Watch Waypoint's Own Austin Walker Give a Talk On Games and Politics


#1

Things have been rough lately. The last couple of years have made it incredibly clear that aspects of American culture that many convinced themselves were latent or diminished were only lurking quietly in the background. We've also seen new forces mobilized, driven by fear and nihilism, to dehumanize others—especially those in the margins.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/a34ew8/watch-waypoints-own-austin-walker-give-a-talk-on-games-and-politics

#2

Hooray! I was hoping this would get uploaded. The live tweets Naomi sent out were really interesting


#3

man, that was really excellent austin. got a lot to think about with the actual content of the lecture, so this is just gonna be a messy attempt to say thank you instead, haha.

tempered may be right, but idk. sometimes hope isn’t enough, or even what we need. often when you’re deep in fighting your battles, or even just trying to live your life, an unsubstantiated promise of things-will-be-better can make things harder, rather than easier. some things are just like that. they’re hard, they’re serious, they’re draining, and telling ourselves we’ll find hope in them somehow, eventually, doesn’t help. it distracts us from finding positivity and reasons to keep going in other places. the people who care about us, the people fighting and struggling alongside or ahead of us, the things outside our struggles that we enjoy - there’s places to find the good stuff we need to push forward. sometimes the best thing we can be given is a reminder to actually do that.

anyway, as you said afterwards, you’re aware the work you guys do here has an important impact on the individual level, so that was all a little redundant! but I wanted to say thank you with a whole bunch of words, in the hope they’d get across how much I appreciate that you, and everyone here at waypoint, keep working at it and being the people you are, haha.

“changing the world doesn’t look like changing the world. It looks like a long string of missteps and failures.” that’s one heck of a quote, I love it.


#4

I agree with everything you said. I just watched the talk and man was it a bummer to see the past few years weigh down Austin’s optimism. I still very much appreciate the work that is done here at Waypoint and I genuinely am thankful to have this space of the internet that isn’t toxic. Waypoint folks do great work!


#5

A few weeks after the Brexit vote happened I opened a word document for a VERY aggressively political, anti-brexit themed game pitch.

This angry one-page pitch for a game never made it any further. Mostly due the UK Section 5 Public Order Offence laws (no 1st amendment here), the thought of 17 million people messaging me on twitter facebook and most of all the likely negative framing by the mainstream media no matter how nuanced. I expect it would have got a lot of coverage and sold a lot of copies before it was banned, and I started my prison sentence.

This talk made me think about that angry game pitch/rant again, and of the power of shock value! The limiters on expression outside of the US and the frustration I feel from how many tone deaf games we have as a medium.

Having posted on the Avoiding “Idolization” thread I’m not going to reiterate Frank Lantz comments (that I totally agree with) but thank you Austin for being one of the people trying to do something! The work you all publish is a gift at times in this cyberpunk dystopia no one could have predicted.

Great talk, and am now digesting that channel’s content.


#6

Near the beginning of the video, Austin talks about his frustration with the conversations he had with the “MAGA” crowd, or the crowd that only believes in fighting against whatever ideas the other side has. I would like to provide some hope with some articles I have collected over time. Not all completely on topic but related in some ways as to what convinces people to change their minds.

Americans who understand how evolution works are more likely to accept it - Researchgate

A Yale psychologist’s simple thought experiment temporarily turned conservatives into liberals - BusinessInsider

Man removes Nazi swastika tattoos after unlikely friendship - ABC

How One Man Convinced 200 Ku Klux Klan Members To Give Up Their Robes - NPR

Deradicalizing Islamist Extremists - Rand

I think it is a natural reaction to run the other way when “toxic” people of any form come into our lives, or to cast them out, but I would like to encourage the opposite. It isn’t easy, but given time and energy, sometimes those same people can go on to do greater things to benefit society than we ever could.

As for the internet, I have found it is the worst place to try and have a conversation but it helps to have a bone-headed approach of optimism and patience. Sometimes that is enough to get those smarter than me to step up and get involved.

Also mention in the video was the discussion of the games world vs a more effective job to achieve societal change. I would just like to say to those who are creators, art tells us who we are and is incredibly important. Art may not be the fist of progress, but we are it’s heart.


#7

Just listened to this, great talk Austin.

If it helps at all, if you think about a short amount of time as the last decade or so, the discourse around gaming has definitely improved. As in, the discussion only being on a purely consumer level to whatever it is today.


#8

Haha, I promise I’ve thought about it! Thinking about it is why I can sound so hopeless.

I’ve been there. A decade ago I was reading everything in the gaming “brainysphere” that I could, writing Kotaku comments about ludonarrative dissonance. Eight years ago, I was writing a column no one was reading and wondering why more people didn’t respect New Games Journalists. Three years ago (three!) i was writing for $50 an article sometimes and getting into arguments with “the old guard.” Two years ago I was trying to build a freelance program at GB explicitly so that I could help raise the voices of writers who didn’t have platforms.

I’ve watched everyone hope one site after another would help fundamentally reshape the discourse: RPS, Insert Credit, The Escapist (yes, really, long ago), Kill Screen, Offworld (twice!), Polygon, ZAM. Not to mention smaller efforts like Deorbital or The Arcade Review, or the journalists and critics working at more “traditional” outlets who strove to push their publications into new directions, and the freelancers, bloggers, and video makers who aren’t tied to any specific site but who have contributed their own hard work.

My point in this talk wasn’t “nothing has shifted.” It was that such a shift has been, at best, an improvement in terms of the sorts of media we can consume. But it hasn’t improved the quality of labor conditions in the industry. It hasn’t made game dev a sustainable career or a safe place for marginalized creators, critics, and players. Those things haven’t shifted because they are more determined by a larger system of exploitation and oppression than they are by what a site like ours (or what every games site) publishes in any given day.

