#GamerGate: "Gaming Is Leaving Gamers Behind," Part I
Default Wisdom is finally going there.
It was August 2014. My full-time job had just been transferred into a downtown magazine store which had been acquired by my employer during a corporate merger. The lease wasn’t going to be renewed on this prime commercial property a few blocks south of Parliament, so my scrappy team of coworkers was basically there to keep the place warm until the day came to shut ‘er down early in the following year.
We kept the store running—we unpacked and sold magazines, international newspapers, cigarettes, cigars, lottery tickets, souvenirs—except I’m sure we weren’t covering the costs of even employing us to do it, let alone cover the lease. The store was basically an unprofitable write-off, and we were just there to go through the motions.
Forty hours a week in a scarcely-trafficked magazine shop with near-zero management oversight (and the chillest coworkers you could want) meant I was on my laptop a lot. And, oh boy, was there something on that little screen to fill all my available downtime.
I was basically glued to that little laptop. Well, at first. But then it spread. First to the newspaper rack beside the cash register. And then to one of the video game magazines at the back corner of the store. And then to the major weeklies that we placed as impulse buys directly above the chocolate bars and gum.
For the next eight months, I showed up five days a week to work at that little magazine shop and witness the substance of the real internet—my internet—ooze out of its confinement and spread across the imaginary substructure of global media. After a while, I knew it was coagulating like some sort of ethereal goo in the CBC’s Ottawa offices on Queen Street, just one block north. Walking past it, I’d stare at the building and feel in my gut the confusion inside from the complaints swamping the ombudsman in charge of upholding CBC’s journalistic standards and practices.
I had been on Something Awful for a decade by that point. I followed 4chan’s riotous PR campaign against Scientology. I saw the brutal take-down of influential YouTubers and e-celebs in flurries of drama. I had witnessed a lot of crazy internet flamewars in my day. But somehow, in 2014, chance had placed me in a very opportune vantage point to spectate #GamerGate, the game-changer, from the very beginning as an embodied subject in a transmedia experience.
I ought to be careful here. I wasn’t one of the many people who were getting their lives totally upended, their reputations and careers destroyed, their entire publication history ruffled through. I didn’t get syringes in the mail or have to evacuate from bomb threats or deal with FBI investigations, or experience ecelebs with hundreds of thousands of people trash talking me with speculations about my private life.
My experience was much more of an inner trip: I was watching the outer world get consumed by some ethereal substance from the depths of the internet-addled psyche that only I could sense. Before 2014, when someone went crazy going down an internet rabbit hole, they were locked in their bedroom, alone in their little private obsession. They weren’t walking around in it like a multi-media escape room, trying to flesh out some perception of its overwhelming dimensions to other people as it was happening.
Now, however, it seems everyone is doing that. The multimedia, or transmedia, experience of reality, where journalism’s role in revealing the world to us became itself the subject of attention, has become normalized with the 2016 American election. But that’s not where it started. And without knowing where it started or knowing how to analyze that origin, there is no way of making sense of where we’re all at today.