It’s impossible to read up on GamerGate without seeing an image of Vivian James in some shape or form. Yes, Vivian James is that bored red-haired girl dressed in a green- and purple-striped hoodie that you see whenever GamerGate supporters are around. An image of Vivian James can be located on a sidebar of r/KotakuInAction, Reddit’s home for GamerGate discussion. She is a playable video game character. She has her own t-shirts. She stars in her own comic web series, “GamerGate’s Life.” Vivian James cosplayers have been spotted at conventions all across the country. Multiple pro-GG Twitter users assume Vivian James as part of their GamerGate persona.
However, the origin of Vivian James as a character is mostly unknown. Who is Vivian James? Who created her? How did this fictional character become so closely associated with Gamergate?
Origin Of A Meme
The creation of Vivian James can be contributed to three groups: the once-formidable imageboard 4chan (/v/), game developer and serial liar Zoe Quinn, and a charity group called the Fine Young Capitalists (TFYC). The Fine Young Capitalists is a group whose goal is to provide resources and opportunities for minorities in the media industry. It was created by a partnership between Canadian company Empowered Up and Colombian transmedia production company Autobótika.
TFYC’s first project, the Women in Games Initiative, was the catalyst that lead to the birth of Vivian James. The project involved encouraging women to get involved in game development, encouraging them to submit a pitch for their game idea to TFYC. Five nominees were to be selected and the pitch that received the most online votes would then be developed into a real video game that would be digitally distributed. The winner would receive eight percent of the profits, with another eight percent going towards future contests, ten percent going towards the production company, and the remainder being donated to charity.
Enter Zoe Quinn
On February 28, 2014, Depression Quest “developer” Zoe Quinn learned about the Women in Games Initiative, declaring that TFYC was trying to exploit women developers rather than help them. Quinn argued that the winner of the pitch will be working “unpaid,” a complete lie. She also questioned TFYC’s policy of requiring contestants to self-identify as a woman before the start of the contest, accusing them of “policing transwomens’ transition points.”
As a result of the hate mob that Quinn stirred up on Twitter, the Fine Young Capitalists’ website crashed due to server overload. Trans activists and the general public believed Quinn’s baseless accusations against the group. As a result, the Fine Young Capitalists was unjustly labeled as “transphobic” and exploitative. One partner left, concerned about being indirectly associated with “bigotry”; their departure cost TFYC $10,000.
On Twitter and other social media platforms, discussions of anything related to TFYC were banned. Journalists refused to cover TFYC because of Quinn’s lies. Effectively, Zoe Quinn and her friends managed to shut down the Fine Young Capitalists for good, using tactics that would later be employed against GamerGate.
Enter /V/ivian James
Last August, the Fine Young Capitalists attempted to restart the Women in Games Initiative, despite a total media blackout, by launching the crowdfunding and voting portions of the project. It couldn’t come at a better time, with Eron Gjoni publishing The Zoe Post on August 16th. One day later, the project finally got the attention it needed when a TFYC representative posted about what happened in a Reddit thread about purported harassment from Wizardchan, an imageboard for male virgins.
The post was spread all over the Internet, eventually reaching the video game board (/v/) at 4chan. /v/, partly fueled by wanting to fight back against Zoe Quinn, was immediately supportive of the project, raising over $5,000 in just one day. Indeed, /v/ raised enough money to earn the right to have a character of their design added to the winning game. Polls on /v/ were created to design various aspects of the character such as her physical features, clothing and personality traits. That character would become known as Vivian James.
Predictably, Quinn and the mainstream media did not approve of 4chan supporting the project. The media believes that 4chan is one of the most misogynistic places on the internet. The design of Vivian James itself was criticized by the mainstream media for no apparent reason other than the fact that it was created by 4chan. Inside jokes from /v/ included in the design of Vivian James were looked down upon.
Nevertheless, the character became a hit with GamerGate supporters and her image has become synonymous with GamerGate. Just like the movement itself, Vivian James was rejected by the media and is misunderstood by the public.
Newton’s third law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Zoe Quinn proved that the law also applies tothe Internet, because her insane accusations against and attacks on TFYC eventually created the opposite reaction in the form of Vivian James. If Quinn had left the Fine Young Capitalists alone, Vivian James would not exist. Instead, Vivian James exists and she will serve as a symbol for GamerGate in its war against corrupt journalists and lunatic SJWs.