The title for this post was something Lt. General Dave Morrison of the Australian army said in a speech to the Australian troops after allegations of sexual misconduct among the Australian troops.
It’s oddly fitting for what I am about to write about. This post has been sitting around in my notebook for quite some time, and I wrote it when The Last of Us 2 was released. The game was hailed as a masterpiece and the ultimate proof that games are art by a reviewer that was later kind of, not necessarily derided, but sighed at. While I haven’t played The Last of Us 2, I do recognize this tendency among reviewers to raise a game higher than perhaps it should be. I’m not saying this happened for The Last of Us 2, but the gaming culture has encouraged a fairly non-critical way of looking at games and reviewing games that has a long tradition. We have consistently looked away from issues with content, and I remember a time when the most prominent aspects of a game review was the graphics engine used and the physics of the game.
Trying to fairly asses and critique games is next to impossible. Actually, it’s been impossible for a long time. Remember Carolyn Petite’s review of GTA V and how she was harassed because that game didn’t receive a full 10? Remember how Firewatch got review dumped because of the developers reacting to PewDiePie’s anti Semitic video and issuing a DMCA takedown of all PewDiePie’s videos with Campo Santo content. Remember how Death Stranding was exalted for being so awesome when all you really do is deliver packages and pee on ghosts?
Remember how One Angry Gamer declared all game companies that reacted to and supported Black Lives Matter as traitors to America and presumably the gaming culture?
Remember the Hot Coffee mod? Remember Deep Silver’s coder calling a power “feminist whore”? Remember the discrimination against women in Riot? Remember how Consumer Product Lead Ron Johnson left the company after racist commentary he posted on Facebook? Remember GamerGate? Remember Tropes vs Women in Video Games and the reception it got from primarily men?
What I’m trying to say is this: Gaming Culture and the gaming industry has been absolutely allergic to call out behaviour that threatens developers and writers and journalists who have tried to point to problematic content, problematic culture, unacceptable behaviour among developers and fans and all along we have also nurtured this belief that games are unrecognized works of genius.
I don’t think that we have, as a subculture, gotten past the “games are dangerous”-moral panic. It coloured so much of the “early days” of gaming and it still pops up now and then. It damaged us because it made us afraid to look at and critique content, so much so that the reviews that did touch on it were called out for not being objective.
I think the damage is still being felt, and it’s one of the reasons why we still try to hold on to the “greatness” of games. Our bruised egos are still echoing through the culture which has made honest criticism and assessment difficult.
We have been at this impasse for years, but thankfully we are moving forward now, finally. Only time will tell if we can get past the spectre of racism, sexism, homo- and transphobia that still linger both in company culture and gaming culture.
We’ve walked past so many standards in the past. It’s time we take a stand. That, I believe, is the only way we can truly more forward.