Pewdiepie Might Not Be a Racist, But He’s Something Worse

Let’s say that you have over fifty million pairs of eyes upon you. Let’s say that you’re such a pop culture sensation and voice of your generation that you inspired an entire episode of South Park about you and played yourself in it. Let’s say that you’ve made hundreds of millions of dollars doing nothing of value and Disney is knocking at your door with even more. Picture this is you, dear reader, and ask yourself: “if this was my life, and the world was watching, what would I have to say for myself?” Now pretend you decide the best foot to put forward is using the N-word and calling for death to all Jews.

The internet has ushered in an age of obnoxious unaccountability that has been coupled with an obnoxious backlash and calls for censorship. It’s why things are how they are right now. Growing up in a world you no longer have to look in the eye and being able to say whatever you want from behind a monitor has bred the nastiest generation since cross burning was a thing, and it’s burning itself at both ends with endless feedback loops of rampant online abuse and political correctness taken to laughable extremes becoming the new cultural norm. What used to be considered internet troll culture is now occupying the White House. And people like this: they are the reason.

Pewdiepie (aka Felix Kjellberg) has emerged as the face not only of the millennial generation, but of gaming as well. And oh my, is it a punchable face. I may not understand the appeal of watching a human Spongebob character with the faculties of an edgy ten year old screech while playing video games or do a whole lot of nothing on camera when the world is filled with incredible art, beautiful film, talented people, books crammed with knowledge, and video games that I could damn well play myself, along with literally endless possibilities, but it’s plainly a fact that at least fifty million people see value in this, so let’s go ahead and call that battle lost.

Let’s move on to the real topic at hand: with so many people out there who love what Pewdiepie and his lot do, does he owe it to anybody to not say whatever he feels like saying? Can he or should he be accountable for anything he does online? In case you have been living under a rock without an internet connection, Pewdiepie has caused some controversy using racial slurs and calls for genocide as humor and then aggressively playing the victim when the media has drawn attention to it, citing “clickbait journalism”. And nobody has shut up about it for what seems like months.

I hate to tell you guys this, but clickbait has always been the only kind of journalism. Even before “clicking” was something you could do. Racism, sexism, child molestation, rape, murder, and general deviance have always been the front, middle, and back pages of the newspaper because that’s what the people pay to see. And if somebody is willing to pay for it, somebody else will always be willing to sell it. And on the internet, if people are willing to watch it, and advertisers are willing to pay because people are watching it, some idiot will post it on the internet. So accusing the media of doing something just to get attention/money while you film ignorance on Youtube for a living? Yeah, not a great defense. 

Shall we burn this Swedish millennial at the stake as a racist before he brings on the fourth reich? Prolly not. You see, I don’t really know that Pewdiepie even has a racist bone in his body. And unless you know him personally, neither do you. But I do know he’s the face of the largest video sharing website in the world and he’s using the platform to disseminate utter stupidity and ignorance to millions of kids, and whatever his intention, that makes him worse than if he really did want to kill all Jews (assuming he never actually puts it into practice). I don’t watch his videos, and I don’t care about what he thinks about anything whatsoever. But I do know his “humor” has an internet history that I’m going to relate here and put into its proper context to hopefully illustrate why the social issues that people like Felix cause go far beyond simple-minded racism.

Racism is a basic evolutionary and social feature. It’s lizard brain stuff that we as humans are fully capable of intellectualizing away once we’re aware of it, but it’s a fact that people are naturally inclined towards things that look and behave like themselves. Remove intellectual functionality and YOUR country automatically is the best country. YOUR political candidate is the best political candidate. YOUR mom is the best mom. YOUR local sports team is the best sports team. YOUR favorite show is the best show. YOUR way is the best way. YOUR race/gender/sexual orientation is the best race/gender/sexual orientation. And we are not exactly an intellectual people these days. But still, we had at least learned to put a polite face on it for the most part; out of sight out of mind. Civility is the best we can hope for and we had largely attained that, at least in some places.

