An Open Letter to Games Media

This is an open letter to Steve Butts (IGN), Stephen Totilo (Kotaku), Justin Calvert (Gamespot), Chris Grant (Polygon), Dale North (Destructoid), Ludwig Kietzmann (Joystiq), and all other Editors-in-Chief of gaming websites:

We have a problem and you can do something about it.

Our medium and the culture surrounding it is still in its adolescence and we’ve been experiencing a lot of growing pains lately. Those of us in the games community who are a part of marginalized groups have been going through hell lately. You can help us. You can do more than just express sympathy.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” You have a chance, right now, to shorten that arc. You are in positions of power and privilege. You have the luxury of being able to effect change at a level that we can only dream about.

When we tell the social history of our medium a few decades from now, we will either remember this as the decade when community leaders decided to transform gaming culture OR we’ll remember this as the decade when you remained complacent, reluctantly dragging your feet into a new era while allowing the most vulnerable members of the community to shoulder the responsibility for change.

This is not an overdramatization. We are in a pivotal moment and you have a choice. The purpose of this letter is to ask you to choose differently. You can do more than what you’re already doing. This is less a condemnation of your current practices than it is a call to action.

You can no longer treat sexism, racism, classism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia as niche issues. These forms of marginalization have real effects on real people and, as you know all too well from your vantage point, they are painfully exaggerated in gaming spaces. They are problems that permeate every aspect of videogames from their production, to their player base, to the websites that write about them.

The fact that these are all systemic problems in the so-called “real world” is not a valid excuse for condoning bad behavior online.

Just because the whole house is on fire doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to salvage our room.

You know that these are major problems and, what’s more, we know that you know they are. We know you’re just as ashamed of our culture as we are.

But I’m also concerned that you expect many of the people who visit your websites, comment on your articles and, yes, look at your advertisements to be the very bigoted folks who are holding our culture back.

When you encounter bigotry on your own sites, I often hear your staff (on podcasts, on Twitter, etc.), throw their hands up in the air and say, “That’s the Internet for you!” You adopt a posture of passive defeatism, suggesting that nothing can be done. This is where I have to be terse:

Your chagrin is not good enough. You have more power and authority than you’re letting on, you’re simply choosing not to exercise it.

Your sites set trends for the way people talk about, think about, and relate to games. Your readers spend hours watching you play games, listening to you talk about games, and reading what you write about them. Like it or not, you’re tastemakers.

Many of you have been diversifying your staff. When Polygon first announced itself as a reinvention of games criticism, many of us loudly guffawed at the overwhelmingly male staff page. Polygon has since hired more and more women and the voice of the site has improved as a result. Kotaku has also been hiring important, diverse voices. Please keep this trend up but remember that you, as a group of men, still have the most power in the online gaming sphere and you have a responsibility to use it for good.

You have control of a podium from which you can send a clear message, the message that those who adopt flagrantly sexist, racist, classist, ableist, homophobic and/or transphobic viewpoints are not the audience you want to reach. In this letter, I want to share two concrete ways that you can communicate this message on your sites:

1) Publish a highly visible reference statement explaining your site’s stance on sexism, racism, classism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia.

Over at The Border House (where I write regularly), we keep a permanent list of “Helpful Resources” on our top bar right alongside a detailed “Discussion Policy” for our comments sections. Any visitor to The Border House who consults these resources knows exactly what to expect from our space and how to participate productively in our community. While The Border House is an explicitly feminist blog, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t also take a visible stand, even if you think it should be obvious that your site does not condone certain kinds of behavior.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun has proved that a mainstream site can do something like this. Read how they did it. The e-mails and comments that John Walker got for publishing that piece are the sorts of emails and comments that many of us get anytime we publish anything on any topic. Publish RPS-esque statements, post them at the top of your site and refer readers back to them.

When few people besides straight men feel automatically safe on your sites, it’s not our responsibility to come in and change your communities for you. It’s your responsibility to take a bold stand for what’s right.

When Rock, Paper, Shotgun posted that statement, it sent a clear message to us that we should give that space a chance. That, maybe, it would be a place where we could participate in a comments thread.

On many university campuses, LGBT offices run Safe Space programs. Professors, staff, and administrators can attend trainings to learn how to better serve LGBT students. When they complete the training, they receive a fabulous rainbow sticker for their office door.

