There’s a certain unrest in the games industry at the moment. Companies and CEOs are being held accountable for the way they’re treating their employees, and especially employees that are marginalized.
Some may think that holding an entire company responsible for the statement of one or just a few employees is a bit harsh. Experience (and research) has shown that this is not necessarily the case. People have a tendency to take their cues from leadership. If leadership expresses sympathies towards – lets say – a “pro-life” ruling that is in effect telling women that if they get pregnant they can be severely punished should they desire to get an abortion after a ludicrously short period of time, the underlying implications of that expression is that it’s okay to think that women shouldn’t have any bodily autonomy.
We know that allowing sexist jokes without any kind of repercussions is reinforcing sexism. We know that allowing racist jokes and micro aggressions is reinforcing racism.
Is it that strange to think that having a CEO expressing a “pro-life” stance will have an impact on the company they are the CEO of?
Tripwire’s CEO has had to step down. Is that harsh? Maybe. But we do know that men like him usually land on their feet. If they don’t, I’m sure they’ll at least have a severance package to keep them afloat for some time.
Those of the industry shouting “cancel culture” at this point seem to be unaware that the cancelling of opinions and expressions has been fairly common among those who already lack a voice. Unfortunately for us, we don’t get severance packages that will keep us afloat or open new studios. What we do get are gag orders that are designed to keep the less savoury practices of the companies we get ejected from under wraps. The silence is deafening.
One of the first things I do when going to a new company is to calculate how much money I need to pay the rent, pay for food and utilities for 3 months, for 6 months and for a year. After that, I start saving, so that I can – at any time – say “fuck it” and leave.
I know I’m privileged. I know not all of you can do that. A few years back, I was unable to as well. I have signed gag orders designed to keep me afraid, and the company safe.
This industry is designed to keep the voiceless without a voice and those without power powerless. What we’re seeing now is a break with that tradition. Company leaders are being held accountable for their actions. As it should be.
I had a conversation with a project manager and we spoke about the issues concerning a project. His stance was that he wasn’t really responsible for what had happened on the project before he took over the reins, but my feeling is that if you take responsibility, then you also inherit any problems that already exist on the project. This is one of the reasons why project leaders and managers and for that matter CEOs are being paid so well. With great power comes great responsibility, and that may be a Spider-Man quote, but it is no less true. This is why I find it entirely reasonable for a CEO to step down if he should express opinions that are incompatible with the values of the company, or the companies that are collaborating with that company.
They were given great power. They have a lot of responsibility, but they’re also paid accordingly.
As an individual from a marginalized group of people, I’m often asked to take the responsibility to improve my workplace or my situation. “You have to help us” is the most common phrase. “You have to tell us when we do wrong”. The result of a company like that is most often that the practices of sexism and racism continue, the people actually raising their voices and pointing out issues are told that they’re being troublemakers and nothing changes.
For something to really change, we need either a revolution (think of the revolution on Haiti, the suffragettes being force fed and dying in prison, the civil rights movement with all its victims) or we need the people in power to say “okay. We’re listening, and we’ll make sure things change.”
At Riot and Activision Blizzard the employees staged walkouts to get management and leadership to listen.
For too long the industry has placed the responsibility of change on shoulders that already carry so much weight from being harassed, ignored and treated like second class citizens. Do talks, hold conversations, be the change you want to see and all the time the people in power can pat themselves on their backs and say “we’re doing something” when in fact it’s not them doing something. It’s their employees carrying additional weight that they won’t get paid for, won’t get recognized for.
I am angry because I love the job I do, but unlike my white male counterparts, I’m not allowed to just do my job. If I want change, I have to fight for that change. I’m often saddled with responsibilities outside my work area. If I stop doing them, despite them not being my actual job, I will be told that I’m slacking off. A mediocre white man can get away with doing a half assed job. I will never get away with being less than perfect. All I want, is to do my job.