A brief history of Gamergate and why it’s still important today

We need to remember Gamergate because we need to create a better Internet, one that isn’t defined by hate groups and the vitriol they’re allowed to spread under the banner of Internet anonymity.


My first exposure to Gamergate was in the research I did for my English 105i term paper (the one that inspired this very blog, as a matter of fact). While the paper itself focused more on Lara Croft as a representation of what future female game protagonists could look like, I read a lot of articles, both scholarly and not, about the Gamergate controversy and what it looked like for women in gaming in the initial stages of research.

What first appeared like another Watergate rip-off — incidents likened to the Nixon scandal by the –gate names that have becoming increasingly (see: too) common over the years — morphed into a reactionary flood of antifeminist and anti-diversity sentiments.

It started with Zoe Quinn, an independent game developer, and the 2013 release of her game “Depression Quest.” While some argued that the game drew ire because of its unusual format — it’s extremely nontraditional, a “game” where players read and then choose text “actions” based on an evolving story paired with a moving soundtrack — the closer you look, the more it becomes about gender and about the angry white men that make up the “traditional” gamer demographic.

zoe quinn
“Depression Quest” was based partly on Quinn’s personal struggle with depression, and yet her genuine expression of vulnerability and heart was met with hostility and contempt by many. Source: Vice.com.

Shortly after her game was released, an angry ex-boyfriend, Eron Gjoni, posted a series of blog posts about Quinn’s alleged emotional abuse and infidelity. In a scathing six-part series, he explained that Quinn slept around with industry leaders, including a Kotaku game writer, in order to get ahead, claims both Quinn and the writer, Nathan Grayson, denied.

While Gjoni’s posts can easily be read as the ravings of a mad ex-boyfriend, some Twitter users took his view and rolled with it, spouting off claims of journalistic misconduct and ethical violations. Some took it one step further, making anonymous usernames and taking to Twitter and 4chan to harass Quinn, posting her address online, leaking nude photos on social media and even sending her death and rape threats, some of them so vile and specific she was forced to flee her home.

At the time, most Gamergate supporters tried to minimize the latter part of their “movement,” emphasizing that the real problem was the journalistic misconduct and that the threats were just the protests of a small minority group. But the “minority group” then turned their sights on another independent developer, Brianna Wu, and feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian, making the Gamergate conversation less about journalistic ethics and more about gender and inclusion. Or rather, the extreme resistance “traditional” gamers had to it.

brianna wu tweet
Internet culture allows for a dehumanization of women and other objects of derision, allowing violence to be further perpetrated against them under the protection of Internet anonymity. Source: BBC.com.

It’s important to remember that none of this would have been possible without the protective cloak of Internet anonymity.

Walter Isaacson of “The Atlantic” described anonymity as the “bugs in the foundation, bats in the belfry, and trolls in the basement” of the Internet and online communities.

“For years, the benefits of anonymity on the net outweighed its drawbacks,” he continues.

But if Gamergate has taught us anything, it’s that the opposite is becoming true in an era where claims of alternative facts and fake news dominate information cycles with increasingly regularity.

While it’s true that there are people willing to share their vile beliefs in person, in public, without any regard to who might or might not be listening – the Pit Preacher at my school and the things he screams at passing students is proof enough of that – Internet anonymity makes it frighteningly easy to do so without any of the traditional repercussions the public sphere provides.

Internet culture has created a “boy’s club” environment that is characterized by hostility towards women, gay men and other minority groups. It’s gotten better in recent years, but there’s no denying the fact that while the Internet may provide important and unprecedented avenues for interpersonal connectivity and expression, it has also allowed mean-spirited trolls to flourish anonymously with no real repercussions for their actions.

Which brings us to this: Why is Gamergate still important?

For one, Gamergate never really went away. It just kind of receded into that dank, dark Internet hole trolls and offensive memes hide in, just waiting for the right time to rise and strike again.

You can see it resurface from time to time in anonymous hate directed at female industry leaders, characters and players, and those who critique existing and upcoming games. You can see also it in the number of female video game professionals: 22% compared to a male 75% according to a 2015 international survey. You can see it in the “buxom babes,” “femme fatales” and “damsels in distress,” or the persisting female stereotypes as outlined in “Pixel Pinups: Images of Women in Video Games” by Nina Huntemann.

