After the events of the past nine months, you’d think identity warriors would have learned that their divisiveness is not welcome in the world of gaming.
Not so for the creators of #GamesSoWhite, a poorly judged attempt to re-inject their ideology into gaming on Twitter. It only took a few hours for mainstream gamers — known for both their diversity and their distaste for identity politics — to take over the hashtag.
Predictably, the latest controversy was started by Vox Media’s Polygon, a gaming outlet which has established itself as the leading purveyor of identity politics in gaming, a space once occupied by Kotaku. Polygon’s writers were upset because the latest installment of the smash-hit The Witcher series, The Witcher: Wild Hunt, failed to meet their preferred quota of ethnic minorities — despite the fact that the world of The Witcher was inspired by the overwhelmingly white medieval kingdoms of Poland and the Baltic States.
For a publication whose staff is almost 100% white and male, it’s easy to see why Polygon might be a little on edge about diversity. We don’t have problems like that at Breitbart London, so it’s easy to forget. But gamers, who have become a highly visible force on social media in recent months, aren’t known for their love of identity politics. So when the #GamesSoWhite hashtag appeared, it was instantly co-opted by Polygon’s critics.
Initially, the tag was flooded with anime pictures and dank memes, but other gamers took the opportunity to substantively address Polygon‘s arguments.
#GamesSoWhite the majority of game protags are East Asian. Do you have any idea how many shitty MMOs and mobile games the Chinese make?
— Mech of Justice (@MechofJusticeWZ) June 4, 2015
#GamesSoWhite Except, you know, a large part of the competitive gaming scene is Asian and Black.
— A Space Junkie :^) (@theBoypui) June 4, 2015
I am a lesbian gamedev and I love video games. So does my partner. We are #NotYourShield to control people. Make the games you want to see.
— GwenLilyKnight (@GwenLilyKnight) June 4, 2015
— Ivy (@IvyTwisted) June 4, 2015
Maybe these white journalists want more non-white game characters so they can live their fantasies of controlling minorities. #GamesSoWhite
— Paolo Munoz aka Pabs (@GameDiviner) June 4, 2015
— Jackie Brown (@GOBBBluth) June 4, 2015
Prominent game developers and commentators also weighed in:
Doubt I'm the only one who thinks it's culturally imperialistic to see Americans lecturing Polish devs on what to do with Slavic mythology.
— TotalBiscuit (@Totalbiscuit) June 4, 2015
Movies of the progressive future must include the full pantheon of race/gender combos. Expect stories with 100 protagonists.
— Mark Kern (@Grummz) June 4, 2015
Please tell me more how Poles have no right to *finally* enjoy/show the world their own history and culture, even if thru fantasy staffage.
— Adrian Chmielarz (@adrianchm) June 4, 2015
Yep #GamesSoWhite is the stupidest thing I've ever seen. We made this internet. We made it cause we allow idiots to claim they know better.
— Jesse Cox (@JesseCox) June 4, 2015
Many of the gamers criticising Polygon were themselves minorities, supporters of #NotYourShield, a social media movement that is critical of the way the gaming press exploits identity politics. I caught up with some of the hashtag’s supporters to get their views on the current controversy.
Patrick Toworfe, an African-British games reviewer from London, thinks the critics of videogame diversity are suffering from confirmation bias. “I think it [the diversity of gaming] is fine, and is getting better naturally. People just ignore every example that is inconvenient to their narrative.”
Michelle Catlin, a transwoman gamer from the Netherlands, had different concerns — she thinks the obsession with identity politics could hurt the quality of games: “If you pressure the developer then the characters will just become forced. I’d rather play a cast of all cis [gendered] characters by the devs own choice than have trans characters forced by SJWs.”
Catlin added that ideally, diversity shouldn’t be noticed: “I think the best games are the ones where you don’t even realise the diversity because the characters aren’t defined by their race.”
The bluntest comments came from Jessica Dryden, a mixed British-Jamaican gamer from Manchester: “Games are already diverse, but I’m plagued by self-loathing white people and petulant non-white people insisting they’re not”, said Jessica. “Apparently I’m a bad person for thinking that ethnicity is inconsequential and acknowledging that plenty of non-white characters already exist.”
Personally, I agree with Jessica. Long ago, in the forgotten era of the 1990s, it was commonly assumed that character mattered more than skin color, in both fictional and non-fictional worlds.
I’m convinced that most people — white and non-white, liberal and conservative — think that is still a good idea. But what do I know? As you can tell from my name, I’m just overflowing with white privilege.
Follow Allum Bokhari @LibertarianBlue on Twitter.
Disclosure: I am personally acquainted with Gwen Knight, Patrick Toworfe and Jessica Dryden, who knows how to bring the lulz in Cards Against Humanity. Please note that this article contains my own commentary, and should not be read as an objective news report.