Safe Space programs aren’t perfect but they do convey key information at a glance. When I’m about to meet with a professor I’ve never met before, a Safe Space sticker on their door tells me that they at least have a cursory awareness of LGBT issues.

The visible reference statements that I am urging you to publish will function in much the same way as a Safe Space sticker. They won’t automatically transform the culture of your website. You’ll have to back them up with a clear editorial voice and with strict moderation of your forums and comments, but they will let people like me know, right away, that you are taking your responsibility as editors seriously.

Which brings me to:

2) Hire (more) people to moderate your forums and comments sections.

In February, I wrote a guest editorial for Kotaku. I enjoyed writing for a mass audience and I would sincerely love to write for Kotaku again. I’ve seen Stephen Totilo dive into the fray when a blogger on N4G produced an elaborate conspiracy theory that Kotaku was seeking to generate revenue through feminist articles. I appreciated seeing Stephen Totilo articulate his strong stance off site and I wish he would do so in a perma-linked resource at the top of Kotaku.

All this being said, my one experience with Kotaku commenters was brutal. Like many internet authors, I have a standard byline, a brief blurb that describes who I am. Mine mentions that I am a transgender woman, a detail that I include deliberately.

I never had to be out online but I chose to be as a display of solidarity and as a pathmaking gesture for others in my situation. Because of my blurb, for example, many transgender women have reached out to me so that we can form networks of mutual support both on- and offline.

I considered changing my bio for my Kotaku article because I had a sinking feeling in my stomach about what might happen when my piece went live. I undid and redid the deletion of the transgender detail at least a dozen times.

I ultimately decided that it would be an important gesture, that I should show that Kotaku publishes transgender voices, that I should not be ashamed to be visible to the tender, closeted fifteen year-old transgender person just because I would get harassed by a few dozen fifteen year-old cisgender boys.

[Trigger Warning for this paragraph only: transphobic language]. But when I finally made the mistake of looking at the comments on my Kotaku article, I wanted to throw up. One of the first comments that appeared was: “I like my videogames like I like my women. Without a penis.” Many comments were about my byline and not about the article itself. On The Border House (where I write regularly), the commenter who made the “penis” comment would be excluded from the site. To this day, he remains one of Kotaku’s most prolific commenters.

There are a hundred stories like mine.

You need better moderation on your forums and in your comments threads. In this letter, I’m speaking to a group of people with varying policies; I can’t speak to each of your sites individually but I know you need to do more, and to do what you’re already doing better.

You need to stop hurtful comments before they appear, not after. At The Border House, we screen all incoming first-time commenters and then watch their words carefully. We are always ready to punish people who break our Discussion Policy. We’re a small site with relatively few comments, yes, but we also have very few resources.

You, on the other hand, have money. Many of you fly your entire staff to PAX, PAX East and E3. You send correspondents to GamesCom, Tokyo Game Show, and GDC. Use that money to change the kinds of words that appear on your websites. Take responsibility for those words. Realize that they are archived as a permanent record of your failure to properly maintain your sites.

Hire people. Hire moderators. Hire someone to screen comments on particularly controversial threads (like Feminist Frequency releases). Hire an outside consultant to come in and help you understand what your site can do to reach out to women, people of color, disabled people, LGBT people and anyone who feels excluded. Learn what words should be permanently banned and don’t allow comments that include those words. And, please, someone ask John Teti over at Gameological how he keeps his comment threads so pristine and then do that too.

Those are two concrete steps but, if you would prefer a succinct overarching philosophy, try this third step on for size. It’s simple, and I’m borrowing it, with my thanks, from Todd Harper who runs the MIT Game Lab:

3) “Take the risk.”

You will anger readers by taking a stand. Some of them will leave. Some of their threats to leave forever are not, in fact, empty. You’ll get flak from NeoGaf and Reddit. 4Chan will make the same ugly threads about you as they do about me and my friends.

Do it. Piss them off. Take the risk. Make a decision now that they are not worth your time and that the ad revenue they provide is not worth the toxic atmosphere they bring to your sites. They’re not worth continuing to bear the reputation of being an unsafe place for people who are not straight men.

