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    Protesting From A Gamer's Perspective

    Good luck protestors, I hope your motives are honest and true.

    I wasn't intending on writing this. In a lot of ways I'll either come off as uninformed or a hypocrit. But I think writing about it for all the internet to see will [hopefully] help me in the long run. As I write this, I have friends opting to participate in Adbuster's Occupy Wall Street. As a bit of perspective, I have another group of friends who have decided to organize a local parade to celebrate the life of one Daymon Dodson, a community hero from Ohio, whose life was cut short. The parade is a celebration of anyone you've known whose life ended prematurely. To add another ingredient in the pot, I've got a handful of guys who drove down to Miami to watch a college football game. Everybody is into something, try not being offended by the coming paragraphs.

    I'm always so interested in what people my age pour their energies into. I'm usually the one at the table that waves the "I'm a gamer, I'm a blogger," flag. It seldom sparks conversations of interest. I'm okay with that. Back in my more radical days, a brown-to-green clothed-wearing Isaiah would be providing transportation to something like an Occupy Wall Street function. Due to my upbringing, protesting and activism has always interested me. Coming from a predominantly poor, black neighborhood in Cleveland -- it's rare you see a group of black folks protesting the government in this large of scale. Local government was more our thing. When prices go up and local stores and churches were closed, then that's when the people of Cuyahoga were gonna let you know.

    Imagine coming to college with a dusty Playstation and barely-there scholarship money, and being introduced to a people that had the ability to protest, well, anything. To this day I find it interesting. It took me a long time to conclude that if you have the ability to acknowledge wrong in your neighborhood, then do so. No matter your background. No matter your neighborhood.

    It's really interesting to witness the evolution of what the internet has done to modern day activism. I'd be interested to see if lower-income activist have increased because of it.

    With that said, today, in this current state of America -- we have so much available to consume. We have so many ways to enjoy ourselves and communicate with others. I game. It's what I've done since living in Coit projects. It's what I've done since other kids around me didn't have games, at all, and I had three Nintendo games. Now gaming warrants million dollar production studios. There are dollar games on your phone to your home entertainment system. The funny thing is, or not-so-funny, everyone I know who complains about the gaming culture, experiences games the most.

    Every since I've started writing and reviewing games I've never met so many people who've consumed so much. There are exceptions, but if you want to be educated in what you write about, you better have a rich vocabulary. So it makes sense to turn into this consuming beast. I guess it also goes without saying that I've never met so many well-off white people and Asians. Again, this makes sense, video games are created [majorly] by whites and Asians so the media reflects the people, for the most part. I've met the poorest of the poor who are very dedicated to the gaming culture and they have similar stories to my own. So you can go ahead an nix that part of your angry response e-mail.

    Here's the deal, to draw a parallel between the protesting culture I've met via my academic circles and those in-the-know in the gaming community. I now have this perception that everyone who protests issues on a large scale comes from, or has a great deal of money. That's always made me uncomfortable. I know, I know. My third paragraph is contradictory. I stand by that point, no matter your background, your voice is valuable and necessary. I'm just not sure if it's necessary to me or the community.


    If anyone is interested in activism in games, there are several indie developers who make games to raise awareness for causes. Darfur Is Dying is a great example.

    Ten years ago, I was at every political rally. I drove to Chicago and D.C. and bailed friends out of jail for being foolish enough to speak up to the man. I got jaded in the process. Burned out. I saw more and more people show up to protest topics that had nothing to do with what the actual protest at hand, was about. Everyone has their own motives. I guess I lost mine under someone's synthetic brown moccasin. 

    In the gaming community [as an example], the age of the internet forum is a great way to see a complaint go from a logical discussion, to a pissing contest that only marginally relates to the original topic. I'd even argue that protesting in the games industry is close to non-existent. Sure there are petitions to make the next Mega Man game or Final Fantasy remake, but everyone's okay with being nickled and dimed. This opens the argument to the games industry needing activism. I'm not sure it does.

    The gaming culture is one of few connected to an industry, that seems solely based on the consumer's dollar. If you stop paying for it, they stop making it [example: Guitar Hero]. Imagine if gamers got fed up by the billion-dollar game franchise Call of Duty and stopped paying for $15 dollar map packs? Activision would stop making them, it's pretty simple. Wall Street attendees aren't so lucky. They are protesting a much bigger beast. A beast, some would argue, Activision is a part of. A much bigger ideal. A lot of them gathered via social network, smartphone mass text message, or various websites. You can see this as the little guy using the system's tools against itself. I don't know how I see it.


    There is a cloud of guilt that hangs over my head while trying to formulate an opinion on radicals [of any kind]. I blog and write about games. I'm a consumerist that social networks. I'm a lot of things and I'm sure you are too. I don't understand how protest currently function. It interests me, but only on a small scale. Small scale I can understand. I can relate to any activism when it's dealing with a smaller community.

