Analysis

GamerGate: Does Games Journalism Have a Liberal Bias Problem?

In the wake of GamerGate, the video games media complex is exposing a very strong liberal bias.

This institutional bias has been a tool to systematically misinform readers and denigrate the gamer subculture. Everywhere websites are denouncing GamerGate, associating it with abuse, misogyny and anti-feminist ideals, and go lengths to show viewers why they should stay away–very far away–from the cause lest they become tainted by this corruption.

These sites shame readers and proponents of GamerGate with attempts to appeal to their humanism, effectively coercing emotional responses. Instead of objectively reporting on a cultural dilemma, these journalists become personally involved.

This is bias, and it’s nothing new in the media industry.

What is new is that the public doesn’t want to stand for it anymore. This rebellion–not misogyny or harassment–is the heart of GamerGate.

But to end it, they’ll have to go against the media: and as history has taught us, the media is one unapologetic, undignified foe.

Angel Statue St. Angelo Bridge

Games journalists, like other journalists, have taken up the dual mantle of reporter/social worker–a dynamic that’s been in play for quite some time.

Society’s designated saviors

News media informs millions of people about the daily happenings of the world. From current events to politics and even gaming, the media is there, supplying us with an ever-present flow of content specifically tailored to our needs.

But what happens when the news is skewed? What happens when misinformation and agendas replace honest, unbiased reporting?

The media has the power to change how we see the world. By leaning to the left on cultural topics like sexism and racism, the news media forgoes its duty to the people in order to perpetuate coverage that falls in line with their beliefs.

Why would a news anchor or journalist embrace such an agenda — why jeopardize professionalism for personal beliefs?

Bernard Goldberg, a journalist who spent almost 30 years on CBS News, wrote in his 2001 book Bias that journalists often become “journalists/social workers” when involved in cultural events.

Read more coverage of BSN*’s GamerGate coverage here

“When ‘proper’ victims are involved, we become journalist/social workers. And we live by the journalist/social worker motto: Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”

Goldberg also says that ” a lot of news people, after all, got into journalism in the first place so they could change the world and make it a better place.”

Every writer and journalist has their own personal motivations, ethics and ideals. Professional journalists travel the world to report on war, genocide, and other human strife.

It’s only natural for them to want to change the world for the better.

Even amid this harrowing woe, a journalist’s job remains as it always has: to report the truth to the people and not get involved. Regardless of this golden rule of journalism, some reporters make it a personal crusade to end what they see as corrupt.

“Increasingly, journalists see themselves as society’s designated saviors,” Robert Lichter of Washington’s nonpartisan Center for Media and Public Affairs told Goldberg in the late 1980’s, when homelessness was inflated and skewed by the biased, leftist media.

Now this mantle of “society’s designated saviors” has passed down to the games media.

Pen Sword

The pen is indeed mightier than the sword, and the media has honed its blade with decades of practice. (Photo: Threadless)

When the pen becomes the sword

The most interesting aspect in all of this is not how “GamerGaters” have reacted to the cultural rift, but the response made by publications. If anything the fusillade of articles lambasting and attempting to humiliate the movement says more about the media than it does GamerGate.

And rather than take it professionally, the media has taken GamerGate personally.

In retaliation to the movement, key video games publications have brazenly attacked their own constituency in an effort to warp the public image of GamerGate. They actively compromise truth and integrity for cheapshots and provocative “clickbait”.

As I discussed in my article “How Sensationalism Continues to Ignite GamerGate“, this road is a dangerous one for any publication–whether its TV, print or online.

Much of this content is sensationalist in nature and is so saturated with bias that the writers neglect their duty to present clear, dual-sided content. What readers are given instead is eerily similar to propaganda.

“If you’re a person who cares about video games and also happens to care about other people, you should denounce GamerGate,” wrote T.C. Sottek in an October editorial on The Verge that attempted to explain GamerGate. “Don’t be fooled by ‘gamers’ who want to enlist you in abuse.”

Sottek’s piece feels like a personal tirade, a kind of rant, where he attempts to unceremoniously dismantle the movement while being oblivious to his favoritism of games journalist Leigh Alexander, games developer Zoe Quinn and left-wing feminist critic/activist Anita Sarkeesian.

The article features a video of feminism activist Anita Sarkeesian on-stage at this year’s XOXO Fest along with one of Zoe Quinn’s Tweets pointed at GamerGate.

