I have lived and worked and breathed games for about as long as I’ve been alive and aware of what I really feel passionate about. During this very long period of time, I’ve spent about 10-15 years as a games critic (in addition to being a developer and keen hobbyist). During that time – that relatively short time – I’ve come across a phenomenon. It’s the idea that I somehow have it in for an author, a game, a system etc., and how important it is for that person, mostly male, to tell me how upset, hurt and sad it makes them that I use their texts or images as examples of what not to do. This has been going on since 2005, and I’ve almost standardized my reply to these hurt and upset people.
I’ve also pissed people off royally, and to the ones who contact me, the solution is always that I should shut up. Seriously. Shut up. Because the often very neutral (well) and on point (well) analyses I make of games and the games industry and culture somehow turn personal in the process of leaving my pen, becoming digital and being published on my blog. I’m serious. It happens quite often, the change from being an analytical text focused on content to becoming a vile and vitriolic personal attack, probably stemming from a deep hatred of games, men, or games and men. And its always personal to these people.
I’ll let you in on a Little secret. Nothing is ever that personal to me when I write. For me, the analysis of a text or image I find problematic is just that. An analysis of a text or image I find problematic. And I will always tell you why that is. I will always give a reason why I’m using it. Being a person who have made multiple mistakes myself, and continue to make mistakes, I find that kind of analysis helpful, but maybe I’m alone in that. Maybe, the texts that I write should have some sort of disclaimer. Warning. May contain unpopular views. Or perhaps it’s time for some reflection, and a realization that no matter how hurtful my criticism of your work is, it’s still just my opinion.
To quote a message I sent as a reply to one of these upset men (It’s mostly men. Well. All men).
First of all, I’m not consciously looking for your particular work. Normally, variations of the texts or images I use as examples can be found in many different products and books. Using your image or text specifically is probably a result of them being a clear example of the point I want to make. The reason I write about these things is that it is a common phenomenon and it can be found in many instances and sources.
Secondly it’s nothing personal. If you think that, and if you think I’m singling you out, then that is on you. I try to be fair. But to be fair, if your work is used often then maybe you need to rethink some of it? I (probably) don’t know you. I (probably) have no idea how you behave in private or what your views are. I’ve only read the material you’ve put out there. I could just as well have used another example, from another book. Writing about your texts doesn’t mean that I demand an explanation, or for you to defend your work to me; Your work is not you. It is a reflection of the gaming culture. It is the norm. Following the norm is not a crime.
If anything it is the norm that I am questioning… the gaming culture is a very clear reflection of our social boundaries and the we a part of those boundaries and norms. I understand that it might be upsetting if you interpret my analysis of your work as an analysis of yourself, but that is not, and hopefully will never be, my intent.
You should be aware that the only thing I’ve done is to read and look at the material provided, and react to it. I am not on a crusade against you. If my criticism makes you uncomfortable, consider how it feels to be a part of a marginalized group with gaming and continuously coming in to contact with material that either stereotypes me or the group I belong to, or doesn’t represent me at all. Work that, to my mind, contains sexism, racism, homophobia or transphobia, those are the things I react to.
That said, my intent was not to make you feel uncomfortable. On the other hand I will not apologize for using your material as a basis for analysis. Neither will I stop using examples from game designers and developers that do things I do not agree with. I am not a crusader, nor am I out to get you. I’m just giving you my opinion.