Escaping the echo chamber: GamerGaters and journalists have more in common than they think

Let some noise in

Escaping the echo chamber: GamerGaters and journalists have more in common than they think

As I discussed in last week's Stateside, it's not hard to find people online criticising the GamerGate movement.

However, for all it's troublesome elements, it's served as a powerful reminder to developers and journalists alike that, ultimately, both groups are separated from their audience.

Let's look at the gaming press.

The number of foolish "gamers are dead" stories that were published in such a short amount of time gave rise to the GamerGates keen to talk up the notion of a conspiracy across the games press, and the suggestion that several competing publications discussed how to cover the scandals that result – casually or otherwise – suggested a lack of objective distance.

The idea that new jobs are also kept 'in-house' – freelance gigs awarded to journalists already in 'the circle' as it were – also paints a picture of an industry closed off to new blood to an unhealthy degree.

Tap into stories like this and it's not hard to come to the conclusion that GamerGate isn't completely without merit. Talk of a conspiracy may be a little far fetched, but there's definitely a suggestion that the games press has become far too casual, both amongst itself and with the industry it's attempting to cover.

The GameJournoPros group cited by Breitbart is hardly exhaustive of the entirety of the gaming press, but it does show that it is highly prone to that echo chamber effect.

Closed off

The problem is that in these closed-off echo chambers, it becomes easy to only hear agreement from like-minded people.

This is natural – birds of a feather flock together. What's more, to a certain extent, covering games successfully requires a certain perspective of the industry - you by nature have to know a lot about a lot of games, and it becomes difficult for many to tackle any one specific topic because the aggregate is always moving and shifting.

As such, it becomes easy for something like saying the gamer identity is dead because of a few miscreants when the people you converse with are in the echo chamber telling you what to hear.

It's easy to think that you're diverse and welcoming. It's another to actually be so.

Game development communities suffer much of the same problem. Social media has empowered marginalised voices, but there are cliques that form from people who are friends, who amplify each other's voices and shape the discussion, to the point where others may feel a need to fit in.

The press, who may be friendly with these people, may be afraid to vocally disagree with them. I know I am. It creates that very same echo chamber effect. As a result, suddenly insulting gamers – your customer base – en masse can make sense once a large enough voice agrees. Dismissing any criticism along with the legitimate abuse for being 'neckbeards' and 'virgins' is pretty much accepted.

There are also plenty of ironic misandrists who wind up reinforcing the neologism they regard as illegitimate and wind up insulting transgender men in their wake. Whoops! Oh, and Xoxo Fest? For a festival that featured Feminist Frequency's Anita Sarkeesian and plenty of progressive voices, it was quite the lily-white affair and helped serve as another one of GamerGate's moments of actual brilliance.

It's easy to think that you're diverse and welcoming when you say you are, and everyone around you agrees. It's another to actually be so, and not just a bunch of sarcastic bullies on a moral high ground.

The wrong fight

Nevertheless, GamerGate is by no means a perfect movement. It is perhaps the most compact echo chamber of them all. It is so obsessed with social justice warriors and how they're corrupting the media, and its continued hangups with Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn that most valid points the movement makes are accidental.

They're punching wildly and occasionally get a body blow in, when they could get some shots to the face in with actual controlled strikes.

It's especially sad when communities become too caught up in agreeing with themselves, believing that they're inclusive to think that the might not be. I think the most powerful example is in what Maddy Myers wrote earlier this year criticising "Powerful Journalist Men" right before Giant Bomb got flak for hiring industry veteran Dan Ryckert instead of a more diverse hire.

In the piece she criticises almost the exact same thing as GamerGate: the deep rooted homogeneity of the gaming press. However, she and other progressives are too busy shouting down and mocking the GamerGate folks to really move the debate forward.

Meanwhile, on the other site of the fence, GamerGate supporters do much the same thing, obsessing over conspiracies and Milo Yiannopolous' latest lurid 'revelations'. Both are too wrapped up to realise that, perhaps, they have a lot in common. I mean, chances all involved probably don't like Ben Kuchera. That's probably a good place to start.

The signal, the noise

The fact is, it can be difficult to get both the benefits of a like-minded community whilst also avoiding the echo chamber effect. However, what members of communities - from developers to journalists to customers who are critical of those establishments - can do is to ensure that they let some outside noise into the echo chamber.

One is for communities to always seek out and welcome critical voices. There are concern trolls, but it's better to engage with them rather than to disregard them entirely. We should all realise that, often people don't often say what they mean and mean what they say.

Communities should always seek out and welcome critical voices.

If someone's mad, seek out the core of their anger. It's often something that can be solved. Developers should listen to their customers' complaints. At times, if they send you nasty emails or tweets, there's something there you can address by talking to them as reasonable humans.

And game journalists can perhaps take GamerGate a bit more seriously, because even we can be critical of ourselves when necessary. Yes, there's many problematic elements to GamerGate, but there's enough validity that we should take them in stride. I check in on #GamerGate, Milo Yiannopolous' Twitter feed, and r/KotakuInAction not because I want to or because I agree, but because I disagree, and want to maybe understand the people critical of my livelihood a little better.

I think others should as well, because if you seek them out, they absolutely have valid things to say about the homogeneity of opinion and double standards in the media.

We could also do a better job at explaining how as an enthusiast press, mingling can be beneficial to all parties, though monitored so that unethical behaviour is prevented.

