Dear #gamergate

Dear #gamergate,

I don’t know if you’ll read this letter. I have not written to you before. We have not really spoken.

While your message to us has, more often than not, taken either the form (and I do not mean to belittle you for it; the matter at hand is far more complex than any single person can handle alone) of the shouting of a rhetorical exercise, copy-pasted from a database of talking points, full of debate gymnastics, smoke and mirrors, reflections, presumptions, conflations, agitations, and pot-kettle-black, I respect the things that you have said in earnest.

I wish I knew what they were.

I respect the fact that you considered video games important enough to act upon. I value your contribution to the video gaming community. I fully understand that you may feel strongly about any one particular point of contention that has arisen during #gamergate. You probably, truly, want to make things better for all of us. From this vantage point, I can even somewhat understand the sentiment of pushing forward with #gamergate in order to ‘cleanse’ the gaming press of its embedded flaws - personal, shared, or cultural.

I see that you feel strongly about the matter. Perhaps you felt - at some point - that the ends justified the means.

But we must focus on the strife and the suffering that this witch-hunt on women is causing. Now. There is no time to waste. Please do not do or say anything you’ll come to regret later.

I am not saying that you are guilty of hideous criminal activity by association, or that your participation in the movement makes you a bad person outright. What you may not have realized, however, are the ways in which your presence is being both abused and misused by others, and how you may be inadvertently, unknowingly making a contribution to this abhorrent behaviour.

Let’s ignore, for the time being, the fact that the foundational premises perpetuated by the movement are demonstrably, fundamentally false. Let’s instead look at the purported offences; let’s say that a developer really did sleep with a journalist in exchange for coverage (even though this never happened).

Would this particular act, or situation, truly justify the means or the ends of this movement as they are now? Would this be a foundational, pivotal moment for a consumer-oriented movement in video games? How much punishment or reprimand should this really award to the parties in question? And even if there did exist ‘collusion’ - let’s say, a mailing list for discussion, or a degree of combined, co-ordinated effort involved with the “Gamers Are Dead” series of articles - are these words really such an affront to your being and your principles so as to allow and legitimize bomb threats and the suffering of others?

Even if #gamergate’s premises were all true, and if #gamergate had a foundational, solid, bulletproof agenda, I do not believe any of the people under fire would come to be removed from their positions. We may, of course, see many of them quit their jobs voluntarily, or exit the business altogether, but this is a fact that you should carefully consider, as I do believe it only affirms and reaffirms the tenor regarding #gamergate that has already been established elsewhere:

Your participation in the movement is making private real human beings afraid, terribly afraid. Not just Twitter handles. Real people. It is making them angry, terribly angry. They are both afraid and angry that you are, actively or passively, contributing to their constant misery.

Dear #gamergate,

Whether or not a #gamergate member condones the harassment (clearly you do not), whether or not s/he participates in the movement earnestly and innocently, s/he remains firmly entrenched and embedded in a screaming, swelling, yelling lynchmob that is asking for the heads of innocent people, 24/7, no rest, no sleep, only fear, and then using these heads as props for the aims and goals of the movement.

You may not be the one asking for blood outright, but you’re still watching this very real lynching from the crowd - maybe even yelling words of encouragement, maybe silently nodding from the stands.

Maybe you even thought, for a moment, that she or he deserved it? Maybe you did. Maybe you didn’t. No matter - you were still a participant. It doesn’t matter who the main executioner is; the target was already dead, having suffered a death by a thousand cuts. Maybe you never came to realize how every single new person standing in the crowd adds more fuel for the fire, more false justification to the actions of those that are perpetuating these evil, hideous acts.

Believe you me - they see you. They want you. Without you, they have nothing. “See, these people are siding with our actions! They too think they deserved it! We have the numbers on our side!”

Your presence - your number! - in the movement is being used as justification for these acts. While being used as justification is not direct encouragement, it still caused people to act more; harder; faster; tougher; bolder! Even the most good-intentioned tweet - a minor criticism, or an aside - can contribute to the lynchmob mentality; by now, we’ve seen how this hashtag can turn any moment into a stressful skirmish, an attack, an assault, with people upon people piling up on folks. What’s worse, this groundswell can take aim - in addition to the more prominent, more public targets - both actively and passively at private individuals earnestly trying to do what’s best for video games.

I hope that you will consider whether your participation in the #gamergate movement, whether it was a tweet, a forum post, or a comment on a blog, has at any point contributed, in some way, to the encouragement, justification, cover-up or participation in the harassment of others. In innocent suffering.

As long as you say #gamergate does not condone harassment, #gamergate will never do a thing to stop it.

Could you do something to stop it? Probably not. Nothing you do or say will stop these monsters.

But you can step out yourself. You can excuse yourself, and nothing bad will come out of it. There will be no backwards steps. The points of contention, the issues that are real - ethics in journalism - they will not go away.

What are privacy, safety, and well-being worth? Whether it was the “Gamers Are Dead” articles, or someone else that said or did something that offended you, #gamergate, offended you as a person, offended your ethics, your identity, #gamergate, I want you to consider whether all this toxic air, this in-fighting, this harassment and above all this vast, god-awful collateral damage - active and passive - on so many private persons simply doing their job is fair and okay, and whether your presence in the lynchmob is having an adverse effect on the well-being of others.

It’s not too late to pull back and pull out.

Please don’t do or say anything you’ll come to regret later.