On July 5, 2018, Jessica Price, narrative designer for Guild Wars 2 developer ArenaNet was fired over a conversation she had on Twitter. The resulting fallout from that discussion, the Reddit Mob, and everything that’s come since has been a battleground for the discussion of women, sexism, and gaming.
Recently I was watching Season 2 of Queer Eye on Netflix, and it hit me with all the feels, and made me reflect on my own experiences with the Church. The episode, titled “God Bless Gay” follows the Fab 5 as remake Miss Tammy, a woman who’s given her whole life to her community and her Church. At the end of the episode, Miss Tammy launches into a sermon about love and acceptance and all the guys were sobbing, and I lost it. She is absolutely the best that Christianity has to offer.
Growing up, I was very active in the church. It was my social life, my spiritual life and my sanctuary from what wasn’t always an ideal home life. I reach the Bible cover to cover, went to Youth Group, participated in Bible quiz, sang in choir, was part of the Christian groups at school. I wasn’t drinking the kool-aid, I was guzzling it.
By my freshman year of high school, I had a crisis of faith. I can’t recall now what the exact. I remember that the people in my church were acting in ways that I was having trouble rectifying with the lessons from the Bible. During that crisis of faith, a few friends at school had started exploring Wiccanism. Wicca appealed to me because of the fantasy nerd that I was, and the idea of real magic to my 14 year old self was worth at least a look. We had planned a Halloween party where we were going to conduct a seance. Then, my parents found a note talking about our Halloween party by going through my stuff and pulling it from a hiding place.
My parents cancelled my Halloween party plans. I wasn’t allowed to see any of my friends anymore and lost them as friends. I had to go to weekly counseling sessions with my pastor. He told me two things right off the bat–that I had committed an unforgivable sin and that I was going to hell. He then said that I should stay in the church showing God good I was, even though he said I was beyond redemption.
During these sessions, I asked questions that bothered me. What about the tribes in the Amazon who had never had the opportunity to hear of Christ? Were they going to hell? Yes, because even though they had no way of knowing about Christ, they were sinners for not accepting Jesus as their lord and savior.
He told me the world was a sinful place, that babies came into the world sinners. If they weren’t baptized, they were going to hell because they couldn’t ask for forgiveness for their sins. When I asked why, he said we all held the taint of Eve’s betrayal and our sin was being born tainted. According to him, we were all broken, undeserving of anything but the pits of hell, we were little better than demons, and it was only by the grace of God that we got the things we didn’t deserve.
God had gone to such trouble to create this universe and these people, why was he so eager to cast everyone into a pit of fire? Because we were sinners. How is it free will if God throws a temper tantrum and condemns us to an eternity in hell if we even slightly step out of line? Because we don’t deserve his forgiveness for our sinful nature. It is our freewill to embrace our sinful nature, or turn to go to save us from ourselves. I couldn’t accept what he was saying. I couldn’t accept the hatred threaded into these beliefs under the guise of faith.
Everything changed in me after that. I thought that the Church was perverting the Bible. I saw them making logical leaps to justify their hatred and their own exceptionalism. I watched Christians walk into the church and profess their faith and undying devotion to Jesus, and walk out the door and get on with their lives as if they’d never been there.
As the Christian Rap group, DC Talk says, “that is what an unbelieving world finds, unbelievable.”
Those sessions with my pastor showed me the Church for what it was. The hypocrisy was too much for me. What I had seen as a support community, I now saw as people banding together to justify how much better they were than others. I realized that I had been pretty far down the holier-than-thou path myself. I saw people who wielded their faith like a weapon to wound, instead of bandage to heal.
I made the decision that my path was not with the Church. I felt that I could be more moral and more Christ-like on my own without the church than I ever could be with it. So I left the Church and started on the path to Enlightenment through Buddhism. I’m not atheist, I know there’s something greater than me out there, but I’m not attached to finding the right thing to call it. I do my best to be Christ-like because it’s the right thing to do, because it’s kind of person I want to be.
The years of teachings about how horrible I was for existing had scarred me deep. I spent most of my life convinced that I was broken, that I didn’t deserve anything for myself. I still have trouble feeling like I “deserve” anything, and feel guilty doing even the smallest things for myself.
I still miss it. I miss the community and the fellowship. Sometimes I wish I could go back, but I know I wouldn’t be happy there. There’s too much scar tissue , too many bad memories and feelings of rejection and hopelessness and hypocrisy. I walk a different path.
Monday, I took my normal jaunt over to MassivelyOverpowered in the morning and picked up The Daily Grind, which is a daily a prompt about something in the news or video games or just something that came up in discussion elsewhere on the website. Monday’s prompt was about whether games, MMOs in specific, need story.
Blizzard recently made a bit of an embarrassing mistake– Mei, a curvaceous Overwatch character was significantly skinnier in her new skins than she had been in previous iterations. Blizzard has already come out and said that that it was a bug and unintended and would be fixed in an upcoming patch. But of course that hasn’t stopped people from both sides of the proverbial fence from jumping up and down from how could Blizzard do this, to Blizzard is caving to the special snowflakes.
“What I mean is… maybe it’s only us…” – Lord of the Flies
Normally I’m a really talkative guy. Today, I’m quiet. I’m out of things to say.
50 people dead for … no reason. Of course, the blame started immediately, along with the equally useful promises of prayers and “standing with Orlando” (really, what the hell does that even mean?). The politicizing was instantaneous and vicious from both sides.
