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Monthly Archives: September 2014

 

 

Construct.

 

 

“We are more free than ever before to look around in all directions; nowhere, do we perceive any limits. We have the advantage of feeling an immense space around us – but also an immense void.” – Nietzsche

 

I look up at the orange sky. I stare at the vapor trails of passing planes. I remember Destiny.

Games are barren. They wrap space around emptiness and call it ‘World.’

Mario is desolate: Why is the Kingdom so empty? Where did everyone go? Whose footsteps wrap around the mountains?

Where were they going? And why did they leave?

Games suggest so much more than they are, but the space always cracks and no amount of environmental density can cover the silent, screaming vacuum behind their blind walls.

There are those that celebrate this wasteland: the Souls series, but their understanding never lasts.

Art emerges from the medium and implies texture and flesh. Warmth and dirt. But this is never translatable.

The system loses the context and renders an approximation of an open heart: trash tumbling in the light of a cold wind.

A problem of translation of place.

In Dark Souls, the player enters a painting: The Painted World of Ariamis. The painting hangs in a large cathedral in the middle of the domain of dead Gods.

The painted world was more tangible than the game’s reality. It distilled the lingering misery, focused it.

Warmth made of glass.

I look up at the orange sky. I stare at the vapor trails of passing planes. I wonder about the people. I wonder about their fear.

Games are barren. They wrap space around emptiness and call it ‘World.’

And what of the actual World?

It is also wrapped in an incomprehensible emptiness.

Is all our art and culture just a means to focus our anxieties of the void? To manufacture space and meaning?

To focus our misery?

The world as an engine of art and anxiety.

I played Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare one year after being stuck in a war zone.

The ‘attack helicopter’ killstreak gave me nightmares.

Games are somewhere between our subjective real and waking dream.

They have an influence of vision, they manufacture questions of perception and alter the gaze.

I lay down on the grass. I watch the light drip through the shaking silhouette of leaves. I think of Crysis.

The bigger a game tries to pretend to be, the less interesting it is.

The bigger a game tries to be, the more brittle the walls and the vacuum becomes intolerable and loud.

Open-world games try to keep their promise. Worlds where the player can mold their own narrative: An assumed simulation of living.

But this world itself is not open, none of us can go where we want.

We are stuck with our anxieties, our hate, our love, our need.

We are rooted and our imagination is crumbling.

What made FFVII so successful is that it understood the minute scale on which a world operates. It understood the sequence of place and the fragility of people.

And similar to Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil, every character was colored by the tragedy of existing in that world.

Square never captured that feeling again. No one has.

In college, I would experiment with noise. I listened to a lot of Merzbow, Bomb 20, and MITB.

Other genres of music, when pushed to their natural ends, often failed to capture the absurd notion of creating meaning in a life of constant fear and a notion of the inevitable end of all things.

Eazy-E almost got it.

He wrangled his own understanding out of the bowels of cosmic indifference and died.

 

Bearing.

 

“Why do you like games so much?”

We were sitting at a Mediterranean cafe downtown. The light was dim. There was a lot of noise.

It was raining outside. We were drinking mint tea.

I looked at her.

I shrug.

I didn’t have a good answer. I still don’t.

And I don’t think anyone does.

I barrel through the darkness. I listen to Chipzel. I feel remorse.

Her music emerges from the ancient dead. It isn’t about reminiscing, it’s about digging through potential.

Games are barren. They wrap their creators’ hands in dust and bone and call it love.

An existential war between iterations of conflict and empty memorial: This is the current state of things.

“Why do you like games so much?”

Maybe because I like the promise of their parts: Games as reverse-Gestalt objects.

The parts are more than the whole.

Engines of art, music, philosophy, narratives, experience. Everything that emerges from that space is more exhilarating than the space itself.

Factories.

I sit on a hill. I stare through the heart of the city. I watch the sunset. I listen.

How many times has the world cracked open to bear itself to the distant, dying stars?

How many times have we accepted the mess we are and the mess we are in?

