I've taken a bit of a hiatus from writing opinion pieces as of late because it's becoming nearly impossible to write stories without having to worry about how what I say can be misconstrued or twisted against me personally or held against the people I work for/represent for far too long.
Games media is mostly controlled by and housed within the Southern California metropolitan areas. This is the part of America that thinks they represent the ENTIRE country, and they force their ideas and opinions on anyone who lives in this country, and they condemn anyone who has a different line of thought. All those people complaining about Trump losing the "popular vote" and rallying against the idea of the electoral college? They're the reason it exists in the first place, and while I'm going to try to keep this piece free of politics, you can't speak about the landscape of games without it so I apologize before we go any further. How you feel about the current state of politics in America is really irrelevant unless you're trying to drive the narrative that paints a picture of America how they see it, and that's an America that doesn't exist to a lot of people who live here.
As a wake up call, not everyone thinks the same way that people in big cities do, and the internet has been the largest gathering of people we've ever amassed as a culture. You now can literally sit down wherever you are and have a conversation with anyone in the world, whether or not you know them personally thanks to the massive communication enabled by the internet itself. Games have this same ability, because when joining games you are literally sitting in a room with live microphones, with people who could be anywhere, from any walk of life, and their views on things may greatly differ from your own. That's okay, that's how America is supposed to work. We're a cultural melting pot, and you're going to meet people who you don't agree with - but humanity states that rather than inherently hate everyone who doesn't see things from your perspective, you should be looking to find things you can agree on, and work together to come to a common ground. For every single moment you spend on Twitter or Facebook bashing the President, the Conservatives, the Liberals, the "alt-right", Antifa, the NRA, and whatever else you want to name, there's someone out there likely close to you, who's going to be upset by your hurtful words.
In the current landscape of games media, being a heterosexual white male is basically on par with being a "Nazi". Add being pro-gun, pro-life, Conservative/Republican, Christian to that, and you've got what the internet would call the closest thing to Adolf Hitler currently walking the face of the planet. These are people you've seen at events, you've sat next to them, you've had conversations with them and you might even be friends with them. Games media (and really any media from Southern California as a whole) is pushing an agenda to demonize anyone who doesn't fit a mold of being "accepting", which means you're not allowed to disagree with anything for fear of extreme consequence, blacklist, or an amount of shaming that'll likely lead to your exile from the industry - possibly even the internet itself - or in extreme cases, you'll be bullied to the point of fear/suicide. Ever wonder why Mombot, Kotaku in Action, One Angry Gamer, NicheGamer are popular? It's because people are tired of being told that their opinions mean they're hateful. People want be able to have conversations and learn how to accept and process things in a way that makes sense to them, instead of being told everything that they disagree with is wrong and evil.
Acceptance is associating, working with, and being comfortable with something you personally might have an issue with. Are you terrified of Muslims because of the radical fear spread by 9/11? Why? Has a Muslim ever done you wrong? Likely they haven't, but you've had the internet tell you that Muslims just want to hurt people while they practice an extremely meticulous religion that the majority of us would never want to be bothered with. Have you tried looking at what it takes to be an orthodox Jew or a practicing Muslim? There's prayers, mantras, life dictations, things that require an intense devotion that a lot of people could never keep. You think a diet is hard? Imagine having to follow a diet that is handed down to you by your God/Church, along with accompanying prayers for each piece of the meal you're about to eat. Bacon is awesome, but Jewish and Muslims see those animals as unclean and they are forbidden to eat them. Hamburgers are great, but imagine being Hindi, a people who believe that cows are sacred vessels of continued life. I'm just talking about religion here, I'm not even talking about cultural things yet and it's already overwhelming. Maybe before we start declaring what "privileges" have, should consider trying to take a walk in their shoes? No, why would you? It's easier to pretend to be offended that someone else wasn't respecting their beliefs - beliefs that you don't even understand and if you did, you'd be horrified and disgusted with. News flash: People have been killing each other in the name of God since before the birth of Christ.
Stereotypes exist because they are written in partial truths. Ever been to East LA? As a person not from the area, you've been shown by movies and whatnot that a "cholo" is waiting to stab you and take all of your shit, so you're likely to fear everything you might encounter there. How about Atlanta? Rappers have often glorified violence against people who aren't Black in areas like College Park. South Chicago? Speaking with a woman I used to work with who was born and raised there, people in that neighborhood don't care what color you are, they'll kill you just because you aren't from there. That's a fucking scary state of affairs, yet we're so worried about who someone supports politically or what worldviews they have that we're going to incite a lynch mob? The bullshit at ArenaNet was the tip of the iceberg, just like when Nintendo fired their PR girl for finding out she was moonlighting as an Escort. It's none of your fucking business what people do, just let them live their own private lives. There's a big difference between "I heard this person was an Escort in their spare time, who works for Nintendo during the day" and "Nintendo hires Prostitutes".