Fresh blood

When you're in a community, make sure that you are ensuring that fresh blood can enter it and that fresh ideas can grow. Especially in local development and press communities – just because someone is in the same city doesn't mean that they aren't part of that city's community. Find ways to include others when possible, and seek out ways to be more diverse, not just wish for it.

Finally, the best thing you can do is to get out and interact with other people and communities, in person if you can. When I was at Chicago's Bit Bash, organized by the Chicago gaming community (including, for disclosure, one person that I consider a close friend), there was no worry about GamerGate. It was just people coming together to enjoy games.

I know plenty of pro and anti-GamerGate folk had friendly interactions at PAX without even knowing. Too often, we can become insular in our echo chambers. Step outside. Let some noise in.

Carter Dotson is a freelancer mobile/games writer. You can follow him via Twitter.

Stateside columnist

Freelance writer covering mobile and gaming for @toucharcade, @Gamezebo, and more!


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Mikel Crawford
And that what GamerGate has become; and the reason Internet Aristocrat left.
I'm pro-GamerGate and I have to say I greatly agree with this article. I do see the idolization of the "figureheads" of GG and I, admittedly, get caught into it.

Also, you are quite right about GGers obsession with SJWs but to understand this, you have to realize that many of the journalists that are anti-GG either are or actively support SJWs, so there is a bit of a reason why GGers go after SJWs and despise them so much.

Also, I'm surprised you didn't mention the Alex Jones-tier DIGRA-DARPA conspiracies which are pretty bonkers. Other GGers on 8chan seem to have an obsession with it but we do our best to tell them to drop it and focus on the real issue, which is journalism.
Carter Dotson
Well, I'd like to see the "social justice warrior" go away, because I feel like most of the people categorized as such are just your garden variety vocal progressive/feminist types.

And yeah, the DiGRA stuff, seems like a bunch of overthinking academics, rather than a grand conspiracy to control games, and same with Silverstring Media. Best for everyone to avoid the grand conspiracy stuff, and to not accuse of people of being Nazis (like what's going on with Ian Miles Cheong right now) when there's plenty of actual problematic stuff to criticize. But I do see the allure of conspiracy and why people would take to it.
I will pull quotes from your last article where you failed to show the humility that came about after reading that Tech Crunch article who's themes you've copied.

"Gamers aren't dead – but the culture is sick and needs medicine to be better. And it's not just gamers that need to change the culture – there are plenty of good people that got caught in the crossfire."

Gamer culture is not sick and we don't need un-elected journalist acting as overseers over the gaming community. Some moral crusaders appointed themselves to this role and have stubbornly refused to let go. That's exactly why Social Justice Warriors are being attacked even by those who support social justice like myself. Their presumptuous posture as preachers on the pulpit guiding the sheep was deeply misguided and unethical.

It lead to bias, self serving agendas, contempt for the readership, along with delusions of grandeur in regard to their role in defining the community. The gaming community is defined by gamers not journalist. The job of journalist is to report on the gaming communities established and maintained by hundreds of millions of free people choosing to associate with those with whom they share common interest. The vast majority of these people will never even read your gaming sites.

"Gamers will have to accept that some of this change is inevitable. Mobile isn't going away, and neither is free-to-play, but there's no reason why either side of the equation has to be hostile to each other. Gamers need vote with their wallets to be the change they want to see, but developers need to provide it."

That has never been an issue in #GamerGate. I have no idea who you consulted to get these views because gamers are seriously some more games the merrier kind of people not that they want crap games hogging the spotlight while gems get ignored because of the journalist's politics.

""Women, people of colour, and LGBTQ folks get the brunt of it, but I think even white, cisgender, and heterosexual gamers can agree that something like Xbox Live voice chat can be unbearable because of all the awful people that tend to yell at each other, creating a terrible atmosphere.""

This is nothing but a pile of tired cliche rational's for self righteous posturing by SJW's. The fact is people don't know who you are in a online game and abuse is hurled at everyone since sh*t talking is par for the course. Yes you can hear voices but that makes absolutely no sense when you talk about skin complexions or sexuality. Manufactured issue by people with agendas who want to make everything into a battle over identity politics whether or not it's needed because of the moral authority that comes with it.

"And gamers need to help police their communities, because more people want to play games and feel welcome while doing so. The toxic elements can be fought – and those in the media along with developers need to not just lump in the bad with the overwhelming good."

Gamers get to do whatever they like end of story. Like the real world there will be people who misbehave, and the people are equipped to deal with that as they have their entire lives. They don't have to take abide by moral edicts from journalist who have proven to be full of themselves to address a non existent diversity problem in gaming where anyone can pick up a controller and start playing.

The lack of diversity is as you said in the industry and media where the barriers to entry are substantial. It's some opportunist in the media who found they can expand their power by positioning themselves as the saviors for some manufactured piece of moral outrage. This needs to stop. Reporters need to know their place and it's not leading the gaming community but rather reporting on it and the industry that serves them.

The SJW's are a problem not just for gamers those in the industry tired of being subjected to their litmus test, dogma, cliquishness, and moral bullying.

Carter Dotson
This article came out after the TechCrunch one, but was submitted on Wednesday morning, 6:59AM CDT.

Also, I feel like this comment is some strong evidence in favor of my point that pro-GamerGate people are, in fact, obsessed with "social justice warriors."