Gamergate and the Structure of the Internet

Featured Image: Trolls attacking Depression Quest developer Zoe Quinn. Source: @Zoequinnzel “I wasn’t even going to say anything about the raid” 12 Dec 13, 8:45 PM.

Zoe Quinn dared to try to change gaming to be more inclusive to minorities, but this made her a target. When a baseless conspiracy theory arose around her in 2014, white male reactionaries threatened and punished her for her actions. This movement would become known as gamergate.

The nascent alt-right supported gamergate. The alt rights was a collection of, at the time, fringe right wing groups. The alt-right found common cause with Gamergate’s campaign against “Social Justice Warriors,” anyone who fought for diversity and inclusion, who the alt-right claimed were ruining the country.

Gamergates exploited the structure of platforms like Twitter and Reddit that privilege free speech above protecting users from harassment. The algorithms that determine what messages get reproduced allowed white male Gamergaters to overwhelm these platforms.

Lessons learned? The internet must change. Platforms must be designed to allow for nuance, dialogue, protection from harassment, and greater diversity of opinion


Screenshot from Depression Quest Game, Zoe Quinn, 2013

Depression Quest is the game that ultimately sparked Gamergate, but it could have been any similar game. Depression Quest deals with mental illness, rarely seen in mainstream games. It was a contrast to AAA games like Call of Duty, which often dealt with white men in WWII. Gamergaters resisted the change.


God of Upvotes Gif, Jake Olimb, Date Unknown

This gif dramatizes the giving of an “upvote,” which is Reddit’s system by which users approve or disapprove content. Content that is upvoted is shown more prominently, which content which is downvoted enough is hidden. This leads to an echo-chamber environment, where only the most dominant opinions are seen and discussed.

Further Reading

Massanari, Adrienne Lynne. 2015. Participatory Culture, Community, and Play: Learning from Reddit

Warzel, Charlie. 2016. “‘A Honeypot For Assholes’: Inside Twitter’s 10-Year Failure To Stop Harassment.” BuzzFeed. Accessed October 23.

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