The war of words between Media & YouTubers has turned up by more than just a notch in recent months. Since the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) put Pewdiepie on the firing block over problematic content, there has been a string of highly charged messages on both sides of the battle line.
Most recently, Ethan “h3h3” Klein waded into the fray with a takedown video of WSJ, claiming that their screenshots and evidence against Pewdiepie were all fabricated. WSJ fired back stating that they stand behind their story & h3h3 shortly pulled his video after his claims against WSJ were debunked.
This recent saga has eerily similar trends to Gamergate as both sides double down on their own narratives and advertisers are caught in the crossfire.
How it all unfolded
In 2017, the aftermath of Gamergate is still being felt in the gaming industry. It can be seen as the precursor that led to the current climate that has allowed this war over YouTube to unfold.
During Gamergate, the gaming media was perceived to have lost credibility after attacking their audience and so many looked to new trusted sources for all their gaming news. With YouTubers already being incredibly popular and influential, it was only natural for them to fill this gap and take over the audiences of many media publications.
The topic of game reviews by media publications becoming outdated was already a discussion as many preferred to see someone playing games instead of reading about it. Gamergate served to accelerate the narrative that ‘old’ gaming media was a dying breed, a narrative strongly rejected by gaming media as they hit back with the idea that gamers were a dying breed themselves, along with the Gamergate movement.
Ultimately, everyone was proven wrong as gaming media are still very much here, as with the Gamergate movement. Despite this, the scars remain – the narrative of ‘old media’ versus ‘new media’ became a common talking point and has become largely exacerbated following the recent YouTube saga.
Accusations are flying thick from both sides. Some are claiming that ‘old media’ are jealous of the influence wielded by new media. They are suggesting that they are simply scrambling for relevancy by attacking ‘new media’.
The other side is saying that ‘new media’ are reckless with their influence and act with impunity. That YouTubers are trying to get away with problematic behaviour. Sprinkle in between all this, the constant labels of SJWs, fascist, neo-Nazis etc, and you’re left with a high casualty battleground.
Are we heading into a Gamergate 2.0?
The similarities between Gamergate and this recent saga are too similar to ignore. Both began with a firestorm around a single person that engulfed everyone. In both cases, gaming media was seen as unnecessarily injecting politics into the gaming world.
As in the case of Gamergate, the journalistic integrity of media was called into question. Additionally, advertisers have once again been caught in the crossfire and are left to traverse dangerous and murky waters with angry mobs awaiting them at every step.
YouTube has now coming under fire from a variety of sources and pressure is growing on them from advertisers to clean house. Gaming YouTubers are, understandably, feeling threatened and are blaming ‘old media’, both gaming and mainstream, for causing this issue. With livelihoods at stake, just like Gamergate, everyone is losing out.
The debate around YouTube has stopped being about real issues and has turned into a ‘them v us’ debate, a similar tactic used throughout Gamergate. People stop dealing withe critical issues being raised, in this case problematic behaviour as well as aggressive reporting, but instead appeal to people’s emotions and their biases. The reaction to h3h3’s initial video taking on WSJ is a clear indication of that. People reveled in the apparent demise and lack of journalistic integrity of WSJ, without questioning their own sources.
Where do we go from here?
It’s hard to say where we go from here as both sides continue to double down and the rhetoric continues to escalate. It seems no one learnt anything from Gamergate as we continue to repeat the same mistakes. The double down mentality that seems to arise is prevalent in so many ways. When both Pewdiepie and h3h3 put out apology videos for their various mistakes, both pivoted from a timid apology to doubling down on their narrative that media is out to get them. Ultimately, that’s what their viewers take away the videos and thus it perpetuates a harmful cycle of appealing to emotions instead of facts and the issues at hand.
I’m not unaware of the fact that I’ve previously taken a stance over the Pewdiepie affair and I still stand by that article. However, this has stopped being about problematic language and enabling toxic mindsets and has instead become a bitter fight between media formats. Once again, it’s about the role of media and politics in gaming thinly veiled as “ethics in journalism”. It’s devolved into an SJW v anti-SJW battle.
Aside from that, this idea that YouTubers and ‘’old’ media cannot coexist is rubbish. There is a place and audience for both and I see no reason why this has to turn into a ‘them v us’ debate. Both should be pushing towards taking the gaming industry further and progressing gaming culture. As a community, we should be celebrating the variety of mediums with which we get to talk about our passion.
If Gamergate taught us anything, it’s that doubling down serves no purpose and on top of that, leads to opportunistic people getting involved merely to push their own personal agendas, much like how street protests are hijacked by those looking to loot and cause a scene.
What also needs to be acknowledged is that toxic behaviour, even done in jest, is harmful and needs to be called out. What doesn’t need to happen however, is to take it to the extreme that many media publications did by labelling someone as a Nazi.
However, it feels like the gaming community is rarely on the same page and as such makes it difficult to have civil discussions. It is something South Africans are acutely aware of as our own country is severely divided and the lack of unity has allowed the country to fall into a state of disarray.
Whilst the gaming community is far from reaching junk status in any sense of the word, it is worrying that the same tactics and trends of Gamergate are rearing their head again. If things continue as they are, YouTube may become a very different beast in terms of content and how it is run and the content many of us consume may be negatively affected.
I don’t see this issue dying down nor do I see the relationship between a large group of gamers and gaming media repairing itself any time soon. As rhetoric escalates on all sides, one can only look on in despair as the same mistakes are repeated over and over again.
It seems taking criticism in stride is not a trait many in gaming share, from journalists to content creators to gamers themselves. What started off as criticism of one YouTuber has turned into a war between two sides unwilling to listen. Sadly, we’ve all seen how this movie plays out.