Inside GamerGate: A Social History of the Gamer Revolt is currently available right now on Amazon for $4.99. The 202-page, non-fiction book recounts specific events that occurred during the height of the #GamerGate saga, told through the lens of author James Desborough.
The “gonzo” style approach that Desborough took with covering #GamerGate was written to offer an alternative view of the events that unfolded around the explosive hashtag. It also attempts to give readers insight and details on the consumer revolt that the mainstream media and most enthusiast press have refused to cover in an evenhanded or honest fashion.
Desborough recently offered to answer some questions about the recently released e-book and his experiences with #GamerGate that eventually led him to writing about it. He also covers what sort of information both casual readers and hardcore gamers might glean from picking up a copy of the book. You can check out the interview below.
One Angry Gamer: So first of all… how involved were you in #GamerGate and how much of it did you participate in?
James Desborough: I was involved since before it was ‘Gamergate’. Having previously been a bit of a booster on Depression Quest – as a sufferer myself – and even a defender of Quinn I was worried about what I was hearing. The only real sources of information were the early IRC channels and there’s logs of me visiting one to ask what the hell was going on, and then leaving. That mere presence, by the way, was taken as damning enough to pull an interview on the issue I did for The Escapist, later on down the line.
I was mostly involved on Twitter, then on Youtube, and in discussions, debates and arguments around the issues in the tabletop gaming community. It got quite nasty. I got burned out in 2016 but kept a weather eye on what was going on, even as it died down.
So I was really rather involved, attended a meet up in the UK, battled constantly for what I thought was right, wrote a lot of emails – but not for boycotts – and took a lot of personal and professional hits on Gamergate’s behalf.
OAG: When did you decide to start working on the book? How long was it after #GamerGate got underway did you decide to put pen to paper?
James: I was umming and ahhing and discussing the idea with people for some time, going way back to 2016 after I’d ‘left’, but it was the announcement of Quinn’s book – and my awareness of it – that kicked it into high gear and ultimately led me to take the plunge. Well, that and ‘gamedropping’ (mentioning Gamergate) in all sorts of stupid media articles and trying to link it to the Alt-Right or Trump. It became clear that the other versions of the stories needed to be out there, and from a personal ‘gonzo’ perspective, not as dry text. We needed something counter to what will inevitably be the lies and misrepresentations in ‘Crash Override’, but with a personal touch. I normally prefer to be more dry, measured and academic, but that’s not what this needed.
OAG: And on the subject of length… how did you decide what events to cover from #GamerGate in order to give it a start and end? Some people still feel as if the event is going on while others feel it’s concluded. What did you feel was a good “end point”, so to speak, for covering the event(s)?
James: For me it really did end – petering out – in 2016 and giving birth to legacy movements such as the ongoing fights over regionalisation and censorship relating to Japanese games. So I planned to historically contextualise it and then cover it from before it was Gamergate, right back to establishing events and contemporaneous context, through to what I considered the end. Then of course The Last Night happened and even since I finished the book we now have relevant things like the GoogleMemo or the reporting on Charlottesville – which has included gamedropping – which I would have included if I were still working on the book now. At some point you have to type your final full-stop though.
OAG: Three years after #GamerGate started a lot of people still don’t know what it is. For people completely out of the loop, will a book like Inside GamerGate be able to catch them up on all the necessary information to get a grasp on what the event was about? Or is it something that more-so outlines the media narratives and ideological slants that helped push the subject into mainstream ever-so-briefly?
James: I hope so. I think the main thing that a lot of people don’t understand is how this fits into a much broader historical narrative around fear and loathing of new media that can be traced all the way back to the advent of the printing press, and no, I’m not being hyperbolic. For slightly older nerds the shadows of the PMRC, Satanic Panic and Jack Thompson are supremely important in understanding Gamergate but unless you’re immersed in nerd history it’s hard to ‘grok’ the how and why of the whole thing. The nerd media willfully misrepresented and the mainstream media was criminally lazy. The book, if it can do anything, can at least contextualise that and – hopefully – humanise Gamergate participants. I don’t know how many anti-gamergate people will even bother to read it, but at least it’s now part of the historical record.
OAG: Some people might be quick to dismiss the book because it doesn’t take a “listen and believe” approach to the subject matter, or because it counteracts the mainstream narrative. For those people who have already read the Wikipedia entry for #GamerGate or decided to get their info from a Gawker/Gizmodo site, how does the book deal with convincing these people that they may be approaching the topic from the wrong perspective?
James: Listen and believe cuts both ways. Listen and believe to me. You don’t have to agree with me, but you can at least read it and, as a result, understand my point of view, why I involved myself, why I was outraged and fought so hard and – through me – maybe you can understand some of the revolt as a whole. The personal touch and the, somewhat controversial, shock opener is intended to try and hit them over the head with that side from the get go. We’ll see if it works.
OAG: Ultimately, what do you hope to achieve with Inside GamerGate now that it’s out on the market and available for the general public to consume? Is it about reaching people who may have been misled? Informing people who didn’t know #GamerGate existed? Perhaps convincing the media that they really managed to get #GamerGate wrong? Or is it about achieving something else entirely?
James: All of that would be great but I am content that there is, at the very least, now a record from our perspective. I think Brad Glasgow’s Gamergate book, when it comes out, and mine would make a good complimentary set of books on things. Mine more personal, his more objective.
OAG: If the book manages to really take off, would you consider doing a follow-up or is the one book on #GamerGate enough?
James: I’ve been surprised how well it has done. Maybe non-fiction is what I should be writing… I wouldn’t do another Gamergate book but I could, perhaps, be tempted to write something about the Culture War of the 2010s and how it relates to history. I’ve been shocked and appalled at how politically and historically illiterate so many actors in this drama are, both AntiFa and the Alt-Right people especially. It’s a fascinating and disappointing point in history. I don’t think there’d be enough interest in that though, especially written by a somewhat amateur commentator without a pre-existing media platform, and who would publish it? I’m too left wing for one set of publishers and too politically incorrect for the other set. Self publishing is exhausting and I prefer to save that for my game design, which is a lot more fun!
One isn’t enough, but it’s enough for me to write.
Huge thanks to James for answering the questions. You can either check out the book on Amazon to learn more, or you can follow James Desborough’s content on YouTube through his Grim Jim channel.
(Artwork courtesy of Kukuruyo)