When it comes to streaming and other types of content creation, I find that people are constantly shook that they are expected to apply their morals when it comes to their gaming choices for streamed games.
Most recently was the game by Jaren Karen Terfling (thank you, SJ), but the problem, no matter how it comes up or who it comes from, is always the same and comes with the same questions.
Some company somewhere does something that is completely egregious and very much against the kind of person you say you are or the kind of people you say that you stand with or in support of and almost every time when the answer would or should be “Welp, that’s gotta go”, the response is “Why should I have to do anything because of this? It’s just virtue signaling. It’s just moralizing. Y’all don’t know me like that. I have a clear track record of donating to causes…” and so on.
I’m not without some compassion here; I’ve grappled with some complicated feelings about this kind of thing myself. However, there are some situations where the decisions should be easy to make. Things like the following:
- A well-known, influential author of a book series says anti-trans and lawmakers quote her before putting forth legislation against trans people
- A particular store whose marketing revolves around chicken is found to take their money and use it to fund organizations that stand against LGBTQIA+ people
- A particular game company somehow winds up in some lawsuit or another – regularly – because of issues with regard to poor worker treatment, anti-union tactics, open misogyny to the point of making a hostile work environment
- A content creator makes an openly hostile and racist statement and then doubles and triples down on the fact that they should be allowed to say whatever they wish
However, somehow, each and every time the people who are affected go “Hey, these people are openly being terrible and unrepentant in being so. I can’t support this person and, as a person who cares about me, I imagine you wouldn’t want to.”
And yet somehow the conversation just gets reduced to moralizing because “what else would I play if I adhered to my own stated ethics?”
Let me repeat that last part: your own stated ethics.
Absolutely no one told you to get on your socials and tell people how much of an ally you were or that you were a cozy content creator or how anti-racist and safe you were, but you did and now you have to live up to those things in the same manner you stated them.
However, at the point that it becomes even somewhat inconvenient to have to do the thing publicly?
But there’s no true ethical consumption in capitalism.
Correct, but there’s context for that statement and that context is a counterpoint to purity tests when people have to navigate capitalism to survive which includes things like:
- Ordering from amazon because items are unavailable locally or because disabilities of various kinds prevent someone from going out
- Using Lyft because of a lack of public transit
- Shopping at Walmart because you are poor and those things are in your budget
They do not include people calling you out for support transphobic authors or wildly problematic tabletop gaming companies because of two important things:
- They are not necessary to your survival
- Other. Options. Exist. Literally dozens of other options that are frequently talked about and discussed every few weeks at the very most.
And asking you to adhere to your ethics when the items on the line are a chicken sandwich or a book series about a magical school or a game of imagination in a medieval setting should be the easiest thing in the world at that point, no?
About attention and money
There’s something particularly insidious about having to have this conversation at all because in most cases, these questions about moralizing come up when we’re talking about tweeting the thing, streaming the thing, or otherwise making content about the thing.
Sometimes this results in influence, other times a check, in the best of cases both, and this is why we can’t just be content to do the things in silence. Hell, half of the people reading this who have seen this can attest that most people wouldn’t know what games people were playing or what sandwiches they were eating if they didn’t insist on broadcasting it all the time.
Imagine asking for the ability to say you stand for one thing, do something in complete violation of that loudly and publicly, and not only go unchallenged, but be well-liked to boot when your actions stand in support of people who think human rights aren’t for everyone and who wield their resources to shutdown even the most minor of dissent.
Imagine saying that you’re a safe space for marginalized people, getting monetary support from marginalized people, then spending money on people and/or in places that want to write those same marginalized people out of law and right into jail or worse and making videos of the whole thing in the process and asking people to just acknowledge your very human needs.
But that’s exactly what’s happening and that’s where all of that critique is coming from.
Coming from the house.
And with the weight of all of that, we reduce this to moralizing. To people simply being on their high horse as if there is nothing more to it than that.
Maybe it’s time to think about whether our ethics (and the practice thereof) need some adjusting, but barring that, at least let’s not be reductive and call things moralizing when what is more often meant is, “I don’t want to and do not feel I should have to think about how I wield the influence I have in a given space.”