Actress and geek icon Felicia Day had stayed relatively silent about #Gamergate, the anti-feminist troll mob that's been targeting women in gaming for the past two months. But on Wednesday, she expressed her worst fears about the movement: That if she spoke up against it, her personal information would be spread on the internet.
On October 1, the computing giant Intel pulled its ads from Gamasutra, a trade website for game developers, over an essay called "'Gamers' don't have to be your audience. 'Gamers' are over" by a journalist named Leigh Alexander. Intel had been successfully harassed by a small, contemptible crusade called "Gamergate"—a campaign of dedicated anti-feminist internet trolls using an ill-informed mob of alienated and resentful video game-playing teenagers and young men to harass and intimidate female activists, journalists, and critics.
Both the amorphous anti-feminist movement Gamergate and last month's extended leak of a huge cache of private celebrity nude photographs—the two biggest internet-based stories in recent memory—have served as coming-out parties for a small set of anonymous, uncensored image boards that function like 4chan's raggedy stepchildren. Who are these new kids, and where did they come from?
Although violent animosity against women in video games is not even close to a new phenomenon, it didn't congeal into Gamergate, a coordinated movement with mainstream press attention, until Eron Gjoni, the ex-boyfriend of game developer Zoë Quinn, released a lengthy blog post alleging that she cheated on and emotionally abused him while they were together. And he would do it all again, even knowing the consequences.
Until recently, you might have lived a life blissfully unaware of the online #Gamergate movement. But last week, computing giant Intel pulled its ads from an independent game-development site thanks to the gaming lobby. Now that major companies are taking sides, it's time to figure it out. Let us be your guides.