Games journalism is a touchy subject for me because there’s a lot of weight that comes with it and it’s hard for me to keep a level head about it. On the one hand, there’s the vile and vitriol that spewed out of the internet a couple years back and on the other hand, there’s my personal experience and confusion with the people who consider themselves games journalists.
If you’re like me (and you probably are since you’re here, reading this) then you probably already know everything there is to know about the gaming community and their ridiculous stance on “ethics in games journalism”, so I won’t go through a retread of that. Instead, I’m going to focus on the inconsistent nature of the games journalism industry.
In my experience, I’ve found that the majority of people who write for my favorite websites/gaming blogs/etc. are white men and women (larger portion of white men than women, probably). And, usually, that isn’t an issue for me. But it became an issue when blog posts and articles about diversity/inclusion in video games started getting popular. While diversity and the inclusion of all genders/races in video games are things that I would defend over and over again, it’s hard to hear/listen/read all of these white voices explaining to me -- an actual person of color -- the need for diversity.
When I try to think of black and/or brown voices in the games journalism industry, I can only come up with a handful of names. And I follow these people individually more than I do any blog or website because they have experiences and perspectives that I can identify with and understand -- even if I don’t agree with their review of a particular video game that I enjoy (it’s just good to know I’m not the only POC playing that game). So, when a white voice -- male or female -- goes on and on about the inclusion of other races…
(okay, so it’s important to note here that if a female -- white or otherwise -- writes about feminist issues and the inclusion of women in video games, I’m not going to start a fuss about it because it isn’t my experience and it’s more important to listen in those situations than it is to critique. Same thing goes with a queer writer who writes about LBGTQ experiences in video games)
… it’s hard for me to listen to them without feeling like I’m being told what the “right road to diversity” by someone who doesn’t understand how important it actually is. Now, don’t get me wrong, the idea they are trying to spread is an admirable one and as I said earlier it’s one I agree with. But there comes a point when words aren’t enough. While I read these kinds of articles, I start to wonder why their website/blog/etc. doesn’t employ more people of color to write for them. I start wondering why it seems like the barrier to entry for POC (like myself) feels so high in comparison to those who are white.
I’m not trying to say that your favorite video game website only employs white people, that’s obviously false. I’m trying to understand why there aren’t other voices in the world of games journalism. Is it a systemic issue? Does something need to be changed? And how and where do we start?
I, obviously, don’t have the answers. But it’s important to remember (as it is with video games themselves), it’s possible to criticize and critique something while having passion and love for it.
Words by: Paul Masbad