Harassment is never acceptable.
This seems like a very obvious thing, but apparently, it needs to be put in no uncertain terms: harassment is never acceptable. It cannot be framed as one side of a debate. It cannot be misrepresented and dismissed as “trolling”. It is not just another unfortunate reality of life and work in the games industry.
Harassment is a violent act.
Encouraged by the pervasive myth of games as an exclusive place, an enclave Just For Them, the hostile elements of our community have taken to identifying and persecuting perceived outsiders. People of color. LGBTQ folks. Women. (Especially women.) They posit themselves as even-handed arbiters of the medium, then lash out at anyone and anything that doesn’t adhere to their standards. They send waves of hate mail and threats. They violate online and offline privacy to find potential ammunition. They circulate hate speech. Blackmail material. Smear campaigns. Sexist, racist, homophobic hatred masked by flimsy arguments about critical ethics, objectivity, and what-does-and-does-not-constitute-a-game.
Nothing can justify this.
No matter what laser-focused, single-demographic publishers might lead you to believe, the much-feared “outsiders” have always been a part of our community. Modern social networking makes their involvement more visible, but the fact is that women, PoC, and queer people have been playing, making, and critiquing video games for ages. They’re not popping out of nowhere to take all the games away. The playground persecution fantasies bandied about by territorial fans are lies.
But the harm they cause is real.
A disturbing number of people try to re-interpret, downplay, and defend this behavior. They share uninformed opinions from positions of privilege, drawing false equivalence between their experiences and the open hatred directed against visible minorities. They hem and haw about “complicated issues with multiple sides”, when one side is quite obviously a hate campaign. They look at unfolding acts of violence and treat them like jokes, share them with their friends and followers, and in doing so, they endorse harassment. They normalize the abuse of vulnerable people.
This is perpetrated by people with platforms. People with influence.
We can’t break this cycle by putting the burden on the people who are suffering. This is a community problem; it has to have a community solution, one that’s supported across our industry. Publications need staff who can responsibly address political and social issues - not just a few familiar faces over and over, but people from a variety of disparate backgrounds, people who are actually affected by the issues at hand. Forums need to improve their moderation policies, explicitly punishing bigotry and expelling abusers instead of letting them run rampant. Community leaders need to call out reprehensible behavior from prominent people and organizations, to yank support and promote marginalized voices instead. We can and should do some of this on our own - but every development company, every convention, every sponsor, every news outlet has a responsibility to do the same. To move forward. Because if they don’t, they provide tacit support of toxic behavior. They imply that, perhaps, this violence is warranted somehow.
Harassment is never acceptable.