Well, bear with me. I need to get all this out of my system, and we'll get back to normal service as soon as I'm done here.
Trust me. I'm sure we'll all need a palette cleanser.
I've noticed I tend to write these articles in threes. As with my sanctimonious Jim Sterling trilogy, this is going to be the last thing I intend to write about the confusing, sprawling, not-easy-to-define mess that is Gamergate.
Probably. You know what I'm like.
I kind of feel I have to address it once again, because over the last couple of days, both sides in the ongoing "culture war" have wanted me to be one thing or the other. When I'm not certain I'm either. Or even what I believe anymore.
A disclaimer: as always with the think pieces I write on here, this is me working it out as I go along. You'll be with me as my brain almost literally trickles through my fingertips.
If you've been reading Digi this week, you'll know I once again stepped into the quagmire that is Gamergate, by suggesting that the anti-Gamergaters - one of many things I learned this week is that not every anti-Gamergater likes the term "Social Justice Warrior" - might not always help themselves.
That they can be too quick to support every declared victim, and take everything at face value, and how that risks devaluing their cause.
It's my own doing - I completely expected the response I got to it. It got me called a Gamergater by a few people, and on the whole I got flack from aGG-ers... who, I felt, were misinterpreting my words.
Then I wrote another piece about that response, entitled 'I'm a Gamergater Now, Apparently'. A couple of people took this literally - that I was coming out as a Gamergater. Albeit, mostly Gamergaters, who thought I was jumping aboard their cause. I wasn't, and I'm not. I was merely reporting being labelled as a Gamergater, in a sort of sarcastic way.
And yeah... much as it pains me to say, it's a fact that I had more of a negative response to that article from aGG-ers than GGers. But as I say... not unexpected.
What then happened is that KotakuInAction - the sub-Reddit forum that declares itself as close to an official Gamergate HQ as there is - picked up on the piece. The phrase that I heard again and again yesterday is that "people don't join Gamergate... they get thrown into the pit with the rest of us".
Apparently, I'd been tossed into the pit.
It was a bit of a mad day. Clicks went through the ceiling, the piece got more comments than I think we've ever had before, my Twitter feed went insane, and we also received a ton of contact form entries (Which... I should add - I've only just rediscovered, as they were being sent to the wrong address for some reason; there are messages dating back months that I'd somehow missed... Apologies to everyone - I'll try and get back to you: or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org).
Very kindly, I received messages of support from several of you yesterday. I appreciated all of them... but at no point did I feel I was under attack, or needed that support (as nice as it was to receive). It was overwhelming trying to keep up with everything - when I was also trying to keep on top of my day job and life. However, on the whole - while passionate - people were respectful and willing to engage.
There was a little snarkiness, and one bloke on KotakuInAction called me a "fucking asshole" and told me to "eat shit", but I kind of understood his anger. And I'm big enough to accept that I might be an asshole.
Someone else called my "intellect" into question, because I didn't do my due diligence and question everything that was presented to me by the media. And yeah... my bad, but I was busy with life, and kids, and a job, and eating crisps, and getting the car serviced, and that. But fair enough. We all have different priorities I suppose, and mine don't include dissecting literally everything I read in case it might be a lie.
And of course, I woke up this morning to more messages, and more notifications. I was going to write something stupid on here to just get past it, but I instead need to draw a line under it first.
I want to understand Gamergate. I want to understand the culture war that's raging, with the games industry at the heart of it. But I don't think I'm going to be able to. Not fully. Frankly, I don't have the time.
That said, I think I gained at least some understanding of at least part of it, before my enthusiasm ran out, and I became buried under messages and notifications.
My perception, from the time I spent with it over the last couple of days, is that there are many people within Gamergate who are sincere. Yeah, I know - your knee-jerk response there might be one of horror... so imagine being me right now.
Most of the GGers I spoke to had slightly different intentions and objectives, but the same message kept coming through; they wanted the media to stop misrepresenting them. It's a bit of a chicken-and-an-egg situation, admittedly... but they believe that Gamergate started long before The Zoe Post... even before Doritogate and Gerstmanngate... They stated that, for them, it is not about harassment. And - hold onto your prejudice - all I can do is take them at their word.
Some of this might sound familiar to you if you've followed Gamergate closely; you'll likely be fearing I've bought into the usual GG "smokescreen" stuff. For me, though, it's new; that's how little I actually knew about Gamergate. Which is weird, because there was a lot that I felt about Gamergate.
When somebody keeps repeating the same thing, it means something. It's worth trying to listen to the message behind it. I, like many, applied a blanket label of "women-hating harassers" to all Gamergaters, without really having first-hand experience of that, or trying to engage with them.
Obviously, because I'm not a woman... but also, in part, because I just bought the media and social media line, without doing any first-hand research myself. And because there are harassers out there, who use the blanket of Gamergate to be wholly unpleasant. And because Gamergaters - feeling misrepresented - sometimes lash out. It's easy to paint someone as "mad" or "bad" when they're backed into a corner. God knows, it has happened to me.
Again... I didn't look into it, because I had better things to do. I still do. But I also get why those on KotakuInAction, for whom this really matters, would be angered by what they might perceive as a flippant attitude to their misrepresentation. I dismissed anyone with anything to do with Gamergate as "boogeymen", to be feared. You might not like hearing it, but there's clearly far more to it than that.
I've no idea if this is true, or accurate, but here's what I think I understand: there's a solid core of Gamergate - certainly on KotakuInAction - who truly believe in their cause.
Some of those people are fighting for an honest games media, some of them are fighting to be left alone to play the games, and say the things that they want to say. It's about free speech and transparency for them.
