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Appropriation, Ethics, and the Death of the Gaming Community

Like a lot of Gen Xers and early Millennials who were into games and technology, I grew up on the receiving end of some bullying for my interests. Some people got it worse than others. Walking into high school at six feet tall helped me dodge the physical end of it, and in all honesty that's the hardest kind to avoid. The verbal, social, internet based stuff? Yea. I admit it definitely impacted my development, and there are psychological and emotional hang ups from it which I still carry.

But I lived. Like just about everyone who was in my position. Yea, we were nerds and geeks with culturally foreign interests who could be socially awkward and didn't always know how best to approach the opposite sex. But we figured it out. We may have argued amongst ourselves about the best console or operating system, but at the end of the day we were all techies or gamers or whatever we called ourselves. There was unity in that. Strength, even. That these were people who shared your interests, cared about what you cared about, and weren't going to marginalize or belittle you for it.

Today? Well things are somewhat different. The box office revolves around comic book movies, everyone walks around with a computer in their pocket, and most people probably have a dedicated gaming device of some sort in their home. Nerd culture is no longer foreign, it's a major part of American culture. And in many ways, I see this as an achievement. That our community is the one which rose to the tops of society, which found avenues to make its art and products critically and commercially successful, and which made it a cornerstone of what people enjoy and use today.

As we've clearly seen over the last few weeks, this is not without some serious pitfalls. What we should be having a conversation about right now is integrity in games writing. How personal relationships and conflicts of interests have compromised the impartiality and ethics of the industry, and how games writers and developers both need to be more aware and transparent about how they do their jobs. Instead, I find myself here backed into a corner by this vitriol, looking on as my culture is being both simultaneously appropriated for a "cause" and burned to the ground at its core by a sad segment of the internet on a perpetual warpath.

I'm glad that the people playing, making, and discussing games are more diverse than they've ever been (even though we still have a ways to go). This is something that everyone should openly welcome and encourage as it directly, tangibly leads to unique and quality experiences that we otherwise never would have played. But with this massive, diverse community of gamers has come exposure. Exposure that has inevitably led to spotlight being shined on the worst parts of the gaming community. Parts that every culture is unfortunately saddled with. But instead of these specific segments being exposed and criticized, the entire gaming community is being dragged down with it.

Why? Because while our art and entertainment is accepted, we as gamers are still not. We may be able to sit down and talk about our interests with more people than we ever have been before, but we haven't stopped being marginalized as people. That the entire gaming community can be broadly generalized and attacked by wide swaths of the internet over the last month, including the very fucking people who have put food on their tables for the better part of their adult lives on the backs of this very community, is sickening. We are not what a tiny group of assholes on the internet have misled people into thinking we are. We're not what self-proclaimed feminists, journalists, and activists claim we are for page views and to further their careers. We're gamers, god dammit. Respect that shit.

And yes. I use that word. GAMERS. Just like athletes, sports fans, film buffs, hip hop heads, sneaker whores, gun owners, or any other group of hobbyists or enthusiasts who have labeled themselves with a name of some sort. This is not an exclusive group, it's an inclusive one. Gender, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic standing, sexual orientation, nationality, language, age, I don't give a fuck what you are and anyone who does isn't a part of this community. There is one rule and one rule only to join the gamer club: be genuinely interested and appreciative of the art form. The people harassing others over this shit? They don't get to be in the gamer club. Why? They're assholes, and they don't represent us. So stop acting like they do.

As I'm sure you're aware, Jonathan Holmes wrote his weekly piece of clickbait today, and as is usually the case some people here were annoyed by how poorly thought it was and how he yet again generalized large portions of the games community to make his "point". Why this man continues to be given a soap box on this site is beyond me. Who knows. Maybe Hamza and Dale feel some irrational sense of loyalty to an individual who brought controversy to this site with years of his condescension and passive aggressive opinion pieces. This time was a little different, though. His discussion on the perceived move towards a death of the term "gamer" is strangely one of a dozen pieces exactly like it all throughout the games press this weekend. All arguing for the exact. Same. Thing.

If you raised an eyebrow at that, you should have, and this is really the core point of this post: games writing is dead. As we saw with the Zoe Quinn controversy and the conflicts of interest that were created from her multiple romantic relationships with both writers and developers, this is an incredibly incestuous industry and no one seems to have a problem with that. It's not some giant conspiracy, it's just a close group of people who think and act similarly in furthering their interests. In short, we've developed our own Hollywood and all the terrible shit that comes from such an environment. First, you had a complete industry wide blackout on the controversy, and now you have and effort to dissolve the very group of people who called you out on your bullshit.

And again, I feel the need to make this perfectly fucking clear: this isn't a conspiracy theory. It's not some carefully constructed web of lies and deceit. It's very, very simple. People got some fame, people made some money, and now they want to hang on to both. And guess who's gotta take it on the chin this month to make that happen? Yup. Us gamers. And what's the message? "Hey, let's all get along and stop fighting you guys." Which sounds like a great message, right? I mean, who wants to keep fighting about this shit? Let's just play and enjoy the games, am I right?

But it's not that simple. Because we're not just bickering with each other anymore. We're not arguing over consoles or genres or franchises. We're targeting this at you. The people who called yourselves "journalists" for the credibility but then gave up and settled on "blogger" because ethics are too hard of a concept for you to wrap your heads around. The people whose pre-release coverage, review scores, and game of the year awards meant something to us because we trusted you for some basic level of fairness and impartiality. But now? Apparently personal and romantic relationships with those who make the products you built a career on is totally fine. And no. This isn't something we need to discuss, so don't expect any of us to actually report on it (spoiler alert: not a single games site has).

So instead, let's talk about gamers. Let's talk about how you people use that term to attack and exclude others, and not just because you're proud of your interests. Let's talk about how you're really just a bunch of insecure children desperately looking for a label, not enthusiasts who are just as dedicated as film buffs or audiophiles are. And let's talk about how you really just want to play the victim here, and you actually haven't been the target of non-stop cultural bashing and sweeping generalizations over the last few weeks (and well before that).

Because if we didn't, then maybe we would actually have to start addressing the incestuous and unethical practices we've been engaging in for years. And we sure as shit can't have that, now can we?
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About ctg867one of us since 2:47 AM on 11.29.2013

I'm an (aging) dude who plays games and comments about stuff. Been on Dtoid since 2010-ish, back during the Sterling days, though this account's a bit newer than that. Don't post on the FP anymore but you can find me on Qtoid and (occasionally) the Cblogs.

I also stream on Twitch sometimes, if you're interested: