Gamergate and the great Twitter Debate

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By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

If you haven’t been living in a cave for the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard of a Twitter hashtag that has set vast portions of the Web on fire:

Enter #gamergate

It’s a hashtag that’s either about ethics in video game journalism, or harassment of women in the video game industry. That would depend which side of the argument you’re on. And boy, are people lining up to fight on both sides.

The #gamergate Twitter debate has turned into a North American media spectacle, to which Time magazine, Wired, the New York Times, Fox and even Stephen Colbert have fallen prey. Tweets since September 1st have skyrocketed to 2,000,000, according to the social media analytics company BrandWatch.

The conflict in a nutshell:

Anti-gamergate folks, led by feminists such as Anita Sarkeesian, a freelance video game critic, argue that the gamer world is full of misogynists who objectify women both in life and in games. The pro-gamergate crowd claim those feminists and “Social Justice Warriors” are sensationalists pushing a political agenda. For the pro-gamergate crowd, it’s about corruption in video game journalism where journalists are bribed by game publisher money and/or sex. Yeah, it’s a loooong story.

Either way, I saw the heated Twitter debate catching fire on my newsfeed, and since I’m a passionate gamer, I did the most foolish thing imaginable.

I participated.
Insert <Mars Dorian> face smash.

  • I wrote tweets to share my point of view, which brought on an onslaught of harsh tweets trying to prove me wrong
  • I participated in live podcast chats until the small hours of the morning, repeating the debate ad nauseam till I collapsed on my bed
  • I became increasingly angry, watching speakers whose points were so aggressively articulated that it fired me up even more (even when I agreed with them).

In short, it turned into an emotional disaster for me. This debate devoured my life for nearly three weeks and my productivity plummeted. Projects for my clients dragged on, my sleep schedule turned messy. I became a vampire, sleeping during the day and raging during the night. Beware of the social media night stalker writing tweets in front of his iMac. Fail.

  • Instead of working on my business, I was tweeting / chatting / e-mailing.
  • Instead of meeting my good friends, I was tweeting / chatting / e-mailing.
  • Instead of cultivating a healthy daily schedule, I stayed up till the early morning, doing…you get the idea by now

And for what? The Twitter troll-fest didn’t add a single cent to my wallet nor did it improve my lifestyle – on the contrary, I was continually up till five o’clock in the morning with eyes wide open. Energetic, drenched in sweat, ready to hunt down every podcast or YouTube video referencing the gamergate hashtag. All because I participated in an online debate that went absolutely nowhere.

I eventually came to my senses and dropped out of it, but the question arose:

What’s the point of debating on Twitter? Has anyone ever changed anything for the better this way?

I sincerely thought my conversations would make a difference, but they didn’t.

It was my opinion against another’s , caught in a crossfire of tweets with pissed-off casualties on both sides. And because you have only 140 characters, statements turn into blunt one-liners with the subtlety of a brick to the face.

And here I am now, weeks later, still passionate about my position, but not a bit more enlightened, wondering which social media demon possessed my body.

My marathon troll-ific online gamergate debate added a whopping 0% to my life. And no matter how many chats or tweets I sent, I doubt I even changed one single person’s mind along the way, at least not for the better. So what’s the point of stating your opinion in 140 characters? Is it stupid to enter a Twitter debate? What has your experience been?


Mars Dorian describes himself as a creative marketeer with a moon-melting passion for human potential and technology. You can follow his adventures at www.marsdorian.com

Original illustration by the author.

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