In a lot of ways, this talk is me reckoning with the limits of any sort of positive change that is contained in a single sphere, like the establishment of spaces like the ones listed above. I’m not bemoaning the lack of good critics, I’m frustrated by the the overwhelming power of capitalism (and aligned forces, like imperialism and heteronormativity) to constrain and shape that change into something it can work with, and the willingness (eagerness) of the majority of consumers to collaborate towards that goal.

Long and short: If I sound defeated, it isn’t because I don’t think it’s because we haven’t been trying to make things better. It’s because we’ve been trying so hard that the limits of effort become clearer every day.


#9

is there an audio-only version of this available anywhere?


#10

Plan on adding it to the podcast feed tonight or tomorrow!


#11

This was an absolutely fantastic and insightful talk, Austin. I want to listen to it again to really gather my thoughts, but I do want to say that hearing anyone say the words “Monster Rancher” in 2018 warms a very specific part of my heart.


#12

It was real good, Austin. Real darn good.


#13

This is the kind of long form piece that I really want more of in gaming and from Waypoint. As fun as streaming PUBG can be, at the end of the day it is just another game stream of an absurdly popular game. I wish we could find a way to get more stuff like this produced in 2018, but I understand the business realities that make it unsustainable.


#14

I might just have zoned out on this bit so it might have been answered in the talk but im going to ask it just in case.

What are the ways that we here at waypoint (both readers and staff) could help with improving the labor conditions within the game industry? Like do y’all think that we should even try to help on that front in some new and different way that we have not done before? Should we for example try to use our plattform to create unions within the game industry to better the conditions for developers or should we stop those naive ideas and stick to our bubble of VIDEO GAME ACADEMICS :tm:?

Sorry for not formulating myself very well but i hope people kind of get what im getting at


#15

This is an excellent question. I think we need more reporting on both oppressive development environments and more progressive ones.

This year I made a resolution to try and spend my money as ethically as possible. As part of this I have stopped ordering from Amazon and have tried to find retailers that pay better wages, provide better benefits, etc.


#16

I’m glad that I got to watch this video


#17

I wanted to convey how excited I was to listen to this piece and how deeply engaged and interested I was in what Austin is saying.

We all get sold the story of hope, providing that one thing that is the spark that lights the fire of change, and I am glad that Austin is both realistic in his present expectations of what Waypoint is today, while also committed to continuing to provide a service that might just make the spark. It’s cool that you are so grounded, and though it seems a bit cynical, you are still here doing your thing.

I have promoted the Waypoint series on gaming in prisons wherever I can (Facebook, a number of private communities, my own passion project Podcast), because the stories represent something you would never encounter anywhere else from a large publisher.

Austin, I’m not sure how much it matters but I want to say thanks for being both authentic and realistic about current game culture, while still promoting change and offering this home of impossible and refreshingly intelligent game criticism.

Some great take away comments. Shouting into the void is always better than sitting quietly in it. A lot to process here.

Like that you hit on issues such as games as commodity vs. Art. Even if some games hit Masterpiece status, they are still treated/marketed/discussed/engaged with as things to be consumed, and eventually left behind (which is an industry staple). The fact that you are able to articulate the difference between a consumer and a
an admirer of great works is also so important, and strikes directly as the issue of why shifting the culture can prove to be so difficult. There are more consumers then they are critics, this means the culture follows and caters to the consumer (as it would in any capitalist model).

When people love and feel they need these products, they are less inclined to discuss how they are getting them so fast (which in our current culture is whenever we want them, barring developer delays, I can literally buy BotW right now and play it in a few minutes). To this day, the average person in a North American town isn’t going to ask where the water comes from, they will simply expect that their faucets work, and raise hell with the water company when they don’t or when the water is tainted.

You also brush on accessibility and gaming literacy which was so great to listen to. Extra Credits put out some great videos that do a good job of defining gaming literacy, and I try to push those videos on anyone who will watch. I would love to hear your opinion on things like the endurance of a digital divide and it’s impact on digital learning in classrooms, or how gaming literacy is being developed across our nation. Is it happening at home or in places of learning? I feel like game sales help better describe what vocabularies future generations of gamers are latching on to, can that knowledge, and that understood basis of game literacy be employed to spark greater criticism in youth?

I also feel like criticism as a whole doesn’t get introduced early enough (if at all) in school, but that is a whole other problem and I am starting to ramble now.

Thanks for what you do.


#18

Listened to this yesterday. Very thought provoking, Austin as always is a powerful speaker. This felt like a very realistic perspective of the American landscape necessarily.
I don’t see the speech as necessarily pessimistic. I have many thoughts about it, but my number one response was that I’m going to become much, much louder.


#19

I see waypoint as a part in the long legacy of change in the videogame industry, which is overdue. Wavepoint can’t change the world. It is us, the future game developers and community members can strive to see that future happen.

As to what happens next, I’ll take a quote from Utena. “If the egg’s shell does not break… the chick will die without being born. We are the chick; the egg is the world. If the world’s shell does not break, we will die without being born. Break the world’s shell! For the sake of revolutionizing the world!”


#20

I can definitely understand the feeling of not having any meaningful metrics on what success looks like. I’m part of a local suicide prevention community group and we try to have fliers available around the place and host stalls at events to raise awareness about mental health support in the local area, but when it comes time to say “so what did we change about the community this year” the answers we can give are only vague.

If we did have some success that year and someone’s mental health was stabilised thanks to us we wouldn’t know about it. It’s still worth doing but it would be easier to stay enthusiastic if we were able to point to something as an accomplishment.