today, despite a wealth of industry and academic research to the contrary (Shaw, 2011), and it is only in the last few years that media has reported women achieving parity in numbers among game players (e.g., Entertainment Software Association 2014).

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