A story about taking a bold stand: For a long time, the Mormon Church banned anyone with African heritage from holding a position of leadership. When the Church still hadn’t changed this racist policy in the 1970s, major media outlets started to take notice. The New York Times publicly shamed the Church in its editorial pages. Property owners refused to rent space to the Church for conventions and conferences. College football teams refused to play games against the Mormon-owned Brigham Young University and some teams threatened to wear symbolic black armbands during games as a form of protest. After several years in the shaming spotlight, the Church changed its policy in 1978.

The analogy isn’t perfect and struggles for racial equality do not map neatly onto all forms of social justice work. But when a particular subculture remains embarrassingly regressive in an increasingly progressive era (and I think gaming culture definitely fits this description), we have to be clear that bigoted voices are not welcome. Neutrality is not an option. Neutrality means stagnancy.

Neutrality means the status quo forever.

If you tell certain readers that they are not welcome, they will squawk like parrots: “Free speech!” Let them practice their “free speech” somewhere else. They can start their own blogs or they can go find a website that still condones their behavior. Your websites are not public parks. You have no obligation to let people say whatever they want on your sites.

In the piece that I’m drawing inspiration from, Todd Harper wrote that “if you are interested—really interested in [changing gaming culture] then you are going to have to fight for it.” We know that you know what needs to happen: you need to fight. You have the necessary clout to take on this fight. This will mean shedding some readers, burning some bridges, and suffering harassment. But you need to take that risk.

It’s scary to change, but think about how scared we are to visit your websites. It’s exhausting to battle bigoted commenters, but think about how tired we are of the abuse that we receive. It’s horrifying to see the sort of hatred people spew when their primacy is challenged, but it’s terrifying to have it aimed at you.

Try to remember, though, that it’s exciting to head off in bold new directions and try to think about how excited we would be to see you do just that. You can help. Take the risk.

Samantha Allen

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  1. Cade DeBois

    You have my total support, and I greatly appreciate you included disabled gamers, as I’m one, in addition to being female and non-gender-conforming (autistic).

    Aside from the moral rightness of it, it seems like a no-brainer that if these major sites want to have a community that participates and comments on their content that they would put in place a code of conduct–and enforce it–to make sure they don’t end up with a narrow group of the same people who managed to chase off everyone else. I suppose Mr. Transphobia over at Kotaku is having a great time dominating the commenting sections, but I have to wonder if there’s a large number of site visitors who have learned to just move off that page when they spot his username, maybe even move off the site completely. It’s a little like opening an amusement park and letting a small gang of bullies chase off the rest of your ticketbuyers before they patronize your gift shops and eateries. It’s not a smart way to run a gaming (or any entertainment) website, frankly.

    And for the record, if the persons for whom this letter is intended see this, I almost *never* visit any of those sites, specifically because I don’t need to go out of my way to experience ugliness and abuse in my life. In the past year I read maybe one article on Gamespot, and ONLY because feminists on Twitter whom I trust linked to it. And even then I read the article and got out before I was tempted to read something that would ruin my day. Maybe there’s a lot of content on Gamespot I’d like to check out, but I wouldn’t know because sticking around and risking reading some vicious garbage is so not worth it. I want to read about gaming, not about how much I or anyone else is pointlessly, irrationally hated. It’s soul-draining and I need my energy for things I actually like, i.e. *not* your big gaming sites, dudes. Make your sites places gamers like me want to visit and we’ll visit them. Simple.

  2. PhilKenSebben

    As a member of Destructoid, I think this is a very well written letter. It contains some great ideas and I hope some of these sites listen and take action. Nothing can be done if we all sit on our asses and ignore these problems. While I am a huge supporter of free speech, you really nailed when you said they can practice elsewhere. I have zero tolerance for hate speeches, derogatory remarks or any of that. Despite my stances on those things, I often end up at odds from folks from the camps I defend. I am a blunt, often rude person and I don’t believe in how some folks want to wipe away all off the cuff humor, or villify certain people for belonging to certain groups (especially when they want equality for the group they belong to). Despite my stances on things though, I have always held one ideal. We are all people. None of us is better than the next. We all must treat one another, as we wish to be treated. It’s a shame that not many folks hold that ideal. Thank for this letter. I will pass it around and bring attention to it, to the best of my abilities.

