From inauspicious beginnings–a breakup rant, published online–the firestorm that has come to be known as “Gamergate” has enveloped everything from Twitter to the most niche of gamer blogs.
Gamergate is many different things to many different people, but at its core it is a vicious battle over the future of gaming, and particularly the role of women in gaming; a battle that gathered strength in chat rooms and has started to, terrifyingly, bleed over into real-world threats.
Now Andy Baio, a developer and the director of XOXO, has attempted to shed light on the churning conversation with a series of analyses based on Twitter data from last week.
His primary finding: There are two communities participating in the #Gamergate discussion, and they are as polarized as night and day. Or as Baio writes of his visualization: “Two massive, impenetrable hairballs of people that want little to do with one another, only listening to their side and firing volleys across the chasm.” Anti-Gamergate users retweet Anita Sarkeesian and pro-Gamergate users retweet Mr. Fart, with virtually no overlap between their follower communities.
This more or less falls in line with the argument put forth by Deadspin’s Kyle Wagner: “It’s a fascinating glimpse of the future of grievance politics as they will be carried out by people who grew up online. What we’re seeing now is a rehearsal, where the mechanisms of a toxic and inhumane politics are being tested and improved.”
Baio also discovered that a quarter of Gamergate tweets are coming from accounts created in the last two months, many of them pseudonymous. That influx of new users has tipped the balance in favor of pro-Gamergate users: “The list of most retweeted users is dominated by Gamergate proponents, with only a couple critics in the top 20,” Baio writes.