Why gaming still needs diverse spaces

You know. Normally I just like to sit back and talk about video games I really like. I do it a lot here. But recently, there’s been a few incidents and I feel like as someone with an outlet to do so, I need to talk about this.

There are two big recent incidents you may have heard about. The first is that Guild Wars 2 writers, Jessica Price and Peter Fries, were fired from their jobs at ArenaNet. It began when Price made a thread talking about her job, and was replied to by “…random people explain my job to me in company spaces where I had to just smile and nod…” in Price’s words. She retaliated, an angry mob went after her and her colleague/friend Fries for standing up for her, and in the end there was a smoking crater and two less jobs at ArenaNet.

The second, more recent incident, is two Riot employees losing their jobs after a controversy surrounding a PAX West event, in which a panel was set up purely for women and gender diverse folks. Naturally, this caused quite the stink and, subsequently, Daniel Klein and Mattias Lehmen lost their jobs over the public uproar.

I could go into these incidents in detail and document the rights and wrongs of everyone involved, but that’s already been done to death. Instead, I want to use these incidents as examples of why we need panels like the one at PAX West in the first place, and how the culture, despite all efforts, isn’t changing

A lot of this was sparked by a recent Kotaku piece documenting that Riot is trying to change their workplace culture after an investigation. Said investigation discovered all kinds of stories of inappropriate workplace conduct and men being favoured in a mostly male workplace. This even lead to other companies speaking up about their own workplace inequalities and experiences. It’s kind of a heartbreaking read.

It’s all evidence that there’s still a huge problem in a world that some describe as ‘post GamerGate’, which is kind of a ridiculous term. It implies the effects of the movement is over, when it’s clearly not. There are still subreddits, forums, imageboards where this culture is rife and leeches itself into mainstream Twitter, Facebook and Reddit outlets.

It’s a problem that still rears its ugly head any time a woman or minority person in the games industry, either working for a developer, a publisher, a PR outlet, or a journalistic outlet, tries to speak out. Even I got nervous at the thought of writing this piece and realized that’s… A pretty good reason to prove my point.

I want to think back for a moment on the impact of all of this. It’s not just folks being fired. It has real world effects. Some of you might remember the chilling last words of one trans developer, Rachel Bryk, who killed herself in 2015 due to online abuse.

‘Guess I am dead. Killed myself. Sorry.’

More recently there was Chloe Sagal. A developer that repeatedly tried to talk about her problems only to have her threads shut down by trolls.

I feel like I could list a lot of names of people trolled for speaking out. Or for existing.

There’s a lot of evidence. I don’t really need to list more, I think.

But the result is, people suffer. And every time someone is fired it signals to the harasser that they were in the right all along. It says to a young game dev that you know what? Maybe making a game isn’t worth it, if this is what will happen to them. It says to a young kid that trolling and harassing folks is funny and okay, and that they can join in without consequence.

I don’t think we can ever get rid of trolling. It super duper sucks, but that’s the world we live in, and it’s only going to get worse as internet culture becomes more and more a part of our lives. The block button is absolutely the best, but in an era of doxxing, it can only get you so far.

So that’s why we still need to keep creating these women and gender diverse panels. Why we need to keep hosting diversity lounges, talks on how things need to change, keep adding diverse characters and ideas into games and stories.

We can’t let the future of this industry be discouraged.

I’ve said it before here, I think, but games are supposed to be about fun. Whether it’s creating something fun or meaningful, or playing something you get some enjoyment out of. Everyone deserves to have fun, right?

In a perfect world, we don’t need those diverse spaces. Everyone just plays together and there’s no drama. But as long as incidents like this continue, we need to keep creating space where folks can feel safe to enjoy their hobby, their passion or their livelihood.

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