“Manipulative identity politics, ripped straight from the handbook of conservative sophistry, are also at play,” Sottek affirms, unaware of the manipulative tactics involved with biased news coverage that laments a cause as “misogynistic”.

Sottek goes on to define how the movement transcends rebelling against corruption: “Gamergate is now a self-sustaining machine because it is fueled by reactionary rage and deception, existing now only to defend itself against criticism of ‘gamers.'”

In Gawker’s “What Is Gamergate, and Why? An Explainer for Non-Geeks”, Jay Hathaway wrote in a skewed interviewing-myself prose that “even regarded generously, Gamergate isn’t much more than a tone-deaf rabble of angry obsessives with a misguided understanding of journalistic ethics.

“But there are a lot of reasons not to regard the movement generously.”

This prose is inherently flawed as it supposes that a reader, not a biased author, is asking the questions. To elicit certain emotions from the reader, Hathaway continued to include harassment received by Zoe Quinn, which is thrown in to incite ill-will for the opposition.

This article is meant to be an explanation of GamerGate itself, but most of it discusses the harm inflicted by one side and neglects the harm that’s been done by sensationalist coverage. It’s also meant to be a person’s first entry point to the controversy, and not surprisingly, it’s skewed in favor of a left-wing agenda.

“The labels of “ethics” and “corruption” are, to date, a thin veil over an ongoing attempt to undermine women in the gaming industry and the games press,” wrote Eric Johnson in an October piece on Recode. “Anyone who advocates for gender equality, or better representation, or even just a more open discussion is considered an enemy to be bullied, boycotted or, in some cases, harassed.”

Eric Johnson’s article on Recode was headlined with a picture that’s been all-to-common in this kind of reporting. It features an angry-faced gamer looking at the viewer, projecting a very real picture of the “face of GamerGate”. This image is not unlike the dehumanized faces that accompany political propaganda, and it’s meant to instill an image that all gamers are led by raw emotion rather than sense.

This depiction is a tool, another part of the media’s arsenal to debase and disfigure an entire society–and a means to deter readers who don’t want to be known as hateful, angry people.

Johnson goes on to undermine the central reason why Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) pulled its advertisement campaign for gaming website Gamasutra, saying that the “voices of women gamers” is “seen as a threat to the gaming community”.

This is a sentiment that’s been largely affirmed by a biased press, and is far from the actual truth.

By pulling ads on Gamasutra, Intel was targeted by the biased media with a stream of biased news.

By pulling ads on Gamasutra, Intel was targeted by the biased media with a stream of biased news.

How Intel went from leading hardware maker to “misogynist” overnight

On August 28 Gamasutra ran an editorial entitled “Gamers Don’t Have to Be Your Audience, Gamers are Over” written by Leigh Alexander, a games writer who’s work has appeared on Time and various other publications.

The article was largely seen as a controversial slight to gamers, the site’s own constituency. It was seen as another “cheapshot” wherein a prominent writer was free to flex their clout and launch a tirade against their own core audience.

“‘Games culture’ is a petri dish of people who know so little about how human social interaction and professional life works that they can concoct online ‘wars’ about social justice or ‘game journalism ethics,’ straight-faced, and cause genuine human consequences,” Alexander wrote in the piece.

The content of the article was seen as the problem, and as a result, GamerGate boycotted Gamasutra altogether. If rebellion is the heart of GamerGate, the brains would be the consumerist boycott, which aims at not giving ad revenue to media presences deemed as corrupt.

The boycott was made readily apparent to Intel by way of GamerGate e-mails. Soon Intel pulled its campaign altogether, depriving the site of major advertising funds.

This, too, was sensationalized in the media. Overnight Intel had gone from world-leading hardware-maker to a “misogynist” collective aimed at “silencing women in the games industry.”

“Intel Backs Misogynist Gaming Taliban” reads an article on the UK-based publication Channel Eye. “Intel Buckles to Anti-Feminist Campaign By Pulling Ads on Gaming Site” chimed The Verge, which already has an established stance on GamerGate coverage.

These outlets conveniently overlook the swath of offensive content found in Alexander’s social media interactions on Twitter, which have since been deleted.

“Be careful with me. I am a megaphone, I am much less kind than Rami and I won’t mind making an example out of you,” Alexander said to Russ Roegner, an indie games developer, in one of her most damning Tweets.

