I spent much of the weekend examining the supposed ‘Gamergate’ issue. Here’s a link to the Wikipedia entry on the subject which, more or less, boils down to:
A group of media outlets have, apparently, been examining gaming culture. One particular person, Zoe Quinn – an independent game developer – was accused by an ex-boyfriend of sleeping with/having a relationship with a Kotaku gaming journalist in order to get a better review. This broke down in to harassment from the online community including threats and revelation of personal details. Some, apparently, even went so far as the threaten her with personal violence and death. The result is an examination of internet social norms as perpetuated by a relatively small few. If you want more details, I suggest you start with the Wikipedia article.
The first bit I am going to look at, at least for today, is the increasing examination of the world, and particularly gaming, through independent eyes. These eyes call themselves journalists, but I would hesitate to call many of them as such. This is not exclusively limited to online journalism, though I see far more questionable journalists online than I do in mainstream media(1). When I am talking about a journalist, I am talking about someone who does their homework and has researched the facts before reporting. They do this with an open mind and a respect for finding what truth they can rather than evidence only supporting their own/corporate vision (2). I’m talking about Clark Kent and not Rush Limbaugh.
There is a certain expectation of journalists to display integrity and care in their reporting. I’m not going to argue the point that many journalists do not maintain this code, and that some barely hold to it, but the expectation is there. That expectation leads people to trust them more implicitly. Unfortunately, the rise of the internet and social media has pushed at those expectations and trusts (I can’t say that I blame the public for that one) and made it so that information on the ‘Net is almost as trusted as our former sole sources of information are. This is considered a problem by many bloggers and journalists (3)(4)
The rise of social media and the internet has made it extremely easy for information to be passed around. Unfortunately, the information that gets passed around is rarely fact checked. In the race to get clicks and hits, social media will often publish anything it can get its hands on. Quite often it is messy, inaccurate, or outright misquoted. The need to be the first site with a link or a piece of information leads to people jumping the gun or, in some cases, outright ignoring the truth. Satire articles posted on websites like The Onion or The National Report get shared on Facebook and Twitter. Their incredible sounding headlines are attractive and pull people in. These articles then get shared and the misinformation spreads(5).
One of the most significant social media sites, Facebook, has recognized this problem and is attempting to create algorithms and other items that will sort out click bait articles, but it’s tricky going. Take, for instance, the Ebola outbreak that is occurring. This article sums things up nicely. And, while it is nice that sites like Snopes.com have risen up to combat this, they are fighting a war against an enemy that does not stop, does not get tired, and does not get any smaller regardless of how many of its minions it takes down. It is extremely easy to set up a website and make it look like a professional source of information.
What, then, does this have to do with Gamers and gaming in general. In short, it has lead to the war of Gamergate and the continuing evolution of the media landscape regarding gaming. In particular, the role of the female character and whether or not it is good for young females to observe (or play as in relatively rare instances) in their development for society and the world at large.
So, we’ll examine the issue of online journalism and it’s rush, a bit about females in gaming, and then look at some solutions that I see. Hope it’ll be fun! 🙂
1 -Please keep in mind – I am well aware of the difficulty in generating content through major news channels and in getting in to those coveted spots; similarly I am well aware that these major news networks have their own agendas and requirements.
2- I know, I am dreaming.
3 – Sasseen, Jane, Kenny Olmstead, and Amy Mitchell. “As Mobile Grows Rapidly, the Pressure on News Intensify. Pew Research Center. Web. 24 Oct. 2014. <http://stateofthemedia.org/2013/digital-as-mobile-grows-rapidly-the-pressures-on-news-intensify/>.
4 – Moressey, Brian. “These Guys Hate Clickbait, so They Did Something That Will Blow Your Mind.” Digiday. 14 Jan. 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2014. <http://digiday.com/publishers/clickbait-headlines-against-humanity/>.
5 – Bilton, Ricardo. Thanks to social media, fake news draws real audiences. http://digiday.com/publishers/fake-news-site-national-report-public-service/ . Last retrieve October 24th, 2014.