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These are the statistics about gaming’s shifting demographics, one that frightens many who identify as the traditional straight white males many companies advertise to. Source: Theesa.com

More importantly, you can see it in the larger divisions in our cultural dialogue, beyond just those concerning video games, the male demographic readily involved in Gamergate, and gender and gender harassment.

Caitlin Dewey of “The Washington Post” said it best in her analysis of Gamergate, “The only guide to Gamergate you will ever need.” In her article, she described the movement as a question about “how we define our shared cultural spaces, how we delineate identity, [and] who is and is not allowed to have a voice in mainstream culture.”

“It’s about that tension between tradition and inclusion,” she continued. A tension that is still relevant – and painfully present – in our culture today.

In order to alleviate that tension — or, at the very least, allow us to talk about it civilly and humanely — Internet anonymity needs to be reconsidered and revised. Isaacson suggests a number of reforms in his article “How to fix the Internet,” including a voluntary system of identification and authentication. But any real proposal to reevaluate and rectify our divisive Internet culture would need serious consideration by industry professionals, users, and government officials.

At its heart, Gamergate was a confluence of antifeminist sentiments from a white male demographic afraid of female power in “their” industry and small-minded hatefulness made possible by Internet culture and anonymity. It’s important today because the hateful discourse at the center of the Gamergate storm is still on the Internet, indiscriminately targeting online communities over a variety of social issues from feminism to birth control to abortion to gay rights to #BlackLivesMatter to intersectionality to equal pay to trans rights to bathroom bills to any number of social and political issues.

Gamergate isn’t going away. And it shouldn’t.

It should serve as a reminder to us all about what happens when you allow the very worst of humanity free reign over a powerful and influential media like the Internet. It should also serve as the motivation for a better Internet, one that isn’t defined by anonymous hate groups and their rage.

Until we have that kind of Internet, game on and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

internet hate

Apples and oranges of the gaming world

As an aspiring video game designer, I often wonder which is a better platform for gaming: consoles or PCs. But I’m not so sure there’s a definitive answer, much less one that either side will like.

Asking which is better, console or PC, is like comparing apples and oranges.

While this clichéd simile makes the writer inside of me die a little – and the spiteful bitch want to eat both and compare them anyway – it’s ultimately true because when it comes down to it, gaming consoles and PCs are just too different to effectively compare.

Now, hold on, you may be saying. They are both gaming platforms that we expect to keep us entertained and entranced in the world of our video games. To which I would say, congratulations, Captain Obvious.

But the similarities between the two pretty much end there.

Oftentimes with PCs, there is more customization and optimization, most of which is directed according to the gamer’s wants and needs. While the same can be said of an Xbox, the optimization is oftentimes limited to the color of the background screen and whether or not you want your login to open on start up.

But on PCs with the right specs nearly everything is customizable from the desktop screen, to the fan speed, to the light color of the backlit keyboard.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that the big gift on my Christmas list this year is a good gaming PC.

I’ve been a console girl my entire life, but in order to get the jobs I want I need some experience modding. Not only is customizable modding not possible on a console platform, it’s hard to keep track of and manage compatible mods once they’re downloaded.

It also feels a little hackneyed – at least for me – because I know that if I have a problem with a mod I can’t go in and do anything about it. I either disable it or keep playing despite my issues.

Developers and publishers like Bethesda and Frictional Games make it easy to mod by providing Creation Kits and workshop packages that allow gamers to get a look at the behind-the-scenes work of designing their respective titles.

But not everyone likes modding.

It can be too complicated and involved for casual gamers and just straight up confusing for newbies.

Consoles provide a relatively stable gaming platform that updates and installs with little to no user input. To people who just want to put in a game and start playing, this simple process is incredibly appealing.

It’s also fair to say that consoles get a lot of love and attention from game developers. There has been a shift in this attitude in recent years, but oftentimes the public focus is less on gaming PCs and more on the consoles and all the bells and whistles that come with them.

On a more personal level, people get turned off of PCs because of gamers’ attitudes. PC gamers often think of themselves as a sort of gaming “master race” that lord their achievements and technical know-how over the rest of us. But wanting games to work without the kind of technicality that often comes with PC games isn’t a crime and it certainly doesn’t make console gamers somehow lesser than their PC counterparts.


It’s hard to like PC gamers when they claim this kind of superiority over ~ Source: Comicvine.com.

