Since I was sick on Friday and unable to access the live streaming of most of the speakers, I took it upon myself to dive into the world of GamerGate and do some research through Twitter. I thought this approach would help me solve some of my misunderstandings of GamerGate and weigh both sides of the conflict, but it’s possible that I feel even more misinformed after hours of scrolling through seemingly-petty arguments on Twitter.
What struck me on Twitter was the difference in online identities when comparing GamerGate and anti-GamerGate and GamerGate presences. On one side, we have people, like Anita Sarkeesian, whose names, faces, and ideas are well-known and well publicized. As an anti-GamerGate feminist, Anita Sarkeesian has offered herself to the public as one of the faces of opposition of misogyny and harassment in video game culture. On the other side, we have multitudes of GamerGate presences that do not share their names, faces, or ideas on why misogyny and harassment are “okay,” but rather that they hate people like Anita Sarkeesian. I take issue with the stances of these individuals because, from what I saw on Twitter, they are not arguing Anita Sarkeesian’s ideas, but picking apart her existence as a whole. In fact, there were very few Tweets that intelligently argued against Sarkeesian’s theories, but countless that addressed how she “is not a gamer” and why “feminism is bad.” Sarkeesian has not based her talks and messages around her existence as a gamer, but the issues that are present in the gamer culture. Are these GamerGate supporters withholding their identities so that they do not have to justify what they say, or is their lack of identity a mirror of video game culture?
Another thing that REALLY struck me was coming across this tweet when scrolling through the #GamerGate feed.
Mainly it struck me because this Twitter-user was featuring Professor Dougherty’s retweet. But, beyond that, I realized that Professor Dougherty might not even know, because “@FrankPwnatra” in no way tagged Professor Dougherty, but shared a photo of her tweet. This discovery further asserts my point about identity in the GamerGate conflict. Professor Dougherty has mentioned on numerous occasions that she has possessed the same handle online for years, maintaining a consistent and strong identity that is undoubtedly connected to her publicized studies and opinions. The GamerGate supporter, though listed under a real name, did not refute the information in the tweet with a factual argument, but attacked the “agenda” of anti-GamerGate as a whole (which, as listed here, are simply means of protection online). This user also failed to tag Professor Dougherty in the tweet, protecting himself from any legitimate conversations that might have been started from his call out. Was he avoiding conflict or did he simply not see the importance of tagging Professor Dougherty in his accusation?
I believe that Internet users, especially those who engage in argumentative conversation, need to be accountable for their words and actions online, and back up their arguments with factual information. In my opinion, it is also helpful to reinforce claims with a solidified identity. My experience on Twitter informed me that, unlike Anita Sarkeesian many individuals involved in the GamerGate conflict do not assume any responsibility for their words or actions.