Zero-Sum Game: GamerGate and the Networked Discourse of Hate

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Zero-Sum Game utilizes GamerGate – a 2014 harassment campaign against prominent women in the video game industry – to develop a close reading of networked publics in order to understand how power manifests and is enacted online. I combine Actor Network Theory and Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis to first map and archive GamerGate’s participants, targets, platforms, and media followed by platform-specific feminist readings of discourse occurring across the map. Each chapter focuses on how hate and harassment transform (and are magnified) across platforms, an analysis that is further refracted through multidisciplinary, theoretical frameworks. These frameworks are 1) the gamer technicity that subsumed overt white supremacist heteropatriarchy into developing neoliberal individualism that replaces embodied identity with identity through consumption, 2) the ecology of social media and the interaction of platforms that amplify and transform digital expressive media, 3) a phenomenology of information exploring the mediation of lived experience via networked publics that challenges dominant ideology while also providing the tools for the denial of alternative subjectivities and the construction of alternative information networks, and 4) a consumer choice model of online harassment that builds on the previous three theories to provide consumption of an “apolitical” identity that allows for the abdication of responsibility for the actions of hate groups and harassment they have allied themselves with. I argue that the driving force behind GamerGate is the reactionary impulse by those who benefit from structures of power to the challenges posed by broadcast experiences and identities unfiltered by hegemonic processes of traditional media structures. GamerGate thus signifies the violent reaction by those in power to the loss of control faced in the digital age as discursive constructions of identity are challenged across platforms.