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

Tangential, selfish question real quick: the article mentions talk of Nier: Automata. Are there spoilers? I’ve currently been trying to finish it but can only get a few hours on the weekends. I’ve also only been watching this lecture in 15 minute chunks before work, so I’ll hopefully finish it by the middle of next week, lol.

Seriously, though: I can’t stress how much I love all of the work done by Waypoint and Austin Walker. I also think it’s all extremely important and am excited at what the future holds.

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There are a few, but not in the TALK portion of the recording, only in the interview after (and we set them up pretty clearly, if memory serves!)


little late, but I tracked down a couple of things Austin references:

  1. the 2016 keynote:
  2. Eric Zimmerman’s manifesto:

I edited the opinion section of my college newspaper, so I can relate so some of these issues even if they’re on a much, much smaller scale. The question of, is this getting through to anybody? And my college was a mid-tier public university, definitely not the private liberal arts college in town, so I wasn’t necessarily preaching to the choir. Still, the number of people reading was less than zero, so as far as I’m concerned, that’s enough.

Aside from that, one of the writers in my department who started at the paper her first week of college is now the Editor-in-Chief of the paper and is one of 8 people who was just awarded a fellowship from the National Newspaper Association this year. Clearly, I’m not solely responsible for that. We didn’t silo our writers, they could write for whatever section they wanted, so I’m just one of the editors at the paper who mentored her that year, but together we helped her reach where she is now, and hopefully have the opportunity to go out there and do important work.

A smaller scale for sure, but I think the small scale is the only scale that we can feasibly operate on when trying to create positive change. The end goal is transforming society into the better world we imagine, but the way to get there is by taking a million smaller steps, and the things we’re accomplishing might not actually come to fruition for years, and they’ll be so far removed from the thing we did that we can’t even tell that we changed it.

I recently watched Austin’s appearance on ThatDnDPodcast ( which follows up on some of the topics raised in this NYU talk with additional perspectives from tabletop gaming. At one point, Austin tells a story about using a role-playing game in a classroom setting to impart a message about relying on local technological solutions to socioeconomic problems. The blog post about this that is mentioned on the podcast is here and it’s a link to this storify page.

Well, that’s what I came into this thread to say, but now that I’m here might as well write a bonus essay because that’s a fun thing to do on a Thursday oh look it’s Friday now.

Bonus essay: thoughts on acting on theorizing and pushing back against feelings of futility.

When Waypoint was launched, I remember “why we play games” being the main tagline (motivating question? motto?) and I’ve recently found myself wondering, along similar lines, “why do we read articles about games?” I think the appeal of these questions is that they’re trying to dig into the basic motivations we have for engaging with media. If we’re able to understand what we want out of media, perhaps we’d be better able to design media that meets those goals. Perhaps games can educate about systemic issues. Perhaps reporting could shape a healthier gaming industry, or promote marginalized creators, or broaden the perspectives of readers.

I think there’s some danger, at least for myself, to become overly academic about these questions. I have to work to avoid believing that perfect knowledge would lead to a perfect solution. There’s power in knowledge, but it’s not always economic power; understanding is not the same thing as enacting positive change. I do think that it’s important to have the right information to make important decisions, but when trying to improve imperfect systems from within, there are always going to be biases and opportunity costs associated with acquiring information.

What’s important (I believe) is that we try. We do the best we can in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in to act in good faith and to make systemic improvements. In the past, I’ve had difficulty in conveying the fact that we need collective individual action to address systemic issues. Some find it hard to grasp the concept that collective individual action doesn’t mean fascist rule over everyone. Some will point to the inability to have global consensus about anything as a sign that any collective action is inherently doomed. Often I won’t have the knowledge or means to convince someone that their actions are important. Sometimes I probably am wrong about the importance or consequences of specific actions.

Ultimately though, my belief in the existence of systemic effects is similar to my belief in the existence of gravity. These beliefs are not opinions that can be changed by steadfastly refusing to accept or engage with them. If lots of people have trouble understanding figurative gravity, we may have trouble building figurative airplanes. But if we believe that it’s morally imperative that we build figurative airplanes (and yeah, uh, this metaphor is breaking down a bit) then we need to do the work to build coalitions that know how the world works and can act on that knowledge.

Right, well, that’s a good place to stop. I wanted to make an additional argument about how the intangible cultural effects of things like Waypoint might be easier to notice from outside the organization than within it, even (or especially) if being internal means you have access to financial metrics. Please feel free to imagine the rest of that argument. Now imagine it slightly more nuanced. Thank you, it’s such a relief not needing to actually type out the things I want to say.

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