The Gamergate Book and Survey Methodology
I am writing a book about GamerGate. Because originality is important to me and because the world doesn’t need another ill-informed hot take on the GamerGate controversy, I decided to make use of my former life’s skills as a researcher and provide some actual data on the subject. At the end of January I surveyed 725 people, each of whom I confirmed were GamerGate supporters. I have been publishing a small portion of the results on Twitter, and this has created a lot of questions.
In this post I will answer most of the common questions, I will speak to some of the concerns that have been expressed, and I will post the methodology of the survey.
Why the hell are you writing a book about GamerGate? GamerGate is still a thing?
Yes, GamerGate is still a thing and it has been ongoing since August of 2014. GamerGate’s supporters populate a sub-Reddit with 57,000 subscribers and it is growing. On Twitter they are often able to make a particular hashtag trend worldwide when they are motivated, and they are equally capable of making a hashtag untenable if they disapprove of its content.
I am writing a book about GamerGate because it’s an important topic in internet culture. Whether you like it or hate it, the GamerGate “movement” not only changed many lives, it will influence how we view online protests for years to come. Never has an online movement sustained itself for nearly as long as GamerGate. This is something that should be chronicled.
You’re just trying to cash in on GamerGate like so many others.
If I wanted to be rich I wouldn’t do it with a GamerGate book. I am under no illusion that this will make me wealthy, though I am indeed writing this book for-profit because I believe people should be paid for their work.
I am writing this book because there is so much misinformation out there about GamerGate that even Wikipedia’s article is a highly politicized mess. I am motivated by the notion that at some point in the future when people are interested in learning about GamerGate, they will choose my book as the best source.
You’re a Gator. You support GamerGate.
No, I do not support GamerGate. I understand that some people feel you cannot be neutral in this culture battle, but I assure you, it is not that difficult. Many people embroiled in the movement don’t understand that outsiders looking in think all of its participants are crazy, whether pro- or anti-GamerGate. They have lost perspective. I live in a tiny town in northern lower Michigan, where the most frequent controversy discussed is if the weather will be changing. I would be shocked if I could find a single other person in this town who knows anything about GamerGate. In such an environment it is remarkably easy to maintain an outsider’s perspective.
But this is an online poll, and online polls are not scientific and are not proof of anything.
Science — actual science, like top universities — use online polling all the time. My survey wasn’t open to just any yahoo who came upon the link, it was certain, selected people. That it was an online poll has little to do with anything. You might be fascinated to know that universities often pay a large pool of respondents to take their surveys.
What About 4chan/8chan?
I could not include people who only supported GamerGate through the “chans” because there was no way to verify that the person taking the survey was the same one posting on the chan. This does indeed mean that my sample is somewhat biased against what many consider the most extreme supporters of GamerGate. The question is how much of an impact this has? My guess is not much at all. There are not many UID’s on the 8chan GamerGate boards. Of the few people who do support GamerGate on the chans, it is unlikely that many of those do not also use Twitter and/or Reddit to show support.
Your survey sucks / Your survey is garbage / Your survey is invalid.
This is a fun response I’ve been getting, invariably from people who have seen the data from only one or two questions. There were 56 questions in the GamerGate survey and I’ve released the data for only a few of them. You should probably wait until it is all released before hurling your mad survey methodology skillz at me.
When will the book be out?
When it’s done :). It will be self-published through Amazon.
You can view the entire survey here. (Randomized) means the responses were random for each respondent. (Choices flipped) flipped the responses so that random respondents would the scale as Extremely Liberal to Extremely Conservative while the other half would see Extremely Conservative to Extremely Liberal.
Potential respondents were collected through posts on their primary places of congregation: Twitter and KotakuInAction on Reddit. On Twitter GamerGate supporters are very closely linked through the #GamerGate hashtag and the moderators of KotakuInAction were kind enough to sticky (place at top) my recruitment posts.
Recruitment of potential respondents began on December 3, 2015 and lasted until the survey ended. In order to apply, potential respondents were instructed to send me a private message or email with a link to a post or tweet they made in support of GamerGate prior to November, 2015, along with their username and email address. I instructed them that their anonymity was a paramount concern and that I would not be collecting any personal information in the survey, nor would I allow the survey website SurveyMonkey to collect IP’s. I also suggested that potential respondents concerned about anonymity could create an anonymous email address, and that the email was only used to deliver the survey via the website.
For each potential respondent I personally looked through each of their links for proof of GamerGate support prior to November of 2015.
Proof of GamerGate support was generally easy to determine. For Twitter users it largely consisted of tweeting or re-tweeting the hashtag. Many used a Thunderclap — a service where many users can sign up and coordinate sending out a single tweet at the same time in order to maximize exposure— to show support.
For Reddit users it was slightly more difficult, because no hashtag is used. Posting within the KotakuInAction sub-Reddit was a major — but never the only — consideration, in part because posters are expressly warned that making a post on KotakuInAction will lead to them being automatically banned from other sub-Reddit forums.
The message in the tweet and post were important. They had to explicitly support some of the major concepts of GamerGate: namely, criticism of journalism, anti-censorship, anti-feminism, and/or anti-”social justice” ideology.
If a potential respondent did not provide explicit proof of GamerGate support, I would look through their posting or tweeting history to confirm. In total, 827 people successfully signed up for the survey. No more than two dozen were turned away. Most of those who were turned away did not support GamerGate prior to November, 2015. Only a few were unable to prove explicit support of GamerGate.
Prior to the survey I randomly selected 20% of the sample for verification. These people received an email asking them to send me a private message on Twitter or Reddit from the account they used to sign up. All but 4 verified, and those 4 were removed from the sample. Additionally, the 88 respondents who signed up while the survey was live all had to verify ownership of their Twitter or Reddit account.
The survey was conducted on the SurveyMonkey website. Anonymous settings were turned on. Emails were sent to each respondent through SurveyMonkey, with a unique link to the survey, in order to prevent brigading or sharing. Only one person could take the survey with each link.
The survey went active in the early evening EST on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 and lasted until 11:45pm on Sunday, January 31. In total, 725 respondents — 87.7% of those who signed up — completed or provided partial responses to the survey.
The survey itself and the full data file will be made publicly available at some point close to the publication of the book.
Problems With the Survey Methodology
This was an opt-in survey. As a result, one cannot claim scientific representation. GamerGate is an online, anonymous movement, and I do not see a feasible way to conduct a truly scientific poll. While the survey may not meet scientific standards, the sample size is clearly enough to help us better understand the people involved in GamerGate. It may not meet scientific standards, but does meet market research standards, where scientific methods are often bypassed to cut costs.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at bradwglasgow -at- gmail.com or on Twitter @brad_glasgow. I will update this post as I field more questions.