    1. Stephen Winson

      While I can’t speak for Samantha directly, let me elaborate, in my capacity as one of the editors here, and on the piece itself. Firstly, the letter didn’t say that everyone who posts at NeoGAF, Reddit, or 4chan is a scumbag. What it said, because it really ought to be undeniable, is that those places are hotbeds for the kind of explosively hateful speech that the letter is talking about. Those sites allow people, broadly, to be as nasty as they want to be, to nearly anyone they want to target. As a result, those places earn a reputation for being dangerous places to go if you’re not a straight cis white male (or anyone if you’re talking about 4chan, lets be honest). The letter asks whether the people running the mentioned sites (and any other games site that wants to listen) whether they want the same reputation, because that’s what they are currently earning, with regard to how they manage (or don’t) their comment sections. No one has to allow that on their sites. We don’t here, anymore than I would let someone come in and scrawl insults on the walls of my house. That is what the unmoderated comments sections of these sites effectively let people do, and I don’t think we’re out of line putting the people running those sites to the question. Is that something they want to keep allowing? Some of them very well may, but I’m hopeful that some will reconsider how they do things. If none do, well, that’s one reason I am helping start this place!

      Thanks for taking the issue seriously and sharing the piece, by the way.

      1. PhilKenSebben

        We don’t allow that at Dtoid though. It’s not an unmodded site. I am one of quite a few recently added volunteer mods. We were brought on to keep the comments as civil as possible. This was done before this letter and a few other recent controversies. I didn’t take the letter as calling everyone scumbags or in any negative way. I just don’t agree with everything in it. Darn glad I read it though. It’s not a problem for me to share this, the only way we can make progress is to help each other be heard and then listen to each other when we talk.

        1. Stephen Winson

          That’s great to hear. I know Destructoid’s Dale North read the letter and took it as positive, and said there were some things they could still do. Reputation is still a problem. It was not always so, and trust, once broken, takes time to rebuild. I would recommend reading the recent interview with Jim Sterling at about the issues he’s grappling with as he’s changed himself. That’s how trust and reputation works. It never goes away fast, and it shouldn’t. Accepting that some people may never trust you for all kinds of reasons is a good thing. Lack of trust isn’t something to shame people for. For many groups (say, blacks, as I am a white man) it has quite honestly kept them alive for years, and does to this day.

  3. Rob

    Samantha, this is a nice piece, thanks for calling people to action!
    Now that you do have people’s attention, I’d say the next step isn’t just relying on them to start things up on your own, though, but to get the community to help being forward ideas.

    The two things sites can do relatively easily and for free to drastically reduce hate are:
    1) Have volunteer moderators
    2) Use Facebook (and real names) for comments

    Volunteer moderators has been working in solid communities since the net began, so it requires some power-sharing in behalf of site owners.

    As for using Facebook for comments, it’s actually very easy to implement, requires almost no technical knowledge (or a friend who can spend five minutes for you), and best of all, it uses real names. Real names won’t eliminate hate entirely, but it will drastically reduce it thanks to more people being unwilling to troll with their name behind it.

    Regarding your article, I do have one thing to point out. You mentioned Polygon hiring more women and their voice improving. I think it would instead be more appropriate to say that after they hired more women, the diversity of their voice improved and better reflected the gaming community as a whole, as just saying “improve” would imply one gender better than the other.

    Finally, I did want to make one note on your byline as well: in writing ex-Mormon, it could come off as offensive to Mormons potentially. I am not Mormon, so don’t take it as authority, but in writing something with an “ex” prefix attached, it can often come off with a negative connotation. (Example: ex-American would imply someone defected because the USA isn’t good.)

    Anyways, I don’t want the two notes I’ve made to discount the fact that this is a good and necessary piece, so thank you for writing it.

    Sent from my iPad

    1. Samantha Allen

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I remain a little more skeptical than you about the power of the “real name” requirement to mitigate harassment. I have seen plenty of Facebook harassment in certain places. I think the demographic behind most of it doesn’t feel policed because their friend group is homogeneous anyway. But I’m still thinking more about the stakes of anonymity. That was a central topic of discussion at the recent Feminists in Games workshop and there will be some work published out of that on the topic of anonymity. If you find me on Twitter, I can relay that to you when it comes out.

