Intel buckles to anti-feminist campaign by pulling ads from gaming site

Intel has pulled an advertising campaign from video gaming website Gamasutra after it reportedly received a number of complaints from self-identified gamers upset that the site was championing fair gender representation in video games. The decision by the world's largest chipmaker to remove its advertising from the site comes as a result of a coordinated campaign called Operation Disrespectful Nod, apparently orchestrated by supporters of the #GamerGate hashtag, who rail against so-called "social justice warrior" writers, journalists, and developers.

Organizers of the campaign exhorted people to contact companies that advertise on video game-focused websites such as Gamasutra and Kotaku in order to complain about five specific articles that suggested the concept of the "gamer" as an identity was fading away. In this case, their efforts were successful. "Intel has pulled its advertising from website Gamasutra," an Intel spokesperson said to Recode. "We take feedback from our customers very seriously especially as it relates to contextually relevant content and placements."

In an email attributed to Intel, the company said it had placed the order for the advertising "much earlier this year before Gamasutra's recent controversial articles were published." The major "controversial" article in question was written by Gamasutra editor-at-large Leigh Alexander. Her piece argued that the games industry has now ballooned so large that it had outgrown its niche origins, making the concept of the "gamer" a thing of the past. Alexander admitted that change would be difficult for those who still self-identified as a gamer, whose "identity depends on the ageing cultural signposts of a rapidly-evolving, increasingly broad and complex medium," but her message was triumphant. "We're creating culture now. We are refusing to let anyone feel prohibited from participating."

Supporters of the #GamerGate hashtag pressured Intel

But the piece quickly drew flak from those who saw the acknowledgement of video gaming's depth and breadth in 2014 as a personal attack on their very own identity. Rallied under a dedicated hashtag — #GamerGate — self-identified gamers missed the point, accusing Alexander and her games writer peers of trying to bring about the end of gaming, and raging against this imagined dying of the light with melodramatic pronouncements.

Operation Disrespectful Nod was born from the #GamerGate hashtag. Sincere users of the hashtag, as Vox explains, are ostensibly concerned with two main topics — the treatment of women in gaming, and the ethics of games journalism — but its supporters have been linked to campaigns of harassment against prominent women in the industry.

The hashtag was first used by actor Adam Baldwin

The hashtag was reportedly first used by actor Adam Baldwin when he made reference on Twitter to independent game developer Zoe Quinn. Quinn, the subject of a lengthy diatribe written by an ex-boyfriend, was the target of a harassment campaign after being accused of using sexual relationships with the press to secure coverage for her video games. #GamerGate supporters also attacked feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian, whose Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series attempts to call out and question sexist stereotypes in games. Sarkeesian and her family became the targets of a volley of personal attacks that resulted in her being driven from her home after receiving threats of sexual violence from a Twitter user who knew her actual address.

While many #GamerGate supporters have attempted to distance themselves from such harassment, the movement's methods, leaders, and ethics are still questionable. Weeks after she was pilloried for her private relationships, Quinn revealed she had been idling in IRC chatrooms run by the orchestrators of the campaign against her. In a series of Twitter posts, she showed how a small group of 4chan users boasted about engineered the #GamerGate hashtag in order to target and attack those it saw as "social justice warriors."

The movement has maintained in part because it's grown wider than gaming. Adam Baldwin continues to tweet on the topic not because he's a gamer, but because he's an outspoken conservative figure, vociferously opposed to the left-wing ideals the imagined cadre of "social justice warriors" uphold. Even Washington think tanks have weighed in on the side of #GamerGate supporters. The American Enterprise Institute, a high-profile right-wing group, issued a video in which host "the Factual Feminist" questioned whether games were sexist at all. Such interjections have extended the lifespan of the discussion, and the #GamerGate movement, even further.

Intel says it was flooded with complaints about its Gamasutra ads, but it's difficult to work out how pervasive support for #GamerGate is in the wider gamesplaying community — its supporters are amplified in the Twitter echo chamber and uncountable thanks to a prevalence of fake "sockpuppet" accounts that retweet messages of support. It's also tough to see how its supporters actions will benefit the games they claim to love. Gamasutra, which will presumably lose income as a result of Intel's decision, is an outlet that caters to video game developers, hosting diaries from industry professionals and maintaining job listings for those who make games for a living.

Fake Twitter accounts retweet support for #GamerGate

The movement's decision to highlight Quinn and Sarkeesian is similarly confusing. Both speak to comparatively small audiences compared to the reach of video game behemoths such as Call of Duty, Madden, or FIFA. Quinn's most famous game, Depression Quest, is a piece of interactive fiction that chronicles the life of someone with depression. Sarkeesian's videos are pieces of approachable academic criticism that come off like an introductory college course in video game feminist thought. Both works are intelligent and illuminating, but neither has anything approaching the potential to bring down the multi-billion dollar edifice that is the video game industry. Crucially, neither of the works set out to.

What's more clear is that Intel's decision was a kneejerk reaction by the company so desperate to avoid bad press that it didn't look at the human cost of the operation. Certainly the #GamerGate movement has secured support from genuinely concerned people who define themselves by their hobby and see it under fire from those with political motives, but it's increasingly difficult to defend a movement that decries what it argues is censorship, and then organizes co-ordinated strikes to silence those calling loudest for fairness and equality in our video games.

Supporters have targeted those calling for equality in video gaming

The #GamerGate hashtag is inextricably linked to campaigns of harassment and its proponents have been demonstrably manipulated by a small number of people who want to hurt others for fun. Until now it has had no major successes, but by giving in to its demands and pulling its advertising from Gamasutra, Intel has legitimized a movement that has shown itself to be anti-feminist, violently protectionist, and totally unwilling to share what it sees as its divine right to video games.