Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate
With a president who’s boasted of assaulting women and emboldened rhetoric of racism and misogyny spreading across both mainstream and social media, Crash Override has significant social resonance in our present moment. Many people have likely heard “GamerGate” referred to in passing, but most would be hard-pressed to provide a precise definition of what it is. Though GamerGate falls right into my wheelhouse, even I could only have given you a fairly vague descriptor of just how it started or how it metastasized into the monstrous phenomenon it did.
That’s where Crash Override comes in. It tells the history of GamerGate through the eyes of the woman at its very center, game developer Zoe Quinn. GamerGate, you see, broadly refers to the campaign of harassment launched against women in gaming, including women like Quinn and, perhaps most prominently, Anita Sarkeesian. That harassment took the form of online “doxxing” and “brigading,” as well as death and rape threats. If you’re just learning about the world of online harassment, terms like “dogpiling” and “SWATing” in this context might be new to you–but never fear, Quinn defines them precisely and vividly over the course of her story. And she should know–she experienced virtually every possible form of online harassment over the course of her ordeal. All of which began when Quinn’s resentful ex-boyfriend incited the loose confederation of disgruntled young men who frequent forums like 4chan and Reddit to bombard Quinn with online threats and leaked personal information. You may think that online harassment seems like maybe not that big a deal–after all, you can just stop going online, right?–but you’d be deeply wrong. Whether you put it there or not, most of your information is now viewable online. And much of that information is held on sites that are extremely vulnerable and/or protected by the same less-than-stellar password (you know you do it). Even small-time hackers can gain access to accounts containing your home address, credit card and social security numbers, and family information. Indeed, the campaign of harassment mounted after Quinn vividly demonstrates that, increasingly, “online” harassment has overwhelming and inescapable real-life consequences.
Quinn tells her story with disarming humor, sensitivity, and insight. She is both empathetic and unflinching, and she goes out of her way to include the experiences of those particularly vulnerable to online harassment, including people of color and the LGBTQ community. Ultimately, hers is a story of resilience, and she describes how she learned to cope with the still-ongoing harassment. She describes using her experience to launch Crash Override, an organization that helps other victims of online harassment, and offers substantial advice for safeguarding yourself online.
The cover is a bit tabloid-y, but don’t let that deter you. This is an excellent, important book about the new and evolving forms that racism, misogyny, and intolerance are taking in our society and about just how vulnerable we are in our online lives.