Over the past two months, many video game developers and journalists have had to wake up and go to sleep bothered, pestered, insulted, and threatened - or worse: Phil Fish, and especially women like Brianna Wu, Zoe Quinn, and Anita Sarkeesian have had great reason to be fearful of their privacy, safety, and well-being, after being targeted with threats of death.
This is wrong and needs to stop. Period.
No matter what you think of their allegiances, your allegiances, or my allegiances, we all know video games are far and beyond toxic enough that game developers have to institute specific behavioural programs to combat the issue. The fact is, our favourite brand of entertainment can bring out the worst in us - especially behind nicknames, pseudonyms, and avatars.
There exists a miserable undercurrent of hateful, racist, misanthropic, even flat-out psychopathic behaviour that goes on in the chats, the forums, and the waiting rooms of video games all the time - day in, day out. We all know this is ultimately not okay, but we let it slide. After all, it doesnâ€™t quite invade our personal space. Ultimately, you can always tune out at the end of the day.
For some, however, the rise of #gamergate has taken that freedom away. It has broken the walls between, and let all this toxicity in, organized, distilled, focused. I donâ€™t think we quite realized how bad it was - not until it crept up, both with false pretences and seemingly good intentions, and allowed a full-on troll brigade into the offices, living rooms, and bedrooms of your least and most favourite journalists and developers.
Suddenly, it has greenlighted harassment, hate speech, and pure misanthropy - with the addition of all the borderline-illegal, borderline-criminal tools that are to be found in the seedy underbelly of the internet.
No matter what you think is ‘rightâ€™ or ‘wrongâ€™ about video game journalism and development right now, it is not okay for a private person (again: no matter who) to have their private space so profoundly molested, and so thoroughly eradicated. We need to agree on that. It is not right for a private person to suffer so much undue abuse, so much victim-blaming, victim-shaming, and so much flat-out inhuman treatment.
No matter what you think about ‘the issueâ€™, it is not okay for a human being to go to sleep fearful of their safety and security. Does it happen? Yes, everywhere in the world, for a multitude of reasons: war, illness, poverty, famine. Is it okay? No. It is not okay. Helping contribute to this list of suffering should make you reconsider your priorities. If you have found yourself part of a movement (like #gamergate) that aligns itself with such behaviour, then you need to reconsider your allegiances.
You are not that person.
As you are probably aware, the international community of video game reviewers is by all means not very large. Yet video game journalism, in its entirety, is much, much better than ever. And still, good, skilled reviewers - and reviews - are damn hard to find. What does this mean? It means that those few currently writing for you are passionate, motivated, fantastic people. People that are utterly bummed out by this troll brigade. People that were doing their best. Joyless in this already-thankless business.
Many of us, including myself, are afraid, tired, worn out, and worst of all - emotionally burned out, tuning out, and thinking about getting out. Fear, anger, emotional bribery, constraint, enforcement, and manipulation - these are not things that good reviews are made of.
Video game journalists are people too, and deserve to be treated as such. Letâ€™s give them that. Not more, not less. Not asking for silky gloves or special treatment. Those were never on the table in the first place.