The Unlikely Connection Between Gamergate and QAnon

Gamergate and QAnon are two sides of the same coin.

At first glance, it might seem like QAnon and Gamergate are worlds apart in terms of method and aim–but that couldn’t be further from reality. When QAnon-sympathetic right-wing pundit Tim Pool was recently under the heat of criticism from female journalists and academics, prominent Gamergate figure “TheQuartering” was quick to come to his aid with a misogyny-laced response. This wasn’t the first time Gamergate advocates had attracted ire for professing problematic views, and attacking individuals while absolving themselves responsibility of the ensuing harassment, but it is a reminder that the shared disdain Gamergaters have for efforts of deradicalization is only one facet of their likeness to QAnon, and it goes a long way to explain why these two movements find themselves more in alignment than at odds.

Gamergate’s distinct reputation for sabotaging discourse — a quality QAnon has in abundance — is nothing new. An even more difficult assessment to make though, is whether an appeal to bigotry would naturally engender deep-seated prejudices against minorities as a byproduct of the constant flirting with these ideas. At least in the case of TheQuartering, that assessment has proven to be true–the YouTuber who got his content creation break from making Magic: The Gathering videos, eventually was able to connect the dots and figured out that grifting gamer rage was a far more profitable endeavor. Since then, his channel has continued to be a fomenting ground for toxic behavior–harassing journalists, and drumming up a narrative about an industry-wide conspiracy to politicize games by promoting diversity, all under the guise of false impartiality.

The logical leap from “a game has a playable queer character” to “writers around the world must’ve gathered around in a secret meeting room and decided upon the erosion of straight white male dominance in the gaming medium” isn’t that far off from what’s happening in QAnon circles right now. A narrative has been carefully crafted by the conservative cohort of gaming commentators to correlate the supposed perversion of their medium by progressive ideas with a conspiracy to slowly phase them out of games. Ex-Riot Games employee Leslee Sullivant said as much when sharing about her experience in working with male colleagues inside the company, citing that one employee in a company AMA, had anonymously referred to video games as “the last bastion of masculinity.”

Straight white men flock to Gamergate and QAnon for reassurance because it gives them answers — however flawed — to their current identity crisis. In the same way that QAnon likens the changing political winds of current times to an attempt to erase them, Gamergate views the gaming industry’s lack of dependence on their attention as an affront to the status quo. Where that would’ve been more correctly assessed as minorities finally asserting their place in a space that was historically hostile to them, the prevailing narrative in Gamergate circles is that such a shift could not have organically happened, and has therefore to be deliberately enacted by a shadowy body of individuals with a professed contempt for their wants and needs.

Similarities between Gamergate and QAnon are more than superficial. When it was recently revealed that game composer Alec Holowka died by suicide, Gamergate quickly rushed to lambast Zoe Quinn, who they accused of having caused Holowka’s suicide, even though Holowka has an extensively-documented issue of suicide ideation. The most prominent hashtag used to promote that theory on social media was #ZoeBodyCount–that in more ways than incidental, emulates an all-too-similar kind of behavior by QAnon fanatics, wherein it bore great resemblance to the massive influx of #ClintonBodyCount tweets following Jeffrey Epstein’s death by suicide. In both cases, the blame was taken away from Epstein’s and Holowka’s own agency, and was instead put on the back of a former presidential candidate, and a game developer respectively.

What unites Gamergate and QAnon in both origin and nature is that they’re movements that live on the internet, but ones with impact that far outstretches its boundaries. The QAnon movement which started as a claim of deep-state collusion with the Clintons to undermine the Trump presidency deep in the trenches of 4chan — to later be embraced by its more extreme offshoot 8chan — has its roots deeply steeped in the Gamergate movement. And much like QAnon, Gamergate was concocted by a handful of 4chan users to include language about a concern regarding “ethics in video game journalism” as but a thinly-veiled excuse for bigotry and misogyny.

Write-ups about the progression from Gamergate to Trump are aplenty. But what doesn’t get discussed enough is how that relationship continues to evolve well past the election of Trump into the white house. If Gamergate was conducive to the creation of QAnon by providing it fertile soil to grow, it continues to attract its supporters towards similarly-dangerous modes of thought. All flavors of misogyny, xenophobia, racism, anti-theism, homophobia and transphobia are common courtesy within these circles, and with such a massive area of ideological overlap in place, an exchange of demographics was bound to happen. “It was violent then, and it’s more violent now. It was misogynist and racist then, and all the more so now. Gamergaters wanted a safe space from which to attack the women they thought were ruining video games, and by that metric, their creation has succeeded beyond their wildest imaginings,” Slate’s Evan Urquhart eloquently puts it.

In order to quell the scourge of toxicity from Gamergate, accountability must be held for the irreversible damage it has done to the gaming community, and the American political establishment as a whole. For a culture to have become so hostile to its least privileged classes signals a call for reform, but for that to happen, it has to reckon with a tenebrous legacy of promoting extremism. Given time to thrive, Gamergate and QAnon have now bloomed well past the point of course reversal, and our collective reticence to address them is further giving them permission to remain unchallenged.