This week, the annual Christmas party went off with a bang at work. Each year, the company votes about Most Valuable Player. Usually it’s just one person receiving the honor, but this year it was expanded to three, based on the company’s keywords. One of those keywords is courage.
I was nominated about ten times for the courage MVP award. I didn’t get it*, but it was interesting to see the nominations (which all of us who were nominated got to do, so I’m guessing a LOT of people got to see good stuff about themselves yesterday). Mine were all about my struggle for the gaming industry and culture to become more equal.
Here’s the thing.
These nominations make me both proud and happy, as well as sad and angry. Proud and happy that my coworkers think that equality is worth fighting for, and that they acknowledge the enormous struggle that comes with changing attitudes, but mostly of course that at least ten people at the place where I work feel the way I do. Equality is important, and we should not rest until we’ve reached it.
I get sad and angry because the climate is such – still, despite 13 years of struggling – that I get nominated for courage for daring to speak my mind. How many people are silenced daily because they dare raise the question about equality within gaming? I shudder to think. Look at Anita Sarkeesian, this smart, talented and passionate gamer who wants to make the industry and products more accessible to everyone by critiquing the games. Look at the torrent of hatred and misogyny she’s going up against. She’s still speaking her mind, still critiquing, still shining a light in the ugly corners, but how easy it would be to stop.
Taking that into consideration, I wonder how many have stopped. I’ve been on the edge a couple of times, because there are times when the personal cost is just too high to pay for speaking my mind, so how many decided that it wasn’t worth it? How many were scared into submission by the angry gamer mob? How many were subtly threatened by companies, by human resources, by producers and developers to just shut up about that equality crap? How many women, PoC or gay or trans people were thrown out of the business or left because their coworkers were trolls who could not abide anyone non-white, non-heterosexual, non-male working beside them? It wasn’t that long ago that there were still trade magazine articles about gay men having to leave the business due to harassment. I know of at least three women who have left the industry because the price was simply not worth paying. There is still the issue of female lead characters, and the stubborn refusal to let anyone different become the center of attention in a game.
The bottom line is this. It should not be courageous to point at a system flaw. It should not be courageous to expect everyone to have the same chances, the same opportunities and to be treated the same, regardless of gender, sexuality or skin color.
I wish I had never been nominated for Courage, because this, what I do, should not have to take courage.
* I asked not to be included in the voting, so there was no way I could have.