      As for my decision to include “ex-Mormon,” I mean it simply to designate that I have had the experience of leaving that faith. While I understand reading a certain hostility in the term, I think the “ex” prefix is pretty casual, short, convenient and, as in “expat,” relatively uncontroversial.

      As for my decision to include it and the question of offending Mormons, I respect people’s right to have their own religious beliefs. I have a handful of friends in the church still. But I am most certainly opposed to the Mormon Church as a political body that donates massive amounts of money to criminalize same-sex marriage and continues to institutionalize deeply racist, homophobic and transphobic policies.

      The difference here is that I don’t discriminate against Mormons as an entire class of people but the Mormon Chuch as a political body discriminates against several classes of people based on their identity alone.

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  6. DVD

    I have a few grievances with this open letter. One is this notion that these communities are run rampant and where ‘non white males’ feel ‘threatened’. I couldn’t be further from that demographic even if I tried and honestly, they don’t make a point of alienating anyone based on gender or age or race. I can even attest to that in regard to 4chan. Especially on 4chan, the entire idea is that they take potshots at everyone and everything.

    Secondly, it’s this idea that somehow these communities don’t know about there being a need to stop sexism and ageism and all the other ‘isms’ that rear their ugly head. But sure they do. They moderate and ban and do all kinds of actions when they arise. They’re blatantly and obviously put forth out in their terms of service. I don’t see why it makes sense to force people to see some grand ‘declaration against sexism’, because frankly, the vast majority of visitors of those sites are strictly against sexist/exclusionary behavior. Whenever such cases arise, they tend to be trolling behaviors (as in people saying outlandish things to get a rise out of people or to make crass jokes). That enters into this idea of free speech. I don’t think anyone should say ‘free speech should exist elsewhere’ and just make this gestapo of decency where anything merely construed as sexist can be grounds for banning or outing a person. But that’s not how these communities work. Reddit for example, is very well self-policed in regard to the up/down vote system. People with sexist attitudes will pretty much be shamed out of existence by its own users. Pretty much every one of those sites, INCLUDING 4chan will actively erase threads and posts if they’re too inflammatory. Pretty much ALWAYS, their own users will call out the negative behavior. This idea that those communities are incubators for hate speech is beyond slanderous.

    Which leads to the ‘status quo’ as if it’s something strangling the games media. But it isn’t. Whenever stories about sexism and injustice comes up in games media, the community and its readers rightfully express outrage about them.

    Even for people just in it to discuss the finer details and politics of such things, one can’t just stamp out such discussions as ‘wholly sexist’ or insidious because they don’t prop up a veneer of societal outrage. Most readers just want game news, want to hang out with people they know, want to simply discuss games. To equate VIDEOGAME news as somehow inherently the same as Mormon Church’s exclusion of blacks is pretty ridiculous. Especially considering ALL those sites mentioned have a strong presence by people of many types of ages, genders and races. Even in the game industry, the appeal should be for there to be MORE variety (because the variety definitely exists, even if they don’t tend to be championed as much or don’t sell just because they’re diverse). Games should ultimately be entertainment first, not an out for social justice. Even at that, there’s legions of games already gender neutral or even pro feminine/gay. I feel they need to be championed in a positive, uplifting manner instead of going to war over games that appeal to heterosexual males (and females). Because ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with catering to a proven audience in gaming. Let games that appeal to their niche (however large) exist in peace. Demanding more variety requires a softer touch and a more peaceful approach.

    Not only is this open letter belittling and demonizing the entire gaming industry (ones especially that supports minority gender/racial groups), but it demonizes the gamer audience that already is very inclusive and have always wanted more variety in gaming for decades (and have been getting such variety, albeit in the Indie/Japanese gaming niche).

    I simply feel that appealing for a militant ‘who cares about freedom of speech?’ approach is ultimately going to hurt any cause in wanting diversity and acceptance. It instead will divide and sour people on these kinds of issues completely. In fact, freedom of speech should exist precisely because people can talk about these issues through. Even if there’s trolls and people making silly jokes, they can be called up about them instead of being babied around by moderators being the political-correctness police.

