Greetings! My name is Todd, and if you don’t mind, I am going to accept the invitation you gave on your platform to respond to your Vice article and subsequent blog post by posting a response on my platform.
Before getting started in earnest, though, I want to state up front for everyone who reads this the following: Chris was not a member of GameJournoPros that I could see, and Chris did not author any of the Gamers Are Dead articles on August 28th and 29th that I call the “2 Minutes Hate.”
The 2 Minutes Hate is actually a great place to start, as you took the time to make a limp-wristed defense of Leigh Alexander’s mind vomit that got the 2 Minutes Hate started. If hers were the only article to come out that day, it could have been ignored. I could have writen off Alexander’s asinine rantings as sour grapes from someone who knew virtually nothing and had done less in the videogame industry, yet somehow felt entitled to the 100 billion dollars the industry was going to generate in 2015. Taken by itself, it read as half sour grapes and half arrogant presumption that she, alone, was the gatekeeper of who does and does not get to identify as gamer.
But it wasn’t just the Alexander article, was it? It was more than a dozen on the same day, with click-bait, garbage headlines ranging from the “death of the gamer identity” to “the women who killed gamers” to “here’s how to kill gamers.” The headline of Devin Wilson’s “guide to ending gamers” can only be read one way: “end” in this case means kill or murder. Isn’t it strange that I’d been a gamer for over 30 years at the time the 2 Minutes Hate happened, and the thought of killing anyone not ideologically aligned with me never occurred to me? The anti-capitalist, anti-intellectual, pro-authoritarian, pro-populist, anti-gamer crowd sure is bloodthirsty over an optional hobby that’s been a meritocracy for thousands of years.
This brings me to my second point. I was a child of the 1980’s—I turned 4 in 1980. As a child of the 1980’s, I got used to not having tacit approval for being a gamer to the point I stopped asking for it, let alone needing it. At no point did I want my parents to be involved in my videogame escapades. I say this for a couple of reasons. First, I’d exceeded my parents’ skills at videogames before I was 10. Oh, sure, I’d played Ms. Pac-Man with my mom, and I had a TRON lightcycles style MP game for the Intellivision that my dad would play with me sometimes. Those experiences weren’t terribly profound; conversely, I have far more vivid memories of my mother cursing at my father in Toys ‘R Us because I’d wanted Phantasy Star II for the Genesis, and it cost an extra 20 dollars because it came with a guidebook.
The second reason I was perfectly content with my parents watching TV every night instead of playing video games with me is because I was already gaming with them. They needed a fourth player in order to play some classic, deck of 52 card games (Euchre and Sheepshead), and I was conscripted before the age of 10 to be the fourth player. However, it wasn’t necessary to simply fill a chair; rather, I had to also “play correctly.” Given there was no game if I left, leaving the table was also not an option. So, forgive me for shattering your narrative, but the very last thing I ever wanted as a 80s baby was for my parents to interject themselves into what video games I played and how.
Now, before you or anyone else starts to type a response of how abused I was as a child, I will tell you that I was not. I was taught the single most important skill I have ever learned: self-reliance. Without self-reliance, I would not have been able to move away from home, change majors 8 months away from graduation, earn two STEM degrees in college, move away from home again, have a successful 14 year career in aerospace, start a business, and immigrate to Europe all before the age of 40. Self-reliance, responsibility, and work ethic allowed all of those things to happen, and it was my parents who instilled those things in me.
I think the more appropriate phrase to use rather than, “All 80s babies wanted was for their parents to join them,” would be to say the desire of an 80s baby to have their parents included in their videogame was directly proportional to the level of relationship the 80s baby had with their parents outside of gaming.
And you posturing about “proper gamers” not speaking for everyone three paragraphs after you adopted the arrogant presumption to speak for every “80s baby” wasn’t lost on me either, but I’m also aware it’s a “Do as I say, not as I do” world, especially for authoritarians, so it’s all good.
Everyone’s a Gamer, but not All Gamers are Created Equal
Let’s address the premise of your Vice article for a second. Everyone’s a gamer. Does that mean every gamer is equal? Certainly not. For example, the skills required of the home game Euchre player are different from the skills required of the casual Magic: The Gathering player are different from the skills required of the professional poker player. All three are gamers, according to your article, yet none of the three are remotely related to each other beyond each of them playing physical card games.
Which is why I am glad you brought up the businesswoman who’s a level 70 paladin in World of Warcraft. Level 70 was the max level in The Burning Crusade, which was very nearly perfect as a videogame. It rewarded competent players who were also good teammates with significant challenges that rewarded high level gear, but also provided progression for players who were neither good enough players, nor good enough teammates to progress high level content.
If it were 2007, and the businesswoman, level 70 paladin just played, that would be the end of it. Live and let live, as they say. That isn’t what happened in 2007, 2008, and the beginning of 2009, was it? How many forum threads, created by how many level 70 paladin business people were created claiming the hard content in TBC was, indeed, hard? So hard, in fact, it was impossible to progress if one had a full-time job. What of the guilds built almost exclusively of people with full-time jobs (and not just any full-time job, aerospace engineers)? So hard, in fact, it was impossible to progress because of family commitments. What about the guilds with guild leaders, officers, and members that had families?
In short, spending 5 minutes on Elitist Jerks so the mathematicians in the WoW playerbase could tell you how to play well was too much to ask for some people—for them WoW was too hard, and going to any length, including whoring out their spouses and children as the reason why they were bad at the game, was worth trying to compromise the integrity of World of Warcraft.
Therein lies the potential difference between the level 70 paladin, the Candy Crush player, and myself. It would never occur to me to go to the Candy Crush forums to complain Level 95 was too hard and the game should be changed to accommodate me. I know why Level 95 is too hard. Some of the factors are beyond my control—variance based on short-term luck—other factors are completely within my control—I suck at Candy Crush. My experience is it’s only a matter of time before the Candy Crush player decides to branch out and destroy my favorite game because it’s too hard to achieve Platinum God in The Binding of Isaac, and Platinum God is an entitlement, so getting Platinum God should be easier.
So, I suppose my question is this: What difference does it make if everyone is a gamer if not every gamer is created equal? Further, since there are so many games being made on a daily basis, shouldn’t the correct response to someone trying to get a game developer to compromise the integrity of their game be to go find the game that meets their expectations?
Finally, I’d like to say it is unfortunate you find yourself as collateral damage in a culture war. Your point is well made, you did not write any of the “Gamers Are Dead” articles, and you are certainly not your colleagues at Vice. That said, I’d like to offer the following.
Imagine you’ve held something as part of your identity since you can remember. You suffered consistent ridicule for that identity since you can remember. Not even your home was safe from the ridicule. Eventually, after fighting for years to obtain a modicum of respect for how you spend your free time, that begrudging respect was given, not because they developed a respect for that part of my identity, but because I’d become a success “in spite” of it. Then, imagine waking up one day and being told you were a misogynist because you held that identity; that you needed to die because of that identity; that you were a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic person because of that identity.
My point is millions and millions of gamers became collateral damage as a part of the 2 Minutes Hate, and no one, including you, stopped for a second to ask if the 2 Minutes Hate was going too far. No one, including you, stopped to say, “Maybe if we address these matters of public interest gamers seem to care a lot about, we can end this situation before it gets out of control.” So while I concede you personally had nothing to do with attacking gamers, you also had nothing to do with defending gamers while they’ve been attacked for the last year.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, Chris, and if you want to engage further, I’d be happy to talk with you. I’m pretty easy to find, so let me know.