In the weeks leading up to PAX Prime, Penny Arcade’s premiere symposium in Seattle, the summertime drought had folks leaning hard into the sporadic releases of independent games. The term “drought” may be popular to describe the lull, however perhaps a bit hyperbolic. I’d compare that to someone who has already had breakfast and lunch and is “starving” come dinner. The indie games and surprise hits of this summer may not have been marquee titles, but left us happy and entertained. If you weren’t trying something new and or out of your comfort zone, maybe you loaded up Divinity:Original Sin, Shovel Knight, or Valiant Hearts to name a few. Whether you fancied what was on the plate or not, what was served undoubtedly scratched itches and kept most of us relatively calm.
While most were itch-less, others were antsy. I was recently told a story from a friend about how one of his ancestors had owned an auto body shop in the 1970′s. In that particular decade, American made cars were built like tanks. When Chevrolet was “Building a better way to see the USA,” they were crafting automobiles to sustain and endure whatever the open road had to offer. Needless to say when the cars don’t break, auto-body shops and mechanics don’t get business. Without business to be had, it indeed must be made. Slashing tires, breaking windows and cutting lines were carried out by accomplices of the shop in local areas. The job was dirty, but without action the small body shop may have folded, so they embrace the idea of compromising moral integrity. In a scriptural sense, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”.
Scandal is entertaining. No matter the medium, we inherently enjoy participating in the proverbial “fall from grace” people of prominence find themselves in. Like a cat burglar bested by a spotlight, they are now caught in check, and we await eagerly to see their attempt at aversion or even better, admittance or explanation. Whether it be Nixon or Clinton, Armstrong or Woods, Milli or Vanilli, we are the judge jury and executioner wielding a gavel, a voice, and an axe respectively.
In the most recent case of exploitative scandal within the gaming microcosm, Zoe Quinn and other notables such as Anita Sarkeesian have been subjects of controversy regarding topics such as misogyny, favoritism, and inducement. The details are out there if you so desire, but the focus here isn’t the situation itself, but the enabling, and the recourse. Game review and news outlets are companies that employ (mostly) hardworking people. Some as many as hundreds, and others about the size of say, an auto-body shop. Whichever it may be, without news or reviews coming in, something must be covered or folks don’t get paid, and as a result companies are forced to rethink what they choose to entertain. What would typically be discussed or argued within a message board community is now prime subject matter for a headline or a feature. The hungriest of beasts will vie for the most meager of meats. Meats in the form of Top ten lists, blind hype articles, and yes, scandal.
As people so often do, we are able to join in on the battle cries one of two camps. This is a residual way of thinking, a bi-product of our evolution; The Left vs. Right, theist vs. atheist, team Edward vs. team Jacob, and Microsoft vs. Sony. We are constantly divided. Split by headline after top ten, stone cast after stone hit, and meat served after meat stolen, we begin to hear ourselves echo from behind.
To avoid confusion, argument and debate absolutely must be had. Yes a sensationalized dirty laundry party is repulsive, but it may very well shine light on significant subject matter and perhaps catalyze a movement. Videogames are an art-form seeking recognition, and with the quest for recognition comes all the accouterments that come with being recognized. The importance during all of this is to remain as objective as possible. Seek information before quarrel, and look to understand yours and others feelings rather than attack without empathy. Do you remember why we are here, together?
Together. There is no greater word to describe what PAX truly is. Attending PAX Prime this weekend was a vast departure from angry internet ideology. Given the recent days, one would expect to show up to a war-torn Seattle with games media fighting in the trenches and fans, guns blazing from the windows of the convention center and shrieking as they ride pale white horses to justice-land. Despite how great that would look on a t-shirt, it’s just not the truth.
Alone walking the showroom floor with sore calves, I stepped aside and out of the way of the crowd to pause. What I was observing all at once was from a single vantage point was nothing short of a marvel and my senses tapered to a feeling of singularity.
First, I’ll tell you what I don’t see. I don’t see auto-body shop owners, or scandal makers. I don’t see feminists or misogynists, or “social justice warriors”. I don’t see disability or affliction. I don’t see vitriolic hatred or faceless disregard for one another.
I see joy. I see young children and grown adults laughing in congruence as they go head to head playing the new fighting game in front of a crowd. I see tired but dedicated fans waiting in line for over two hours to get 10 minutes with the next installment of their favorite franchise. I see tabletop enthusiasts alongside tabletop inventors rolling dice and calculating victories. I see long time multiplayer friends, finally shaking hands in person for the first time. I see games media personalities engaging with fans, and discussing their excitement and skepticism over the fall lineup. I see a father and a daughter smiling at one another as he offers a piggy back ride, with he dressed as Joel and her Ellie. I see Kickstarter creators meeting their backers, face to face and explaining how eternally grateful they are that they, a complete stranger helped them realize their dreams. I see heart. I see people who were lost and found. I see people who are here because of one single unifying solidarity…
Love for the games.