So it happened again that a company did the problematic thing. This week it was Twitch with problems ™. The fallout after the article went out was immediate and the comments, scathing. Among them, people were critical of people who would remain content creators on the platform. Others left and were understanding of those who stayed.
This past week, Baldur’s Gate 3 came out in early access and the hardcore fans of the series rejoiced as one… until being reminded of a particular person who worked on parts of that game. I watched as people processed hurt, confusion, and grief in real time.
Some time before that, there was a falling out with Ubisoft. With Wizards of the Coast. With Hasbro. With… so many companies and things.
I’m going to keep it 100% here – I’m sharing thoughts. There are no happy endings or solutions in this article. That’s the point.
If You Don’t…
With so many of these things happening and nearly at the rate of one major blowup of some kind almost every month, responses were swift.
“If you play this game, then you’re not safe for me, dawg.”
“If you value your integrity more than [dollar amount here], then don’t play this game. I don’t care what the reason is. Don’t do it.”
“Y’all keep supporting these platforms instead of building one of your own. Why don’t y’all just leave these problematic companies alone.”
There’s the silent anguish of knowing that, while I manage to avoid most of this stuff, there’s no true escape. This means it’s not a matter of if I end up playing the game that severs me from whatever community and comraderie I might have made, but when and with what amount of fury.
If You Do…
I finally decide to leave the platform. This straw was the last one. I open my Discord application and tell the server that we’re about to migrate. I open my twitter application and end up telling some amount of people who have followed me to this point that they will now have to follow me elsewhere.
I then look around the map for some other platform where I – a black, bisexual male – will attempt to set up shop. Somewhere safe and non-problematic that has no LGBTQIA+ phobic folks, no TERFs, no sexists, no racists, isn’t ableist, enforces their terms of service and harassment policies, listens to their users and implements useful moderation features.
I am met with nothing but the despair of the yawning void. Every other where I could go is poisonous for all the things mentioned and there’s no relief.
So why not just build my own platform? Well, here’s the thing: I’ve seen people look up doing what that requires and try to build their own platform and then offer people to put content there. However, we’re in capitalism hell, so that costs.
In the end, people weren’t willing to invest and/or put for effort to promote the platform and in, so it crumbled before it had the chance to be.
That last part is the biggest rub of all of this.
Insult And Injury
We know who the people are, where they are, what their paypals and kofis or whatever else are. We see a new “tag your favorite creator”, “tag a small creator”, “tag a creator you think we should all know about” threads.
We know people with the skills, knowledge, and raw talent and whenever one of them puts forth the effort to make things marginally better in any way, they’re largely unsupported. We don’t support them, we don’t mention them in the moments they should be.
In the meantime, people are also screaming at those who have chosen to stay involved and engaged in whatever way while offering no assistance toward viable alternatives. There’s no compassion or empathy. Only trauma or rage or a smug sense of superiority about how easy it is to take the moral high ground and it just shouldn’t be this hard for people to do.
That’s never how it works.
* * *
My sister used to work at a Chik-Fil-A. When she got the job, she called me and asked if she could come by. I told her she could and the first thing she did was apologize to me for working there. I looked at her for a few moments, then asked why.
“I know they have certain things they’ve done and it could easily hurt people…”
I finished the thought. “…like me. Thank you. I get that, but also you have an apartment, a cat, and a dog. Do what you need to do to take care of you and when you can, dip on out to the next.”
That’s the thing, right? Behind all of our spicy takes and such, for the people who stay behind, they have invested time, energy, effort, and some even make their living on this platform and opportunities that arise from being here. We offer them nothing but judgment in the moments we learn of problematic things, but our judgment of them doesn’t pay their bills.
As such, much like my sister, we have to work in problematic places. We have to work in offices while sitting an arm’s length away from sexists, racists, predators, ableists, etc. The whole thing. However, choices aren’t even. It took me seven years of working at the company I work at to get to the point I can leverage enough power to get the things I want on occasion or choose who I do and don’t want to work with or share space with or be able to talk about how we can do better in the times we’re in to make sure people like me in all of my intersections feel cared for.
It was a joke some friends and I had among us as black people that if I ever got fired, representation at the company would dry up. Every black person I know in corporate space has a similar joke and a rueful laugh to match that if they weren’t there, it would be rare if ever that other black people would be.
Let me be clear about one thing: there are no truly safe spaces unless I make them and maintain them. That’s true everywhere. I don’t get to walk into non-hostile spaces often. Most places I am making a home in hostile territory and maintaining that home in the same.
After all of that effort, I’m asked by someone who just realized this space was hostile to leave it because who would possibly stay in this space where there is so much opportunity to be elsewhere, amirite?
The very real and concrete side of this mentioned, I want to address something a bit more important to me as a ball of empathy and feelings.
I am constantly in a low-level state of stress because at any moment, if I were to submit myself to the purity tests that others put forth online, I have to be ready to light my current and potential friendships on fire just to maintain or achieve that purity.
Especially in this time of pandemic, my online life is all I have. My friends are there. My inspiration to create and build and be is there. I’ve laughed and cried out into this ether and I’ve become a home to others and they have become home to me.
I’ve barely gotten to the point that I can safely not play league, for example, and keep my friends from there and no sooner have I achieved this than I am demanded to take a platform that connects me to dozens of people I have no other means to connect to on the same level as I can while we bond over a shared experience.
Whether game or streaming platform, at a moment’s notice, someone can take those things away from me or you or anyone. None of these people are truly looking out or checking for one another. For various reasons, without those games and platforms to connect us and our happiest memories, those relationships evaporate.
That’s where we are. That’s where I am.
But here’s the thing: you probably don’t care. I should do it anyway. I should leave with nothing after building so much and be okay with it to appease you. You don’t know my name, my birthday, my favorite color, or what keeps me awake at 1AM, but I should do it anyway.
You will not tend to me as my mental health tanks from a lack of connection. You will not offer other games to play with me with any kind of consistency. You will not text me. You will not call me. You will not email me.
But hey… I did the right thing here and that’s what matters.