But the resulting taboo that has sprung up around racism has served to make it fodder for modern edgy humor. In recent years, “death to all jews” and “Hitler did nothing wrong” were mottos bandied about on the internet by trolls for the sake of irony. On 4chan, they used to play a game (and probably still do) where people post links to videos and whichever post number has double digits at the end of it, that video will be targeted with ironic Nazi spam. The randomness of it was the funny. My guess would be that Pewdiepie was once targeted by this and became an admirer.

Now in small doses, this anarchic brand of ironic racism is worth a chuckle. I mean, a Taylor Swift music video getting raided by mass Nazi propaganda posts out of nowhere is Kaufmanesque humor to a T. But in keeping with the theme, I’ll offer up this historical quote: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” The origin of the quote is in question, but it’s usually associated with Hitler and Goebbels. The layers of irony are getting hard to peel away, though, because what began as a series of definite and distinctly ironic jokes has officially blossomed into an actual political creed over the years of mindless repetition. A generation raised on irreverent shitposting has ceased to understand the difference between ironic humor and actual politics due to years of hearing the same garbage in an online echo chamber over and over.

I’m the father of a ten year old son. Every once in a while he does something really insane and gets a room full of people to laugh. Then he does it again and we chuckle politely. Then again and we maybe are still smiling. But eventually I have to tell him to stop because nothing stays funny forever and by repeating it over and over again, obnoxious humor ceases being humorous and becomes just plain obnoxious. It’s like I broke his heart, but it needs to be done if he hopes to learn how to function in social situations.

Likewise, racist humor in small doses can be very funny. But through repetition of the same jokes, eventually the humor will leave and you’ll just be left with the racism, and that’s what has happened to Pewdiepie. He’s taken something that was amusing years ago and has since been spammed into meaninglessness out of the context where it was ever funny at all and repurposed it to impress his audience with his ability to do whatever he knows he shouldn’t just to prove he can. That’s not comedy. That’s childishness. And for an adult man with a massive viewership consisting mainly of children, it’s fucking dangerous.

Children don’t understand the inhuman history of phrases like “death to all Jews” and can’t possibly comprehend the pain it can cause to somebody who was imprisoned for their ethnicity by madmen and then starved and tortured as a scapegoat for a culture that lost its way, or somebody who lost their parents and/or grandparents in an ethnic cleansing so some fascist politician could consolidate his power. These are real people who are walking among us right now. If you can’t see why hearing the hate speech that created that situation in the first place presented to children over and over because some douchebag thinks it’s funny would be a problem, then there is something extremely wrong in your brain.

There is no part of me that supports censorship. If somebody wants to say something racist, sexist, homophobic, or whatever then I thank them for advertising their stupidity to us. It’s like a billboard that tells you whose points of view you can’t take seriously right off the bat. If real life were always that simple and people were more honest about their bullshit, it would eliminate a lot of problems outright. I’m as big a free speech advocate as there is and you will never catch me endorsing laws that limit it.

But here’s the thing: free speech is for everybody. Yeah, you can say “Hitler did nothing wrong” and whether you are joking or dead serious, you’re entitled to that. But we are not obligated to listen. We are entitled to come at you with whatever non-violent response we feel like because freedom of speech isn’t just for you. So if I want to say “Pewdiepie can choke on Hitler’s only testicle and die”, I can do that too. If I happen to be a business owner and Pewdiepie is my employee, I can send him on his merry way because I don’t want him representing my company. And if he’s posting his nonsense on my website, I can delete it and tell him he’s not welcome anymore.

Freedom of expression does not mean freedom from reaction or social consequence. It means the government can’t prosecute you, but it leaves you wide open to whatever “free expression” the rest of us deem fit. And that is why respect and basic decency is important. It’s not only the proper way to interact with your fellow humans, it’s important to your social well being.

So maybe when Disney -a company with a long, shameful, and persistent history of pop racism- decides it’s embarrassed to associate itself with you or a blatant neo-nazi website becomes your most ardent defender, it’s time to reassess who you want to be and how you want to present yourself to the world. It’s not about political correctness. It’s about not being a completely reprehensible piece of shit and modeling for a generation of children to do the same.

