Chances are, most people will not have heard of GamerGate. I hadn't heard about the movement until recently, whilst chatting to my cousin who works in the industry. He urged me to go and check it out, so I did and I was appalled at what I discovered.
GamerGate is an ongoing movement in the gaming community, which started with concerns regarding ethics in games journalism. GamerGate advocates were highlighting the need for impartiality citing that games journalists and developers were too close.
The movement quickly grew arms and legs and GamerGaters focused their attention onto developer Zoe Quinn. Her ex-boyfriend, Eron Gjoni, published a post on his blog accusing her of infidelity and soon after Quinn became the target of widespread online abuse. The claims were never proven and shortly after feminist critic and Feminist Frequency video blogger Anita Sarkeesian was sucked into the GamerGate black hole. In fact, Sarkeesian, Quinn and video game developer Brianna Wu have become GamerGate's biggest targets and misogynistic trolls hurling a torrent of abuse at these women and their supporters have plagued the movement.
I'm not going to get into the 'women in games' debate - I'm merely a casual gamer and I won't pretend to be an expert on the subject. However, reading the abuse online is atrocious. Throwing out threats of rape and murder highlight the most disgusting side of human nature and I couldn't believe some of the images and comments I came across online.
For me, it's the issue of online abuse that transcends feminism, the portrayal of women in games or even GamerGate. It is point blank wrong to threaten anyone online for expressing and opinion.
I began to wonder what makes a person act in this way. I can't envisage these trolls wandering around the physical world threatening rape and murder down their local Sainsburys but what is it about the Internet that makes them feel empowered enough to act this way.
One Direction and Justin Bieber fans have famously been known to offer out threats of violence and the perpetrators are mostly teenage girls. Then there's Robin Williams' daughter, Zelda Williams, who took to Twitter to mourn her Father's death and found herself the recipient of a torrent of ugly abuse. These are just a few 'famous' examples but Google a little further and you'll quickly find this form of abuse seems to be favoured by the many online.
I read an interesting paper by Shaheen Shariff and Diane L. Hoff, which opened with an analogy to William Golding's 1954 novel Lord of the Flies. With the boys of Lord of the Flies left to their own devices, without any restrictions or authority, the paper drew comparisons with the different cyber bullying communities or 'islands' online. The Internet was compared to a 'remote world' just like the island in the novel. Online perpetrators hide behind avatars and without any physical restrictions against them, simple bad behavior can mutate into something much more threatening.
I also believe that whilst the Internet has brought people together from many different backgrounds and can be a place where we share ideas, it's also a place where the morally inept can band together. Although I keep reading that statistically women are more likely to be victims of online attacks, many others are as well, simply for believing in a different God, football team, for whom they choose to love or simply for being from a neighbouring town or country.
With the advent of this kind of abuse, the law is still playing catch up. However, we need to be mindful though that the law doesn't silence us completely and that we still have the right to freedom of speech yet we need to distinguish clear boundaries of what is acceptable behaviour.
GamerGate has become an online movement that has spawned a torrent of despicable behaviour, despite what it first set out to achieve. Equality and freedom are virtues that every human being should have and live for. I fail to understand why anyone would abuse someone for simply believing they should have the same rights as everyone else.
No one on this Earth should have to deal with the negativity that I have read about recently online and I'm not just talking about GamerGate. We are human beings, all of us, we all bleed the same blood and the sooner we realise this, the sooner we can stop the nonsense and get on with tackling the bigger issues at hand and use social networking for good not evil.