The more I’ve thought about the new hot controversy in the gaming industry, the more my mind kept bringing me back to a stand-up bit from Louis CK (I know he is not the best person to bring up in a conversation regarding women right now, but bear with me) which goes something like this: “… You know it’s like when you got to a friend of yours: You’re being an asshole. No I’m not. Well it’s not up to you!”
I’ll get to why I’ve thought of that specific bit, but first let’s bring everyone up to speed: Jessica Price, now former writer on Guild Wars 2, made a thread on twitter regarding the differences between writing characters for MMORPGs and single-player games, to which a youtuber chimed in and gave his opinion-very politely and nicely. She responded rudely, which sparked a controversy that resulted in her and a co-worker’s dismissal from their jobs (the co-worker’s dismissal was especially stupid as all he did was stand up for a co-worker). I’m of two minds on this issue: On the one hand, if I was having a conversation in public about my job and some random person came up to me and spoke his mind-disregarding how polite they would be- because they were a fan, I would be pretty pissed too, especially since the thread had no invitation for others to join in, and his suggestion was more of a statement of a well-known technique rather than an insightful and knowledgeable advice. On the other hand, suggesting that a valid opinion on an industry-specific topic can only come from the people within that industry is equally stupid. Although, there is more to this debate to discuss, and like most other things I spent way too much time thinking about it, my own opinion is a bit more complicated and nuanced than that, meaning it’s not my ‘hot take’ on this controversy. Instead, I want to focus on something a bit more lasting than a controversy that will eventually die out.
I started with the above quote, because the more I learned from that story, the more I realized that it was not a simple issue where one side is in the wrong and the other is righteous; both sides were assholes and despite the excuses and justifications from them and others acting as the devil’s advocates, it’s not up to them to decide if they were. However, what did the industry gain from this, or better yet, how can the industry gain from this; can we as fans finally accept that people who work in the industry are sometimes going to be assholes, or better yet, understand that they are people-first and foremost- and, just like other people, they have jobs and projects to complete and love, but also have a family, a personality, and they are not our personal servants? Furthermore, when are companies going to step up and do their part? The attitude of “we listened to the community” and “we make this game with you and for you” is great for marketing, and profits, but when the toxicity arises, they hide behind firings and fake apologies, that do nothing to shelter or end the abuse, and the “I own you and the creation you were a part of” thrown at developers constantly. Mostly though, I’m just sad at how things have escalated in the aftermath of this controversy: Two people, regardless of how good or bad they were in this situation, have been fired from their jobs and their livelihood-hopefully only temporarily- is under threat; a vocal portion of the community that celebrated their work is now celebrating their removal and their “power” to demand the firing of any other “…dev who steps out of line”; and, in reality, nothing will change to stop the toxicity from either the companies, the fans and the devs alike.
Which is why, I believe, my mind kept going back to that stand-up bit; while we all point fingers at the most blameworthy side, we all have to stop sometimes and question: “Am I being kind of an asshole?” In this bit, Louis CK suggests that each time someone calls us an asshole, we should try to look at their side, their perspective and how we wronged them; what he neglects to say, is that maybe not everyone is going to give or get forgiveness for being an asshole, but everyone is worthy of it: Toxic community members who-for whatever reason-lash out and harass people, ignorant youtubers who answer questions they were never asked from a person they do not know, over-reactive devs who were rude consistently, and even companies that would rather fire people rather than deal with an increasingly troubling and affecting issue, even me for writing this article; nobody is above criticism, feedback and discussion, nobody is worth special treatment, and most certainly nobody is worth harassment and this level of toxicity. In a world filled with humans, we are going to be assholes or interact with assholes very frequently; so we might as well learn to live, forget and forgive.
They say to “be the change you want to see”, and because I’m tired of people saying “don’ts” and “stop”, let me ask you this: How many times has a friend or a family member came up to you and said “I think video games are for kids”? How many times has someone joined a conversation they know nothing about with infuriatingly basic remarks? How many times have you done something to a similar effect to other people? Point being, we are all going to be assholes at some point and with some frequency; you can keep pointing fingers, keep lighting those digital torches and keep going after people you don’t know, and keep this endless loop of toxicity going for as long as it is sustainable. Or, you can simply accept that Jessica Pryce, the youtuber and ArenaNet were different shades of assholes that deserve to be critiqued for their behavior, but do they deserve to be fired or hunted for their actions? If I had a problem with a dev or a youtuber or a company, there are better ways to make that visible, than attacking or interacting with them online: You can move on to a different game, made by a different company; you can watch other youtubers and follow other like-minded people on social media; if they offend you in any way and you want to answer back, first simply unfollow them, then respond indirectly, because in that way their shitty point of view will be available only to those who choose to see it.
Lastly, if you are offended easily or want to start a meaningful discussion about an important subject, have you considered that social media may lack the necessary features that you need? Communication is, mostly, about vocal tones, facial expressions, body language and gestures, environmental and personal information, as well as words and sentencing; social media is great for making dumb memes, simple easily-digestible opinions, and bite-sized chunks of the world state and ease of access to people around the globe. However, there are other, better-suited options, for meaningful conversations like Skype, conventions, private group chats with people you already know, calling people on their phones, shared docs, emails and private videos; heck, even social lobbies in video games are better suited for conversations than social media is!
To wrap this dumb thing up, I could blame all parties involved in this controversy for various reasons and with varying degrees of validity; I could blame certain parties more than others; I could look into their past and find all the shitty things they did, all the bad content they released and all the “reasons” I would need to make a “thoughtful” opinion/finger-pointing the blame. Instead, I choose to play the games I like, listen and watch the people I like, support the companies and devs I like, and have conversations where they can be meaningful and constructive-not harmful and dismissive. If a game I like is made by a (according to my own views) bad person, I move on to a different game or I accept that people are unique and different; so I still enjoy their content, but I put my own spin on it and I dismiss theirs. If a company makes a bad decision, I support another less-shitty company, or I peacefully voice my displeasure in a forum or an article like this. There are better ways to interact with people, even assholes, because we are all assholes according to someone else; being an asshole is not a statement of fact, it’s just an expression of someone’s displeasure of your actions, so instead of forcing and bullying the world to my views, I accept it and engage with it meaningfully, peacefully and respectively. That’s the change I want to see, and that is the change I am going to be.