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Rant: The Games Industry

As gamers salivate over The Last of Us and BioShock Infinite wondering if those titles are the Citizen Kane of the gaming medium, I have to ask myself if Orson Welles ever encountered anonymous trolls calling him a fucking f*ggot that should kill himself.

Depending on the news source, you probably read yesterday that Phil Fish had a meltdown on Twitter and cancelled Fez 2, or that he was harassed by gamers and reporters until he had enough and left the industry. I have to admit that on Twitter I tried to stay neutral by stating that while Fish came off like a hot-headed diva and overreacted, game writers need to be held accountable for their actions. However, the more I thought about it and spoke to fellow game writers, the more it became clear that the recurring problem in this industry is, well, this industry.

Game journalists pull their hair out over measly pay to raise this medium into high esteem, but why? This industry is toxic and cruel, where indie developers like Fish are made or destroyed by social media and their personalities, and ones like Cliff Bleszinski are vehemently protected regardless of what they say. I am barely a game maker and avoid the title of "journalist" as I mostly construct analyses and opinion pieces, but as a woman in this industry, I get (at best) misoygnist remarks on the daily and (at worst) rape and death threats on Twitter, Facebook, and in my email a few times a week. Breaking into the clique of games writing can be a nauseating venture on its own, but when you are constantly being told by people that you deserve to be beaten, it starts to wear your skin a little thin.

You may say the problem here is anonymity on the Internet and not the fault of the games industry. However, if the industry does not encourage this kind of harassment on minorities like myself or developers like Fish, where are they when it actually happens? The suits of the industry won't protect you as long as dollar signs keep flashing in their eyes. So we rely on smaller communities to create safe spaces for ourselves to continue enjoying a hobby that most of us grew up with, but the fact is these communities are not self-sufficient. We still need to pander to huge gaming expos and media outlets that are filled with toxicity and exclusivity in order to pay our bills and sleep under roofs.

Why do we keep feeding into a machine that slaps us back in the face? For myself, I want to see change. The norm in this industry is as follows: post thoughts on gender, race, privilege or bullying and then wait with bated breath for the slurs, insults, and accusations of having a social agenda. We should be able to speak our minds without having to cancel projects or go into hiding from social media. We should be able to point out the bullies in the room and escort them out instead of hiding behind the cowardice of, "WELP! That's the Internet for you!" This isn't happening, though. The people who speak up are terrorized by other gamers to the point of mental exhaustion.

And while this is all happening in plain sight, writers still would rather talk about the Citizen Kane of video games. For fuck's sake.

Comments

  • Elizabeth Grys 6 years, 4 months ago

    Don't get me wrong, I couldn't agree with you more that this is all almost cromagnon. However, a point -

    "However, if the industry does not encourage this kind of harassment on minorities like myself or developers like Fish, where are they when it actually happens? The suits of the industry won't protect you as long as dollar signs keep flashing in their eyes."

    The suits of the industry are never going to protect you. It's just business. Whatever sells best or sounds best they'll preach, but acting on it could alienate customers. So they take the safe route to keep profits up.

    It's impossible to expect the industry to fix all of this rabid hate. For a large part, this falls to individuals who are just ignorant assholes. They're the people that need to be cured of telling women or PoC they're worth less than anyone else.

    The way I've always seen this is as an epidemic in the entire gaming community. It's going to take the same approach used to stomp out TB, or trying for HIV/AIDS, for example. You do everything you can to educate people about the problem, but "curing" it is by removing it from each person.

    It's our job as mature gamers, and people, to cut this shit off at the roots. If we don't do it, no one else will.

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  • Chad1954 6 years, 4 months ago

    The gaming industry has changed so drastically over the course of 20 years that it's becoming a "big deal". By that I mean its become a legit economic system in itself. The "rules" haven't really been made yet and the laws that exist are outdated and barely apply. Yet with it becoming a "big deal", no one outside of the industry wants to take it seriously. It's a problem wrapped up in a conundrum, stuck in a quagmire. It's turning into a monster, the question is when it will all blow up in our faces or when someone will step in to tame the beast.

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  • Frank Hartnett 6 years, 4 months ago

    I feel more people in the industry don't talk about this subject because they're either afraid of backlash or willfully ignore it. I, personally, feel it's the latter. Whenever you devote so much time into a particular industry, not just gaming, one begins to elevate it to a level higher than it may deserve. So many people in the gaming industry want gaming to be taken seriously, to break through that current stigma our society has on the subject, and become a legitimate entity that isn't looked down upon by mainstream media and politicians. When you try so desperately to achieve these things, it becomes hard to admit your own industry's faults. Mainly because you wouldn't want to.