Are games attractive because they give us a controlled space to act? But the finality is there and the player is actively driving that world to its own end.

No matter where we go, we devour worlds and drink space.

Always running from ourselves and into each other.

I was watching G4. It was a live broadcast of E3. They asked for viewer feedback about a game with ‘choice.’

They aired the response of a stereotype.

An obese, white male discussing how he always makes the ‘moral’ choices. That mattered to him.

He wanted to be the classic hero.

I felt sorry for him. I felt sorry for how much pain he must be in to imagine that his choices and his feedback mattered.

The greatest fraud: That the worlds of games care about what we think or feel.

It’s all fish eyes and limbs. Gasping and clawing. Remembrance and money.

 

Dancing.

 

We made MMOs because we couldn’t handle the end.

We decided we needed persistence. We needed more time in the wasteland between dream and abyss.

A wasteland with no virtual end: A depraved mimicry of our reflections.

I look up at the sun. I remember the canvas, the page, the brick, breathing, waking.

Games are barren. They are made and call themselves ‘World.’

And we run into them with a love and expectation that is always broken.

Why do you like games so much?

I stayed up all night and read ‘I, The Divine‘ once.

A novel written by a man from the perspective of a Lebanese woman trying to write her life story.

A novel of first chapters.

Where do our lives begin?

I walked to the lake at 4 am. I sat by the shore.

It was snowing. I lit a cigar.

I stared into the black.

And I accepted in that moment, there was no one to embrace.

And I accepted, once and for all, that I have no answers.

 

I am become boredom, the cancer of worlds.

 

“…It can only persist…as long as it’s possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource, and that the world is an infinite garbage can.” – Noam Chomsky

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legends.

 

 

The first computer we had in our house was a Packard Bell desktop my family bought from Sears.

My brother and I spent a lot of time poking around on it, trying to figure out how to make it fun.

At first, we played a lot of Kidspace: A software suite that came pre-installed.

Kidspace had some cheap, strange games in it:

An odd medical game where you entered a patient’s body and attacked infected cells.

Another game where the player was a paleontologist exploring a barren world of static dinosaurs.

Kidspace was quiet and calm.

We spent a lot of our time there, it was pure in that it didn’t try to market anything.

Kidspace is what turned my brother and I on to PC Gaming.

We later moved on to Megarace.

Megarace grabbed us: It felt fast and dark.

It took place in something resembling a cyberpunk future with biker gangs.

Akira with none of the relevance.

Megarace was obnoxious and entertaining and we stuck with it for a while.

We only stopped playing when we couldn’t ever beat the fifth or so level.

The first ‘real’ PC game my brother and I tried to play was Star Wars: Rebel Assault II.

At the time, neither of us was interested in the Star Wars franchise, but this seemed like a fun, arcade-like rail shooter.

RAII pushed our desktop to its limits.

It ran well enough to play, but it wasn’t a smooth experience and would often crash.

Having played on consoles most of our childhood, we didn’t understand that PC gaming involved constant hardware upgrades.

Around this time, Command & Conquer: Red Alert released and all the kids at school were talking about it.

I had never heard of the RTS genre.

When I started Red Alert, I was disappointed that this wasn’t a first-person game.

That feeling soon faded as I began to enjoy the fulfillment of commanding and developing armies across alternate historical campaigns.

Due to the low hardware requirements, Red Alert ran much better on our desktop than RAII.

Red Alert was a substantial game.

It evolved so much from its predecessor: Command & Conquer.

I still play the original Red Alert today.

Around 1998, we finally upgraded our computer.

We bought a stock HP desktop in which my brother installed a dedicated graphics card.

This is where our love of PC Gaming soared.

We bought Half-Life, downloaded Counter-Strike, and played Unreal Tournament endlessly.

Playing these classic 3D games was formative.

Today, each one has reached mythical status in terms of pioneering design and action.

We understood that there was a lot we missed out on in those early years with our Packard Bell.

There were lineages, lines of thought we couldn’t follow on PC back then.