Rationally speaking, it’s only a small percentage of all Muslims worldwide are extremist. Yet they get the most attention, they are the ones entering an international dialogue. Rationally speaking, if people were healthy and well-adjusted, gun control wouldn’t matter. The crux of the issue is that if we, as people, knew ourselves we could come to grips with the fact that it’s not Islam or about guns – it’s now and has always been all about us.
MMOs have gone through many changes over the years, both good and bad. But there’s been at least one change that I think has left us worse than we were before–DPS. DPS (Damage-per-second for the uninitiated) has become the bane of the MMO genre. We have become so obsessed with this one concept that it has changed the way MMOs are designed, consumed, and critiqued–and not to our benefit. Now before you start foaming at the mouth – hear me out and let me explain myself. Let’s look at beginning years, hopefully without the rose-colored glasses this time.
As much of a debacle as EA can make of things, they can get a few things right too. EA hosted an LGBT event called “Full Spectrum” to explore the role of LGBT representation in the video game industry. The event had panels headed by Hilary Rosen, former CEO of the RIAA, which has it’s own sordid history. Interestingly, she makes references to trying to “Silence Hip-hop,” and then says “Preaching doesn’t work.” I’m really interested in the context of that statement, the Gamasutra article leaves it somewhat ambiguous. The event also had several other industry veterans who’s who talking the issues of LGBT interests in the industry.
The general consensus seems to be that diversity in the workplace will help increase diversity in the games. Currently, the white male protagonist dominates the leading roles in games almost exclusively, with a few nods to overly sexualized female characters. The hope is that by increasing diversity amongst the developers, that will lead to increased diversity in games by taking away the exclusivity of the white male making games. I’m not 100% sure I think that this will make a difference, but there’s also a chance. As the article cites, BioWare as a company has been very encouraging of same-sex relationships, as they are possible (if limited) in most of their games.
As a gaymer myself, I think it would be interesting to have more varied options for same sex relationships. In most games (though not all), same-sex relationships are generally between the player and the giant, glaring homosexual stereotype. I really enjoyed the way that Guild Wars 2 handled same sex relationships — they just were. There was no special pomp or circumstance around it, they just were as we expected them to be….just a thing. In Dragon Age, I remember the one bisexual character, Zevran, who I felt was portrayed as maybe a little more promiscuous than necessary. With that though comes the question of did they make promiscuous because he was gay (or bisexual), or was he promiscuous and they just tacked on the gay aspect?
Regardless, it’s great to see companies taking a step up to address sexuality in games…and well, basically everything that’s not a giant white guy killing everyone else.
Over at MMORPG.com, I happened to see this great little video from Bill Murphy about developer created content. If you want the watch the video, he makes some good points:
- Current MMO design is skewed toward gear grinding and PVP in the end game to give time for more developer created content
- Not everyone enjoys PVP or gear grinding
- Players consume content at a far faster rate than developer created content can ever hope to keep up with it.
- There has to be a better way
He also said something that really struck me–that developers keep treating content in MMOs like content in offline games. It was really struck me because I have never considered that before–it was just…expected that content be delivered that way.
Now we are seeing with the advent of services like The Foundry in Star Trek Online and the upcoming Neverwinter Online, which allows players create their own content, missions and the like. It reminds me a bit of the developing additional quests and missions in the Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2 games. The toolsets for the respective games were very powerful and allowed very complicated, nuanced story telling. Ultimately, The Foundry creates developers out of players and let’s them create the story. This is, in essence, Player Generated Content. You take the players out of the game, give them to tools to add back into the game, and let them go.
But I want something more.
I want developers to go a step further than that–I want player interactions the extent beyond, “Chat, Trade, Kill.” At it’s heart, there are few MMOs that have any sort of allgorithymic player interactions outside of that. You can join guilds–but really within the game your interactions are still limited to “Chat, Trade, Kill.”
When Tera first launched, I was very excited about the political system. But then I realized that the political system had a high barrier to entry which meant more of the same grind of kill kill kill to get to max level. Then you had to have a guild to help you out, etc. Even then, the system was pretty shallow in itself, basically taxing different districts of the world. I was disappointed.
What I want is an MMO that has more to do that just hit things. I want to be able to roll a character that’s a bard–but not a combat focused bard, I just want to walk around singing. Or a real merchant trader who has to get goods from one place to another. How about a shopkeeper, a tavern owner, a master craftsman? There are thousand ways flush out a game beyond “Chat, Trade, Kill,” but as always, it’s a risk. It’s not as easy to develop engaging gameplay that doesn’t boil down to “Poke this till a shiny falls out.”
More than that, I want these different pieces to all be able to interact beyond Chat, Trade, Stab dynamic. I want to be able to set up a shop that NPCs and PCs buy things from. I want to build a tavern that players and NPCs can hangout in. I want put a bounty on someone’s head. I want to be able to rob someone. I want to my character to make his story — not have his story told to him. How cool would it be to try and plan a coup a city, but have to be careful where you talked about it because an NPC might overhear you and tell the king, and you end up in prison and have to figure out how to get out.
I want the content for the game to develop organically in how the game is plays. The difference between what I’m saying here and The Foundry is that I don’t want to have to leave the game to develop content. I want it to organically grow out of the game. Does that mean that developer created content and systems like the Foundry are things of the past? Absolutely not. I think the three need to work in tandem to create a unique, dynamic environment with relationships that are deeper than “Chat, Trade, Stab.”
All in all, content in MMOs has come a long way from the days of vanilla WoW, but it still has along way to go too before something like the organic content creation can even be a thing. Until then, we’ll have to content ourselves with Dynamic Events, The Foundry and other player generated content.