The very first time I ever played an online multiplayer game on a console was when Microsoft had an Xbox summer tour that brought the original Xbox to the state fair in Kentucky, which is just across the bridge from where I live. I jumped into my first match in Halo 2, shot someone, and was immediately told that I was a "stupid nigger faggot". The internet's anonymity gave people a way to say horrible things to each other, and while anonymity isn't quite as anonymous as it once was, colloquialisms are still very much regional and widely used once you get out of major metropolitan areas. We've glorified streamers and turned them into D-list celebrities, and then people are "mortified" when they find out how these people actually talk when they're encouraged to be themselves in front of a live audience. PewDiePie isn't even an American, so I can't even begin to comment on what's socially or acceptably said overseas, but come on. Calling people "fag" or "bitch" or "gay" isn't a new thing, and it's not a new trend. Words evolve, and things have changed regardless of the way the narrative wants to shape it. I spent 15 hours in the car yesterday hearing my stepkids call each other "faggot, fag, gay, gay ass faggot" or some other some variation of the words, and while I've tried to explain to them that it's not okay to socially to use those slurs because they can be hurtful, but they don't care because none of their friends do. None of them are transphobic, but none of them believe in the ideas of gender fluidity and regularly poke fun at terms like "pansexual" - something games media tries to preach about people "not being tolerant" because in the grand scheme of things, a relatively small group of extremely vocal people say so.
They go to a high school where the kids of all colors regularly call each other "nigga", not because that's a word they're allowed to say, but because music right now is dominated by hip-hop artists frequently and so these kids regurgitate it - not understanding why the person saying it says it, but because it's used as a filler word to connect rhymes. To me, that's fine - Eddie Griffin once said that he uses the word as often as possible so that it takes the power out of the word by reducing it to something that means nothing to anyone. This isn't just happening at the local high school in my area, it's happening all over the country. Drake and 'Lil Wayne have spent the better part of the last five years making sure that word is said more often than actual words, and things continually degrade as people continue to glorify ignorance. It's somehow okay if a Black person uses that word in a song which makes it acceptable for use within certain racial circles, but wasn't the idea of hip-hop originally to be all-inclusive? I remember people Easy-E and others telling people NOT to censor their songs because if they didn't want those words used, they wouldn't have used them - yet now if a white person says the word while singing along with popular songs, they're labeled as racists and terrible people. Are you going to say that all of these kids are bad people? This is one small town in Indiana, and America is a fucking huge country that isn't centrally located in Southern California.
This brings us back to games media: We're supposed to be talking about the works of developers and instead of letting people make whatever story they want to make, we're out here writing exposé pieces about how God of War is racist as fuck because it doesn't have more people of color. Could you imagine if Uncharted: Drake's Fortune had come out in today's overly racially charged society? That game is literally full of shooting every person of color you see. Is that racist? No, the enemies were appropriate for their area, yet agenda based media sites like Polygon run shit pieces like this that say FarCry 5 is super racist because the people of color served as the white cultist's cronies, in spite of Ubisoft having to sterilize the game in order to not offend someone by having to choose a "gender" to play as, and including people of all colors/sexes as cultists. Ever since the success of Assassin's Creed, Ubisoft has done a fantastic job trying to keep everyone happy, but their products have suffered for it - aside from South Park, that is.
Forbes, a magazine which until the past few years ago was traditionally viewed as a publication for old rich white dudes, thinks it's totally fine for their contributors to run hit pieces to attack the legacy of a man who died from cancer because it gets them some advertising clicks. Not only does this writer shamefully disrespect a Youtuber who helped paved the way for what new media has become, she continually tries to drag his name through the mud knowing that he's got a grieving widow who's being assaulted by this fucking nonsense every single day. These people don't care about humanity, and they care even less about the audience they're supposed to be representing. I've seen freelancers push fans out of the way at PAX East to talk to developers they've made friends with, and I've seen prominent games media people get drunk as fuck at events and look at games and say "why the fuck would anyone ever play this?" to other press.
The answer to that question is, because it's what we've taken on as a job. It's not okay to continually show disdain for the industry you continually claim to love, but people can't talk about it because there's a very real fear of backlash, blacklist, and ostracism. You can't point out the sheer lack of ethics in this industry, because you can't get any access if you break the rules. It's why no one's called out a certain tech writer for shilling products constantly since returning to work as a contributor because their significant other works in their marketing and sales department, or why this person continually talks about things with a large component manufacturer knowing they've got insider information because they spent a year working for them, yet leaving the US gave them carte blanche to say what they want because the FTC can't dictate what an American says when they stop living in this country.
This industry has become a joke as an outsider looking in. It's corrupt as fuck from the inside out, and the very people that the industry exists to serve are ignored because the shit talking and clickbaiting is what gets attention. It doesn't matter that developers and other people are associated with the production and creation of a game are continually harmed by these practices. Instead, let's just continue writing pieces about how EA wants to extort your money or how Star Wars is ruining itself because the director is self-absorbed. Cause after all, the business end of things is really what matters, right? Riding someone else's coat tails and mocking death, publicly shilling without any blatant regard for possibly telling someone that they're wasting their money on a garbage product, blaming "gamergate" for every single thing that happens because it's far more provocative than saying "Some people aren't nice people."
It's time for people to stop attacking everyone who lives in a part of the country who doesn't think like they do. Seattle doesn't do everything right, neither does Southern California, nor does New York, Atlanta, Florida, or anywhere else in the US. Games should be diverse and while they might contain something offensive to some, it's part of what makes a cultural melting pot great. Thought provoking ideas and stories can be re-written from the baseline of what a developer tells. Consider maybe being a little more open minded? If you don't want to, that's totally fine, but maybe instead of spending all of your time on social media complaining about what people do or don't do, calling for people's jobs and livelihood to be fucked up because of your difference of opinion, go find content creators that you align with and support their work. You'll be happier and you'll find yourself way less offended all the time.