GamerGate is killing video games.





In light of the controversy that has been extending back for more than half a year at this point, something extremely depressing has come to light.

Not too long ago, Totalbiscuit, a popular games critic who is supported by GamerGate (though he claims to be neutral), wrote a lengthy Twitlonger questioning the theory of media influence, particularly in video games, asking “where are the scientists?”

In response, an actual social scientist posted a lengthy explanation of media influence. It’s a very good read, and I suggest anyone who’s interested read it. However, what was most important was what was added at the end.

[added on reflection] Let me also say on other thing. There are a number of us in academia who love games, care about games, and believe games are important.  We have been working for years to make games a legitimate tool for education and for study, and we were making progress.  People were starting to take games seriously.  And then came GamerGate. I have seen the careful progress of a decade come crashing down, and now, when I go to talk about games to industry groups or fellow academics, GamerGate always comes up as an example of how terrible and immature people who play games are.  It will take years and years to repair the damage, and it is absolutely devastating to the serious study and application of the power of games to real problems.  
We are going to have trouble getting grants, getting foundations to fund
games, and getting people to take us seriously.  It is devastating and
makes me very sad.

For many years, people have been fighting for games to be recognized seriously as an art form. GamerGate, as it seems, has caused serious damage to that. Social scientists have been studying the influence of games, not just because of their negative effects, but because of the potential positive effects as well. Games could potentially be a powerful tool to help teach empathy, and increase satisfaction and happiness.

But now that GamerGate has shattered public perception of gaming in academia, we may never be able to fully understand how to allow games to reach their full potential in this regard. But it’s not just media studies in video games that have suffered.

Rebecca HG, also known as 8BitBecca, is a video game archivist. Her work is vitally important to the future of video games, as the passage of time guarantees that physical storage media degrades and becomes unusable. Within decades, many out-of-print games may be lost forever, outside of illegal ROMs.

But now, thanks to GamerGate, video game archiving as a professional practice is all but dead.


To any reasonable person, this would be devastating. Nobody benefits from this. Academics refusing to take games seriously means that games can never be realized as an art form. Even worse, without academia the task of preserving, understanding, and maintaining the cultural history of games becomes a daunting task. Half of all American films made before 1950 are lost forever, and were it not for the work of archivists and academics, it’s likely we would never have been able to preserve even that much.

So what happens to video games when academics don’t take them seriously at all? What happens when people refuse to archive games or study their cultural significance?

To put it bluntly, video games will have no future. If we do not take care to study the cultural history of games, it may forever disappear to us when cartridges and CDs inevitably die, emulators become obsolete, servers shut down, manuals are lost, and the publisher history fades into obscurity.

This should make any gamer uncomfortable, but unfortunately, this is not the case. GamerGate has not been shy about their disdain for academia in video games, as evidenced by the popularity of anti-academic figures such as the Youtuber known as “Sargon of Akkad”, who is one of the most widely-praised supporters of GamerGate. Just reading the title of one of his videos tells you all that you need to know:

In this context, GamerGate’s reaction to the news that academia is no longer taking games seriously is depressingly predictable.


GamerGate is killing video games. And that’s exactly what they want.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence at all that that last screenshot specifically mentions humanities; I strongly suspect that there’s a lot of overlap between the sorts of people who support GamerGate and the sorts of people who believe that anything besides a STEM degree is fake, lazy academia, and literary critique of games of any kind (including, of course, feminist critique) falls under the umbrella of the humanities. if we start hearing news about schools choosing to drop support for game development in computer science programs as a result of GamerGate, then there’ll probably be a huge uproar, because ultimately, according to GamerGate, videogame development should be little more than a skilled trade that only requires proper execution of precisely honed talents, rather than an artform that requires an understanding of the process of creating meaningful art.

My strong impression of GamerGate is that it’s built on the foundational belief that games should be treated as existing only of, by, and for an incredibly narrow demographic and set of intentions; and that the appropriate response to engagement with games from anywhere outside that demographic and those intentions is “slash and burn indiscriminately.“ 

Which is to say: I’m really not sure why anyone* was expecting them to be anything but overjoyed at the revelation that they’d driven someone else away. Legitimacy was never part of the agenda. Progress was definitely never part of the agenda.

*I mean, unless you actually bought that it was about ethics in games journalism; in which case you are apparently already pitching your tent so far into the realm of denial that I am no longer surprised by anything you believe.

And yet, these are the same folks who also lambasted Roger Ebert for not considering video games an art medium (which they definitely are)