And when Diablo II released, I had little reference for what it was doing.

 

Careen.

 

The only game I played that was aesthetically similar to Diablo II was Red Alert.

I did have an understanding of different types of RPGs (Action, Tactical, Turn-based, etc.) due to the 90’s boom of JRPGs on console, but I had never played one with the strange, static, isometric camera of Diablo.

I did appreciate not having to always worry about moving the camera around since it locked onto the character.

Red Alert was exhausting about managing the camera.

I loved Diablo II’s dark atmosphere and art style.

The music was some of the best I heard in a PC game.

What struck me about D2 the most was how it felt like an action game, but it wasn’t.

It sat in a strange space where different RPG genres met.

It felt like the sort of game that could only belong on PC, but also seemed translatable to console.

Of course at the time I saw the line between PC and console as non-porous and rigid.

The strange loyalties of children: Being attached to wherever they are.

In the ignorance o f that age, I recall seeing games like Doom and Diablo I on Playstation and getting angry about how they don’t belong there.

This sentiment was stronger with regards to Diablo because Diablo II was exclusive to PC and MacOS.

It never felt as though we would ever see a Diablo II port on console and we still haven’t.

I spent years in D2’s world.

Its action was so immediate and satisfying, it took a long time for the game to grow stale.

It eventually did, but only by virtue of time.

By the time Diablo III released in 2012, the world of PC games had shifted.

The PC gaming market had gone through a difficult period where consoles were setting the tone and creating markets for games, but the PC had begun to ascend as the dominant consoles began to show their age.

Also, the PC platform had begun a shift away from relying solely on large, AAA releases to a more balanced approach between innovative, cheap, independent games and well-known franchises.

Independent titles like Torchlight tried to capture and innovate on Diablo’s established formula in 2009, three years before Diablo III released.

But something always felt off about games like Torchlight and Path of Exile, something about their action felt unsatisfying.

The first time I played Diablo III I realized how much I had missed its solid responsiveness.

It took awhile for me to get used to the new art style and the real money auction house was unnecessary, but overall it still felt like Diablo.

The music was still quiet and deep, the game’s somber tone was left untouched, the enemies were varied and interesting.

However, Diablo III felt like a more universal game than D2, from the beginning Diablo III felt like a game for everyone and anyone.

It walked a very thin line between the casual and core audiences: The beginning of the game felt streamlined and, even on normal difficulty, it was too easy (especially with the introduction of followers).

At the same time, Diablo III boasted a ‘Hardcore’ mode that featured character permadeath.

Over time Blizzard pruned away at the game.

By removing unnecessary, game-breaking features like the auction house and by expanding core elements like the game’s difficulty and loot, Blizzard sincerely focused the game.

When the Reaper of Souls expansion released earlier this year, Diablo III had gone from being a great game diluted by under-developed ideas to an elegant action RPG.

Having become the game it always should have been, it was ready to fulfill its promise of universality.

 

Library.

 

When Blizzard announced that Diablo III would be coming to current-gen consoles in 2013, I remember the vitriol erupting from a portion of the embedded PC community.

They were offended that Blizzard had released this game on PC with a lot of questionable decisions (like the removal of the skill tree) that were only justifiable had Blizzard been trying to streamline the game for console release.

The assumption in the beginning was that like Diablo II, D3 was going to be a PC exclusive.

This sentiment wasn’t due to the PC community not wanting the console community to enjoy PC games, it emerged more out of the environment Diablo III released into.

Late in the console life-cycle, publishers and developers were looking to cash in with quick and cheap console game ports on PC.

Often these ports would be missing what were considered key PC features: thorough graphics options, dedicated servers, universal gamepad support, multi-monitor support.

The PC community was shown little consideration.

The mechanical simplicity of Diablo III was no longer seen as just trying to boost the audience on PC, but rather that Blizzard had developed D3 with the intention of releasing to consoles at some point.

When the last-gen console versions did release in September 2013, the anger had died down and the game was left to be judged on its own merits.

