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November 10th, 2014

This is a shared post authored by both David Rosen (@wolfire) and John Bain (@totalbiscuit)

After an unfortunate heated exchange on Twitter, we had a private talk over Skype, and found that we share a lot of common ground. Our only real point of disagreement was how to react to a certain hashtag, and we agreed that it is probably best to just never speak of it by name again, especially on Twitter. This is not a medium that promotes calm and nuanced discourse about complex issues: the constant barrage of hate took a toll on both of us, and we both said things that we wish we could take back. Since we both have our own significant social media followings, hashtags are not necessary for us. We both have the privileged position of being heard by many.

Here are some topics that we both agree on:

  1. It is important to promote consumer rights and journalistic ethics, both by supporting consumer friendly policies (like refund policies and DRM-free builds), and by disclosing relevant contact with developers that might color an article or review. The best way for consumers to help is to simply support sites that do this well, and avoid sites that do not.

  2. Harassment of any kind is unacceptable, and there are three ways to effectively combat it. First, we can all expand the conversation started by the victims of this harassment so that there are too many targets to attack effectively, while focusing on the issues and freezing out trolls who would seek to derail the discussion.

    Second, we can all push for reform of systems that allow this harassment to occur, such as the lax evidence requirements for SWAT raids.

    Lastly, we can ask that social media services provide new tools that allow users to filter out harassment, such as the ability to automatically mute tweets from new accounts, and filter out specific words, phrases and links. Policing all of Twitter is an impossible task, but as it stands, the tools for shielding oneself from persistent trolls are woefully lacking and could use a serious upgrade. Freedom not to listen is just as important as freedom of speech: you cannot unread something.

  3. Diversity is important among game creators, players, and characters, and this is an important conversation that must be encouraged, not punished. Diversity leads to better stories, better stories lead to better games. If someone posts an article or video that you disagree with, the correct response is to write a comment, write to the editor, or create your own opposing article or video. It is not appropriate to threaten his or her safety, family, or anything else along those lines.

  4. Variety of perspective and critique is important to the consumer. However, Metacritic strips away all of this nuance and context to create simplistic aggregated scores which have real consequences within the industry. If you want to claim a game is sexist that is entirely your right, but we both believe that scores should be abolished from all reviews to allow personal opinion to be just that, and not representative of an entire site, particularly when staff may not share that view. Removing scores and the relevance of Metacritic allows reviews to stand on their own merits, and declaws the arguments caused by disagreement with an arbitrary score.

  5. The gamer identity is very much alive, and very important to a lot of people. For many of us it was the first place that we found acceptance and a sense of belonging, and it grew into a passion that influenced many aspects of our lives. It should not be dismissed so lightly. Gamers have endured attacks from the mainstream media for decades and we should be doing everything we can to bring that ignorance to an end, not further fuel it with incendiary rhetoric.

It seems that almost everyone on both sides agrees about these fundamental points, but we have all become polarized beyond reason by the medium we have used to discuss it. The next time you consider writing an angry message to someone on the other side of this issue, please go for a walk and cool off for a few minutes, and then see if you still think that is the best use of your time. Perhaps it would be more productive to pursue one of these goals that we all agree would improve gaming for everyone.