MUSKET SMOKE Update & Why it Matters re:#Gamergate

So I have REALLY gotten involved with Musket Smoke  over the past month.  After helping to make the Facebook Page, I got involved in helping to promote the Kickstarter for the sequel Musket Smoke II.  I even helped to lend my dulcet tones to the promotional video, which you can see here:

Oh, and I’m not the only one who’s crazy about Musket Smoke.  Check out this really cool interview here.

I even wrote a song to help promote the game:

So my time helping with MUSKET SMOKE has led me to think more about my opinions on the whole #gamergate situation.  In the article I wrote last year, I came off as cautiously neutral, hoping to show the best arguments of both sides.  Here was the conclusion I came to:

Sure, GamerGate is about Ethics in Journalism AND Misogyny in Gaming Culture.  But how it has completely exploded has shown it is about a whole bunch of other things as well: media format conflicts, class issues, and, most importantly IDENTITY.  And conflicts over identity tend to be some of the nastiest of all.

Both sides want  to be like World War II: a glorious fight against Pure Evil!  The more the harassing and censorship goes on, however, the more obvious comparisons to The Great War of 1914 are, in the messiness, complexity, uncontrollableness and ambiguity.

What will come out of Gamergate?  Tons of hurt feelings and probably quite a few lost jobs.  Let’s hope that no one, y’know actually gets killed, like in a real war.  What new world will emerge in the 21st century media culture?  Hopefully one pleasing to both sides: with better journalism and less misogyny.  Better respect for EVERYONE regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, mental state, class or hobby.  And let’s try to make sure that the “solution” to  The Great Twitter Flame War of 2014 won’t be like an internet Treaty of Versailles.

I still stand by what I’ve written here, but perhaps because of my experience with MUSKET SMOKE I’m now a bit more cognizant of the best of both side’s arguments, especially how they fit into the world of Game Development and Marketing.

I admit it, at first, I was a bit more open to the pro-Gamergate arguments–at least those expressed by Christina Hoff Sommers.   Yes, online harassment is awful, irregardless of the harasser or the target.  There is no excuse for it, EVER.  There are way less nasty ways to get lulz, folks!  However, the presence of some harassing community members should not be an excuse for censorship, whether on an official governmental level–or a social shaming of everyone associated with the hobby.

Admittedly, I had a genuinely unique perspective due to PLAYING AT WAR, which was, in part, about inspiring advocates for societal progress engaging in censorship of media they did not like.

Unfortunately, this opinion put me into opposition with someone who I deeply respected: Bob “Moviebob/GameOverthinker” Chipman.  Bob was the first internet celebrity I religiously followed and I tended to agree with the vast majority of his “Game Overthinker” content–yes, even the story bits.  They got really entertaining!

Bob wrote several long posts dismissing Gamergate.  He opposed the presence of sexism within gamergate, and noted how the gamergaters demands for ethics in journalism were both unrealistic and unreasonable–and would ultimately hurt the very medium both sides are trying to save.  Both of them left me conflicted.  The way I was seeing it, both Chipman and Sommers were right in different ways.  I kinda felt like the arguing rabbis of Jewish legend, as recounted in Fiddler on the Roof:

Mordcha: Why should I break my head about the outside world? Let them break their own heads.
Tevye: He’s right. …
Perchik: That’s nonsense. You can’t close your eyes to what’s happening in the world.
Tevye: He’s right.
Avram: He’s right and he’s right? How can they both be right?
Tevye: You know, you’re also right.

My experience with MUSKET SMOKE has given me a more understanding picture of Bob’s arguments about the nature of Indie Gaming and Journalism.  After all, those Gamergaters who are most adamant about “Ethics in Journalism” would doubtless have condemned what I’ve done with Musket Smoke to be collusion (though I make no claim to be a Gaming Journalist).  Likewise, I can see the more aggressive Social Justice supporters condemning Musket Smoke as a celebration of war and violence, though I would respond by saying it is FAR more respectful than Call of Duty, and more educational, too.

What has truly saddened me, however, is that a genuinely innovative game has been almost completely lost amidst all the shouting, writing, tweeting and identity politics.  MUSKET SMOKE came out in December 2013, but I did not hear ANYTHING about it until a whole year later.  To both supporters and opponents of Gamergate, I say: what’s REALLY more important–the politics of gaming journalism/depictions/development, or letting passionate, talented people like Woodie Dovich make the games they want to make, and letting the world know about them?  If you don’t like a game’s or an article’s–or any piece of media’s–politics, make your own!  I’d love to play/read/watch it!  Good art is good art regardless of it’s message!

Let gamers game!  Let Devs dev!  Let writers write!  Let creators create!  THAT is how you change the world for the better!

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