There’s a world of difference between the adult-oriented cartoonish social satire of shows like South Park (whose creators have gone on hiatus after determining that real life has become more of a satire now than anything they could make) and Boondocks or Mel Brooks films engaging with racism to portray its ignorance and a real life celebrity spamming hate speech just because he can. The cost of the internet and the freedom of communication it affords is idiots having a platform to say and do whatever they like.

Artists and comedians can construct entertainment that can make us laugh and think at the same time,and in the past only those who could pull it off would rise to the public consciousness. The world is a better place with films like Blazing Saddles in it.  But now anybody and everybody with a computer can appropriate and twist things they don’t understand into something moronic and hateful. And anybody and everybody with a computer can watch them do it.

We can’t adequately police the world wide web or stop children from coming across ignorance there, but we can teach them what is and isn’t right and the difference between the way people act online when they want to earn money for acting stupid and the way they behave in real life when they want people to enjoy being around them. Personal accountability and integrity starts at home and we can’t afford to let kids be raised by Youtubers.

I’ve got a distinctly sick sense of humor and I want to be free to enjoy that, but it’s important that I understand the time and place to express that aspect of myself. With friends in private or on message boards where such people gather to share is fine. Outside of their proper context, these jokes are as likely to be understood as an old school 4channer running around shouting “desudesudesu” in public. You won’t see me making jokes about dead babies in front of my boss who may have lost a child, using the term “rape” carelessly in public, or declaring somebody “my nigga” on social media because I understand that there are people whose life experiences are not the same as mine and what might be amusing to me could be an emotionally devastating misunderstanding for them. Not being an asshole means respecting that.

Doing these kind of things just because you can is creating an environment that none of us is going to want to live in. The cycle of insensitivity and hypersensitivity is getting old and every one of us has the capability to break it, at least for ourselves. It sickens me that the gaming community has become such a focal point of this phenomenon and it has set us back long enough already. We’ve suffered in the underground being labeled as virgins and losers long enough, and with most people playing games now we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be represented en masse as bigots or man-children.

If nothing else, Pewdiepie’s antics have given us a starting point for this conversation. Yes, he and his have lowered the level of what constitutes entertainment to record lows with their spectacular lack of having anything of value to say, coupled with the willingness of millions to spend hours on end listening to them say it is helping to make this world a shittier place one inane video at a time.

And maybe the mainstream media and those modern day Don Quixotes cartoonishly referred to as “social justice warriors” are panicking at this loss of control and reacting poorly by witchhunting for the symptoms of racism and the like when we should all be addressing the disease of a society that has willfully allowed its standards to be lowered to this point. And the only way to do it is the turn our attentions elsewhere. Find better ways to spend our time, and encourage our children to do the same. Hopefully someday we can collectively see somebody acting doofy on Youtube for attention and think “nothing to see here, folks. Just some dope with a webcam with nothing interesting to say.” Now that’s something I’d subscribe to.

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Time to Put the “Keep Your Politics Out of My Games” Fallacy To Bed

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Another week, another childish gaming controversy so silly it would have been taken as satire ten years ago. Right on the heels of Blizzard changing a female character’s victory pose in Overwatch from a classic over-the-shoulder gun pose that tends to show one’s backside as a matter of course to a reproduction of a classic pin-up pose in profile (which also has booty, go figure) as a response to complaints about sexualization and the usual over-the-top reactions to those complaints came the Baldur’s Gate expansion, Siege of Dragonspear, which traumatized some gamers with an extremely brief optional exchange in which a non-player character mentions being transgender.

I know, right? A transgender person in popular media in 2016? Simply terrifying. The real world suddenly seems so big and scary now that a video game world filled with monsters and bizarre non-humanoid sentient races also has stuff from real life. I, for one, am simply mortified. Oh, wait. No. I actually can’t imagine a single thing in the world that would bother me less. Why is it people care again?

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Good job, Mizhena, you just ruined an entire game with four sentences. The industry will never recover from this travesty of writing.

Oh, right. The infamous “SJW shit” being shoehorned in. And written by an honest-to-goodness female, no less. NOW I’m pissed! Who are these female creatures to create and contribute to MY video games? Do they not realize how hard it is for me to get out my bed to play the game they worked to make and have to see people representative of the the world I live in who aren’t me? Some people just have no empathy.

