The 13th Floor

Did the #Gamergate Controversy Cause the Disappearance of American McGee’s Sister?

Female hyper-sexualization as well as misogyny have been hot topics lately, especially when it comes to Harley Quinn in the recently released SUICIDE SQUAD film. A three second close-up of her butt in the trailer pretty much says it all. Some have said that her identity and character are compromised by focusing merely on her sexuality, tight top, short shorts, and maniacal voice, steering away from the real problem of domestic abuse between Quinn and The Joker.

harley_joker

Similarly, one topic of hyper-sexualization and misogyny that’s been under the radar is the #Gamergate controversy.  It all started in 2014 with Zoe Quinn, a game developer from Canada. After her ex-boyfriend wrote a lengthy blog post about how Quinn slept with five different men while they were together, people started endorsing the blog post and created rumors that she slept with these men – most of them journalists – to get positive coverage on her text-based game DEPRESSION QUEST on Steam.

Shortly thereafter, those on the anti-Quinn bandwagon started harassment campaigns against Quinn via Reddit, 4Chan, 8Chan, and WizardChan, signing their posts with the GamerGate hashtag. Quinn began receiving doxy, sexual assault, and death threats and feared for her own safety.

Supporters of the #Gamergate movement also targeted other women in the gaming industry. Anita Sarkeesian, an avid feminist media critic started receiving rape and death threats after she released her YouTube video series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, which analyzes sexist stereotypes in video games. Personal information such as where she lived was leaked, and she was forced to flee from her home.

#Gamergate supporters claim that they “are campaigning against political correctness and poor journalistic ethics in the video game industry,” but this has been mostly dismissed by commentators, instead saying that they are a group of misogynists opposed to “the increasing influence of feminism on video game culture.” In a sense, the #GamerGate community can be considered far right wing conservatives, while those in opposition to #Gamergate, called SJWs, or Social Justice Warriors, can be seen as liberals.

This is essentially politics, people. And as we know, people with extreme opinions say and occasionally do extreme things to back up their views.

American McGee
American McGee

Take, for example, American McGee, game developer of DOOM, QUAKE, and ALICE. In April of 2015, he posted a response to Anita Sarkeesian’s newly released Positive Female Character Series:

I’m prepared for the SJW flamethrower…

Seriously, isn’t Anita saying this character is acceptable because she’s such a blank slate? I can’t help but think the “woman” in this game might as well be wearing a burka for all the identity she has. If this is “positive” and we (as game writer/designers) are meant to emulate this model… then I imagine the characters in our future games getting some really odd looks as they walk down the streets of virtual Los Angeles, sneak through the corridors of Space Station 009, or try to blend into any world that isn’t a magical fantasy world of pixel make-believe.

To me, real characters, positive characters, have flaws. They’re broken. They have an identity constructed of past events – good and bad. Like real people, they might make poor “life choices” which result in them being shallow minded, skin revealing, homicidal maniacs, who wear women’s lingerie under their space armor. Or, like the rest of us, they might be who they are, and wear what they wear, because society (the real world) hasn’t left them many other options. If we’re going to tell real stories, it’s best we do that with characters who closely resemble real people.

Pixel burka woman is art. So are real people.

This caused some…controversy. And feeding fuel to the flame, McGee posted a link titled, “My $10,000 offer to Anita Sarkeesian” in which Milo Yiannopoulos challenges her to a debate on the #GamerGate issue, promising to donate $10,000 to any charity she chooses. McGee commented and said he thought it would be a very interesting debate.

This is when all hell broke loose.

McGee started receiving an influx of death threats, one in particular that was seriously alarming.

 Death_Threat_1

 

Death_Threat_2

Here, this J.R. Kerr character calls out McGee’s sister by name and her location, accusing McGee of being pro #GamerGate, and threatening to kill him. It’s not uncommon for McGee or any other person who stands for what they believe in to get death threats. They take it with a grain of salt, because usually it’s just shit talking. But what happens when that target’s sister goes missing?

Fast forward to November 10, 2015.  American McGee’s sister, Mercy Covington, disappears.

The police at this point had done little to nothing to look for Mercy, so McGee reached out to his friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter:

american-mcgees-sister

Here’s where it gets a frightening:

One disturbing bit of evidence is an anti-Gamergate death threat made against me by an individual living in Dallas who mentions Mercy by name. While it’s not unusual for me to receive death threats, it’s never been the case that one contains the names and location of family members. 

Local news and media outlets covered the story and hundreds of people shared his posts to spread the word. The Dallas Police Department didn’t like this. McGee stated in another Facebook post:

Unfortunately, local police have responded negatively to the increased attention. They believe Mercy ran off on her own and that there’s nothing to be investigated, despite her being gone for nearly 30 days, the threats sent to me which included her name/location, and suspicious evidence discovered at her home after her disappearance. They’ve told Mercy’s mother, “Go look for her on your own.”

With little help from the police, McGee started a GoFundMe campaign to hire a private investigator. Up until March of 2016, there were updates on McGee’s Facebook page and GoFundMe campaign regarding Mercy’s disappearance:

Thank you all so very much for your kindness and generosity! We appreciate your support immensely. We have been collecting new information daily. Due to the sensitive nature of this situation, we are unable to divulge details at this time. We can, however, tell you that we are awaiting results from multiple forensic tests and should receive them in the next week or so. We will keep you posted on progress as much as possible. Thanks again for your donations! 

Then…radio silence. Not one single update has been posted since. I find it strange that there’s been nothing to report, when clearly they were awaiting the results from ‘multiple forensic tests.’ Did they find something seriously terrifying that they just couldn’t make public? Were they sworn to secrecy for some unknown reason? Is it all a #Gamergate conspiracy? What happened to Mercy? At this point, we have many unanswered questions.

It’s scary to think that the #Gamergate controversy could have evolved into such a monster. It only takes one psycho, so be careful what you say on the Internet. It can be a very scary place. And we will keep you posted of any future updates.

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