From browsing on KotakuInAction over the last couple of days, and talking to people on Twitter, I'm surprised by the diversity of the community. I have had my preconceptions challenged. This corner of Gamergate, at least, isn't all white, straight, women-hating males, or sock puppets.
I get that this might shock you, that I risk getting put into a box by saying it. But I know what it feels like to be misrepresented, or labelled as something that I feel I'm not, and it presses my buttons.
I can predict now that some of you will want to tell me that KiA were playing nice, and playing the PR game. Yet, the guy who called me a "fucking asshole" for my casual use of the word homophobia, told me more than any of them.
That said, some of the language used on KotakuInAction, or by other Gamergate supporters on Twitter, still sits uncomfortably with me. I don't like Feminazi, for one thing, and that's a label which seems to get tossed around far too easily. My instinct when I see, or hear, about abuse is to want to protect the alleged abusee.
Unfortunately for those who are coming from a sincere place, whether it's Gamergate or not - I don't know - but KotakuInAction aren't the only ones fighting this "culture war".
Recently we had the wet and ineffectual nothing that was The Triggering - a campaign for free speech, couched in the language of offence and abuse. People going after Alison Rapp with a sort of fervour and glee that I find deeply unpleasant - and revelling in her downfall. And there are other sites - you might be aware of some of them - where the stereotype that the likes of me bought into simply runs rampant, and promotes a culture of harassment (whether overtly or with more subtle language).
The fact remains, that women who work in the games industry are far too often targets for abuse, even if those I spoke to on KiA wanted no part of it. Is that Gamergate? Are the people who abuse women online part of the movement? I actually don't know. To look at GamerGhazi - the part of Reddit that's the anti-GG flip side of KiA - all Gamergaters are as bad as one another in their eyes. To look at KiA, everyone on GamerGhazi is a knee-jerk feminist.
It feels reductive to me to dismiss a huge group of people as being one amorphous mass, rather than a collection of individuals. But I've given up hope that these two big, amorphous masses are ever going to bridge the gulf between them. There's simply too much hurt, damage, and bitterness on both sides. The back-and-forth has become a continuous feedback loop.
My conclusion to all of this is... I don't have one. Bear with me, while I take at face value everything I've been told.
Gamergate is fighting for an ethical games media.
Okay... but I don't really care. I think there are more important things to worry about. Certainly in my own life. I try to have an open mind, but I'm not going to become a posterboy for any movement. Sorry.
Gamergate has been misrepresented by the media.
Yes... I do think the media has probably been guilty of misrepresenting some sections of Gamergate, and understand how frustrating that must be. But I don't really blame them.
Rightly or wrong, the likes of myself don't want to be seen as lacking in compassion, or accused of supporting a movement that has been reported as populated by right-wing, women-hating, extremists. You only have to look at the response to my pieces this week to know how difficult it is to talk about the subject in a neutral way without it blowing up in your face.
Gamergate, regardless of whatever its real intent is, has come to represent something in the wider psyche. Remember that the swastika used to be a sacred symbol for good fortune?
Like it or not, truthful or not, Gamergate is perceived as something ugly, whether it is or not. I think it has gone too far now for that to ever be reversed. The word itself comes pre-loaded.
So good luck getting the media to ignore all of that...
Gamergate doesn't harass women.
Maybe the people in KotakuInAction don't, and I'm pretty certain that there are many who identify as Gamergaters who would never do it, and more female Gamergaters than I ever realised... but, again, it's unrealistic to think that women aren't being harassed, and that some people aren't doing that as part of the culture war that Gamergate is a part of.
Whether that makes them Gamergaters or "Gamergaters"... I dunno. But it has to be considered as a problem, if what you're fighting for is to have Gamergate's real message be heard.
Whether you're a GGer or an aGGer, swallowing your pride and saying sorry would go a long way. And already I feel the hairs standing up on the back of my neck...
"You want us to apologise to them, when they're the ones who've been abusing/misreprenting/lying?!"
Ultimately, it's pretty apparent that both sides view the other without any sort of nuance.
I can understand that; one side feels harassed, abused and attacked - that Gamergate tries to ruin the lives of women - the other feels misunderstood or misrepresented, attacked, and lied about.
Each thinks the other is deceitful and wrong. People I've spoken to on both sides talk about never backing down (not to mention those who just want to ruin people, get them sacked, expose perceived hypocrisy, and dick around).
I guess it's hard not to come out fighting when you feel backed into a corner, persecuted, abused, harassed, misrepresented, misunderstood. And that applies to people on both sides - everyone I spoke to, Gamergate and anti-Gamergate, said the same thing.
That's why people involved are so touchy, and why it's impossible to discuss the topic without upsetting someone. People want allies to join their ranks - not somebody like me wandering around No-Man's Land with a football under my arm, trying to organise a kick about. The more I discuss it, the more I appear to be getting drawn into it.
Alas, Gamergate - or the culture war that it has come to represent - is never going away. The KiA Gamergaters tell me they want to fight for an honest and transparent gaming media, a world where political correctness doesn't run rampant. However, the media isn't going anywhere, so Gamergate is unlikely to go anywhere. People on the other side want to protect women from the abuse that they feel Gamergate targets at them. Sadly, abuse of women doesn't look like it's going to just stop overnight either.
All I can offer is that I only know that there's much I don't know, or understand. At every turn, all I've succeeded in doing is offending people by talking about Gamergate, because there's so much more to it than I can wrap my head around. So, again, sorry about that.
I can't debate the morality of the broader goals of Gamergate, because I simply don't care, or get why it should matter to me. All I can offer is that if people are being misrepresented then that sits uncomfortably with me... and that the harassment of women is morally abhorrent - because they're both things that do matter to me.
And with that I think I'm done.
Now press reveal to see what my father, Father Christmas, thinks of you: