#GamerGate and feminism in gaming were the subjects of a paper at a recent Modern Language Association (MLA) panel at their annual convention, held this year in Austin, Texas. Anastasia Salter, an assistant professor of digital media at the University of Central Florida (UCF), said that gaming is “about silencing women.”
She noted, correctly, that “games have become such an [engrossed] part of culture” in today’s American society. She added, “The rise of mobile gaming of all of these forms draw people in.” Salter cited data which found only “13% of women among game designers” and that women are still not being employed in the gaming industry in large numbers. She believed, “These demographic problems of the industry spread out to the games [themselves].”
Salter brought up GamerGate and warned the audience, “People on Twitter, please don’t tweet #GamerGate!” She displayed a slide, “Tropes vs. Women: Video Games” and described how the feminist movement within gaming had “immediately attracted negative attention.” Salter was surprised that gamers get upset when academics and activists examine rhetorical aspects of gaming. She pointed out that online harassment focuses more on women than men, citing #BlackLives Matter, “The horrific trolling and attacks in that space [of BLM].” She shifted back to GamerGate, “[It was] very impressive for what started as a guy who broke up with a girl.” Today, “It’s a war over identity and over language” and “the very definition of gaming…has been radically changing.” “The GamerGate hashtag,” she said, “is one gate” of criticism and rhetoric in gaming.
“Invisibility,” Salter said, “thanks to online social media spaces, is becoming a lot more recognized.” However, “the incredible, overwhelming numbers of supporters in a hashtag can effectively drown out any rational discourse.” “It has,” Salter admitted, “also made it a space that has become very dangerous.” She praised the likes of activists of Briana Wu, Anne Sarkisian and Quinn in dealing with the “Internet hit mob” of GamerGate.
She continued, “Games research has been accused of being a monster organization seeking to impose feminism [on gamers].” There was a “witch hunt,” in her words, called “Digging-DiGra,” where people were “trying to destroy the credibility of feminist game research.” Salter said, “This type of attack is really over who gets to really speak.” She concluded, “[This is] the perfect example of a movement, it takes the best thing about social media and public spaces and silences and destroys [the opposition].”
Photo by gruntzooki