I had an interesting mix of responses to my previous post, where I gently suggested that one particular little internet shitstorm (on Nightmare Mode) could have been handled better. But the best thing that has come out of it for me has been a renewed appreciation for the complexities of individuals and group dynamics, from a whole variety of angles, and a welcome reminder that one should line up jumps to conclusions very carefully.
The most appreciative response I got was from Adam Ruch himself, who seemed genuinely devastated by the response his post had received. I was just calling it as I saw it, but he was thankful that someone else was willing to put themselves on the line over this. (For the record Adam and I live in the same city, but haven’t ever met.)
But I wasn’t the only one who was in his corner. Most interesting was seeing his conversation with Leena van Deventer. Leena is probably the most strident, taker-of-no-bullshit feminist games I know in person. Her Facebook and twitter often full of indignation at entitled men. (She also recently co-authored this article on the #1ReasonWhy phenomenon.) If one were to look at the recent gender/privilege conversation in a simplistic way, it would be easy enough to bundle Leena’s opinions in with the opinions of those who were attacking Adam’s article. But people are complicated.
Here’s part of Leena’s conversation with Adam:
@adamruch I hate this. :/ I hate that it’s happening. I don’t think it’s conducive to any good.
@grassisleena Me too. I keep oscillating between detached curiosity and genuine anger. Its very uncomfortable.
@adamruch I’d try and detach more, personally. But it’s a total judgement call. I don’t see the conversation progressing anywhere helpful.
Clearly things aren’t as simple as Us vs. Them.
There’s plenty more shades of grey to dig through. While at least one Nightmare Mode contributor all but called for Adam’s head, Patricia Hernandez – the site’s editor, and the person who originally approved both pieces – was fairly level-headed in her response, if erring a bit on the apologetic side.
And now here’s my own mia culpa – this Patricia Hernandez is the very same Patricia Hernandez whose writing I somewhat rudely critiqued in my very first post on this site. Now, after writing a post calling for people not to judge a writer based on a single, short piece of writing, I feel more than a mite hypocritical. I have since read more of Patricia’s work (specifically this incredible retrospective on Fallout 2, and this movingly poetic exploration of Journey), and can confidently state that she’s a far more interesting writer than I am. So I withdraw my criticism and apologise to Patricia unreservedly. And not just because she’s good. I should never have made the comment I did about anyone’s work – it was juvenile.
The other thing I came across during the course of this was a heartbreaking Twine game by Kim Moss, who wrote the original article that unwittingly led to this mess. At least I assume they’re by the same person – she’ seems to be a bit of an Invisible Woman of the Internet. Her game recounts her struggles as a young girl forced to join the boy scouts. I’m not a girl, and I was never in the boyscouts, but somehow I could totally relate to it. That makes it a true piece of art in my book. Go experience.
The last complicated person I want to mention is the one who sent me the only outright negative response I received in response to my post. It was from the same Nightmare Mode contributor I mentioned earlier, and came in the form of a tweet:
“fuck you, you don’t speak for me.”
I don’t remember ever claiming that I did, but maybe I’m just oblivious – all this is subjective, after all. I’m not keen on people talking to me that way – in fact it generally makes me feel really crappy. But I’m not good at confrontation, and in any case I’m a little confused about how to feel here: this particular person also writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, which is my absolute favourite site on the internet, and a huge part of the reason that I am now in the games industry.
Like I said: complicated.
As a side note, the Nightmare mode twitter feed has noted that the massive number of comments on the controversy-stirring posts has led them to switch to an easier-to-moderate comments system, in the process deleting all of the passionate reader comments that sat underneath the two stories. Hardly anything has been said since – you can almost hear the wind pushing the tumbleweeds. I’m not sure how to feel about this – on the one hand, it seems to have diffused the conflict. On the other, it does kind of feel like history has been re-written. (Complicated.)