In all seriousness, though, the primary complaint among the sayers of nay is an objection to the writer, Amber Scott, daring to put her own thoughts, feelings, and political leanings into her art. Or as they so clichely put it, “keep your politics out of my games”, as though the thought of politics in entertainment is some new thing just now gaining traction among radical thinkers.

Well, that’s a load of bullshit. I probably don’t have to point out that any statement that begins with “I have nothing against [race/gender/sexual preference/etc.] but….” is an inevitable cringe factory and has no purpose being in anything claiming to be an objective review, but just in case, humor me while I put this ridiculousness in a shallow grave, relieve myself upon it, and be done with it. You know, just in case you aren’t aware of how ridiculous this idea is.

Let’s just assume that the very existence of an individual of any given minority class in a work of fiction even qualifies as a political statement. Even if that extremely flimsy assumption were universally accepted truth (and if we’re accepting that then we’re also accepting the pseudo-feminist assertions that Donkey Kong is a celebration of patriarchal oppression since all things are now apparently political statements), it’s entirely beside the point. The harsh, inescapable truth is that personal politics always have and always will be an integral ingredient of any and every form of art. If you can’t divorce from your own biases enough to get over that fact, then you are divorcing yourself from a genuine appreciation of the finer things in entertainment. This is as true of Gamergaters as it is of Anita Sarkeesian.

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White Knight alert! Turns out the entire fantasy gaming genre was just a subterfuge for the SJW revolution from the get-go. #GGTruth

A Christmas Carol? Anti-capitalist tripe. Portal? A post-feminist parable. Freebird? Faux-sentimental ode to male non-commitment. Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Vegetarian propaganda. Bioshock? Totally jealous of Ayn Rand. Call of Cthulhu? Born of xenophobia. X-Men? Minority oppression much? Layla? Muh sanctity of marriage. Popular art and fiction of every type are fueled by human thoughts, feelings, and values. In other words: politics.

Not a lot of great works ever come into being without their creators putting their own heart and soul into them. Bob Dylan? George Orwell? Stanley Kubrick? Alan Moore? Joss Whedon? Johnny Cash? Would we know any of these people’s names if they didn’t create the things they wanted to see created from their own point of view, off-kilter political values and all?

I believe that some day, gaming developers will earn their place in popular culture among the legends of cinema, literature, television, and music, but only if we let them. It’s time for gamers of all stripes to recognize that whether or not you agree with the thoughts being expressed has no relevance to the value of the work itself. These expressions themselves are a vital part of what separates true art from the chaotic scribblings of toddlers.

So don’t go telling people with a straight face that artists shouldn’t be able to put the things they want to see into their creations. It’s a bad look for an adult. And gods help you if you can say something like that out of one side of your mouth while the other side claims to be anti-censorship. Point is: if an artist can put a shot of a girl’s ass into a video game, the same rights are afforded to a writer who wants to create a transgender character. You can’t have freedom for what you like AND freedom from what everybody else likes at the same time. It’s a two-way street.

When Ms. Scott was asked about her reasoning for putting a transgender character in the game, her response included the following statement: “I consciously add as much diversity as I can to my writing and I don’t care if people think that’s “forced” or fake. I find choosing to write from a straight default just as artificial. I’m happy to be an SJW and I hope to write many Social Justice Games in the future that reach as many different types of people as possible. Everyone should get a chance to see themselves reflected in pop culture.”

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Remember all of those bad reviews for Skyrim carrying on about guards blatantly screaming disabled veteran rhetoric about how they used to be an adventurer ruining the entire game? Me neither.

As hard as it is to take anybody who uses the term “Social Justice” unironically (and as a proper noun, no less) completely seriously, you can at least admire the honesty there. If you’re going to create or contribute, do it unapologetically and openly or don’t do it at all. Honesty equals integrity.

On the other hand, if you’re saying you don’t have anything against LGBT people, but you express offense when a single one shows up in a video game you are playing, then there’s not a person alive who isn’t going to know you’re full of shit. Ditto if you claim to respect women and yet the only people in the gaming industry you feel the need to criticize this excessively happen to all be women in spite of the fact that they make up less than a quarter of the developer workforce.