    How many people who work in main stream media do you think are even aware of the constant harassment that happens online? I would be willing to bet very few. Hell, the fact two people are in jail over sarcastic threats made online is enough proof people outside the industry have no clue at all how common those occurrences really are. No one wants to talk about all the shit that happens in the industry because, if they did, there would never be new gamers coming into it. The ones who aren't bigots and ass hats would all run away as fast as they could. And, to the suits, that would just mean less money from people buying games/going to gaming websites.

    I'm not going to say all of this only happens in the gaming industry. There are definitely people outside of it who have the same mentality. I feel all of that becomes exasperated because of this industry's close ties to the internet. Let's face it, the internet is nothing more than a wretched hive of scum and villainy. It has imposed this behavior upon people that being an ass hat is acceptable and even encourages people to harass those that are just being nice or civil. When an industry has to rely solely on the internet to sustain itself, yeah, you're gonna draw those people in by the dozens.

    That's not to say we should ignore their behavior. I mean, several sites have already changed their comment moderation policies because of an open letter. Sure, more sites could have, but that shows not everyone is willing to ignore these issues. Change takes time; however, and the internet has had a long time to fester and spew out horrible people whose behaviors never went opposed. This is finally beginning to change, but it's still going to take a long time before it becomes more widespread.

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    • Moom 6 years, 4 months ago

      Couldn't say it better myself. The games industry is a place where a giant purple dildo bat is delivered to people who pay money for it. People need to realize entertainment is not an essential and not to take it too seriously. I mean come on, if you are looking for "The Citizen Kane of Games" then you don't actually understand what video games are.

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      • theottomatic91 6 years, 4 months ago

        Pretty much what I wanted to say but in a much more well written manner, oh and Moom brings up a great point as well "Citizen Kane of Games" really? Video games are video games it pisses me off the amount of people that forget this and want it to change to something that suits there ridiculous needs.

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  • Sickbrain 6 years, 4 months ago

    What "industry suits" should actually be doing, screaming "you kids, play nice on the Internet"? The bigger your name the more harassment you get on the net regardless in what industry you're working at, being it movies, gaming, covering politics... If Fish can't ignore people on Twitter, then block them, can't block them, then don't use Twitter if you can't handle trash talk.

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    • theottomatic91 6 years, 4 months ago

      Also another great point made. When you willingly sign up for twitter you should be ready for any type of harassment (it sounds wrong but honestly this is the internet) regardless of who you are or what field you work in there will always be critics. If its too much for you then you really shouldn't be on sites such as Twitter/Facebook to begin with.

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      • caroline 6 years, 4 months ago

        "We should be able to point out the bullies in the room and escort them out instead of hiding behind the cowardice of, "WELP! That's the Internet for you!""

        Soha is talking about doing exactly NOT this.

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        • theottomatic91 6 years, 4 months ago

          Which is exactly why its silly a reason there will always be negative people just as there are positive people (not just on the internet). I find it stupid to get rid of the 'bad people who say mean things' just because you don't like it, the simple solution is simply to ignore them because they do damage to you only if you let them and give them attention.

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          • Moom 6 years, 4 months ago

            The issue is we look way too hard for the bad when we should be looking at the good things and celebrate those things. Things like Childsplay, Molyjam, progress in the medium through gameplay and story telling, unique individuals in the industry, the celebration of the medium through events like PAX, RTX, Evo and video streams like the one 4Player has. Yes there is bad in this world but there is also a lot of good. If we forget about those things then what the hell is life worth living for?

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            • Moom 6 years, 4 months ago

              Just to be clear, I'm not saying that we should ignore the bad stuff in the idustry (ie. Sexism, homophobia, racism, bullying, abuse and other -isms and negative phobias) those things are important to be made aware of but we should be trying harder to look for the good stuff because it is absolutely there.

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    • Ash 6 years, 4 months ago

      Word dude.

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  • Necbromancer 6 years, 4 months ago

    For the record, Citizen Kane was shitpanned at the time it was released by the general public, and was delayed for release because Hollywood was literally trying to stop the movie from ever coming out. Major theater chains boycotted the film and RKO literally tried to have all prints and negatives destroyed.

    I'm sure Welles would much rather have been called gay by some shitheel standing on a streetcorner.

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  • Ash 6 years, 4 months ago

    The film industry is the fuckin' worst, man.