Trying to find the ultimate answer to the question of PC or console, I stumbled across two articles that make good arguments for their respective platforms. But in the end, even they can’t come to an agreement.

Thorin Klosowski of Lifehacker.com concludes his article on why he’s a PC gamer by acknowledging the truth that PC and console gaming are two different beasts. Even Hayden Dingman of PCWorld recognizes the fact that PC gaming isn’t for everyone.

There are passionate fanatics for each platform but those fans are often two different types kinds of people.

So instead of fighting over which platform is better we should instead celebrate their differences and allow future gamers to choose depending on what they want out of their gaming experience without fear of being looked down upon or laughed at by others.

So no matter what platform you use, game on, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

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Can’t we all just get along ~ Source: IGN.com.

Gaming’s 10 commandments

I’m not proud of many things.

And my gamer garbage board on Pinterest is one such thing.

With close to 400 pins, this board is a veritable dumping ground for everything gaming I see on Pinterest whether it be fan art of Lara Croft cauterizing her own wound in the 2013 reboot or a map of underwater “Fallout 4” Easter eggs.

But a couple days ago I stumbled across one pin from 9gag.com that caught my eye.

“The 10 Commandments of RPGs” is a codex all classic gamers live by with several relatable nuggets like “Thou shalt save all your healing items for ‘later.’”

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And “Thou shalt get lost in a place where enemies are three times your level.”

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While I’m not sure whether this clever list is referring to old school RPGs a la “Bard’s Tale” or some of the more recent like “Fallout” and “Final Fantasy,” these commandments are still incredibly entertaining and applicable for nearly all types of games.

That being said, with my own (limited) gaming experience and my boundless enthusiasm, I decided to try my hand at creating my own gaming commandments, minus the cool stained-glass window art style of the 9gag graphic.

Thou shalt never take a companion out of the fear that they may die in battle.

skyrim dog.jpg

Source: Gamesradar.com.

Thou shalt save all items and become a hoarder of weapons, quest items and miscellaneous crafting junk.

Thou shalt never pay for ammo when it can be found inside the mailbox of a boring suburban neighborhood.


Source: Imgur.com.

Thou shalt spend three hours on one map after claiming to go to bed after “one more minute.”

Thou shalt forget to save until two seconds after you are killed.

but i dont like gta.jpg

Source: Youtube.com.

Thou shalt always use the dinky weapon picked up in the game’s tutorial to save the ammo of the mega super awesome weapon used only twice in every forty battle encounters.

Thou shalt avoid talking to NPC’s out of the fear that they may give you yet another side quest.

fallout 4 quest list.jpg

Source: Carls-fallout-4-guide.com.

Thou shalt always panic when the battle music begins playing and there is no enemy in sight.

Thou shalt spend thirty minutes crouching for no reason.

theres no one there.jpg

Source: Gameinformer.com. 

And most importantly (and most truthfully) . . .

Thou shalt never complete the main quest.

If you have any of your own gaming commandments, send me an email or tweet @lydmcinnes and I’ll compile a list of all the ones I missed.

Until then, game on, oh devout ones, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

Everything you need to know about gaming’s fearless Godmother

Before I go any further (by which I mean obsess over video games until I’m blue in the face), I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the kick-ass woman who inspired this blog and who, in my opinion, embodies the wonderful feminist potential for the gaming industry.

And this time, I don’t mean Lara Croft.

Media critic and feminist extraordinaire Anita Sarkeesian first rose into the pop culture spotlight by starting a Kickstarter project to fund her “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” series. She then began receiving death and rape threats by the dozen. One harasser even sent an email to a university where she was scheduled to speak, threatening to shoot up the entire school and “expose her feminist lies.”

While no doubt unnerving for Sarkeesian and incredibly depressing for the future moral integrity of the gaming population, the harassment she faced actually helped bring sexism in gaming to the forefront of media attention.

Her blog, “Feminist Frequency”, started in 2009, is a functional extension of her videos, providing descriptive content and information aimed at attacking and dissecting the various tropes women face in popular culture.

I first came across Sarkeesian’s name in a “Bloomberg Businessweek” article describing her epic struggle against the gaming industry. I used that article and her videos as inspiration for my English 105i research project and this blog.

Because if she can muster the courage to post videos even after receiving countless death threats from gaming trolls, I can definitely find it within myself to write a couple lines a week about a subject I care so much about.

