An awful week to care about video games


What an awful week for the culture that surrounds and influences video games.

Last week, a game designer's personal life was exposed to the internet, and used to justify physical threats to both the developer and her colleagues. The designer was one of many people targeted in an orchestrated harassment effort directed at game developers.

On Friday, harassers hacked game designer Phil Fish's Twitter account and website. Fish, at least briefly, contemplated selling his company and leaving the industry altogether.

On Sunday, a fake bomb threat from a hacker group diverted the flight of Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley.

That day, the same hacker group claimed responsibility for shutting down Sony's PlayStation Network. According to an official earnings forecast, an attack that shut down the same network in 2011 and lasted for days cost the company $170 million.

On Monday, prominent media critic Anita Sarkeesian posted a video to YouTube that criticized the use of women as background decoration, particularly in violent and sexual ways.

Many of those who shared the post received threats and harassment. The following tweets were directed at game designer Tim Schafer on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The response directed at Sarkeesian was louder, more aggressive and more dangerous.

Death and rape threats forced Sarkeesian to leave her home for safety. These threats are merely a cross section of the cruel and frightening harassment Sarkeesian has faced in her career.

Yesterday, a SWAT team threw a young man to the ground at gunpoint on a livestream, playing into a plan of online griefers who called 911 with a false report of an active shooter. The Littleton Public School District in Littleton, Colorado, locked down a number of schools in reaction to the same threat.

Good, positive and kind action happened this week, too. Progress, while not always as loud as repression, is being made in games culture.

Two days ago, GaymerX rebranded as GX: Everyone Games. Its Kickstarter campaign has raised $46,085 at the time of publication for an inclusive video game convention. Sarkeesian's critical videos have helped many developers to reassess how they create games and what they include in them.

And creators outside video games also showed their support for Sarkeesian's work.

This week, it should be clear to this community that games are at a cultural turning point. No longer are games designed, marketed and sold to a niche group of young men. Games are now ubiquitous; their ability to provide a safe space for experimentation and empathic experiences serves a population that, in a time as economically and politically bleak as this one, needs them desperately. More games are being created by more people for more people than ever before.

Two groups are at opposite ends of this moment:

One side has folded its arms, slumped its shoulders while pouting like an obstinate child that has learned they are getting a little brother or sister but wants to remain the singular focus of their parents' affection.

The other side has opened its arms, unable to contain its love and compassion, because they understand they are no longer alone.

This week, the obstinate child threw a temper tantrum, and the industry was stuck in the metaphorical grocery store as everyone was forced to suffer through it together. But unlike a child, the people behind these temper tantrums are hurting others. It's time to grow up. Let's not wait until next week to start.