Many of you were outraged by the ridiculous portrayal of gamers in the most recent episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Many more simply shook their heads in disbelief at the ignorance behind the stereotypes. And despite the pathetic meme spouting and obvious inspiration from prominent feminists, #GamerGate and anti-#GamerGate managed to agree on one thing—the portrayal of gamers by Law and Order was awful.
In my previous article, I blamed the mainstream gaming media for the portrayal of gamers in the Law and Order episode. Certainly I was not alone in doing so, as many followers of #GamerGate on Twitter came to the same conclusion. But now, long-time industry member Mark Kern has joined the fray, voicing his frustration and calling for change by the very outlets who led the charge to alienate their own readership—Kotaku and Polygon.
Who is Mark Kern?
Not many people are familiar with Mark Kern specifically, but I doubt there are any among us who can’t recognize the games he’s worked on in the past. Let’s try it. I’ll post an image, and you guess the game.
If you guessed World of Warcraft, you’re right! Mark Kern was the Team Lead for the first release of World of Warcraft. Despite being released in 2004, World of Warcraft is still the Massively Multiplayer Online game with the most subscribers to this day.
On to our next game—see if you can guess it.
If you guessed Diablo 2, you’re right! This was the last great ARPG before Blizzard decided to completely screw up Diablo 3 with things like always online gameplay and the real money auction house. The real money auction house has been patched out, but to many, the damage was done. Diablo 2 remains the pinnacle of the series, and Mark Kern was a producer on this title.
Alright, last one. Guess the game.
Yep, this is the original Starcraft. And guess what? Mark Kern worked on this one too.
Mark’s new company, MEK Entertainment, is currently working on a “16-bit voxel Oculus Rift MMO.” And while that sounds ambitious, with Mark’s pedigree in blockbuster success, I wouldn’t bet against him.
Breaking new ground for #GamerGate
Owning your own company has its advantages—for example, you don’t have the concern many pro-#Gamergate developers have, that fear of speaking out against corruption in the industry and media. Clearly this is no concern to Mark Kern, who let his opinion on the matter be known after the Law and Order episode aired.
Like many, Mark put the blame where it rightfully belonged—squarely on the shoulders of the mainstream gaming media. Remember, these were the same outlets who published the “Gamers Are Dead ” articles, which demonized gamers as white, misogynistic, overweight neckbeards living in their parents’ basement. While many of these same outlets ran articles which ridiculed the depiction of gamers in Law and Order, none of them saw the obvious role they played in broadcasting these stereotypes to the general public.
Many of the #GamerGate community see only one solution to this problem—the destruction of the current mainstream media in favor of a new ethics-driven group. To some extent that is already happening—Joystiq going out of business (however temporarily) was a good sign, and promising sites are surfacing all the time.
Mark Kern has a different solution.
You created this problem, now fix it
Mark Kern has created a petition on Change.org, calling on Polygon and Kotaku to “lead the way in healing the rift in video games.” His idea is that as the media, they are the vanguard for the image of gamers and gaming. From his petition:
You are our first line of defense when our industry and our hobby is attacked by a mass media and our own law-makers bent on either trivializing or demonizing our past-time, or worse, legislating it out of existence. You were there for us when Jack Thompson attempted to shut us down. You were there for us when we won 1st Amendment protection for video games in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. We want you to be there for us now.
At stake is no less than decades of work that we have all put in to win the right of games to stand alongside other media as art, as free speech, as valuable learning tools for our children, and more.
The petition has some support so far, including an honorable mention from none other than Ken Levine, founder of Irrational Games and creator of Bioshock.
However, I have to disagree with them. I don’t think this is the way to go at all.
Prominent YouTuber Boogie2988 agrees in his TwitLonger post:
I wish I still felt that the folks at Kotaku were friends, if not peers. Now I just don’t think of them at all. I hope one day they decide that they want to breech the gap that has been created between us, but most likely they don’t care either way.
A long time ago Kotaku asked me to stop by and hang out in their offices. I can’t imagine that they still feel that way about me, but I sure wish they did. I’d love to rebuild that bridge. but I won’t sign a petition begging them to do so.
I think it would be one thing if this was what Polygon and Kotaku did as a last act before they shutdown. But I wouldn’t trust the public image of gamers with them anymore than I would trust the public image of black people with the Ku Klux Klan. Kotaku and Polygon have shown themselves to be hateful and disrespectful toward gamers—are these the people we should trust to repair our public image? People like Polygon’s Ben Kuchera, who has wild and unfactual beliefs concerning propaganda in puzzle games? People like Nathan Grayson, who somehow still has a job at Kotaku, despite being one of the “Five Guys” Zoe Quinn was sleeping with?
No, I think that #GamerGate got it right the first time. These people have lost our trust for a reason. Now is not the time to give them our trust again. We have new websites now, a new gaming media. We don’t need Polygon or Kotaku to do anything but die.