It was well-received critically, but it didn’t garner much discussion.

This seemed like the game’s lowest point: Its original fans felt betrayed and the console fans didn’t pay as much attention to it.

But Blizzard did manage to find a near-perfect balance one year later on the new-gen platforms.

In the year between D3’s last-gen and current-gen release, the game changed.

With the introduction of Reaper of Souls the game was modified down to its core.

It was more polished and more expansive.

While I didn’t play Diablo III on last-gen consoles, I did pick it up on the Playstation 4.

I hadn’t touched Diablo III in over a year and I was surprised at how different the game felt on console.

This wasn’t a matter of one version being better than the other, the two were just different.

On PC, Diablo III feels like a western Action RPG.

It feels like a game about numbers and exploration.

What struck me on console is how much more it feels like an arcade game.

It’s a faster game.

Blizzard implemented a dodge move making the character more mobile, more fluid.

It’s as if the two versions of the game each explores and emphasizes a different face:

The PC version filters the game as a number-crunching, exploratory RPG.

The console version, as a fast, smooth, arcade action game that reminds one of Gauntlet.

It was the inverse of what RAII had represented.

This is a testament to the Diablo series’ malleability.

A testament of its ability to change shape in order to emphasize one of its many successes of identity and mechanics.

A lot of games try to be Diablo, but they only ever succeed at one aspect of it.

Few games are confident enough about what they are to succeed on different platforms by altering their identity.

With its difficult and complicated trajectory over the past two years, Diablo III has hammered itself back into significance, back into coherence, by embracing its ability to diverge.

Diablo III is like a circus acrobat with a rocky past:

Always seeking to forget about where it came from while contorting itself to entertain as many people as possible.

 

Always reaching out through action while exposing its dense, fluid heart to the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Lattice.

 

 

I never played the original Killzone.

When it released on the PS2 in 2004, its reception was lukewarm.

The first Killzone was highly regarded for its aesthetics, but was derided for a lack of stability (framerate issues, general bugs, broken AI).

I didn’t purchase Killzone 1 because it was a console shooter in the PS2 era, I was unconvinced that this was viable and Killzone’s problems proved it.

Even if Bungie had shown it was possible to create a thriving console FPS on the Xbox with Halo:CE in 2001, Guerilla hadn’t been doing what Bungie had been honing since 1991.

The only console FPS I played in that generation was the last FPS released on PS2 in 2006: Black.

While Black still felt lacking, it worked a lot better than expected.

It had a strong identity, crafted through sound.

Black won ‘Best Art & Sound’ at the Develop Industry Excellence Awards and was nominated for ‘Best Audio’ at the 2006 BAFTA Video Games Awards.

Black didn’t receive much attention in the larger gaming community.

It was the end of both the PS2 and the Xbox. Everyone was waiting for the new console generation to drop.

In the time between Guerilla’s creation in 2000 and Black’s release, Bungie had released two Halo games and Halo 2 both broadened and focused Halo:CE’s premise.

Halo 2 was not only a more fluid experience, but it set the standard for matchmaking on consoles in 2004, two years before Black’s release.

Halo 2 defined the future of console FPSes by proving that online multiplayer can be important to consoles provided the experience is streamlined.

It was also a faster, tighter game than its predecessor.

The lore had taken root and the game’s boundaries were significantly expanded, but it moved the player through varied environments and set-pieces at a quick pace.

When the PS3 released in 2006, the Halo series had cemented itself as the pre-eminent console FPS (exclusive to Xbox).

Nobody discussed Killzone or Black the way they did Halo.

Halo’s tech-spirituality transcended the game.

It was revered.

It wasn’t until Killzone 2 released in 2009, that Sony and Guerrilla found an alternative and an answer.

 

Neck.

 

In the age of searching for ‘The Next Halo’, Killzone 2 was pegged by many to be a ‘Halo Killer’.

It wasn’t.

KZ2 wasn’t a failure by any means, but it wasn’t seen as the instant legend Halo:CE or Halo 2 were.

