Back in the day, there was Leigh Alexander. And she wrote an article for gaming media site Gamasutra. And it looked exactly like this:
You can read a bit of it there on the image, and the rest of it here, but it said (in essence) “Gamers are dead, and good riddance!” After all, gamers are “obtuse shitslingers” whose “only main [sic] cultural signposts” are “Have money. Have women. Get a gun and then a bigger gun.” In short, abuse. And pretty vitriolic and one-sided abuse.
And that same day, in a coincidence so outrageous it staggers the imagination, this happened:
You might not see the dates on those without squinting, but oddly enough each one is either Aug. 28 or Aug. 29. Again, oddly enough, each one bangs on about the same theme: the death of traditional gamers.
There were a dozen or so of these missives, posted at most major gaming media sites. And nearly all of them were as vitriolic and dismissive of gamers as Alexander’s. Thus (after some events recounted in the already-linked piece) was born #GamerGate, a full-on rebellion against a gaming media that was colluding to abuse and dismiss the very people it depended on for its existence.
This is the point at which you’re going to want some kind of rational explanation. “Why,” you’ll say, “why did all these gaming journalists decide to go feral at exactly the same time and attack their audience in vulgar, condescending, and above all personal terms?”
I have no rational explanation to give you. It was, and remains, utterly mysterious to me. (Not to mention bizarre.) And yes, it was personal. Here, again, is some evidence. A gamer complains about her “‘Gamers’ are over” article, and Leigh says:
This isn’t just insulting your customers wholesale, it’s insulting them retail. Personally. One by one. In alphabetical order, for all I know. Bowerick Wowbagger approves.
The odd thing is, most gaming media figures have joined her. But there’s a problem, and it’s one I can’t solve: what’s their end game? What do they think they’re accomplishing by insulting the people who provide them with paychecks?
As I see it:
Attack customers -> they leave. No customers, no clicks. No clicks, no ads. No ads, no money. No money, no site.
Is it really all that complicated? You don’t punch your customers in the face repeatedly, and expect them to remain your customers. Doing so anyway is a recipe for bankruptcy. (And is sheer lunacy.)
Back to #GamerGate. All during this imbroglio, people have suggested boycotting the sites and boycotting the sponsors. Which happened. And, for over a month, while traffic to several sites, including Gamasutra, has dropped, not much has gone down on the sponsor front.
Take a look at the Gamasutra cap above. See the three ads? One is from the Vancouver Film School. Ignore it. See the other two, in blue? They’re from Intel.
Intel. They make north of $50 billion a year. Their chips are inside most PC’s. Hell, their chips are inside every single Apple. They are the big dog of the computer industry.
And they pulled their adds from Gamasutra, because of #GamerGate. Evidence? Evidence!
The move by Intel was later confirmed by Gamasutra. And the ‘Net went wild.
Note what this is not. This is not an endorsement of #GG, or its goals or means.
Doesn’t matter, it doesn’t have to be. All #GG needs is for Intel to leave, not agree. So long as advertisers pull ads from Gamasutra, #GG wins.
And this is a big, big win. Gamasutra, promulgator of one of the most venomous anti-gamer pieces posted, takes a big hit, direct in the wallet. BOOM! #GamerGate, long dismissed as being a small, meaningless, fringe group of obsessed reactionaries gains credibility, both as a movement with juice and as a group of reasonable, concerned consumers.
They contacted Intel, and communicated their concerns. Intel investigated, decided it didn’t want to be seen endorsing Leigh Alexander’s piece, and a $50 billion dollar a year company decided that #GamerGate was important enough to listen to.
If the number of complaints were tiny, no action. If the complaints were baseless, no action. If this was just a tempest in a teacup that would soon blow over, no action.
But they took action. And other advertisers will take notice. And, hopefully, so will other gaming media sources.
Gamers don’t want to kill these news sites. (Or didn’t, before. The more abuse they absorb, the more gamers change their minds.) They want transparency, neutrality, and a modicum of respect.
There is no good end-game here for Kotaku, Polygon, and the rest. If they lose, they lose their audience, advertisers, and likely their business. Gamers get their news elsewhere. Nothing good there.
Suppose a different outcome. Suppose Intel is the only advertiser who takes action (and I doubt they will be), so #GamerGate gets frustrated and goes away. Suppose, in short, that they “win”. In that case, they just lose their audience. Which means, eventually, their advertisers, and likely their business. And gamers get their news elsewhere.
“A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”
Yet not only did they play, the gaming media doubled down each and every time they had an opportunity to back off. They kept raising and raising the stakes, utterly confident they would win, utterly confident gamers would soon lose interest, utterly confident #GamerGate was a tiny little group of bitter old white men trapped in their parents’ basements.
Two days ago, many in #GamerGate was discouraged and a few were prophesying defeat. But that was two days ago. Yesterday Intel blew up the Internet, and a consumer rebellion got a shot of hope and a newfound credibility. Who knows what will happen tomorrow?
[Caps courtesy various #GamerGate participants on Twitter, chiefly @FartToContinue.]