So sorry, guys: no safe space for you. Reality is a thing and you can’t keep it out forever. Video games are increasing in both sophistication and diversity and no amount of poorly thought out Steam and Metacritic “reviews” that are nothing but semi-coherent off-topic rants barely fit for a message board are going to hold back that tide. Maybe if you speak honestly instead of making up fictional reasons why you’re offended, they’ll put trigger warnings in so your delicate sensibilities can remain unoffended. Probably not, though.

If we want games to continue to progress the worlds of interactive fiction and art to match and exceed other mediums, we need to give the developers the freedom to put themselves into their work without fear, and to do that we need to treat the medium and its creators with the same respect we want for ourselves and learn to tell the difference between our own problems and somebody else’s.

Criticism is fine, but it needs to be warranted and “keep your politics out of my game” is not a valid criticism or request any more than “stop liking things I don’t like” is. We all have our own preferences and the right and ability to indulge them, but we have neither the right nor ability to alter anybody else’s preferences and we need to recognize that and learn the difference between actually saying something and just making noise. And lately, gamers haven’t been saying much but they’ve been making a lot of noise.

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ACTUALLY, IT’S ABOUT TRANGENDERISM IN GAMES JOURNALISM!

Video games are fun for everyone, all sorts of people like to play them, and it’s a natural progression that as the means to create deeper worlds and characters would bring, you know, more depth. That means more nuanced ideas, more diverse characters, and more stretching of boundaries of all sorts.

If you’re going to let a little thing like traditional gender roles from the 1950’s hold back your enjoyment of gaming, then I wonder what kind of gamer you are. Getting past obstacles is our stock and trade, and as far as dilemmas go getting over fictional representations of transgenderism in fantasy worlds in order to enjoy a video game is no Dark Souls or Battletoads. When one approach doesn’t work, we try another and another until we find one that does, and this nonsense simply is not working. So let’s get past this level and move on to the next, yeah?  

Is Releasing Unfinished Games Becoming the New Industry Standard?

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A few years ago the notion that people would pay full price for an incomplete game that might theoretically be finished via updates around the time that it cost half as much would be laughable. Usually I am on the laughing side when angry gamers take to Metacritic to give great games 0/10 scores because they found a single glitch, one feature they liked from the previous game that’s missing, day one DLC, or online hiccups upon release. “I feel like I just paid $60 for an alpha build” they said. “DON’T PREORDER EVER” they said. In my experience, the games were not so much unfinished as unpolished at worst. They were still playable and fun. Relax and enjoy, alarmists.

But you know what? Maybe they were right on some level. Not necessarily about any given game, but the cries that video game developers are trending towards releasing unfinished products and taking advantage of customers by charging them full price for alpha and beta builds have officially been vindicated in my eyes. After delivering my article about how Street Fighter brought fighting games back from the brink of obscurity, I literally counted down the seconds on my console until I could play my pre-downloaded digital copy of Street Fighter V. What greeted me on night one was literally an unplayable mess. Shame, Capcom. Shame.

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Burn.

Maybe if I was a PC gamer I’d have paid more attention to the Diablo 3 and Sim City debacles. Destiny had some online connection issues on release, but nothing like this. Let me break this down for those lucky readers who passed on Capcom’s latest. The game doesn’t even have the single player basics of the genre; no Arcade or single player Versus modes. It has a story mode that takes literally five minutes per character to beat, and a survival mode that takes far too long past easy difficulty, but in order to earn your rewards and currency for completing even those modes you have to be logged into the server. And the server often didn’t let you in and kicked you out every few minutes when you did get in, making it nearly impossible to play unless you were happy playing with infinite health bars in training mode. I was not.

I know that with every gamer in the world trying to play the newest and hottest game at the same time, there are bound to be issues, but knowing that why do developers insist on tying even the single-player content into the servers? I mean, they’ve told us that we’ll be able to earn future DLC using in-game currency. It’s a big part of the reason I preordered. But if I can’t earn it because doing so is entirely dependent on being online, how do you justify it? I feel a rant coming on so cover the children’s eyes. This might get ugly.

