Roughly nine months ago I started to work on an article about how social media has changed fighting games. I wanted to talk about scene businesses, the power of Twitter and how sites like Facebook had made it easier for people to get into the scene than in the past. I also, however, wanted to touch on the bad aspects of social media: the whining, the divisiveness and the harassment. In fact, at the time a number of women in fighting games were receiving threats of sexual assault and death, something that continues to happen even as I write this post.
Maybe all those things were too much to try and tackle with a relatively short article (about 1700 words), or perhaps my first draft wasn’t that great, but either way after some dispute the article got spiked. I was pretty dismayed at the time because I thought ALL the interviews had provided some good insight into the ways the scene has changed since social media took off, but it’s quite possible I was biting off a bit more than I was ready to chew at the time. Either way, I moved on.
Fast forward to now, and a number of things that were said in interviews then keep coming back to me as I watch my feeds. “I was very much a proponent of the use of real names on Twitter, Facebook and the most powerful of our social medias… Youtube. I’ve had a change of heart, well, until proven otherwise,” said one of the people I talked to for the story, citing the real violence that has come from what some would consider “harmless trolling” on the web. They continued:
“Every day since I’ve been blogging in 2008, I’m called [a slur]. My twitter & my blog are public and those two connective lines has a certain group determined to let me know just how much of a big fan they are.”
For anyone who has seen the spectre of GamerGate loom over video games in the last several months, this daily—if not hourly—harassment for people online has become the norm. And anyone who has bothered to stand up to that harassment normally becomes the next victim.
“When your identity is fully exposed on the internet, it can make you a target for harassment. If you are … (basically anything considered a minority in the FGC), that is exposed in your profile. People typically won’t harass you on Facebook because they themselves have their identity exposed too, but they can use that info to bully you elsewhere where they are still anonymous (ask.fm, stream chat, /r/kappa, other forums, etc.),” said another player.
Frankly, it sucks that I’m sitting here writing this post. Almost a year later, and somehow the harassment of people on the margins has INCREASED online instead of remaining the same or—optimistic, I know—decreasing. And in some ways, it’s partially my fault. I didn’t pay attention to the writing on the wall. Instead of continuing to chase that story and making sure that it got printed, I let it fall into the bin and get discarded.
That’s the opposite of what journalists are supposed to do. So this is my (in)formal apology. I’m going to try to do better. I’m going to try and help marginalized people in the scene get their message out just as I try with smaller games and their players. I’m going to be more willing to deal with criticism in the face of conflict. And next time I’m chasing a story I think has some real value to the scene, I’m not going to let it just drop.
I know I’ll fuck up a lot of times along the way, but I’ll give it my best shot; that’s all I can do.