ADL Plans To Take On GamerGate

The Anti-Defamation League says it's going against hate in the world of video games, hoping to reach 2.6 billion person gaming audience.

An explosion
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The Anti-Defamation League says it's going against hate in the world of video games, hoping to reach 2.6 billion person gaming audience.

Daniel Kelley is currently the associate director of the center for technology and society at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). He recently told reporters at Variety that games are a huge part of the digital environment, which the ADL has had its hands in since 1985, citing the move to zero in on gaming culture as a “natural evolution.”

What some might call a summit occurred at the recent Game Developers Conference (GDL). Groups like the International Game Developers Association, Playcrafting, New York University, and Games for Change have apparently been in talks with Kelley regarding the need to “address some of the problems in games.” Kelley told journalists that these groups were eager to advocate for addressing three particular prongs of gaming.

The culture of game making itself is one of the platforms mentioned by the ADL, as well as the culture of the players and games in general. Narrowing it down, decisions to tackle the culture in which games are made seemed best. By performing this task, the ADL and associates hope to segue into improving other areas, wishing to lead toward more responsible games and impact those who play them.

Issues of bias, hate, and harassment, while not unique to gaming, are reported as the top subjects that the ADL seeks to highlight.

“A lot of these problems are part of systemic problems, not just part of the gaming community. It’s not unique to the gaming community, but there is something unique to who the community speaks to and something unique to the reach the game community has.”

The ADL is citing what they call the “pyramid of hate.” According to this group, the base level of said pyramid is bias, followed by acts of bias, discrimination, bias-motivated violence, and finally genocide. Karen Schrier, director of games at Marist College, discussed how the ADL may be going about addressing the issues inside game development studios, as well as with publishers. Kelley says the ADL is experimenting by speaking to gaming and other companies. Today, Schrier spoke to listeners at a Games for Change panel.

Brianna Wu, a software engineer
Brianna Wu, a software engineer and video-game developer, sits at her workstation in Boston on July 25, 2016. She has been a prime target of the online harassment campaign known as Gamergate, which subjected several women in the video-game industry to misogynistic threats. It surfaced in the summer of 2014, and hasn’t vanished. “It’s still a constant drumbeat,” said Wu, who became a target after ridiculing those who’d decried women’s advances in the male-dominated industry. Elise Amendola / AP Images

“We are going to focus on the building blocks, starting with identity issues, and have folks talk about what identity means and how that can be expressed in a game. But it’s not one and done. It’s a lifelong process of becoming aware of ways in which bias is a part of life.”

Such an assessment and in-depth exploration of issues revolving around hate and harassment within the gaming culture is not a first for the ADL. In 2016, the ADL got their feet wet in the wake of GamerGate. At that time, five national experts against online hate gathered together in Austin, Texas, for a first online harassment summit. Kelley has since spoken out, stating that GamerGate remains a big problem today, four years after the issue came out.

For those who are not familiar with what GamerGate is, this so-called campaign arose in 2014, turning out to be a group of self identifying members claiming their concern over the ethics in gaming journalism. This ostensible cause expanded fast to include what the group refers to as “PC culture” or “social justice warriors.” Women, as well as minority groups, often propose expansion of gaming content, characters, and settings, citing the need for there to be more women and minorities represented properly — or at all — in games. This sparks a fire beneath the GamerGate community any time the issues of modern social discussions is brought up publicly. Many times, as Kelley tells it, those who are a more vocal part of the GamerGate group often resort to harassment and other concerning behaviors.

“From our discussion with the people in the industry, GamerGate isn’t over, it remains a significant problem, part of a serious issue that needs to be taken seriously and the ADL takes it seriously. It impacts people’s lives, impacts a person’s ability to do their job.”

The ADL has yet to put forth exactly how it will address the issue of GamerGate.