How Gamers Strike Back on the Web

Ever since writing—and, more importantly, getting comments on—a post about counterculture on the internet, I have been keeping an eye open for examples of geek-oriented activism on the internet. I’ve been particularly curious what kind of action might be visible almost entirely on the web itself (as opposed to initiatives that start on the web but have their most power in protests, courtrooms, etc.).

A recent interesting example came in the form of “Gertsmann-gate,” when a longtime employee of video game editorial site Gamespot was fired under suspicious circumstances. While the details are still unclear, from an outside perspective, it certainly seemed that he was dismissed for alienating a major advertiser. In response, another game editorial site, Destructoid, created a Gamespot knockoff site at, and a number of gamers reportedly pledged to boycott Gamespot, including a “Blackout Monday” boycotting all sites owned by CNET. Some online game reviewers also dropped by the Gamespot offices with a banner to pledge support for their fellow writers.

I can’t say right how much of this has registered with Gamespot or CNET, which hasn’t shown much sign of flinching. There will apparently be some sort of internal investigation by a CNET higher-up, though this could be more a PR move than an actual response. I do find it interesting, at least, to see some gamers attempting to leverage their power as consumers on the web to actually send a message.

Update: On the other hand…

In a bit of unrelated news, it turns out that Activision is going out of its way to limit the functionality of its Guitar Hero controllers so that they won’t work with MTV/Harmonix’s Rock Band. As the comments following this post indicate, gamers are calling foul, and some are calling for boycotts. One commenter puts this all into perspective, though:

Can we all just be reasonable and make ridiculously unreasonable threats towards Activision, much like we did to Eidos (if anybody remembers that, anyway)? I’m sure they’d feel the pressure, or atleast release a press release blaming Harmonix.

Eidos, of course, is the advertiser involved in “Gertsmann-gate.” Have people forgotten their outrage about that already, as this commenter suggests?