Game Journalism, #1reasonwhy, and the Revenge of the Personal Essay

Fake gamer guys

This week has been a little bit different in the world of game journalism. I mean, there’s still the occasional tasteless PR stunt to remind us that most game companies are just… bad at so many things, but this was also the week of #1reasonwhy. The deluge of  personal writing that has spawned from seemingly out of nowhere this week has been tremendous. I cried once.

And much of this writing, in an industry that still feels incredibly unbalanced for many of the 1reasons put forth on Twitter this week, was from women. The fairer sex has in one week proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that full gender equality in the video game universe would be better for everyone (do some people still think misogyny is a good idea?), and I’m going to highlight a few of the things that you need to read.

First up, we have Cara Ellison’s poem “Romero’s Wives,” published over at Nightmare Mode. Brenda Brathwaite (now Brenda Romero) is a game developer that recently married John Romero (you know, the DOOM guy), and this poem, at least to my poorly trained reading skills, is about women’s roles and their place in the gaming world. Too often throughout history, women have been overshadowed by their male partner and seen merely as an accessory, a trophy wife, a booth babe. Brenda Romero isn’t just John Remero’s wife – she has been an integral part of many of the most influential and classic gaming franchises throughout history (Wizardy, helloooooo). Yet she has been uncomfortable even going to E3, a show honoring, in her own words, “an industry I helped found.” This needs to change. And it is, slowly.

Next, we have a post from Leena van Deventer, a pretty cool freelance writer and game developer based in Australia, simply titled “#1reasonwhy.” It talks about bullying, growing up, being scared to speak out against injustice, and finding your confidence. A 5th grade girl with a crush can be the most delicate of flowers, but Leena found solidarity in her peers and the strength to say, “No more.” All it took was one person with the guts to speak out against the wrongs of the world. People are listening.

Next, we have an article that isn’t about #1reasonwhy, but I have no doubt that the atmosphere in the game industry this week helped it flourish: Tiffany Claiborne’s “How Diablo III Told Me My Marriage Was Over,” published on Kotaku. Tiffany uses her co-op failings with her husband in Diablo III and her co-op successes with her new man in Portal 2 as a direct metaphor for marital bliss. If your fella lets you die in a game, maybe he really doesn’t care about you that much, or he’s too self-absorbed to ever give you the attention that you need (attention that, many of Kotaku’s colorful commenters pointed out, drove her into the arms of another man before the first was completely out of her life). Maybe Portal-ing well together means you are compatible. Maybe Diablo-ing poorly together means you are doomed to fail. Who can know? It’s an interesting read anyway, for sure.

Finally, and saving the best for last, we have Jenn Frank’s “Allow Natural Death” from Unwinnable. This made me cry the first time I read it, and again just now. Writing about games, people are told so often to stay unbiased, like feelings and emotions are the enemy. But feelings and emotions are what makes us human – talking about them is the fastest way to connect with another person. Across language barriers, and country lines, and race, and gender, we are all just people. Each and every one of us know someone who has died, and we have all in some way been affected by it.

One of Jenn’s mother’s last memories will be of her daughter showing her this incredible video game she helped create, a thing that has brought joy to thousands upon thousands of people across the world. To see a person you created bringing such happiness to the world – I can’t think of a better memory to go out on.

Jenn’s mother was no doubt proud of her, and these stories makes me proud to even be a part of this wide world of game writing that every day has something new to offer. As long as people – both male and female – continue to create beautiful pieces such as these, the indomitable spirit that drives us to write about our gaming experiences will never be extinguished. I’m trying to do my part, and I hope you will, too.

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