There is a movement afoot in the universe that insists that #gamergate is ALL FOR THE DEVELOPERS. All for me and my ilk! Protecting our freedom of speech! Trying to save the games! Which is a pretty ballsy stance, considering the movement was born in the relentless and ongoing harassment and attempt to silence a game developer. Still, here’s a sample of people telling me that this is all to SAVE MY ARTISTIC FREEDOM!
— Steel Thunder (@SteelThunder13) September 12, 2014
@ZenOfDesign yes. but each year, from what I’ve noticed, is that all the violence is getting scaled back, which limits artistic freedom. 1/2
— HunterGriff (@squareandweird) September 13, 2014
— Eliah Ryan (@Eliah_R) September 12, 2014
— Hans Schumacher (@LunarArchivist) September 13, 2014
This is freakin’ ADORABLE. Really. I mean, it’s really precious. Now please stop it. Because it’s embarrassingly misguided about how the industry ACTUALLY works. We really don’t need your help here. And if it looks like this, we’d rather not have it.
So please stop using the artistic freedom of devs as the reason for your crusade. Why?
1. Many devs resent being associated with #gamergate because of it’s unquestionably foul roots.
And I’m one of them. Many devs, particularly female devs, find #GamerGate to be the fruit of a poisonous tree, that tree being the violent and often terrifying crusade against some developers, journalists and academics, the majority of whom happen to be women. You push away devs when you claim to speak for them all as long as the cause bears this name.
2. No one is trying to take away your games.
The most important thing for games is that it is recognized as speech and as an art form, so that it maintains legal protection in the form of freedom of speech. As long as we are not talking about censorship of game creators (and most academics reject censorship, they value speech), then I can make whatever kind of game I want, and people are allowed to have and voice whatever opinions they want about it.
3. It is an attempt to silence a different world view.
I keep hearing the word ‘corruption’ used to describe media outlets and reporters who have progressive (‘SJW’) views on games and game development. It’s not corruption. It’s a different point of view. Lord knows, we have shittons of web sites out there that just cut and paste whatever canned talking points a developer hands out at E3 with appropriate uses of the word ‘Awesome’ and ‘Extreme’ sprinkled in for good measure. None of this really makes the games industry better, or the artists creating it challenge themselves or their work more.
4. We can speak for ourselves – with our games.
I know, some developers like to pout that they can’t say whatever they want without earning the ire of the SJW police. What a joke. WE HAVE THE LOUDEST VOICES IN THE ROOM. And that’s the game itself. Anita Sarkeesian earned $150K from almost 7000 people. This is an impressive amount of money, the highest I’ve seen for a project like this, and debunks the idea that only a tiny fringe is interested in her cause. That being said, Destiny cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make and market, and has reached hundreds of thousands, if not millions of players. Same for GTA 5. We have the megaphone.
Now, it’s true that individual developers might not necessarily be well-advised to go off and spout off whatever opinion that comes to mind. However, this is usually less about reasons of press than it is about employment. During GamerGate, I’ve seen more than one ‘aspiring game dev’ make what can only be described as career-limiting comments about women, the industry, or other devs in their twitter feed. It turns out, it’s no fun to work in the pressure cooker that is the games industry when you work with an asshole.
5. The media is a relatively unimportant voice in the modern creation process.
A developer has a million voices guiding him through video game creation. His boss. His bosses boss. His teammates, who want to just make a WoW/LoL/Clash of Clans clone. The producer and project manager trying to get it out the door. The marketing guy who wants to sneak ‘farmville’ into the game. The publisher who will withhold paychecks to the developer if ludicrous demands aren’t met. The license holder, who very often doesn’t seem to know his own license. The home office who ignores the game for months at a time only to turn the Eye of Sauron on you at the worst possible time. The MTX department, who wants to pick up the customer and shake him for loose change. The ESRB, whose attitudes on decapitations seem to change from game to game. The Apple/Sony/Xbox certification process. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Sure, we listen to outside voices. The fans! In today’s Internet, companies can and do build forums where they can build very direct relationships with their fans, and get a very real sense of what is important to the actual community building their game. The press might report a point of view ragging on our game, but if our playerbase doesn’t care, most of the time, we don’t either. Sure, the press mentioned same-gender romances as missing on SWTOR, but they moved on pretty much immediately to other games and stories. The reason we added them was because the community literally kept a thread alive on the topic for – geez, a year?
Oh, also, the fans were right.
That’s not to say that we don’t care about the press entirely! We care hugely! About the Metacritic score! This is the single most important page of media a game has after launch day, and which aggregates game scores from across the spectrum. Purists will be pleased to know that having incredible violence, possible hooker beatings and gratuitious boobage doesn’t seem to keep great games from getting great scores. What matters is making a great game.
6. Sex and Violence isn’t going anywhere.
Media criticism of Television and Film has existed for literally decades. Has it disappeared? No! In fact, these genres push the boundaries farther than ever before! Dirty not-so-secret secret: sex sells, and there will always be artists willing to reach for those audiences, many trying desperately outdo anyone whose come before (note: your hostile liberal SJW media gave Dragon’s Crown a respectable 82). These people may alienate a potential audience, but especially if you’re a small indy, you may have to pick and narrowly focus on one audience anyway! (Small budget teams can’t please everyone)
And controversy sells! The Witcher is a great series, but it would have had trouble getting any attention from the press if not for the ‘collecting bedmates‘ minigame in the first installment. Lesbian sex got Mass Effect onto Fox News - you think a few people didn’t pick up boxes when that happened? GTA has always embraced controversy. They’ve only turned that into being one of the biggest game franchises in the world.
7. It’s insulting to the artists.
Do you think Will Wright needs protecting? Sid Meier? David Jaffe? Raph Koster? No. They need input. And they should have the freedom to take input from wherever the hell they want. If we don’t get input, we make the same derivative crap over and over again. Do you think you’re qualified where to tell these people where they should seek this input?
And criticism is fine. Criticism is CONSTANT in the games industry, from every friggin’ direction you can imagine. In fact, if you want to break into the games industry, my primary advice to you is (a) make stuff and (b) get criticized. Junior designers assume that they’re always right. The ones that become senior designers learn to absorb and synthesize many points of view. Sometimes this means taking someone like Anita Sarkeesian to heart. Sometimes it means saying “We’re making the interactive Porky’s experience here, everything she says is irrelevant here.”
I’m a free speech zealot. I believe fiercely that writers, authors, film makers, politicians and journalists should be given a lot of rope to create their art and speak their minds. But I must say, as long as the government isn’t involved censoring the creation and distribution of my games, my artistic freedom is just fine, thank you. Don’t worry about me. Instead, spend that energy worrying about people who would have the audacity to silence disparate world views with harassment and threats of violence, all in the name of free speech. All in the name of saving MY free speech.
Nobody is trying to silence me. If they tried, they’d likely fail. I have 20 years experience, confidence in my craft, a large multinational company at my back, and about 20 years experience writing and speaking about game design. But there are a lot of people who are trying to silence critics, academics and journalists with more progressive (“SJW”) views on games, because they aren’t ‘real’ gamers, or because what they want would ‘ruin’ games. Meanwhile, increases in raw hardware power means that awesome boob physics is more realistic and impressive than ever before.
More diverse voices will lead to better, more diverse and more interesting games. And at the end of the day, isn’t that all any of us really cares about?