If I play the game offline will I get my rewards for my accomplishments when I connect later, will I need to do it again, or will it just be my loss? They’ve estimated that if we grind every mode with every character for a month and/or win online daily we might be able to get enough “fight money” to purchase a new character. I am not about to risk missing out on my precious finite rewards and I should be able to just play the goddamn game offline without worrying about this shit in the first place.

Multiple main menu options are blacked out inform you that they will be coming in March. Really? HOW ABOUT YOU PUT THE FUCKING GAME OUT IN MARCH, THEN!? I’d have waited. We all would have waited. And no, I don’t want to hear about fiscal quarters. I’d just like to play the game I bought. How is it this game has had three online beta tests and the servers were still utterly unprepared for the online aspect that the entire experience is tied into?

A couple weeks before the game came out I had this weird feeling like I needed to cancel my physical preorder. I actually did. No real reason, I just wasn’t really feeling right about it. Intuition, I guess. The second beta wasn’t that impressive, but the third one was really fun and I ended up intellectualizing myself into preordering a digital copy to get that killer PS4 theme and awesome Chun Li outfit. Sadly, those two things weren’t worth $60, and that’s about all I had to show for my purchase in the first twenty-four hours of Street Fighter V.

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“Tell the gamers you’re sorry for Capcom’s bullshit, comrade Nash. SAY IT!”

Two matches, a headache, and a sinking sense of shame is all I got for the five hours I spent with the game on release night. You know what would have been a better use of my time and money? Literally anything else. A consumer should never feel that way about a product with this much behind it. It reminds me of the online launch of Grand Theft Auto V except when you couldn’t get on to play multiplayer, there was still the insane amount of single player content to fall back on. Increasing the dependency on online servers while decreasing everything else is a recipe for disaster.

I applauded Capcom heartily when they announced they were making future DLC free or purchasable with in-game currency. It beats the hell out releasing a new version of the same game every year, yeah? But having had hands on the (un)finished product, it occurs to me that they announced this knowing damn well that the game was not going to make its deadline in order to put a positive spin on releasing what is (literally this time) a beta build of the game at retail price. This sort of thing has been sneaking into our lives more and more, but to my knowledge it has never been done so blatantly.

So is this what we can expect now from AAA releases? It was bad enough when games are released with save-wiping glitches, crashes, and day one DLC that was clearly built into the game and then locked out, but this is on a different level. This is one of gamings’ most revered and storied franchises making its current-gen debut. This is a game with immensely shallow stories told in static drawings with voiceover. A bigger story is supposedly coming out in the summer, although it sounds like it’s going to be very small as well for such a delay.

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Consumers vs. Dodgy Corporate Ethics. Round 2: Fight!

BlazBlue is a comparatively tiny fighting franchise, but Chronophantasma’s story mode bordered on a full season’s worth of television upon release and there were tons of features. Plus you earn the in-game currency whether you’re online or not and there’s plenty to spend it on. Why is it they can deliver so much more with what one assumes is a much smaller budget? Street Fighter V’s in-game store won’t be available until next month so you can’t even unlock the outfits you see in the game.

Given the franchise’s worldwide success and the years of development, Street Fighter fans would be well within theirrights to expect premium full motion cutscenes and a wealth of game modes from any new release. But as gamers we will always settle for just a quality game. Scratch that: a PLAYABLE quality game. Thankfully, within twenty-four hours these online issues were ironed out and I was joyfully unleashing nasty critical arts upon the faces of my foes, but that doesn’t excuse this growing trend.

A preorder is a statement of trust in a developer or property and the more companies break that trust, the more unsatisfied and weary consumers are going to get,and the closer the game industry is going to bring itself to full collapse. You never get a second chance to make a first impression and next time Capcom comes out with a major release, I’m going to be extremely skeptical. I’ve had many wonderful launch night gaming memories over the years with massive multiplayer franchises over the years. It stinks that there’s this black mark now and it really seems like these sorts of experiences are steadily increasing. Be afraid, fellow gamers.

