A reader offers a controversial view on gaming’s attitude to race and social issues, and the vitriolic manner in which it is often discussed.
We need to talk about gaming’s attitude to race and social issues.
It polarises instantly and brings vitriolic discussions from both sides of the debate. This turns into shouting AND A LOT OF CASPLOCK pretty quickly.
But the reaction to criticism of the developer of Kingdom Come: Deliverance around racist undertones in the game has been huge.
Fandoms are a funny thing. It’s easy to judge the whole fanbase of something from a small minority – whether it be sports, cartoon animals, or supernatural romances by Stephenie Meyer – who are voicing their opinions the loudest.
However, we all have things that we’re passionate about in life and will spring to their defence if we feel they’re being unfairly criticised.
Gamers, for the most part, are excellent people who are passionate about the games they spend time with.
But Gamergate was born as a sexist lynch mob from the very beginning, and nothing about that has changed.
If anything, they branched out into various other bigotries.
And that’s where we are with Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
Developer Daniel Vávra has been accused of ‘actively denying the presence of people of other skin colour or ethnicity in [his] game and thus promoting a racist worldview’. More widely, writers have accused him of being ‘racist and sexist with revisionist notions of history’, all accusations he denies.
Vávra says, ‘The nationality of other characters reflects what we know about Bohemia [where the game is set] around 1403. Thanks to intensive research, this knowledge includes entire family trees and property rights.’
Vávra’s ‘political correctness is censorship’ stance is provably false; by its very definition. Censorship can only take place if the government or an arm of the government is involved, so ‘freedom of speech’ is not a valid defence.
And, judging by the overwhelming response to my letter about him, a lot of people think I’m a social justice warrior (SJW) who want me, at best, to shut up and, at worst, dead. I really am tempted to call gamers ‘the worst kind of people’, even though it’s the tiniest of minorities.
But medieval ideas of ‘race’ were very different from what they are today, the Journal Of Medieval And Early Modern History has argued.
While 15th century Bohemia (the westernmost part of the Czech Republic, where the game takes place), was mainly full of white people (which I previously misinterpreted), the multi-ethnic relationships within Silesian communities in Bohemia draws into question whether 100% white is an accurate representation.
Regardless, Vávra’s push for ‘historical accuracy’ is still problematic.
While DailyDot has already questioned whether the game is sexist (the writer thinks it is). Vavra wants there to be an open discussion about equality in gaming.
But according to Kotaku he also wants those he views as SJWs, and other progressive thinkers, to be excluded from the conversation.
If Gamergate really did have issues with the means and not the message, then they wouldn’t be so quick to hurl abuse and threats at anyone who asks that some consideration be shown over representation in something as ultimately insignificant as a video game model.
Perhaps, when people such as Vávra and his supporters feel excluded from the conversation, the fault may just be on their end and the views they hold, views which society has rightly become less tolerant of in recent years.
Sadly, I’ve seen a lot of comments over the years that suggests there is an intrinsic problem with bigotry and anti-progressive attitudes within the gaming community.
It may still be a loud, reprehensible minority that’s doing the shouting but these people cannot be safely ignored, especially not in the light of the rise of far-right activism and the resurgence of white supremacy movements.
Whenever somebody does raise concerns about equality in gaming, even those that use a perfectly rational tone, the response from some in the gaming community is usually one of mockery and ridicule, even full-blown hatred and bigotry.
As much as we like to think of the gaming communities growing into new areas for different ‘types’ of gamer, whether people realise it or not, the first instinct of many gamers is to try to downplay or belittle anybody who suggests that the gaming community has a problem with bigotry, often to the point of flat-out stating that people should not be discussing these issues at all.
It’s gotten to the point where trying to discuss anything remotely progressive is impossible because the very well mobilised minority jump on it and, as a result, bigoted behaviour becomes normalised, even encouraged.
This leads to the feeling of it being an old boys’ club, where anybody with a critical eye or who suggests that improvements could be made is slandered and cast out.
Frankly, I would much rather live in a world full of ‘SJW snowflakes’ – where everyone is basically just begging for a hug – than the hateful opposite that is starting to become the more readily cited tone of discourse.
So what can be done about it?
People way more researched than me have discussed removing anonymity online, building more into ‘intelligent gaming’ and so many other potential ‘fixes’.
But the issue still remains and, if anything, is becoming an even bigger issue.
The problem of bigotry in the gaming community is very real and very visible, but it’s not always shouting in your face. It can be subtle, and some may not even realise they’re doing it.
The first step to tackling the problem is to acknowledge it exists.
It’s all well and good to say, ‘Don’t feed the trolls’ but from what I’ve observed over the years doing so has only caused things to get worse, not better.
So if you see someone talking about hate speech, bigotry or even just the use of language in gaming, or is suggesting someone in a prominent role in the industry has views that are problematic, think about why.
Are they really making out that this is a big problem, and the offending thing or people should be banned, or are they just offering a critical eye? Are they speaking from lived experience? What if you were in their position?
After thinking about that, if you still feel the need to jump in with comments about how the author is virtue-signalling, being too sensitive, tarring all gamers with the same brush, or saying something along the lines of, ‘Oh so I’m a bigot, am I?’ and exaggerating their statements to belittle them, then you need to honestly ask yourself what that says about you.
By reader Andrew Middlemas
The reader’s feature does not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.