Interestingly enough Gamasutra is a haven for indie devs like Russ Roegner, arming them with tools and contacts to establish their skills–that is until you earn the ire of a major force in their website.

It could even be argued that key websites support Alexander by writing smear content because of personal favoritism–not professional courtesy–and used their high standings in the media to retaliate.

Evidence of this kind of favoritism and cliquish behavior in the games journalism scene has since been exposed as part of the Games Journo Pros controversy, which involved a secret mailing list used by key games journalists.

In this list, high-profile games writers like Polygon‘s Ben Kuchera and Kotaku‘s Jason Schreier pressured others to avoid covering the Zoe Quinn scandal out of personal feelings. If writers will go out of their way to defend a developer, imagine what they’ll do for “one of their own” like Gamasutra‘s Leigh Alexander?

Suddenly the anti-Intel articles make much more sense.

These writers and journalists appear to want the public to believe GamerGate is a maelstrom of enmity, and are doing everything in their power to sway opinions.

Why? Because they’re guilty of liberal bias, they’ve broken one of the golden rules of journalism, and they don’t even know it.

Games Mafia

Games media often operates in a way befit for a corrupt institution that systematically bends and redefines its own laws.

The Games Mafia: The casualties of sensationalism

As a result of biased coverage, the games media has made the very mention of GamerGate radiate with negativity. Many websites don’t want to touch it in fear of being associated with a campaign based on harassment. Pro-GamerGaters are being harassed and even doxxed–that is their personal information being disseminated through the Internet.

Some, like #NotYourShield hashtag creator and indie developer Jason Miller, have lost their livelihoods. Miller’s boss was contacted after his information was leaked and was let go from his job as a result of his role in the movement.

Other developers are afraid of the consequences of coming out in favor of Gamergate. They speak out anonymously in interviews with sites like The Escapist because they know how damning those two words can be–how powerful they are, and what they represent.

The liberal media has established their narrative, and they are responsible for contorting the public’s opinion in this way.

They are responsible for their part in creating this atmosphere where people’s professional lives can be turned upside down–and ultimately, the media is responsible for perpetuating the conflict with their sensational content.

Attacking GamerGate seems like a knee-jerk reaction to a very real threat–one that could out the media’s established, almost-incestuous relationship with itself. But even still the liberal media refuses to take responsibility for its part of the cultural rift simply because it doesn’t see what it’s done wrong.

This is not a media that’s free of corruption. This is a media that freely caters to liberal activism and shakes its finger at you for saying its wrong. It’s your fault, not theirs, and if you make a scene, they’ll put you in your place by smearing your name, ruining your livelihood and making sure you never work in the industry again.

This isn’t games media; this is the games mafia.

(Headline Photo: Twinfinite)

  • star eht

    now this is what i call journalistic research

  • gimpi

    The core issue is some people are just poisonous and seek to elicit emotion out of anyone they can. There is no such thing as a reporter anymore. It’s on the endangered list. Everyone is an editorialist. Nothing is simply reported. It’s all editorialized. Let people come to their own conclusions. Something is broken if it’s expected for news to take a side and make an emotional plea.

  • Thanatos2k

    Your escapist link near the bottom of the article should go here:
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/video-games/features/12383-Game-Developer-GamerGate-Interviews-Shed-Light-on-Women-in-Games

    It’s the list of interviews.

  • Patrick Howard

    Wow nice article

  • Megamatics

    They control the narrative so that there isn’t any contradiction. It’s as if the canvas only came with black and white paint when I go to most game news sites. I can’t even trust their reviews anymore, because they ooze with political strife and bias. Only the games they collectively like seem to get the high honors and praise. Quite frankly I’m sick of being associated with it, and I’ve asked certain sites to delete my account because I don’t want my screen name associated with it.

  • Brad Donald

    The Press has a RADICAL bias problem. The gamers by in large tend to be liberal minded themselves. The problem is Radical Ideologues have taken over the games press.

    • Brauni

      This is so true! The problem is now, that everyone who does not openly condemn GG has automatically become the antichrist.

  • harbl

    wow i need to browse this site with adblock off

  • Nanowired

    It is worth noting that the people involved in anti gamergate seem to gain money when there is conflict. From Anita down to the game journos, they are profiting off of fear and conspiracy.

    • I plan on going into that with Part II, especially how Sarkeesian and the media have (and continue to) perpetuate a very distinct prejudice that falls right in like with journalist’s predilection of allowing activism and personal feelings to run their coverage.

