Oct 16, 2014

Have Games Lost Their Innocence?

When I was a kid, a game was running around with my friends playing Ghostbusters. Video games were something very different, something you tended to play alone, or maybe with one extra player. The pinnacle of "social" gaming was to have a tournament of something like Street Fighter, where you'd each pick a character and take turns playing.

Today it's become something of a beast, and every aspect of video games is scutinised on the internet. Budgets for AAA titles rival big-budget movies. Marketing is off the scale. There's an entire second industry in telling people how to play games right.

And there's the hate.

This stuff started off small, and people dismissed it. Trash talk during tournaments and online play. Arguments over which console was superior.

Today, a video game critic can receive what amount to threats of domestic terrorism so frequently that it's regarded as being ordinary for them, and no longer considered a viable threat.

Let that sink in.

Anita Sarkeesian receives so many threats of being assaulted, raped, murdered, and blown up that the FBI didn't think that someone threatening the worst school massacre in American history was to be taken seriously as a danger to Sarkeesian and to the public.

This is what hate brings us. A world where the more someone is threatened, the less their safety is taken seriously. Where the response of many who hear that such violence has been threatened is to accuse the threatened person of falsifying the threat (see the comments to the article here).

I don't know when things started to turn so dark in video-gaming*. What I do know is the video-game industry is changing. More diverse people than ever are playing games of all kinds. They are becoming an ever more mainstream form of entertainment, and as such will, and should, be subject to a broader range of criticism than graphics and gameplay. Whoever these people are, who think they're entitled to hurl accusations and mount hate campaigns and send terror threats, if they're serious, they need to be arrested. If they're "just kidding", they need to wake up and realise that the world doesn't revolve around them and their insecurities. They're not champions protecting anything precious and sacred. They're selfish children, desperately clinging to a pastime which is no longer exclusively theirs.

Games have already lost their innocence. Now it's time for them to grow up, too. No-one, anywhere, deserves to be threatened and have their lives disrupted just for expressing an opinion or critiquing a game.

*As a roleplayer, I tend to think of "gaming" as referring to more than just video games

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