But Killzone 2 did something that neither Halo nor Call of Duty did: Verticality.

Ever since the creation of the modern first-person shooter with Wolfenstein 3D, the genre has been obsessive about exploring horizontal space.

There are always small deviations in verticality, but the focus is generally about moving across a world, not through it.

Games that decided to explore vertical space more prior to KZ2 are today considered modern classics: Half-Life 2. Crysis. Counter-Strike.

But these were PC shooters and PC games were always conceptually ahead.

Both Halo and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare tried to integrate a passing glance at vertical space.

The beauty of Halo’s ringworld is that the player can see it looping over them into the horizon.

A simulation of climbing, when the player was doing nothing but moving forward.

CoD4 tackled verticality by emphasizing aerial and long-distance threats like helicopters, gunships, and snipers.

KZ2 though was built around vertical space.

The game never gave the sense that the player was moving across a world.

The environments were dark and closed.

Either the player was moving up, down, or penned in by looming structures tearing at the sky.

Killzone 2 seemed to absorb some of the lessons of PC shooters. It was a grand hybrid of both worlds.

The multiplayer was quick and deep, implementing a leveling system similar to what CoD4 presented, the levels were innovative and interesting, it had a unique visual style to rival Halo’s.

With each successive iteration of the Killzone franchise, Guerrilla focused the series’ obsession with vertical space.

Killzone: Shadow Fall has massive cities that both drill down and bloom up and moving through them is fulfilling in ways other shooters aren’t, not even the Halo series.

 

Satellite.

 

After ending their console exclusivity with Microsoft, Bungie was set free.

The Halo franchise was passed on to 343 Industries while Bungie worked on their ambitious, multi-platform project: Destiny.

No one knew quite what to expect from this game considering the amount of hype it had generated.

We are still in the beginning of a new console generation and the marketing of games has been loud and heavy.

Watch Dogs is the worst example of this: A mediocre GTA-like with little innovation and an enormous marketing budget.

The gaming community wanted Watch Dogs to be better than it was because it was a new-gen game.

At first, Destiny felt like more of the same: Heavy marketing and another future-FPS from the development house that brought us Halo.

But in the beta, it became evident there was more going on.

When it released a month later, the game reaffirmed what the beta had suggested:

Destiny is a study of the history of the FPS genre as a whole.

It is reminiscent of both Doom and Wolfenstein 3D by having the player move across both vast, open spaces and tight corridors.

Its shooting has the crispness of Rage.

The story of the game is woven into the environments the player frequents, expressing a narrative and aesthetic style similar to Half-Life 2 and Halo.

Destiny’s level progression would not exist if not for CoD4’s pioneering multiplayer leveling system.

Its persistent online world and seemless matchmaking on console is owed to the ground Bungie broke with Halo 2.

The clear, aural identity of the weapons reminded me of the amazing things Black had done with sound.

But what stunned me the most is Destiny’s suggestion and seamless incorporation of vertical space.

Many of Destiny’s missions has the player either tunneling down into some alien dungeon or battling upwards towards the sky.

Bungie’s use of vertical space isn’t as ‘full’ as Guerrilla’s in Killzone, but it is different enough that it doesn’t matter.

What Killzone often presents is a stark contrast between tight, claustrophobic environments and wide-open vertical horizons.

Destiny doesn’t really explore that duality.

Even the alien tunnels the player moves through have a stunning amount of vertical space: large structures, high ceilings, etc.

In these locations, Destiny’s use of vertical space is similar to arena shooters like Quake and Unreal Tournament.

However, when the player is out in open terrain, Destiny is often suggestive of Half-Life 2’s City 17 and its relationship to the Combine Citadel.

City 17 is a major hub/transition area and the Citadel can be seen from nearly anywhere in the city, always looming over the player.

In Destiny, Bungie break up the visual monotony of the horizontal by incorporating large, looming structures on all the planets.

On Earth, it’s the Traveler and the enormous, dead spaceships.

