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#Gamergate: Sex, lies and video games

Yahoo Finance

#Gamergate has been stewing on Twitter and on message boards over the past few months. The hashtag started as way to unveil ethical problems among those who cover the gaming world. Instead it has devolved into an alleged campaign to intimidate critics of the male-dominated gaming industry. At one end of the spectrum are a few misogynistic comments on Twitter but at its worst, it has included threats of death and sexual violence.

So far major game makers have kept out of the fray. According to Kate Edwards, the executive director of the International Game Developers Associaton, “There is always danger if they do speak up; this particular group lashes out at them as they are known to do against some of the other companies.” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter put it this way- “This is something that the industry prefers just didn’t happen.”

Intel (INTC) recently got caught in the controversy. When online gaming publication Gamasutra published a column criticizing Gamergate, a certain group of readers waged a viral campaign, ultimately pushing Intel to pull its advertising from the site. Edwards says the chipmaker made a wrong move in taking a stand, she points out “The fact that they’ve removed the ads, effectively polarizes the situation. You’ve got game developers who will think twice about Intel. I know they don’t want to because Intel has been a great partner to the game industry. “ The result: she says many of companies are going to think twice before taking a stand.

Entertainment Software Association data shows 52 percent of game players in the U.S. are men-- a demographic that's worth billions of dollars to game makers, investors and shareholders. But ESA data also shows U.S. spending on video games amounted to $6.1 billion in 2013, down 35% from 2010. The only way the industry is going to keep sales revved up is to bring in more women gamers and keep them hooked. Edwards explains “When you have a demographic that that’s significant, you want to make games that appeal to that demographic. The casual game segment is one of the fastest growing segments in our industry. And there are games being produced maybe not so much on console side but definitely on the mobile side.”

Amanda Marcotte post on RawStory explains it this way: Game marketing has been aggressively aimed at this aggressively sexist young men for a long time now. Sexism is a selling-point for them. Marketers fear that if they reach out to women and tone down the sexism, then the hardcore gamers that make them a lot of money right now will revolt and stop spending so much money. And there’s no guarantee that women will replace the money lost.

But the recent incidents within the NFL indicate the gaming industry may not be able stay out of #Gamergate forever. The players' treatment of women and children ultimately set off a firestorm that had sponsors pulling the plug. The same may happen if the death threats and harrassment of women continue under the so-called #Gamergate movement.