Recipient of the 2014 Game Developers Choice Ambassador Award, honorary award winner of the 2013 National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers, and 2014 nominee for Microsoft’s Women in Games Ambassador Award, Anita Sarkeesian is a true leader in her field and an outspoken feminist activist.

She is the Godmother of gaming and just an all around amazing person. So, Anita, this one is for you.

Game on, you goddess, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

P.S. If you want a taste of her awesomeness, here’s her latest video.

P.P.S. Follow “Feminist Frequency” on Twitter @femfreq (and me @lydmcinnes).

femfreq banenr

I found religion in ‘Tomb Raider’ reboot

When I first powered up my Xbox 360 in early 2014 to play “Tomb Raider,” I had no idea what I would be getting myself into, and how that one game would reshape my love of video games forever.

As ridiculous as that might sound, I owe a lot of my love of video games to that reboot and the powerful connection I formed with the new and improved Lara Croft character. Before “Tomb Raider,” “Skyrim” and “Assassin’s Creed” were the only games that saw regular use on my Xbox.

I had a copy of “Halo: Reach” that I never played after I beat the main storyline and I also had a “Just Dance” 2000 something that I played only in the company of friends or at parties. I hadn’t picked up Rocksteady’s “Arkham Asylum” yet (lightly used from a GameStop near my house, years after the release date) or Bethesda’s “Fallout 3,” which would go on to become my second favorite game next to the 2013 “Tomb Raider.”

At that time, I considered myself a casual gamer. I enjoyed the immersion video games offered me, and the escape from reality and the clarity those games brought me with their intense goal-oriented, single-minded focus.

But all that was to change with the Crystal Dynamics reboot of “Tomb Raider.”

The 2013 game was my first exposure to gaming’s bravest and bustiest video game heroine, so I have no platform on which to compare the reboot with older versions of the game. Besides a vague cultural acknowledgement of Lara Croft’s spiky boobs and archaeological adventures, I had no idea how problematic/inspiring her character was, nor how influential and deeply rooted she was in the gaming world.

After buying the game on four separate platforms and beating it at least half a dozen times, I can divide my experience with video games into before and after categories.

Before “Tomb Raider,” I wasn’t aware of the bias and inherent sexism rampant in the industry.

After, I was.

Before “Tomb Raider”, I didn’t know that the game’s lead writer, Rhianna Pratchett, and her team had created a Lara Croft that was a painfully obvious outlier in a culture filled with the macho men of “Assassin’s Creed,” “Dead Space” and “Grand Theft Auto.”

Before “Tomb Raider,” I was barely a gamer.

After, I took on a whole new attitude toward video games, one that has informed my career decisions and influenced me in a myriad of ways that I’m still beginning to parse out for myself.

I found religion in the “Tomb Raider” reboot, one that begins and ends with Lara Croft’s feminist representation. I believe future titles should look to the 2013 reboot as an example of how strong female characters can be created and incorporated into the hypermasculine gaming culture. Not only is it entirely possible, as the 2013 game shows, but it is highly beneficial in creating a platform for female audiences and allowing them to have a voice in a booming industry that is due, in part, to their increasing demographic participation.

This blog, “Cosmetics and Consoles,” is my way of finding out how I fit into a video game culture dominated by men and how I can help fan the flame of video game love in girls like me. “Tomb Raider” gave me the will and desire to become a video game writer and designer, something I decided for myself at the tender age of sixteen and still hope and pray for even now that I’m nearing twenty. The game also helped me realize my potential as a feminist voice in today’s new media, something I long kept buried to avoid upsetting others that disagree with my opinions.

Last semester, I wrote a paper for my freshmen English 105 class at UNC-Chapel Hill. In it, I described three problematic aspects of the traditionally male dominated gaming industry and how Lara Croft in the 2013 reboot has and will continue to fight these problems. This paper combined my love of video games and my feminist ideals in a way that defined my wants and desires and goals and dreams for the video game industry, for female representation as a whole and for my own future career path.

This blog will address things I learned in the process of writing that paper combined with commentary on the progress of video games and the mechanics, features and aesthetics of new titles as well as some of my favorites. If there’s a specific video game you want to talk about, or a question you’d like to ask me, leave a comment below or get in touch with me via the contact page of this blog!

Game on and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.