On the Moon, it’s giant cliffs and peaks collapsing into huge chasms.

On Venus, it’s the Vex superstructure hovering in the sky.

Part of the reason open-world shooters like Fallout 3 grow stale is because there is little to break-up the visual monotony of the horizon.

There is nothing aspirational.

Many complain that Destiny seems like a very small game, but the lens with which they view the game is inaccurate.

One of the bigger problems of modern games is they never take the time to allow the player to occupy a space.

Either through a rushed narrative or weak action, the game is pushing the player forward without any real presence.

Destiny forces you to explore and re-explore a place over and over again. It asks the player to pay attention to the world.

It’s asking the player to just relax and be in it.

Destiny has dedicated buttons for sitting and dancing.

It never feels rushed.

Like Dark Souls, it has a dignified quiet.

A lot of the talk around Destiny compares it to Borderlands, but that is a disservice to the game.

Borderlands is a simple, boring shooter that uses a loot system and an over-saturated visual style as its hook.

Destiny is contemplative, even more so than Halo.

It is empty and tall. Wide and fragile.

It is a koan wrapped in an epic.

Destiny isn’t really like any other shooter, but it is the entire history of the genre.

Thorough and thoughtful, Destiny is an honest experience, an elegant one.

An experience that, with the right kind of eyes, nearly anyone can rejoice in and grow from.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today.

 

 

Last month, I took my wife to Niagara Falls for the first time.

She had been living in the U.S. since February 2013, but we never had the time to make the trip.

She contacted a friend she had known in Lebanon (now married and living in Toronto) to see if her and her husband would want to meet us there.

They did and we agreed on a Saturday.

In making the 1.5 hour drive from Rochester, NY to Niagara Falls, we stopped off at a small gas station in Buffalo.

The attendant happened to be Lebanese as well and we discussed the old country and continued to the border.

The United States’ side of Niagara Falls is underdeveloped, industrial, and claustrophobic.

It is a place stuck in fading.

The American side of the falls, however, is beautiful.

But I enjoy the Canadian side more.

It doesn’t carry the smell of a stale and silent narrative.

It is dynamic.

On going through the border into Canada, the border guard asked me what I was there for, how long I was staying, where I lived, whose car I was driving.

After answering, he let us through.

We spent the day walking around, taking pictures of the falls, talking about the politics of Toronto.

My wife was happy to see her friend.

Around 3 pm, we all decided to say good-bye and head back home.

I was anxious.

I was anxious at reentering the United States.

I hated the American border guards. I hated their tactics of intimidation, their passive insistence of guilt.

Car parked in line to cross, my gut all wrapped up.

My turn came and I pulled up:

Me: “Hi…”
BG: “Passport and identification please.”

I hand my passport and wife’s green card.

BG: “How long were you in Canada?”
Me: “Just for the day.”
BG: “What were you doing?”
Me: “Just visiting the falls.”
BG: “What is your relation to her?”

She points to my wife.

Me: “She is my wife.”
BG: “Where were you born?” (addressing wife)
Wife: “Cote d’Ivoire.”
BG: “Where do you live?”
Me: “Rochester, New York.”
BG: “Whose car is this? Why does it have Wisconsin plates?”
Me: “My brother’s, he lives in Wisconsin.”
BG: “Where’s your brother?”
Me: “Lebanon.”
BG: “Why are you driving his car?”
Me: “He’s letting me borrow it.”
BG: “Why is he in Lebanon?”
Me: “Visiting family.”
BG: “With all the stuff that’s going on?!”
Me: “It’s actually not that dangerous there.”
BG: “Let me see the registration for the vehicle.”

Here I shrug, I don’t know where the registration is. I check the glove box and hand her the first paper I find.

BG: “Uh, this is the insurance, but it does have your name on it.”

I look again. I hand her the next paper. She looks it over.

BG: “Turn off the car and open the trunk.”

She steps out of her booth and walks to the back of the car, opens the trunk, checks, comes back around.

