“What Games Mean to Me” by Ian Miles Cheong

Reading all of this may disappoint you or it may not. But it is what I believe.

Some of my recent tweets about not dehumanizing gamers got a lot of attention in the past few days. I’ve been asked a lot of questions on where I stand on several important issues. I’ve decided to write this post to clarify where I stand now because I’ve spent the past couple months thinking about my beliefs, where I stand, and what gaming means to me.

I’ve been playing a lot of The Witcher 3 recently, and in doing so, it’s given me ample opportunity to reflect upon my thoughts and actions over the recent past. The Witcher 3 is in many ways represents what makes me a gamer. Expressing this through words and getting lost in digital worlds means everything to me.

I lost sight of what I cared about the most: writing about gaming experiences. I let myself get absorbed by Twitter drama and ideological warfare, forgetting about the games that inspired me. When I saw the two reviews of The Witcher 3 that fixated on how it wasmisogynist and sexist, I started thinking more about representations in the media. I’ve always believed in critiquing media instead of condemning it. I believe it’s possible to enjoy any media without demonizing those who do, or its creators.

To go along that vein, I read reviews and op-eds condemning Life is Strange for being written by male writers. Life is Strange is a great, well-written game–I’ve said as much in my own review of the game’s first episode. Among the condemnation I read of the game was that men are incapable of writing good women characters. In addition to Life is Strange, the recently released Mad Max: Fury Road proves otherwise yet still received similar complaints. I just can’t endorse these complaints: Imperator Furiosa may well go down in history as one of the best-written female characters in the past 20 years, and she was written by a man, George Miller.

Similar condemnation was levied upon Joss Whedon for his direction of The Avengers: Age of Ultron in the movie’s depiction of Scarlett Johansson’s character, Black Widow. Given the ferocity of the rage against Whedon, anyone unfamiliar with his work could easily be led to believe that Whedon was part of the problem rather than a solution. Surely if you dislike how a character is written personally–finding qualms with her weaknesses and complexities as a character–it still doesn’t justify saying she’s worse than no effort being made to include women or portray them as complex individuals with agency.

Over the past few years I got swept up in the social justice movement. I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with social justice at an idea, but as a movement, it’s a different story. Despite having ideals, it’s easy to get lost in a mire of insults and dehumanizing attacks when engaged in a heated “battle” over social media. It’s nice to feel like you’re winning an argument by pounding the opposition into dust, but in doing so, we often dehumanize others destroying any opportunity for discourse. This is my sin.

I contributed to an atmosphere of intolerance and aggression.  It may seem hypocritical for me to rail against “outrage” in recent tweets. I sought something to oppose. I found a variety of issues to be outraged by because it gave me a sense of purpose. I was crusading for a cause, fighting for a noble goal. Wherever I saw “injustice” and microaggressions, I pounced–even in situations where there was nothing to pounce upon. It was the principle (of whatever issue I was opposing at the time) that mattered, I’d lead myself to believe. And yet, I find myself asking now how these issues even matter when it caused hurt to others. I am sorry If I’ve ever hurt you.

I believe some criticisms were credible. For example, when it comes to Pillars of Eternity and the transgender joke that missed the mark, I think that it was within reason to have the backer change it. It offended some people who deal with really horrible discrimination. They should have a way to not live in a world where their gaming experience reminds them of this. However, I cannot support shaming the backer who thought it was funny, nor Obsidian for leaving it in. Attacking individuals over petty disagreements is unacceptable. Tolerance is the cornerstone to public discourse; in this case, it got changed pretty quickly and why did Obsidian have to be dragged through the mud even further?

At the inception of GamerGate, regardless of the movement’s origins, many gamers were painted with broad brushstrokes as “obtuse shitslingers” and “wailing hyperconsumers”, demonized for the crime of liking video games. I joined in the chorus of dehumanizing voices, attacking my fellow gamers. I was completely intolerant. I was being an ass. I had lost my way. I had no right to dehumanize nor attack gamers as a whole.

It’s common for my personality to seek something to oppose–something to rally against, to be in opposition to. That’s who I am, and it’s not something that’ll likely ever change. However, coming to terms with myself and recognizing this as a facet of my personality allows me to channel my drive into more constructive endeavors. Instead of attacking people and dehumanizing them in the process, I will strive to be more positive in my approach and engage with others on a human level, seeing them not as problems to be tackled but people to work with. After all, we’re all stuck here together on this planet and no amount of wishful thinking about going to Mars is ever going to change that.

(original source: http://stillgray.com/post/119992928665/what-games-mean-to-me)


Courtesy of: @atlasnodded
Courtesy of: @atlasnodded