Go Play Princess: The Gamergate Controversy


In August 2014, female game developer Zoe Quinn released a game called Depression Quest. In spite of receiving critical acclaim, the game was met with backlash from gamers around the world. To make matters worse, a rumor that Quinn had an affair with Nathan Grayson, a video game journalist for the blog site Kotaku surfaced. Grayson was accused of trading positive coverage of female game developer Zoe Quinn’s game for the opportunity to sleep with her. Quinn has since reported receiving death threats and harassment.

Who knew the gaming industry could be so cruel? According to the Entertainment Software Association, 48 percent of the total gaming population are females. The classic stereotype of the teenage boy holed up in his basement is apparently not your average gamer. Surveys say that female players feel like a despised and disrespected minority, regularly met with hostility in the male-dominated culture of gaming.

The first question I would like to discuss is whether or not the gaming industry should be more regulated in light of the recent scandal. The rude comments, harassment, and threats are clearly a problem. Women have been forced to create false identities in the gaming space because of this fact. As a game developer, Zoe Quinn would certainly benefit from some sort of regulatory action punishing the authors of death threats and cyberbullying. But will that really change the culture divide between males and females in the gaming space?

The second question is should game developers be held accountable for designing games that perpetuate this behavior? As we learned in class, utilitarianism is the belief that the outcome that provides the greatest amount of ‘good’ is the best option morally and ethically. Focusing on game developers, as long as the games are enjoyed by more people than disliked, the game developer is ethical. I think this approach could be problematic. Rather, game developers need to take into account the different potential cultural perspectives of the wide spectrum of gamers in order to act ethically. As long as they are keeping up with trends and listening to the game forums, they are doing their due diligence.

Here’s a thought-provoking clip from the Colbert Report featuring a feminist activist talking about Gamergate:

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12 thoughts on “Go Play Princess: The Gamergate Controversy”

  1. This is an interesting take on an ethical question in the gaming world. While I do not know too much about gaming, it seems that it is largely unregulated and in need of some structure. I think developers’ do have an ethical responsibility to consider the larger implications of their actions.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with Max that there needs to be a more formal structure, but at the same time I think the gaming had formed their own informal structures that regulate the gaming world. I think it will be difficult to change the cultural divide between male and female in the gaming space because as gamers they have been learn the social structure of gaming just similar to someone going to live in another country. But it only takes a few to influence a snowball of change.

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  3. The guy who is narrating this video refers to people who complain in chat rooms as “little bitches” and “little girls.” He not only treats the game as a joke, mocking depression the entire time, he is also a perfect example of male domination and sexism in the gaming world.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am surprised that nearly half of all gamers are women. I wonder how long it will take get rid of the stereotype of the teenage boy in his basement. It is also interesting that the gaming community turned on Zoe but not on the game reviewer that she slept with. In reality, he is just as much at fault for giving up his integrity in favor of sleeping with Zoe. I am surprised he did not lose all of his credibility after this controversy.

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