GamerGate is one of the most momentous social movements in the past decade, but it’s also one that’s difficult for outsiders to understand. Broadly understood, it’s a consumer revolt against corruption in video game journalism, but understanding the nuances of GamerGate—its heroes and villains, its accomplishments and failures, and even how it came about to begin with—requires spending time and effort that most people don’t have. What we really need is some kind of CliffsNotes that explains not only what GamerGate is, but why it came about and why its detractors are so destructive.
Well, now we have it.
Understanding #GamerGate by Scott Cameron is an e-book that offers a concise history of GamerGate: what triggered it, who the major players are, and why it’s so important. Despite its brevity, the book also manages to explain the rise of social justice warriors and even throws in a deconstruction of Anita Sarkeesian, the Mother Teresa of anti-GamerGate. Despite its flaws, Understanding #GamerGate is a must-read for anyone who wants to know what GamerGate is all about.
Full disclosure: Cameron sent me a free review copy of Understanding #GamerGate, but I don’t have any connections to him beyond that. Additionally, while the book’s only been out for a short while, it’s already attracted some attention, even getting a fake one-star review from the (Drag) Queen of Hysteria himself, Brianna Wu:
Note the “Verified Purchase” tag. Wu felt so threatened by someone telling the truth about GamerGate that he spent his own money just to give his phony review more heft.
Setting The Stage
Understanding #GamerGate is divided into an introduction and four chapters, the first of which offers a condensed history of GamerGate. While Cameron is obviously pro-GamerGate, he avoids insults and outright attacks in his writing, instead reporting the facts as he sees them. It’s this quality that makes Understanding #GamerGate a necessary corrective to the torrent of bilge about the movement pouring out of the mainstream media:
What is the evidence that young male gamers feel marginalized and have therefore sought to harass Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn and others out of spite? It may be true that young, male gamers are incensed that they no longer receive special attention from game developers; it may also be true that Sarkeesian et al. have been harassed, yet these phenomena are unconnected. These authors assume a connection where none may exist. And even if some members of GamerGate are behind the online harassment of Quinn, Sarkeesian and others there is no reason to think they constitute the majority of GamerGate. However, if they do represent the majority of GamerGate, there are still people within GamerGate with concerns about the adherence of gaming journalists to a code of ethics that prohibits personal relationships with developers. One would think their concerns should at least be addressed, even if these writers think they are misguided.
As you can see from this passage, Cameron won’t be winning any awards for his prose. While his writing style conveys his point well enough, it lacks punch and verve, and his sentences become meandering and unwieldy at points. Understanding #GamerGate could have really benefited from having an editor.
Nonetheless, Understanding #GamerGate is a valuable book because it doesn’t simply regurgitate the facts, but explains why the SJWs who oppose GamerGate are wrong. While the prose might be amateurish, Cameron goes the extra mile of citing articles and evidence for his assertions, collecting them at the end of each chapter. It’s because of this and Cameron’s firm-but-polite approach that he actually stands a good chance of convincing neutrals of the righteousness of GamerGate.
Indeed, one of Understanding #GamerGate’s biggest contributions to the movement is a chapter on Anita Sarkeesian, who is somewhat ancillary to the whole thing. In clinical, plain prose, Cameron explains why Sarkeesian’s ideology of debunking “tropes” is not only on flimsy factual ground, but actively deleterious to the creation of compelling fiction:
Furthermore, video games offer vicarious adventures that aren’t available to most young men. Players don’t want to empathize with depressed people; they want to rescue beautiful maidens while performing (virtually rendered) heroic feats. Perhaps Sarkeesian thinks is a social construct; that society somehow caused these “adolescent power fantasies.” But if so, there’s really no point in complaining about it. If the men who play violent games with sexist tropes were persuaded by Sarkeesian to play non-violent, non-sexist games, their behavior, it seems, would be just as socially constructed. Sarkeesian, after all, doesn’t stand outside of society. Her ideas were not formed in a social vacuum; they were formed by her exposure to an academic community. Any idea she wants to pass on to gamers, therefore, is itself a social construction. Why is one socially constructed idea or tendency better or worse than any other?
Given that most of the agita about Sarkeesian focuses on her hypocrisy, her corrupt business practices and the undue amount of influence she exerts on the game industry, a detailed explanation of just what is wrong with her belief system is a welcome contribution to pro-GamerGate literature.
Preaching To The Choir?
The single biggest problem with recommending Understanding #GamerGate doesn’t have to do with the book itself, but its target audience. Who exactly should buy it? Anyone who reads Reaxxion or r/KotakuInAction already knows GamerGate inside and out, so this book will do nothing but confirm what they already know. The kinds of people who need to read it—the average Joe who doesn’t pay attention to gaming news—are unlikely to find it on their own.
The best way to recommend this book then is to not buy it for yourself, but for friends of yours who you think might be amenable to learning about GamerGate. Scott Cameron has put together a truly remarkable work of anti-SJW literature, and it would be a shame for it to rot in obscurity. Despite its issues, Understanding #GamerGate is quite simply the best way to learn about one of the most important events of our time.
Read More: “Understanding #GamerGate” on Amazon