Adobe, one of a handful of companies to respond to a sustained boycott campaign by "consumer revolt" Gamergate, has explicitly distanced itself from the movement, acknowledging that its attempt at a straightforward anti-bullying message had "backfired." In a blog post, the company said that it had acted hastily in stepping into an incredibly contentious two-month fight that's spread from the gaming community to the mainstream press, by asking Gawker to remove its logo from the site in response to Gamergate protests. It also rejected Gamergate's more unsavory elements, condemning harassment of women "by individuals associated with" the movement.
We are not and have never been aligned with Gamergate. We reject all forms of bullying, including the harassment of women by individuals associated with Gamergate. Every human being deserves respect, regardless of gender, orientation, appearance, personal hobbies or anything else that makes individuals who they are.
Since August, Gamergate has been attempting to strip sponsors from gaming sites like Kotaku and Gamasutra, primarily on the basis of a series of articles declaring the idea of the "hardcore" gamer obsolete. The movement's stated raison d'etre is the establishment of stricter standards for games journalists, including an end to reviews that consider social or political questions alongside graphics and mechanics. Critics, however, have pointed to extreme and extended harassment of women in games, including feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian and developer Zoe Quinn, whose ex-partner sparked Gamergate with an angry blog post implying that she had slept with journalists to get reviews (an accusation that so far seems unfounded.) The Gamergate community has often responded by denouncing these attacks as "false flags" meant to smear its reputation.
"We reject all forms of bullying."
Last week, though, Gamergate condemned Gawker Media specifically because of facetious tweets from current writer and former Valleywag editor Sam Biddle, who called to "bring back bullying" in response to the movement. Adobe has further confirmed what it had said in its tweet: it wasn't actually a sponsor of Gawker, but after Gamergate supporters repeatedly asked it to drop ads, it requested that the site remove its logo in order to avoid confusion. "As a result of our logo having appeared on the Gawker website, we received tweets that accused us of condoning bullying," it says. "One of our employees innocently responded to one of these tweets."
There was never much doubt that Adobe was trying to quickly end confusion about its association with Gawker. By appending a normally uncontroversial statement that it "stands against bullying," though, it implied that it was severing a relationship because of Biddle's "bullying" of Gamergate. This drew frustration from people who had been attacked for criticizing Gamergate, particularly developer Brianna Wu, who told Adobe that "I was chased out of my home by the people you are supporting." Wu later said she had spoken to Adobe on the phone.
Adobe stands against all forms of bullying, whether or not it knows anything about them
Adobe isn't the only company to have broken some kind of ties with a site because of Gamergate protests. Intel removed advertising from Gamasutra after journalist Leigh Alexander published an editorial declaring gamers "over," and Mercedes-Benz pulled advertising briefly while assessing the situation at Gawker. This morning, one Gamergate supporter said that Kellogg's Australia had removed ads from Gawker Media, though that's unconfirmed at this point.
Though it's been compared to everything from the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street, and it's an undeniably tenacious political movement, Gamergate is specifically focused on the removal of progressive "social justice warriors" from the games industry. It's also opposed journalists paying developers through the crowdfunding site Patreon, and it's made significant donations to a fundraising campaign meant to involve women in gaming, which it says was sabotaged by Zoe Quinn — a charge that appears inconclusive at best. An apparently rule-less collectible card game contains more talking points. Despite the loose, sometimes even trivial nature of the complaints, the resulting online debate over video games and politics has spilled over into mainstream culture, most notably the cancellation of a talk by Sarkeesian because of a bomb and shooting threat. Gamergate has received support from, among others, WikiLeaks and high-profile political pundit Christina Hoff Sommers.
Over the past several weeks, there's been a general drawing of sides over Gamergate, as various celebrities and organizations have made their (often negative) positions on it clear. While people have specifically called on games outlets for an official response, Adobe could easily have stayed out of this altogether, and it's effectively doing so as of today. And at this point, disengagement frequently seems like the wisest move across the board, especially without more major cases of harassment.