    Welles has to deal with early mob money and shit, not getting trolled.

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  • DrGonzo2 6 years, 4 months ago

    Why is this even an issue worth talking about? The internet is filled with assholes and trolls who love to push people's buttons? Like we haven't known that for the past 10 years or so. The mainstream media and the internet at large as a way of representing society as a whole is meaningless and does the opposite effect. Let's just move on.

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    • mcstrokeable 6 years, 4 months ago

      It is an issue worth talking about, because it is an issue that needs to be fixed. But, that is all i can say with out sounding like a complete ass / idiot.

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      • DrGonzo2 6 years, 4 months ago

        And I would argue that trying to make people not become assholes on the internet is absolutely impossible given how that's how society is and we just have to tolerate it.

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        • Elizabeth Grys 6 years, 4 months ago

          I refuse to believe you are so apathetic and lazy that you don't want to deal with an issue because it's "hard".

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          • jeffytheseamonster 6 years, 4 months ago

            I'm glad we have we have people like you guys to tell us that were lazy or apathetic. Just because you see text on a screen that offends you, it doesn't mean were lazy or apathetic it means that we don't see it as an issue. You ever hear the phrase "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words never hurt me". I see video game "journalist" everywhere pump out articles about the industry and it's effects on society whether it be about gender (a problem that will eventually be solved when video games become more mainstream), sexuality, race, age, or any other thing that is supposedly a reflection of the world and society. You also got to remember the type of person Phil Fish is. Remember indie game the movie he said he would kill himself if Fez didn't end up on XBLA. Mean comments are not the end of the world. Some would like to video game sites go back to talking and writing about the games themselves.

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            • Frank Hartnett 6 years, 4 months ago

              This would fall under that whole "willfully ignore" bit I posted above. <_<

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              • jeffytheseamonster 6 years, 4 months ago

                No it doesn't I just don't see this as an issue.

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                • Frank Hartnett 6 years, 4 months ago

                  Point proven.

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                  • jeffytheseamonster 6 years, 4 months ago

                    How so

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                    • Frank Hartnett 6 years, 4 months ago

                      You said it yourself. "Some would like video game sites to go back to talking and writing about the games themselves." That is willfully ignoring the issues this industry has. Going more "mainstream" won't solve the problem because even mainstream media has them. I should also point out mean comments ARE the end of the world for some. I would recommend doing some research on how many people's lives were ruined by online harassment.

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                      • jeffytheseamonster 6 years, 4 months ago

                        "Some would like video game sites to go back to talking and writing about the games themselves." how is this willfully ignoring I want to see mechanics, music, . Second part is true.I'm going to assume that most of the people who had their lives ruined by online harassment also had their personal information up on the internet. I think they received a fair warning for that.

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                        • Frank Hartnett 6 years, 4 months ago

                          That's fine if you want to see those things, but you then can't say those issues don't exist or aren't a problem. If they weren't a problem or didn't exist, people wouldn't talk about them. There is a HUGE difference between focusing on a particular aspect of an industry you enjoy and just enclosing yourself off in a little box claiming all those other people are insane. If you don't want to get involved in these discussions, then that's fine. No one is going to somehow force you, but you can't just come in and only say it's all our imagination or an overreaction. These issues DO exist and should be worked on. Some people find that worth talking about, others won't. You're free to poke legitimate holes into people's arguments about the issues themselves, but to recommend just accepting the industry for what it is will only serve to drive more people away.

                          As to the second bit: some had personal information posted and had their lives ruined that way, others were just harassed on a constant basis. It's unfair to assume they were somehow "warned" about the dangers of the internet. It's not as if there's some "Guide to the Internet" that pops up as soon as you open IE for the first time. Some people trust others too easily, are emotional, or just even experience online interactivity for the first time. People are different. Not everyone is going to be a 5+ year veteran of the internet with a shield of cynicism.

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        • caroline 6 years, 4 months ago

          Please re-read the actual piece and realize that the point to it is that Soha doesn't think ANYONE should have to tolerate it.

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  • Spirewrecker 6 years, 4 months ago

    I feel as if you're writing a post that has already been hashed over pretty heavily, both in the realm of the usage of global media in general and, in a much more analogous (and probably more dangerous) setting, competitive gaming.