    I love seeing gamers raise money to keep arcades open. I've attended gaming tournaments to help a friend in need. I'll never understand what one hopes to accomplish by staging, what I see, as a big show against corporate America. When, on a smaller scale [depending on how you look at it], you could just stop buying the stuff they are selling you and focus on creating new methods of interaction with your neighbor.

    But hey, that's just me.

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    Reader Comments (4)

    Really like some of the ideas you've presented here; it's always good to share different perspectives with the world.

    There's a group of protesters in the town where I live who seem quite well off. They've protested on the same corner every single day... for the past seven years. Like everyone else who sees them, I often wonder what they do for a living or how they get so much time to do this. They don't look like hobos or bums either, so they can't be that broke. Are they getting government assistance to -- ironically -- protest the system every day, or are they just more of the incognito shareholders and investors that live on the hills above my town?

    And yeah, to me it really seems like the games industry is just another "takes money to make money" business, which kind of discourages me personally. I've always thought establishments where you have to enter with a fistful of cash cancel out the whole "start fresh and earn amazing opportunities" part of being American. But then again, why give up when nothing comes of it?

    September 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSeandood

    We use to make games. As kids we'd go in the backyard, or to a friend's yard and just, BOOM! Make up a game, right then and there. I think what shouldn't be confused here [which I could have expressed better] is that the gaming community shouldn't be confused as the gaming industry.

    The gaming community has existed well before the industry came along. So in that regard, I have no problem with the Minecrafts, Braids and Team Fortress' of the world. When we lose that child-like mentality, of wanting to create new experiences. Wanting to have more experiences...then the money it took to build this beast we love so much, will fall faster than Rome.

    Thanks for reading Seandood! Hell of a response!

    September 17, 2011 | Registered CommenterIsaiah T. Taylor

    I'm not sure what it's like in the States, but over here (Australia), you get a wide range of people protesting, from those who aren't well off to those who don't need to work to pay their way, but some thoughts on what you've written:

    - If most of the people protesting (for good things) are well off, then it means they aren't just perpetuating an unjust social system but actually using their privileged position to try and make the world a better place (assuming that's what they're doing) - even if what they're fighting for is misguided, making an effort for something that's bigger than themselves is a good thing. It'd be much worse if they just got rich and said "stuff the rest of the world". Also note that the wealthier people have the more discretionary income they have, so they may be more able to take time off to do the protest thing.
    - As for these large-scale protests, it makes a difference because the US (and many other nations) are a democracy - large-scale protests can swing public opinion, and swings in public opinion affect voters, and once that flows through to elected representatives you'd better believe that policy changes as well. Sure, it takes time, and it's not perfect (and from what I hear your current Congress is a bit of a mess - but if it makes you feel any better we've got plenty of jokers in office over here as well), but it's (paraphrasing Churchill) the 'least bad' system we have. The scale of the protest just needs to meet the scale of the problem. Local community issues? Sounds like a good time for a local community protest. Economy-wide systemic failings? Then large-scale mass protest is the best way to try and change the system from the outside, combined with campaigns of letter writing to elected representatives, meetings with lobby groups and other associations, and getting as much press time as you can. Unfortunately systemic issues such as the way finance and stocks are managed isn't as simple as a consumer boycott. Think of it like protesting against the Vietnam war - sure, you could not buy war bonds, but it doesn't hurt to get some boots on the street as well.

    As for gaming, we're a consumer industry that for the software (at this stage) relies mainly on reasonably-paid professionals. The main issues they face are long work hours in some firms, but there are outs to non-gaming software development and a reasonably developed labour market. There may be issues relating to manufacturing and recycling of gaming hardware (both console and PC) though, in terms of people in developing countries getting treated poorly, so if you're looking to stick up for the little guy in the context of gaming, that's not a bad place to start.

    September 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAxe99

    Axe you've really given me something to think about here. But here are a couple thoughts.

    --I'm not taking the stance that people are protesting for 'good' or 'bad', people are people. With their own motives and we can only hope that our viewpoints overlap specific rights and responsibilities. Knowing this, I'd honestly be surprised if someone who shops at Whole Foods would drive to an impoverished city to protest/petition for a Walmart to be opened. Not saying it doesn't happen, I'm just saying I'd be surprised.

    --I'm still finding it hard to cite examples in the past 20 years where large scale protests in America produced positive results.

    --Knowing of the atrocities occurring at FoxConn and the apparently popular development practices of most major publishers [i.e. Team Bondi and 343] I'd still rather take a smaller, community-focused approach. Like, say, writing stuff on the internet.

    September 19, 2011 | Registered CommenterIsaiah T. Taylor

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