I’ve written and rewritten this post maybe five times now, because I always feel what I’ve put down on the page isn’t really what I want to talk about. I mean, yes, the games in my list are good. Yes, there’s a theme going this year about sequels and spiritual successors and games standing on their own two feet away from their legacy. Honestly, if you want that, it’s all in the video. It is not my specific intention to retread that ground here.
What I want to talk about is this past year. When I sent out Game of the Year e-mails a month ago, saying what we should and shouldn’t do (since, for whatever reason, I became content editor on Nitrobeard years ago), I included a line that still seems off to even me. I told the rest of the Nitrobeard crew something simple: “Let’s not talk about Gamergate this year.” My thinking was that Game of the Year lists weren’t really the place for that, they’re supposed to be a celebration of what games got right and not a condemnation of people. Some people listened, some people didn’t, and we ended up glossing over the issue in the actual overall podcast.
Over time, I started to feel bad about that. I still think that videos aren’t really the place for it, but I don’t want the issue confused at all, we’re not afraid to say we’re anti-Gamergate. We’re against harassment in whatever full-throated voice we can be. We don’t accept the idea that people can do things in your name without condemnation, that movements can claim to be for something while still operating as independent rioters in a mob.
The idea that Gamergate is about journalistic ethics is like saying Dreams of my Real Father is an actual documentary with a legitimate, ethical goal and not just race-baiting, agenda-driven nonsense. I don’t say this as a gamer or as anti-gamergate or whatever, I say this as someone that went to journalism school, got my degree, studied the subject internationally, and has worked on books specifically about ethical guidelines in journalism. What gamergate is talking about isn’t ethics – there’s nothing ethical about censoring opinion pieces or wanting objective criticism. You can prefer those things, sure, but that makes you stubborn and close-minded, not some sort of warrior on the side of the angels.
A friend of mine agreed with the idea that silence is not complicity because he doesn’t want to get involved in things like this. To him, this isn’t video games and he’d just rather view them as a medium than concern himself with the periphery. That’s certainly a perspective, but it’s not one I find myself agreeing with. Maybe it’s because of my own life context or maybe it is specifically because video games mean so much to me that I am not sure I can accept a concerted effort to push people out. Whether it’s women, people of different races, or even just people who think differently, we should be making room because a bigger tent benefits us all. And even if it didn’t, we should be people first and foremost and never even consider harassment as an option.
Despite what I thought earlier, we have to take the good and bad in 2014. There’s still work to be done, because we as a community have regressed years in the blink of an eye – or rather, this was always hiding below the surface and somehow only now chose to come up. The timing doesn’t matter as much as how we choose to deal with it. When most of this stuff was flaring up, someone tweeted my own address at me after I went on a bit of a rant, so to some extent, I think part of me was scared into silence. I realize now I can’t really do that, that people who try to scare you into not talking about something just get louder to fill up the newly-empty space.
I hope and pray that 2015 will be a good year – for you, for me, for everyone who believes we can have civil discussions without insidious motives or have positions of honest disagreement without fear of emotional or physical reprisal. I think it can be and I think it will be, as long as we keep trying to make our own worlds bigger instead of smaller.
But yes, Bayonetta 2 is a really good game and you should play it.
- Imran Khan, Nitrobeard.com