    Both the game industry and the game media and gamer-base are a lot more nuanced and mature about inclusiveness than this open letter blatantly runs roughshod over.

    1. PhilKenSebben

      I think it’s a case of those loud few (you know the ones), being heard more the civil majority. I’ve been part of many good, civil talks on Destructoid, 4chan and a few other places. But it’s those random jerks, screaming and causing a problem that get remembered.

      1. Stephen Winson

        Yes, that’s what gets remembered. Not letting the random jerks, screaming, and such mess up your site is the best way for the actual good stuff to be remembered.

      2. Samantha Allen

        I don’t think this is a case of weighing the good conversations against the bad. What I want is for the hurtful, violent conversations not to happen.

        If you don’t want to be remembered by your “jerks,” kick them off the site. Unfortunately, your “jerks” are what prevent many people from participating in the conversations there. I’ve spoken with many people who have had to flee from Destructoid or Reddit because they no longer felt safe there.

        1. DVD

          I think that really depends. I don’t think it’s that the jerks get remembered as it is the game controversies that gets remembered. Not to mention a lot of gaming sites lean heavily on being cynical or making the craziest and more irreverent jokes. And I think they’re largely good when they happen. There’s many prominent female posters in Reddit and Destructoid and I assure you, the posters flock to their defense whenever they are ‘threatened’ or even badmouthed.

    2. Andrea Shubert

      I loved this article when I first read it, and I agree with the vast majority of Samantha’s comments. I approved this comment even though I disagree with the vast majority of what the writer had to say. There were no attacks, which was great to (not) see.

      “DVD” I must say that your comment about major sites knowing that there is an issue misses the point of this open letter. Of course most of those sites know there is something wrong. They even have nominal policies against the worst of abuses. the major difference I see is where the line is drawn. Most of the major sites will remove, block, and ban for the very worst of things. I think instead that the line should be stricter than that specifically because most of us not in the majority have been verbally abused in those forums for a very long time.

      This is not a “freedom of speech” issue. None of us believe that people should be censored. There is, however, a large difference between censorship and removing poisonous discourse. If someone wants to argue a point or condemn a decision, that is valid. (For instance, see the comment I am replying to!) However, it doesn’t take much work to see people condemning the person who made the decision, and that should be over the line.

      (The exception, of course, is when someone’s comment is an attack itself. Then you are stuck condemning the person who made the comment in addition to the comment itself — as “Gabe” from Penny Arcade had to learn again last week.)

      1. DVD

        I must admit, there *are* definitely problematic posts and discourse happening from time to time. But at the same time, it coincides with gaming journalism, game companies and gamers themselves treasuring this idea of hyper cynical and jokish personalities. And that naturally leads to some issues. I know how being bullied and talked down to feels like in the gaming community no doubt. But one has to develop a bit of a thicker skin against some of those people who are blatantly trolling for a reaction. And believe it or not, I often find good, genuine discourse in the gaming community at large rather than be confronted with a bully or someone throwing around racist/sexist remarks. Often times, racist/sexist remarks usually happen because of some need to be outrageous or comical. And I can understand that to a certain point. As they’re almost always done on a comedic slant. I mean, I understand the reasoning and the emotion and the good will behind this open letter. I’m just saying that despite all the negatives out there, the community tends to self police itself well. Let’s say for example, someone makes a ranting post on Reddit that comes across and racist or sexist. That post will get downvoted to oblivion before the mods ever get their hands on it.

        My point really is that the communities of the sites this open letter talks about does have communities that are against sexism and racism and other aspects that hinder inclusiveness. They tend to be far more open towards the discussion than they are usually made out to be. Then again, there’s places like 4chan where it’s definitely very difficult to be treated fairly upon. But even that site has a few segments that can have serious discourse. I think that’s kind of the issue I have with this though. Places like Kotaku and Destructiod tends to police themselves pretty well for the vast majority of the time. Places like 4chan, I’m not sure it’s even possible to regulate such a chaotic whirlpool of personalities and vile/trolling posts.