    In both cases, many people in the field have spoken out about dealing with social media, but the general consensus seems to be to ignore the bullshit. Whether you like it or not, the moment you make yourself known to the internet (or any other potentially global medium) on whatever scale, you are opening yourself up to the crowd at large. You are opening yourself up to the most hostile, misogynistic comments that come out of the woodwork. It's not you, it's not the internet, it's just that people will find ways to say nasty things on any medium. As a person whose reactions are expected, as a celebrity, you must have the tact to sift the wheat from the chaff. You simply cannot expect every nagging idiot out there to shut up and listen when you need to. And as refreshing as writing the post might be, it doesn't help guide the people who need to carry themselves in a professional manner - that is, the people being harassed.

    That's the price of fame.

    Relevant link on dealing with internet communities and media: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55l0GMtVnnY#t=58m10s

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  • noman 6 years, 4 months ago

    Orson Welles, being a left leaning progressive film director that was renown for being difficult to work with and made an enemy of William Randolph Hearst, probably had more than his share of criticism and libel.

    The reasons why Cliffy B is treated differently from Fish by the general gaming public are multifaceted. Cliffy B is a man with quite a successful history in video game history. From Jazz Jackrabbit to Gears of War, he has had many successful ventures making games that appeal to a very broad spectrum of fans. In comparison, Fish is a newcomer. Known for one game and a documentary that many people described as pretentious, he has become the king of the indie scene. A scene that is widely regarded as obnoxious by the public no matter the medium, from wrestling's ROHbots to Sundance Film Festival attendees. Saying people will look back and realize people play indie games because of them makes you king of the indies with all the negative conde. Eloquence is another matter, Cliffy B is no stranger to controversy but is very thorough on his position. He says his peace immediately and with the conviction of a man who has contemplated it. Phil Fish tells people to "suck my dick and choke" and steals quotes more than your average 4channer. He doesn't think about what he is saying, says stupid shit, then complains that they misunderstood or misinterpreted what he said since Japanese games suck is such a deep opinion.

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  • Waari 6 years, 4 months ago

    I was always under the impression most of the social media hate comes from children and hence pay little attention to it. I have such a hard time believing a grown person would take their time out of their life to go on Twitter and tell a game developer that his game gave him testicular cancer and caused him to vomit violently. I might be terribly wrong though as the world is filled to the prim with assholes.
    The video game industry is still a quite young one and I am sure every major developer wants to be taken seriously. While the medium might be light hearted every single creator wants their creation to be taken seriously and the craft to be respected. The childish behaviour is so multi faceted that pointing out the issue is nearly impossible. It is a combination of too much attention given to angry 12 year olds, websites blowing every bit of controversy out of proportion to gain page views and developers being treated as PR. I guess this happens when an industry is more connected to the internet than almost any other.

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  • WubWub 6 years, 4 months ago

    Journalists and the vocal minority need to change not the industry or gamers. Journalists cry every time someone doesn't agree with them and blames the readers and gamers as being spawns of Satan. Journalists always post bait articles to cause arguments. You ever notice how all the articles that feature controversial topics only ever show 1 side of the argument? They basically use their platform to try and preach. Create a a little following who will argue out their cause with everyone else. Gets them the page hits.

    As for people talking crap on the internet. Crap talking happens in the real world as well. 99.9% of the time when someone says something vile they don't mean it so why would you even consider taking them seriously? Maybe its a British thing but i could easily go on the street and call a guy a cunt and he will just call me one back and we will be on our way carrying on with our lives. We wont lose sleep or take it to heart. He wont go and quit his job the next day. Cliffy B probably gets tons of crap sent to him on twitter everyday but he just dont moan about it. He doesn't take the bait. So the trolls go away. If you post an article moaning about getting sent vile messages or post on twitter moaning then you are going to have a bad time because people will see it grinds your gears and send you even more of those messages. Fish's twitter probably blew up with vile tweets after he threw his hissy fit because people just wanted to piss him off more.

    Some people just need to grow a pair.

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  • Moblyn 6 years, 4 months ago

    Agreed this is a problem but I really dont see what can be done about it without taking anonymity away. The worlds is filled with assholes that will never grow up. Unless there is consequences for their actions, this will always be a problem.

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  • PabloGuy51 6 years, 4 months ago

    Damn. I thought this was going to be an article about journalists overrating AAA budget games.

    Nice read though, since this "Phil Fish publicly quits and cancels Fez 2" thing is something rare. I don't believe this is the fault of journalism though. What Marcus Beer (wrongly) said is just something that tipped Phil over the edge after he's been on that edge for a while now. Jonathan Blow probably gets a lot of trolls too, but he hardly ever tries to respond to it, since it only makes things worse. That's the difference between Blow and Fish. You can say that Fish always takes the bait.

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