And there you have it: the happy-go-lucky rational gaming advocate turned into the very sort of raging alarmist he used to mock complete with visions of old white men (even though they’re probably Japanese) smoking cigars and laughing while plotting to exploit our love of gaming dancing in my head. I’d like to think this is going to get better, but I’ve been thinking that and it is clearly getting worse. Will release night for our favorite games soon become a source of trepidation and stress instead of pure gamer joy? Stay tuned.

    

Zoe Quinn: Internet Villainess or Victim?

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If you’re reading this, I assume you’ve got an internet connection and an interest in video games so you most likely have heard of the ongoing firestorm surrounding independent game developer Zoe Quinn. If not, let’s recap. Ms. Quinn created a text adventure game called Depression Quest with the intention of putting an interactive story simulating the worldview and experiences of a person suffering from mental health issues into the world.

It’s a great idea, but the quality of the game isn’t the issue. It’s the tactics Quinn has allegedly employed to promote her game. Late last year, she pulled from feminist lighting rod Anita Sarkeesian’s playbook and began a campaign against a male-centric internet gamer stronghold  which led to the usual overwhelming troll backlash which led to the expected feedback loop of controversy and victimization. Things were said, posts were deleted, allegations were made, yadda yadda yadda. Business as usual. Welcome to the internet.

Fast forward to present day and Quinn’s ex-boyfriend starts a blog chronicling evidence that she cheated on him with several game journalists (the now-fabled “five guys”) in order to publicize Depression Quest. The internet officially loses its collective shit. While I personally would discourage people being unfaithful to their significant others, I’ve got to ask you something: would you bat an eye over a male who was accused of sleeping with female journalists? And how do you suppose the male gaming community would react to a spurned ex-girlfriend tearfully shaming this hypothetical man with an obsessively comprehensive blog?

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A good guess.

To further muddy the waters, Quinn has been accused of using her ill-gotten clout in the industry to embark on a campaign of suppression towards all sites that publish pieces critical of her. Now, I don’t know if you or her know how this here internet works, but I do know that you can’t stop the proliferation of controversy once it begins. The attempted censorship of the net has only served to intensify criticism and bring much more attention to something that was never really worthy of it in the first place.

An up-and -comer in the industry used every means at their disposal to succeed, including sex and manipulation of social media? Call the ethics police! No aspiring businessperson has ever had such a breach of morality! THIS IS A BIG DEAL!!! No friends, I was joking. It’s really not. In fact, if you swap the star player’s gender, you don’t even have a story of interest. No great justice to be doled out here, folks. Just people being people.

So while I may personally disagree with Zoe Quinn’s conduct and handling of the issue, I really can’t pretend that all this nonsense spreading across message boards far and wide is worth our time. Even the time I took me to write this. I understand that there are people on the internet who get their kicks by trying to upset people with rape threats and other childishness and have nothing better to do than dox people and harass them by phone and email for any reason they can think of, but enough is enough.depression quest

While former Miss Troll-Me U.S.A. Anita Sarkeesian may have been a media parasite feeding on the gaming community by preying on peoples’ political insecurities without putting anything of value back into the community to change the tropes she so loathes, Quinn’s saga began by creating a game to fill a perceived gap. She’s not some outsider profiting off of us by tearing us down. She’s one of ours. As a woman in the industry, making games according to her own vision and publicizing them is the correct thing to do. Any shithead with a keyboard or webcam can criticize, but the only thing really worth doing when you feel everybody is doing it wrong is to get off your ass and do it right. She put up, and as such we’ve no right to tell her to shut up.

There’s a quantifiable and widespread discrepancy in gender representation in the gaming industry. One might argue that the male domination is due to men doing the most with the often generous portions they’re given to succeed. It’s an industry that a lot of people want to get into right now and if you want to stand out, you’ve got to work it.

It’s a bit disturbing that so many people on the internet expend the time and energy they do throwing virtual stones over petty things as often as they do. Are we the video game development ethics special forces now, sniffing out sexual misconduct in the industry wherever we find it (in a female)? Or are we just a bunch a bunch of bandwagon-hopping misanthropes whose insecurity is so out of our control that we resort to blatant sexism or self-victimization while disguising it as justice to make ourselves feel important? We can do better.

