GamerGate, like many other Internet controversies of late, has become so bogged down with online trolling and anonymous hate as to be nearly impossible to delineate. As the threats escalate, any credible debate has become thoroughly buried beneath misogyny and sexual violence.
The issue started when game designer Zoe Quinn released her “Depression Quest” interactive journey. Initially, the game received the usual mix of critiques and appreciation. Soon after though, one of Quinn’s ex-boyfriends penned long and nasty blog posts implying that her success in video game circles stemmed from her willingness to provide sexual favors.
Other Internet trolls immediately hopped on board, threatening her with appallingly graphic sexual and physical violence. This became the catalyst for a series of other prominent women in the gaming field to be violently targeted and digitally attacked, to the point that some of them had to leave their homes.
This conflict highlights the inequities of the video game field. Women have always been a minority in a highly masculine and often antifeminist field. Now, the dangers of being such a minority are clear. They’re vulnerable and often left unprotected by their male coworkers.
In addition, it’s an example of the success with which Internet bullies utilize the shield of Internet anonymity. In a forum where no one has to take responsibility or own up to their actions, threats of mutilation and rape are thrown around with a cavalier casualty.
The most disturbing part of this scandal is its endurance. Despite the single instance implications of the suffix “-gate,” the scandal shows no signs of slowing down. As long as the misogynists operate in an environment of such heightened hostility to women and the shield of Internet anonymity, female gamers will likely continue to be targeted.