An Open Letter to the Community I Love: Introduction

This is to be a series to my friends and my peers. The streamers, the writers, the creators and everyone else who involves themselves in video games. If I could condense this series into a small, one sentence phrase, it would probably be this:

We need to do better.

We are often called a community, but more often we act nothing like it. We are unable to listen to one another, we are unable to communicate without ridiculing one another. This isn’t the community I love, this is something else. Something toxic.

And let me be clear, I’m not talking about a little trash talk every now and then in PvP games. I’m talking about spewing expletives and slurs at your opponents or (perhaps worse) your teammates for losing.

Almost every week, we learn of something new about someone (perhaps, allegedly) doing something rather deplorable and otherwise unnecessary. Sexual misconduct, racial insensitivity, and so on are rampant and wild throughout the community at the moment, and we need to recognize that we need to do better as a community.

Every so often I see groups of gamers talk about representation and diversity in games. Whether it “matters” if games have LGBT characters. Or non-white characters. Or women. And every so often I see the same talks turn from thoughtful discussions, into hate-filled ones.

I said it once, and I’ll say it again. We need to do better.

It is becoming common for games and gamers to be viewed under the eye of the world. Cable media, newspapers--even online gaming media publications like this one. People are watching, and it is important that we show the best possible example.

Game developers, I hope you’re reading these kinds of articles too. Ultimately, there are no gamers without your games. We follow your games, and your example. Show us, your supposedly-humble-patrons how to better ourselves. Show us that representation can (and does) matter. Show us that you want to make good games for a good community, and perhaps the community will show you just how great we can be. Perhaps.

I know some of you will say that “this is the internet” and “if you can’t handle it, stay off it” or something to that nature. To those of you who think that way, I really hope that you take the words in this series to heart and really think about all of this. The internet, video games, and everything that encompasses our community culture, should be inclusive and fun. Not exclusive and only for the people who can “take a joke”.

I want everyone to read this and to talk and discuss. Because that is what this community needs at the moment. Thoughtful discussions on how the intersectionalities of race, politics, sex and gender, and otherwise non-gaming topics, fit into our community more than we realize.

And by talk, I mean talk. Not hurl insults at one another.

So this will be the beginning. The first part of perhaps many parts in this series. I’ll be discussing--in as much detail as possible and with examples that have happened already--why we need to change our behavior. Why representation matters. And why, as a community, we need to treat each other with respect.

If you disagree with my thoughts and ideas, well, that’s fine. I understand that you very well have the right to and, in fact, I invite you to tweet at me or email me or whatever you have to do to get your opinion out. Ultimately, I concede, this is all just conjecture, observation, and opinion. I am but a simple gamer and journalist looking to see the best come out of the community I love, no more no less.

The plan at the time of writing this is, after this introduction, I will post another part of the series dedicated first to representation. We’ll go over some games that do it right, some games that do it wrong, and some games that don’t do it at all. We’ll also go over why it matters to some and why it may not matter to others, but why ultimately it should matter to everyone.

After that part of the series, we’ll delve into toxicity and community as well as how the community looks on a ‘mainstream’ level, and how we can help fix all that.

So, with all that said. Please, look forward to the next part of this series, and be ready and willing to talk. Come at this with an open mind, and consider this an open letter to all of you.