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Opinion – It’s Time For Us To Talk About Harassment

by Mike Futter on Oct 15, 2014 at 05:12 AM

Over the past two months, I’ve written hundreds of stories. This week, I published one that might be the most important thing I’ve written in my career.

It wasn’t about business, my field of expertise. It wasn’t an analysis of a complex legal issue between two mammoth gaming entities. It was about people. It was about us.

And, quite frankly, I’m a little disappointed in us right now. I want to be clear, reader. I am not disappointed in you. I probably don’t know you. You might be a wonderful parent or child and treat those around you with respect. Please keep doing that.

But together, we form a community, and we haven’t been kind to each other lately. That needs to change.

We have sometimes agreed vigorously, and others disagreed heatedly. I think all the way back to the playground when we bickered over Nintendo and Sega. Petty words were slung, and then we took turns visiting each other’s houses so we could play both.

We’ve always found a way to move on, and even the heated Xbox 360 vs. PlayStation 3 debates ebbed as more people became multi-console gamers. These things have always gotten better, and we have always been fortunate that time has done most of the work for us.

It’s not going to be enough this go around. Time won’t heal this by itself.

Yesterday, Anita Sarkeesian, a hotly debated academic who has criticized games for their portrayal of women, decided to cancel a presentation at Utah State. The Standard-Examiner reports that graphic threats of the “deadliest school shooting in American history” were levied against her. Sarkeesian decided to cancel because Utah State refused to take steps to prevent concealed weapons from entering the venue.

That’s the calm version. Here’s the raw one.

Individuals have threatened death and rape and violence against people in the gaming industry. They have exposed personal information leading to these threats. They have driven people from their homes. 

This is terrorism. This is the stark, clinical, unembellished definition of that word.

It must stop. The perpetrators must be brought to justice.

And if your first reaction is to defend a guerrilla group of internet activists rather than condemn these inhumane acts? You are part of the problem.

I wrote yesterday that gaming has finally achieved the legitimacy and respect it so richly deserves. But now that we have helped build a $90 billion, extremely diverse entertainment medium, we have a responsibility.

It is our job to keep earning that respect every single day. And right now, the world is watching us. It is looking for a way to paint us with the brushes we made them put away.

We can hold our heads high together, and denounce cowardly attacks against game makers and those who write about them. Or we can go back to fighting for the survival of our medium against firebrand critics and elected officials that would like to see gaming sterilized or taxed into oblivion.

You don’t need to agree with everything you read. You can even reject the opinions and perspective of those writing about games. You cannot resort to violence or even the threat of bodily harm. The moment you do that, you betray yourself and those for whom you believe you are championing.

We can all do better, and it starts with treating each other like human beings.