Eron Gjoni is the spark that lit the fuse of GamerGate. His 9,000-word blog post about his relationship and break-up with indie game developer Zoe Quinn inspired the GamerGate movement, which has spawned online harassment, largely against women in gaming, under the auspices of improving ethics in gaming journalism.
He calls himself a feminist.
“Nothing has happened which changes my view of feminism,” he wrote on his Tumblr. “Things have happened which made me realize the full extent to which even the most well-intentioned communities can fall prey to the effects of in-group [or] out-group bias. But, that’s an issue of practice, and not of theory.”
According to a recent interview with BuzzFeed News, it wasn’t really about gaming journalism ethics for Gjoni. It wasn’t much about gaming at all.
“I don’t like, have a passion for games or anything,” Gjoni told BuzzFeed News.
Rather, Gjoni’s focus is largely on his ex-girlfriend, Quinn, and the abuse and mistreatment he says he suffered while in a relationship with her. And, he said he would expose her again, despite the harassment she and many of her supporters have experienced.
In August, the 24 year old published the now infamous blog, “thezoepost.” It accused Quinn of abuse and infidelity, coining the term “Burgers and Fries” (after the burger chain) to insinuate she slept with five guys during their relationship.
Wait, so now that ZQ’s nick for me is Creep Throat, do I still have to be above referring to her as Burgers and Fries or what?
— Eron Gjoni (@eron_gj) September 9, 2014
Many of the accusations against Quinn remain unverified, with Quinn herself linking them to a 4chan campaign to attack her and her supporters. Still, that didn’t stop people from rallying behind Gjoni against Quinn, calling her profane names and even driving her from her home with rape and death threats.
Gjoni claimed in one of the blog posts that Quinn had slept with a gaming journalist. According to what Gjoni says is an unedited transcript of the BuzzFeed interview, he originally added the journalist angle to the blog not because he overly cared about that fact, but because he knew gamers would.
“I’ve had to deal with ethical issues in journalism before, but games journalism had always struck me as too trivial to bother with, so it wasn’t in any way a primary concern at the time,” Gjoni said. “I knew it would be important to gamers, even if it wasn’t important to me. But I hadn’t anticipated just how bad that problem was, I don’t think anyone did.”
GamerGate supporters say their focus is on fixing corruption in gaming journalism, mainly through exposing relationships between journalists and developers. They’re advocating for gaming journalism to improve ethics policies and have boycotted news organizations that have pronounced the “death of gamers.” Many also advocate for the removal of bias from stories, which, to many GamerGate supporters, includes any commentary on social justice issues like the representation of women and minorities in games.
Many GamerGate supporters say they’ve moved on from Quinn and that she’s no longer a concern for the movement.
Gjoni told BuzzFeed News he still considers himself part of GamerGate, offering advice for leaders and sending tweets with the hashtag. But most of his interaction online is focused on Quinn herself and how she plays into GamerGate. While his Twitter account does not mention Quinn often, a majority of his Tumblr posts are focused on answering anonymous questions about his relationship with Quinn and her alleged abuse.
He’s even tied his feelings about gaming journalism to Quinn, according to the BuzzFeed transcript.
“When it came to Zoe’s faults, they rushed to protect her,” Gjoni said. “It was literally a bunch of her friends trying to protect her image.”
Also, in a post on his Tumblr from Wednesday when he addressed calling Quinn “Burgers and Fries.”
“I probably should have left it out. I was torn on it too,” Gjoni wrote. “That said, the way her journalist friends refused to cover the issue in order to protect her image after multiple sources started corroborating a single picture of her extremely toxic character is exactly part of the problem [GamerGate] is trying to address.”
Still, Gjoni makes an effort to distance himself from GamerGate supporters who have been harassing women, saying they’re a fringe part of the movement and making everyone else in GamerGate look bad. He’s also spoken out against “doxing,” or posting people’s private information online, and maintains that he never shared Quinn’s personal data.
— Eron Gjoni (@eron_gj) October 12, 2014
The self-proclaimed “social justice advocate” and feminist has even shown support for feminist gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian in the past, reiterating that his problem is not with Sarkeesian, but with Quinn.
I support Anita Sarkeesian. I do not support Zoe Quinn.
— Eron Gjoni (@eron_gj) August 28, 2014
Sarkeesian recently had to cancel a speech at Utah State University because a GamerGate-related threat of a mass shooting. She’s just one of several female game developers and critics who have received rape and death threats from GamerGate supporters.
According to the transcript, Gjoni said he would not have published the blog about Quinn if “the only thing to come out of it were harassment of people.” But he said it was worth it for “the good that’s come of it,” like some online gaming publications updating their disclosure policies and GamerGate collecting $70,000 to support women in games.
“If I could go back in time and tell myself not to do this, I wouldn’t,” he told BuzzFeed News. “That is, I wouldn’t tell myself not to. Because it’s for the best. Regardless of how the outcome is actually getting painted. As this giant harassment campaign against women filled with all sorts of death threats. On the ground, the movement isn’t barely like that.”
Plus, he said, “A bunch of people were warned about Zoe.”