#GamerGate: Lots of Noise, Not A Lot of Clear Direction

man_yelling_at_computerThere’s a not-so-secret war happening online as we speak.

A lot of people can say that they’ve heard of or seen the #GamerGate hashtag, but not too many people can say for certain what it’s about anymore.

To be fair, there was a clear set of events that set off #GamerGate, long before the movement even started using the hashtag. However, the war has grown and mutated since then in so many directions. People entrenched in #GamerGate have a good idea of what they’re fighting over, but those outside don’t seem to have a clue.

While the intent of this post is to look at how #GamerGate has spread across social media, it’s important to explain some of the background, which I will attempt to do without upsetting either side of the argument.

Around the middle of August, the ex-boyfriend of a female game developer wrote a blog post about how his ex had cheated on him while they were together. In the post he named some names of some men that he believed she had cheated on him with. Usually, a post like this would mostly go unnoticed on the internet. However, of the names named in the post many were notable names in the gaming world, such as game journalists and game award judges, and they had all been known to say good things and/or promote the female game developers games.

This brought light to the gaming industry that maybe they weren’t getting the un-biased judgement they thought they were around game reviews and awards. This started an uprising within the gaming world where average gamers started calling people out and demanding for some ethics from the gaming journalists.

At this point, there started to become two factions of this fight. The first faction was just fighting others and calling for a reasonable standard of ethics in the industry so regular consumers felt that they were getting fair reviews of games they wanted to spend money on. The second faction was saying that gamers were just upset because women had become part of gaming culture and that people were attacking them trying to keep it a “boys only club.”

It was during this initial uprising the actor Adam Baldwin (from Firefly and Chuck) tweeted the hashtag #GamerGate on August 27th referring to the controversy and the hashtag took off from there.

After this point in the story the water becomes a bit murky. The hashtag #GamerGate grew into a larger thing with many fights happening on many sides. Some are using the hashtag to fight the fight of ethics in gaming journalism. Some are using it to fight against what they believe is misogyny in the world of video games. Some are fighting for what they believe are feminists trying to ruin their gaming culture. And some are fighting just to fight.

It actually has gotten very messy with some people getting personally threatened or attacked and a lot of name calling on either side. I’d prefer not to go in further details. However, if you’d like a good look at what else has happened in the #GamerGate saga, I’ve found this article on Know Your Meme seems to have a fairly unbiased timeline you can follow.

Now, back to the original point of this article….

With so much of the #GamerGate war happening online, I thought it would be interesting to use MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics software, to look at just how big it’s gotten.

As I stated above, the hashtag #GamerGate didn’t exist until the end of August, despite the whole controversy starting two weeks before that. However, since the time the hashtag came into play it’s been used almost 4 million times across social media channels. I was able to find 5,130 blog posts, 3,414 online news articles, 38,606 forum postings and 3,842,346 tweets all making mention of #GamerGate.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary

In addition to those channels, there has also been 11,165 videos created in this time that make mention of #GamerGate in their title or description.

Sysomos MAP - Summary of Video Activity

While some movements start out strong and then start to fade, the opposite has been true for #GamerGate. A look at our popularity graph, which plots out all of those mentions over time, shows that the #GamerGate hashtag has actually gained popularity since the end of August when it started being used. This seems to be due to two main factors. The first is that more people are starting to hear about the movement and are trying to get in on the action on all sides of the fight. The second, which correlates to the largest spike we can see in the chart below came when a well known feminist speaker had her life threatened by someone claiming to be part of the #GamerGate movement, which garnered a lot of attention from mainstream sources. The second large spike came from another threat that was aimed at a woman speaking about looking for social equality, which again spiked more main stream sources to look at the #GamerGate controversy.

Sysomos MAP - Popularity Chart

Interestingly, when I looked for the most retweeted tweets about #GamerGate, I found that the majority of them had to do with the fight of the sexes going on within #GamerGate. However, the second most retweeted tweet was a plea from someone asking that #GamerGate be used only to talk about the initial cause of the whole thing, ethics in gaming in journalism. Unfortunately, it’s the fighting and few bad things that have happened in the sex war faction of #GamerGate that has garnered the most attention around the whole issue.

Sysomos MAP - Most Retweeted Tweets

When I looked at some text analytics around the #GamerGate controversy, I found that you can actually see all of the different kinds of fights going on within. Both our buzzgraph and word cloud reveal that there is a lot of talk about both the journalism aspect that started the whole thing and the sexism (on both sides of sexism) that is coming to the forefront. I won’t comment on either, but see the word cloud and buzzgraph below to see for yourself.

Sysomos MAP - Buzzgraph

Sysomos MAP - Word Cloud

While it’s hard to know what #GamerGate is really all about anymore, and I’ll let you make up your mind about this, one thing is for sure; no one is happy about any of it. A look at the sentiment from all of the #GamerGate conversations across social media shows that an overwhelming 40% of all conversations is negative.

Sysomos MAP - Overall Sentiment

Again, my intention of this post was not to be in support of any side of this, but simply to show the world how big #GamerGate actually is despite many people not even knowing what it is about.