      • dodoking

        still waiting for that part 2

      • Kadayi

        I think the biggest beef many people have is not that AS is critical (I think most people want better writing in games, it’s pretty lamentable a lot of the time) but that there’s no room for discussion regarding her videos, and similarly there’s no critical assessment of what she says in the gaming media either (some of its interesting, and some of it seems pretty sketchy and reaching). Instead it’s all about harassment . Which when all is said and done, isn’t either representative of the vast majority of gamers, and nor is it something they can do anything about versus the authorities.

        When a media stops asking the questions it audiences demands what is it exactly?

    • dodoking

      they are not anti gamergate bro they are pro corruption

  • Luis Eduardo

    Turning off adblock for this nice article

  • www

    Thank you so much for actually investigating the issue.

  • Leonardo Cornejo Bernal

    This is not about liberal or conservative, it is about moderate versus radical.

  • Cerebrawl

    It’s not a liberal problem, it’s Marxism problem, specifically a radical cult based on Critical Theory, influenced by postmodernism, and the Frankfurt school of Marxism. Most people in gamergate tend to the left, just on the liberal side, these cultists are hardcore totalitarians.

    • There’s no problem being liberal, to me, until the press let their personal feelings drive their professional work.

      And I think we all know how the press is manipulating the masses into believing GamerGate is a monument to hate. It’s a living thing, this bias, fed by moral outrage and ethical authority.

      By fighting what is deemed as unjust, it appears they’ve created a whole new rampant beast–one that’s aimed and mauling those that stand in its way.

      • Cerebrawl

        Btw when I said liberal in the above, I was talking about classical liberalism, not american liberals(to americans it would be more of a social libertarianism). There may be some confusion from my non-american word use.

  • TetraD20

    Most gamergaters are actually Left/Liberal We’re Pushing back against the EXTREME left. from my perspective.

    • #Gamerghazi

      Good thing nobody has ever lied on an internet poll right?

  • EnoughFish

    Very good. Keep making me proud BSoN.

  • ounkeo

    this is a great article. the other problem with the new journalism is that at their whims and fancy, they are either a blogger or a journalist; depending on which position benefits them most when they need to defend themselves. this is a real integrity problem; when it suits thrm, they call themselves bloggers, to take on the persona of an amateur to excuse their behavior. or when they want to justify it another way, they say they are professional journalists.
    corruption and sheer lack of integrity all around. the few journo left who dont agree get beat into submission. all to protect their message and their profits. u alluded to it best. this is more akin to organised crime.

  • sciencemile

    The problem isn’t that they’re liberal; the good majority of people in GamerGate (at least before it hit the mainstream press, not sure what the demographics are now) are liberal.

    This is a battle against dogmatism and polemicism disguising itself as inclusiveness and criticism.

  • Crazy_O

    Thank you so much for putting this into words. This is exactly what happened… the gaming industry turned into some kind of mafia where someone is being ruined for not following the narrative those people constructed.

    Either with us or your career ends, either with us or we declare you dead. But in fact it is the diverse, inclusive industry that is dying because of them – gaming had no problems to attract women and minorities, just look at the pictures from gaming tournaments, read the statistics about who is playing games.

    I’m not going to stand here idly and watch them turning it into a clique where people like Miss power-hungry “Do as I say or I’ll kill your career” – Leigh Alexander are gatekeepers of what we are allowed to play.

  • Kadayi

    On point. Delusions of hegemony coupled with hubris within the present gaming press will inevitably and invariably open up opportunities for new media players to enter the scene effectively destroying the current monopoly that exists. Once that happens a lot of people are going to find themselves on the outside due to audience toxicity, and an internet that never forgets no matter how much people try and obscure their past bad behaviour.

  • ender424

    Gamergate is made up of young free thinkers who consider themselves liberal and have suddenly been exposed to the extreme biased left which up to now I’m willing to bet many of these young ones didn’t think existed. We all knew the right was full of nuts thanks to Fox News shills who tried to attack gaming culture but suddenly some left wing loon comes out and the very media who we supported turns on us just to save face and cover up their own bias. I’m proud of you kids! NEVER LET THE MEDIA TELL YOU HOW TO THINK. I would rather subscribe to your channels than ever read another “pro” video game site ever again.

  • Desmond

    It is very sad how that all came to a head. I really saw just how corrupt and absolutely ridiculous the games media was during that time.