        Not to mention, again, there’s this aspect of the gaming populace pretty much putting stock in being comedians and being sarcastic all the time. And that’s a good thing. People should be able to have risque fun or poke jokes here and there. And I definitely agree people who make hurtful remarks needs to be definitely confronted and toned down. I guess therein lies how I don’t really treasure the ‘worst posts’ of those sites to the ‘best’ (or the most highly voted) ones which usually have positive insights about gaming and gamer culture than the ones making stupid jokes or are flat out being racists or sexists.

        I’m only saying that the communities are a lot more robust than they’re made out to be. Though ultimately, I do agree people in general should try to behave better. Even if much of gamer discourse tends to be hyperbolic and filled with ‘vitriol comedy’ as they often do.

        1. Baronesa

          The communities you mention are not only poisonous but completely unwelcoming to some of us.

          Just go and check the ignorance and vitriol directed towards transgender.

          Why would I dare to post something in a place where MY VERY EXISTENCE is not only questioned but even some simply call for all of those who are like me to be killed? Ohh and those posts are still there.

          The discourse on the gaming community is a reflection of the entire society… but by making this space more welcoming, a safe place FOR ALL, we can slowly bring more people together.

          There is no difference between the comment section of any news publication touching on transgender issues and that of most of the named videogame sites.

          I do have to say that compared to other places NeoGaff was far more welcoming than kotaku or gamestop.

          In the same way THEY complain that this is escapism and don’t want to hear about our problems… well i don’t want to hear the same death threats and derogatory remarks that i have to endure in my real life… gaming is escapism for me as well, and people get up in arms just because some of us are asking for a minimum of respect.

          1. DVD

            That’s the thing though. They may appear unfriendly, but that’s really weighing the worst posters on those sites (whom should promptly be ignored) and focus on the majority who do tend to be open towards discussion. That’s the way I personally approach those forums, just jumping in and seeing how I’d fare. I fared way better than I would have assumed. Again, I feel a lot of the ‘vitriol’ and ‘unwelcome’ aspects tends to do with people making crass jokes as it is the ‘vogue’ thing to do in the gamer community. Look at Youtube and pretty much every gamer personality is a wannabe comedian or an ‘angry reviewer’ personality. And they can be great fun, even though they may not be as openly accepting at first glance. But if you get to actual discussion with many gaming personalities, they’re very positive and open towards the non white-male audiences. Another thing to consider is that games often has its share of little kids (often immature) making crass and ridiculous comments. Sure, they definitely can be called out on it, but I already feel most of them do. The thing really is to not lend so much credence to all the stupid things people say. I do sympathize that parsing through the cynicism and sarcasm can be difficult. But when serious topics arise, I feel the community is a lot more open minded than people think they are.

            I definitely know where you’re coming from in regard to NeoGAF, but personally, I find them to be a tad overbearing on the bannings and silencing voices a tad much (as they can be properly confronted and discussed in a back and fro if they aren’t banned). And frankly, that happens quite often in sites like Kotaku and others. Though again, there’s the element of ‘shock jocking’ their way through a site, garnering a reaction for being funny or provocative.

            I am kind of split on Gamestop personally, considering it really depends on the employees. The ones I frequent couldn’t be nicer to me if they tried.

            Again, I do sympathize with this open letter’s spirit and message. I just think these communities are more nuanced than they seem, that’s all. And for better or for worse, they need to be parsed out a bit in regards to dealing with them.

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  9. DVD

    “I agree with Baronesa. Your experience of these spaces seems to be much different from ours. Ask yourself why that might be the case.”

    I think it’s probably because I actually learned how to parse through all the internet comment insanity from being a part of the 4chan community for a while. I learned to use anonymity to my advantage and that’s probably how I was able to weave my way through all those communities with ease. Not to mention that upon dealing with each community, there’s countless times more where I had positive, uplifting discussions about something than being trashed or insulted in replies. Of course, it doesn’t mean I haven’t had my share of abuse and insults hurled my way either. I guess I just learned to parry them, ignore the trolls and just reward good, respectful posters.

    I definitely understand and sympathize the need for people to be more accepting and open though. But a lot of it conflicts with the anonymity of the net where people tend to speak in hyperbole, comedic one liners and stuff like that. I find that people do have a genuine, serious side if they are to be confronted directly with more personalized dialogue. Which is why I do have faith in most gamer communities. Which isn’t to say that I’m saying those communities are perfect either. That part I can definitely agree.

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