Recently, Andreas Zecher, of Spaces of Play, wrote an open letter to the gaming community that is calling for the end of harassment online. He invited all developers to put their name on this letter as a sort of petition. So far, a lot of high profile names appear on the growing list of 2500 people. These include people from Ubisoft, CD Projekt RED, Telltale Games, Nintendo, and more.
This is what the open letter says:
We believe that everyone, no matter what gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability has the right to play games, criticize games and make games without getting harassed or threatened. It is the diversity of our community that allows games to flourish.
If you see threats of violence or harm in comments on Steam, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, Facebook or reddit, please take a minute to report them on the respective sites.
If you see hateful, harassing speech, take a public stand against it and make the gaming community a more enjoyable space to be in.
Let me say this first: this is a wonderful idea and harassment does need to end. Harassment against Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, 10 year old boys, and everyone else. This is not an issue of “sides.” The letter calls for an end to all harassment. It is not only women or those connected to Zoe Quinn that have been harassed. Over the past couple of weeks a lot of vitriol has taken over the Internet, Twitter in particular.
That harassment is what caused this issue to be derailed. Instead of focusing on things like ethics or the content of games, the discussion became about how terrible a place the Internet can be. That is a discussion that needs to happen, surely, but it is not even close to the most important matter at hand right now. That is especially true considering just about any scandal, or news event really, on the Internet is going to be full of hateful people on all sides of an issue.
If there is ever going to be a real, honest discussion about the state of the gaming industry, the harassment needs to end. It only serves right now to completely change the issue into something else.
Regardless of how harassment affects current issues at hand, it is a downright immoral and contemptible behavior to participate in. It should never, ever happen for any reason.
With all of that said there is something else to consider with how this will effect the current issue about game journalism ethics. As I said before, this will become an article for many sites (which have already popped up in droves) to discuss the nature of harassment on the Internet, which I don’t have a problem with. However, I do have a problem if outlets, like The Mary Sue, are using this as an opportunity to push an agenda or point of view.
What is terrible about that line of thought, which fortunately it does not look like too many places have gone down, is that it is entirely against the point of the letter. The letter is to unite the community and root out the people that harass within it. The letter does not serve to push an agenda or condemn the community, but calls it to action to help end the harassment.
With that said, we should all not let this take us away from the issue at hand. The ethical problems right now take precedence over this. That doesn’t mean that we cannot talk about both at the same time, but don’t let one drown the other out. We can work to remove harassment while at the same time evaluating the current ethical dilemmas.
When you see something on Youtube or Twitter, report it so it can be dealt with. It should just become, unfortunately, a part of internet life. While that happens, we can still have an ethical discussion. Neither action infringes on the others space or time.
I want to end with this: I applaud those who signed it, and I think this is absolutely something that major sites, well sites everywhere, should be reporting. However, this is something that needs to be reported without an opinion attached to it. A call to end harassment is a great thing, but should not be used to push an agenda to disparage an entire community. Don’t let the pushed agenda or opinion, or the discussion of harassment derail the real issues here. As discussed in a previous article about “The End of Gamers” it is in the favor of some sites to change what everyone is talking about.
All of us should be helping to end harassment for both the sake of ending it, and so we can discuss the gaming industry’s issues.