Ethics and success rarely share the same bed (hence my own perma-loser status) but until women can get on more equal footing with men in the industry, it’s fairly indefensible to take a female developer to task over her personal life. As long as she keeps attempting to push forward games as an art form, she can have sex with all of the men for all I care. Every. Last. Man. Out of all possible timelines, there’s no alternate universe where Zoe Quinn’s sex life is my business. Or yours. Unless, of course, you happen to be the boyfriend who kicked off this shitshow, and if you are I appreciate and understand the pain of being deceived by a loved one, but this ain’t the way to deal with it, man.

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All right, he’s not all that bad, but as far as corruption in the industry goes: come on, guys. Please don’t tell me you’ve ever in your adult life believed that the media was some pristine purveyor of truth, transparency, and honesty looking out for your best interests rather than manipulating you for their own profits. And if you do believe that, I hate to be the one to tell you, but it ain’t so, kid. It never has been nor will be.

The video game industry is no different. It exists to make money off of you and me first and foremost, and it does so by playing off of our interests and perceptions. And there’s nothing we can do about it other than ignore it. We love playing video games and will pay money to do so. This makes us targets for people who want that money we are willing to do what it takes to get it. And so long as we are willing to pay for something they can provide, they’ll get our money. This is business.

Now along comes the digital generation; free information and an unlimited capacity to say whatever the hell you want to whoever you want with the entire world as an audience whether you know what the hell you’re talking about or not. Word gets out that large companies are disingenuous in their dealings with their customers and the media. Disillusionment sets in, but we don’t stop playing. We can’t. Time to burn off some youthful aggression instead.

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Can anyone who loves kitties this much be all bad?

Can we take down the very companies who provide us with the things we love? Not so much. By now, we should all know that professional reviews and coverage are largely built on a pay-to-play model, but since bringing down massive sites like IGN and Kotaku isn’t really doable either, people have set their sites on something smaller. Say, a single person who was unlucky enough to get caught in the act of exploiting the system and exposed.

So does Zoe’s supposed “Quinnspiracy” of using industry contacts gained through nefarious means to suppress the hate campaign against her make her the victim, or the villain? Like with most things in life, the answer is likely a bit of both. Did she cross lines of ethics to publicize her game and screw over somebody who cared for her in the process? I don’t believe that’s in argument, so yeah, assuming it’s all true, she done goofed. But ironically, the very people who criticize her for playing the victim in the past have gone and made her the real thing with this futile tantrum of a smear campaign and the misogyny that it represents, and in doing so have taken the focus away from the issue of industry corruption.

If any or all of us were subjected to this kind scrutiny over everything we’ve done wrong in our lives, I don’t think too many of us are coming off smelling of roses. The shit-slinging is accomplishing nothing but making the gaming community look like naive, hateful children lashing out at whatever they can find because the world’s not fair. So let’s just step back, take a deep breath, and find something better to do where we can burn off all that excess energy and have a good time doing it. Rather than obsessing about the particulars of how they get publicized, I might suggest actually playing some video games instead and judging them based on how much we enjoy them. Just a thought.

Nepotism and media manipulation in game journalism isn’t going away any more than spawn-camping in first person shooters or corner-trapping in fighting games are. They’re all just unfortunate symptoms of human nature. So let’s do ourselves a favor and spend more time doing things to make ourselves happy and less time trying to make everyone else unhappy. Spreading misery amongst your own community is just shooting yourself in the foot.fine young capitalists

And if you still feel the need to do something to show Zoe Quinn and her posse that you don’t approve of her brand of publicity without looking like a douche, do something positive and give some love to The Fine Young Capitalists, who are an equalist organization hosting an indie game jam for which they’ve accepted concepts for video games from female applicants with the proceeds split between the winner and charity in an attempt to induce more participation from women in an industry where only 2% of games are designed by them.

They claim Quinn has undercut them in an attempt to divert attention (and donations) towards her own similar-yet- unspecified jam and their site was suspiciously hacked when the anti-Quinn movement began donating to them. So rather than focusing on sex lives and industry corruption and social justice gone wild, how about channeling that indignation into something constructive instead and possibly helping someone get their game made in spite of said corruption? It beats raging across the internet about the unfairness of it all and accomplishing nothing.