Austin Walker tweeted earlier this year about noticing a change of tides for the better in games media:
wild to think that just a few years ago, "stop harassing women," "fence-sitting and both-sidesing only helps reactionaries," and "unions are good, actually" were all extremely rare takes in the game's media. not saying We're Done and Things Are Good now, but tides are changing— austin walker (@austin_walker) February 9, 2019
So… let me tell you about something kind of silly.
A few years ago, I was an avid follower of George Weidman’s work, a.k.a. Super Bunnyhop. If you’re not familiar with him by name, you might have seen one of his handful of hits, or heard about his momentary martyrdom when Konami took down a video of his investigating Kojima’s firing. But I first came across his work looking for reviews of the original System Shock and appreciated his style and analysis. He got me into a lot of my now favorite games and is still an influence in how I analyze games today. I still have a great amount of fondness for his videos and his style.
More recently, I haven’t paid as close attention to George Weidman’s work. There are a couple different reasons for this, but in context of this specific post, I found that I began to add into my diet more social and political angles surrounding games criticism. Particularly queer voices, people of color’s voices, and Leftist voices.
That’s not to say George Weidman is a centrist or “apolitical” or anything; he was openly critical of GamerGate and Trump, and never hid his more liberal takes. But his strengths tend to lie in two fields: journalism and mechanical critique. Most of his videos were either gameplay-focused analysis (and occasionally going into narrative), or rigorously sourced scoops.
Enter the two recent videos on the Super Bunnyhop channel. They were still in the typical journalistic trappings, but there was a noticeable angle for me. The first, a 43-minute video on the burgeoning union efforts within the video games industry, with interviews with Emma Kinema, Scott Benson, and Ted Anderson. The other, which came out just this week, was a video about the labor conditions of game testers and QA, which ends with an explicit, impassioned call-to-action from a steadily reddening George (timestamp 14:41):
…My last and final point, which is more of an appeal and a request to those who are trapped in the giant QA factories and seen as second-class citizens… for those who are thought of as mechanical robot people, whose bodies and brains and personalities are being disintegrated away into the gut of a crunch… for those who know that you are being exploited and mistreated and worked to the bone: Your bosses do not give a crap about you. That is the message these policies send. What kind of message are you gonna send to them? …Talk to your co-workers about your wages, your hours, your working conditions, and how to improve your careers outside of a dead-end entry-level gig. And if you ultimately decide to leave the industry… if you don’t need the references and you can afford to burn those bridges, burn those bridges!..
What George is saying here isn’t anything new. It isn’t particularly revolutionary, or even all that radical. But seeing George Weidman, this silly weirdo who loves video games and has a nostalgic place in my heart, overtly advocate for collective worker action really struck a chord with me. Did this goofball finally get radicalized? Has he finally pivoted to the Left? Probably not. But goddammit, this seems to mean something, right?
So, this is all to say: …are things changing for the better? Austin Walker seems to think so, at least a bit, and this moment certainly hit me. A lot has been going on in the games community these past few years, and while a lot of absolute garbage has bubbled up, I’ve seen more and more marginalized and socially & politically conscious voices coming out than I have in a long time. And I’m not really sure a community like this, Waypoint’s forums, would have existed even a few years ago.
Have things been changing in the gaming communities you’re involved with? If so, how? What do those changes look like? Are there any specific examples you’ve noticed?
What do you think caused these changes? If nothing has changed, what’s missing from those dynamics? How can we encourage
And what about negative changes? There has no doubt been a lot of garbage springing up in the past few years. More specifically, what kind of negative reactions do you see to meaningful shifts in the discourse? What do they look like?
So where are these changes going? What do you see in the future of these communities? Do you think truly meaningful change is on the horizon? Or are we stuck on a treadmill?