August 14, 2015 | 11:39am
Forbes calls GamerGate “a consumer movement.” But the Washington Post calls it a “misdirected lynchmob.”
CNN calls it “a heated debate over journalistic integrity.” But the New York Times says it looks “like an orchestrated campaign of harassment against women.”
So what the hell is GamerGate?
If you don’t play videogames – I mean really play, not indulge in Angry Birds at stoplights – you’re probably unaware of the online controversy that started a year ago this month and culminates in its first live and in-person debate tomorrow, Saturday, at 10 a.m. at Miami Dade College's Koubek Center in Little Havana.
GamerGate is a civil war between videogame fans and the gaming journalists who review those games for niche websites like Kotaku (which is owned by Gawker). Those fans accuse the journalists of colluding with game manufacturers – even swapping sex for favorable press.
Many of those journalists say the gamers hate them simply because they’ve written positive stories about feminists who accuse videogames of being sexist and misogynistic. Indeed, GamerGaters decry “social justice warriors” who want to make their games less sexual or violent and who lobby game developers for more diverse characters.
Along the way, both sides have accused each other of online harassment, from death threats to doxxing (publicizing private information) to swatting (calling the police to claim a crime is happening at their house). But the highest-profile victims are nearly all women.
It’s hard to tell which side is doing the worst, because GamerGate exists solely online as a “leaderless” movement. The first such movement to gain public attention was Occupy Wall Street, and the latest is Black Lives Matter. But in both those cases, while there are no leaders or officials or spokesmen, there’s a flesh-and-blood component – people camping out downtown or interrupting candidates’ speeches.
GamerGate has no physical location, so a national board member with the Society of Professional Journalists is giving it one. It’s called SPJ AirPlay.
SPJ purports to be the nation’s largest journalism organization, with more than 7,000 members. Board member Michael Koretzky, who lives in Hollywood, is hosting a live debate that pits GamerGate advocates against journalism experts. Together, they’ll review charges of bad ethics among gaming reporters and debate how the mainstream media should cover online controversies.
“For a year, everyone’s been yelling at each other online,” Koretzky says. “It sounds weird, but I believe it’s harder to yell at someone – and harass them – in person. So that’s why we’re doing this the old-fashioned way: face to face.”
Among the panelists are Lynn Walsh, who last year helped rewrite SPJ’s Code of Ethics, the most widely accepted rules of conduct for journalists. Representing GamerGate aren’t gamers but conservative social critics like Christina Hoff Sommers and a pair of staff writers for Breitbart, a conservative political website.
AirPlay is free and open to the public, but Koretzky says given GamerGate’s history, he’s hired an executive security firm – “just in case I’m wrong about that face-to-face thing.”