Best of 2014 – ‘Hello. My name is Mark and I am…’

First Published: September 12, 2014
Voted For By: Chris, Ed, Ric, and Tim
Reasons for Vote(s):
“Pretty much sums up one of the most important and disturbing events for the industry this year” – Chris

“Considering how many years gamers had spent trying to find mainstream acceptance, it was always going to be a weird transitional period when that actually happened. It happened so gradually that I don’t think we even noticed it, and once we weren’t pillorying people for not accepting games, we apparently all starting turning on each other instead. This article is an amazing call to peace from someone who is recognising that gaming is likely to start destroying itself in an Ouroboros of self-criticism and attacking each other over how we want to see our medium evolve.” – Ed

“All that needs to be said about the present landscape of video game culture is right here. This article was written back in September, and GamerGate continues to rage on with no reason for its existence and no end in sight. But it makes me happy to know that I write for a website that takes a stance against it all, and is willing to dedicate a whole article, stripped down to just the words that need to be said. Cheers, Mark.” – Ric

“Not the most pleasant of subject matters, but an important and, worryingly, increasingly relevant one for today.  It’s unlikely anyone reading this isn’t aware of the goings on discussed here, but for those that don’t the message needs to be spread.  This type of behaviour is unacceptable, no matter where you find it, and it’s something we need to crackdown on.  Forget all the petty arguments over console superiority and who has the better exclusives; there are bigger issues to contend with in the industry.” – Tim

… embarrassed.

On December 19th of 2009, I had the idea to create a website where people with a keen interest in gaming could come together to share their experiences and thoughts with others. It was a stupid idea, in retrospect, as it was that pivotal point in my life where I no longer had time to do anything that I wanted and my life became swallowed up by an industry that we all, I’m sure, used to love. In fact, the first article of my own that ever hit the pages of GamingLives was taken from my own short-lived WordPress blog and bore the title of “Hello. My name is Mark and I am…“, with the lead-in reading simply “… a gamer“. The point was that, even though I’d been gaming for more years than many of our writers have even lived, I never actually thought to call myself a ‘gamer’ until around that time.

It wasn’t that I was ashamed to be a gamer, or that I ever considered for a single second that there was any personal stigma whatsoever attached to the term; it was merely that gaming, while being a constant throughout the past thirty years, always played second fiddle to being a musician. Given the choice between writing/listening to music or playing a game, the music would invariably be my first port of call. It wasn’t until someone pointed out that having multiple consoles, a cupboard full of retro gaming machines, and a house plastered with gaming memorabilia – including a full-sized Brotherhood of Steel statue – meant that I could no longer deny the label of ‘gamer’. After a quick look around me, I had to concede, and not long after that GamingLives was born.

The bizarre, and sad, thing is that in fewer than five years since GamingLives started, everything has changed. There were always the people who would take bribes from within the industry for a positive review, and I saw the same thing happen myself when I ran a music mag back in the early ’90s, but the corruption somehow leaked out from behind the corporate veil and into the hearts and minds of the gamer. With the exception of PRs, some of whom would be happy to sell any product, the industry is predominantly resting upon the shoulders of enthusiastic individuals who are only there because of their passion for gaming. I believe that many people outwith the industry forget that these aren’t faceless, heartless automatons who create games because that’s all that was available at the job centre on that particular day; these are men and women with families who want nothing more than to be a part of developing something for others to enjoy because they too are gamers.

Why, then, have the people on our side of the veil become so self-entitled, vehement, and threatening in their approach to those whose greatest wish is to bring them something fresh to enjoy, whether that is in the shape of a game, or simply some much-awaited news? It used to be the case that a forty-year-old playing video games would be branded a man-child by those around him, but the past ten or fifteen years has seen gaming become as much of an accepted pastime as watching a movie or spending the evening down the pub. So why, now that there is no longer any stigma attached to the label, have I finally reached the point where I now have a sense of shame when I think of myself falling under the umbrella of ‘gamer’?

It is, sadly, down to those aforementioned bad apples. Under normal circumstances, the outspoken and vitriolic few would be quickly forgotten… mumbling away to themselves in their bedrooms, throwing things at the wall, or shoving remote controls up their arse… but the advent of the internet and, moreso, the immediacy and viral nature of social media means that these few are no longer silent. They are shared, retweeted, and even quoted verbatim by sensationalist rags wishing to grab as many advertisement-subsidised clicks as possible, and in no time at all we forget that there is a beautiful side to this industry. We forget that there are men and women across the globe who spend sixteen to eighteen hours a day on the run-up to launch date trying to iron out as many bugs as possible to bring us as engaging an experience as possible. In their place, we only remember the threats of rape, of murdering their families, and taunts to encourage their suicide.

And for what? For no real reason, to be honest. For daring to want something different within the industry, such as maybe introducing more female protagonists, or having fewer rape scenes. But it’s not just the extreme misogynists at fault here; there have been less-political triggers over the past few years, such as making slight tweaks to the way a weapon handles itself, or for openly living a transgender lifestyle. No matter how justified the cry for equality is, how slight the changes are to the weapon, or that it’ll literally have no impact whatsoever to any individual outwith the person choosing to live as another sex – or any other reason that contradicts a strongly held belief – there will always be those who refuse to accept change and who will bring shame down upon their peers as an entire collective questions its own integrity.

How far must it go before those responsible realise the damage that they are doing to their beloved pastime? For many years here in the UK, football matches were overtaken by casuals – individuals who participated in organised chaos where they would travel en masse to local (and sometimes further afield) games with the sole intention of causing fights within and outwith the grounds. These were originally football fans who loved to fight just as much as they enjoyed the game itself, but it quickly grew beyond that to the point where it was more about bringing in as many troublemakers as possible, and it wasn’t long before genuine fans stopped going to matches because they feared for their lives or the lives of their kids. That’s what’s happening to the games industry.

Rather than it being all about the games, there are those who have made it all about the fight. We have developers who have been driven from their jobs, and some have been forced to move their entire life because of threats made against their families where their kids have been targeted and personal details posted. Before long, it’ll be like the football casuals all over again, and social media will be overtaken by those wishing to cause harm while the voices of the rational are silenced in their wake. While it may seem an unrealistic and pessimistic thought, there is every possibility that gaming will eat itself. As more and more are threatened, the draw of working within the industry will wane and enthusiasm will be replaced with fear and disdain.

Despite the odd looks from those who prefer a night out with the lads down the pub, I have never been ashamed of being a gamer. Whether I admitted it or not, it is something that had subconsciously defined me, and undoubtedly led me to the point at which I find myself today. The label may not have been obvious, but the intent was always there. Now, however, I find that the label is becoming more of an insult than anything, and that’s not coming from outside parties; that’s how I feel about it.

We, as gamers, need to remember that we were once the shunned minority, and drop this vitriolic and contentious approach to disagreement before there is nothing left of our beloved pastime.

Last five articles by Mark R


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