BG: “So what were you doing in Canada?”
Me: “Just visiting the falls.”
BG: “You mean to tell me that you drove all this way just to visit the falls for one day and come back?”
Me: “It’s not that far, just a little over an hour.”
BG: “You couldn’t find anything to do locally?”

At this point I’m stunned at the absurd level this is reaching.

I shrug and look at my wife. The border guard has a sarcastic smile.

Me: “I mean, she has never seen the falls before, I was just taking her to see the falls.”
BG:  “But why today? Why today of all days?”

I sigh and shrug again.

Me: “My wife had off of work and we just decided to come out.”
BG: “OK.”

She hands me back our papers and lets us pass.

I was frustrated and angry.

My wife and I talked about what happened. She said that she wanted to mention her friends, but thought better of it.

I’m sure if we had mentioned them, they would have pulled us over and held us for hours.

I was depressed for weeks after.

I was born in California. I had never been arrested. I work for a federal contractor.

I could not digest what had happened. I still can’t.

But one thing stuck with me:

Why today?

Why today?

 

Flag.

 

America has a fear problem.

Conservatives fear the decay of religious morality and fervor.

Liberals fear a surveillance state being built without anyone’s consent.

The rich fear and deride the poor, no matter what political affiliation.

The poor fear the rich passively and actively killing them.

The middle class fears everyone.

The police fear civilians.

Civilians fear the police.

The world fears ISIS.

The U.S., for the first time in a century, has no idea what it’s doing.

Fear is infectious and polluting.

It drips all the way to the bottom, always seeking the lowest point, and festers there in the dark.

In an environment of fear, everything becomes a battle. Everything becomes difficult.

Everything becomes covered in fog.

And now that fog has settled on the games world.

This past week saw the loss of some very clear, relevant voices in games.

Jenn Frank and Mattie Brice have quit due to an overwhelming level of harassment.

Their removal and silencing is the product of the ‘GamerGate’ controversy.

The ideas GG presents are nothing new.

There have always been concerns, legitimate and imagined, regarding the proximity between gaming media and developers/publishers.

So why now?

Why today?

Because the gaming community has hit a critical mass of fear.

Self-identified ‘gamers’ are afraid their hobby and their core identities are under attack.

Without taking the time to understand, the gaming community was driven into a blind fury over Leigh Alexander’s piece on Gamasutra suggesting that ‘Gamers’ are over.

Fury burning fear as fuel.

It’s tempting to demonize en masse those active in GamerGate, considering the vile, toxic things they have done and said.

Supposing it all comes from fear, supposing at the core sits a hive anxiety about a lack of transparency in something they have emotionally invested in, then what is the right approach?

For myself, this is a difficult consideration.

I cannot approach them even-handedly after the damage they have caused.

After the misogyny, threats, targeting of women in games, elimination of diverse voices in games, too many lines have been crossed.

Their actions have made the gaming community smaller, staler, and more irrelevant to the larger world.

I cannot forgive that.

For anyone who can stomach it, the only way to fight fear is with engagement.

Cameron Kunzelman tried to engage with an actor in the GG hashtag on Twitter and managed to get to the center of that individual’s anxiety and misunderstanding of what’s going on.

It seems like the hashtag has become a repository for any and all anxieties and frustrations for many in the gaming community.

And not every fear and anxiety can be addressed.

At what point does an individual become responsible for his own fear and hostility?

At what point is it no longer the responsibility of others to have to reassure or explain themselves to the individual?

I believe that point is reached when it begins to ruin innocent people’s lives, which is exactly what GamerGate has done and will continue to do.

GG has become like that overzealous American border guard.

They only let pass with ease those who pose no threat to their imagined world and anyone else who might propose something different is interrogated, asked to prove themselves, and, while perhaps not being denied entry, are left feeling intimidated, afraid, ashamed, and guilty of something unknowable.

They pass their fear on.

It drips to the bottom.

And leaves everyone miserable and wondering:

Why now?

 

Why today?