So I’ve thought about fairness for a while, what constitutes it and how to be fair. I’ve thought about it in particular in relation to the game developer Battlestate Games and their less than graceful handling of Escape from Tarkov.
While they have been making statements around women, their perceived inability to handle battle stress and/ or women not fitting into the lore of Tarkov or that they’re too expensive to animate, the question of fairness has arisen, like a cork bobbing on the surface of the game dev sea.
The question – more specifically – is are we being fair to Battlestate Games when we point out the fact that their reasons for not having women in the game seem unreasonable?
A colleague raised the question around Battlestate being a small studio, and that adding animation sets at the end of development might not be as easy as we’re led to believe by other folks in the industry (this was coming from an experienced developer, so there’s no reason to doubt the veracity of this claim). So are we judging Battlestate fairly if we don’t have all the information?
In an environment where judgment isn’t passed out before having any information at all, or at least part of the facts, Battlestate’s behaviour might have been easier to criticise because the statements could have been taken at face value and discussed as a clumsy attempt at saving face in a progressive environment. No judgment would have been cast on Battlestate per se. We could have discussed the issue, perhaps.
But we live and work in a post-GamerGate environment. Our feeds, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, Instagram, and wherever else you hang your social media hat are overrun by individuals that create or subscribe to group think. Tribalism in gaming culture is running rampant and many of the tribal members don’t really care if their leaders speak the truth or not, or for that matter what the actual facts are. It is an unfortunate side effect of being human. We’re biased creatures and we tend not to want to see the truth, in particular if the truth is uncomfortable for us.
Please note that I’m not in any ways condoning the statements made by Battlestate Games in relation to Escape from Tarkov. To my mind they’re trying to dodge the issue of representation and my inclination is to trust the initial interview from 2016 where a developer said that women can’t handle the stress of the battlefield.
My question, and my using Battlestate as an example, really stems from asking “am I letting my biases decide for me?” and “do I have all the facts?”. Because it’s impossible to have all the facts in a situation like this, perhaps the better question is “do I have all the known facts?”. During GamerGate, and during the turbulence that sometimes occur before a game is even released, facts and at least somewhat unbiased opinions have been hard to come by.
Games and developers are being slammed or praised seemingly without any regard to what they actually do. Instead they are judged in relation to the perception of them. “EA is evil, Rockstar can do no bad games, Hideo Kojima’s games are all masterpieces.”
If we are thinking and rational human beings we should try to stop listening to the emotional part of ourselves that dictate skewed perceptions to us. I know. It’s asking for the impossible, especially if caught up in group think and tribalism.
Keep asking yourself “am I being fair?”. Keep asking “do I have all the known facts?”. If it turns out you don’t it’s okay to realise this and it’s definitely okay to change your mind.
Up until the moment I realised that J.K. Rowling seemingly supports TERFs, she was one of my favourite authors (not because of Harry Potter, but because of Cormoran Strike). Now I’m more inclined to read her works more critically and look at the problems they present.
Battlestate Games have made a bunch of clumsy moves lately, and earlier as well. I will hold them responsible for all those things, but if the truth turns out to be something different, I won’t be afraid to change my mind.