GamerGate Interviews
James Covenant GamerGate Interview

The Escapist Staff | 10 Oct 2014 16:30
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James Covenant is a video editor and game developer. He is most famous for his viral YouTube videos "Star Wars Call Me Maybe" and "Captain Picard sings Let it Snow!" James is currently developing a puzzle game called Black-White. Black-White features a unique color-inverting mechanic. Check out the Facebook page for Black-White to learn more. We interviewed Mr. Covenant over email.

What is your definition of "gamer"?

I believe that the term "gamer" has evolved to mean anyone who enjoys playing video games.

Do you make games for gamers? (I'm using "gamer" here to mean "core game enthusiast")

My current game Black-White is being developed for core game enthusiasts, but I hope that more casual players will also enjoy this game.

Do you think gamer culture more toxic than other enthusiast cultures on the web (political enthusiasts, fashion enthusiasts, car enthusiasts, gun enthusiasts, etc.)? (I'm using "gamer" here to mean "core game enthusiast").

I think gamer culture can be compared with movie, TV, and YouTube culture. All of these cultures have a lot of "toxicity" when you go online. I've created two viral YouTube videos (Star Wars Call Me Maybe and Captain Picard sings Let it Snow) and I've received some very "toxic" comments on these videos. For this reason, I wouldn't say that that gamer culture is more toxic than similar enthusiast cultures.

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What is your reaction to this sentiment, expressed in Gamasutra: "Gamers are over. That's why they're so mad."

The angry people are only a small minority among gamers. They do not represent the larger culture of gamer enthusiasts. Most gamers are actually tolerant and loving people.

Briefly stated, what is your opinion of GamerGate?

The problem in the games industry is not widespread hate and intolerance. Most gamers are nice, loving people. Only a small minority of gamers directs hateful comments towards women. Nevertheless, the hateful comments directed at specific women are not excusable.

We must acknowledge that a small minority of gamers is hateful, but we can't blame the entire gamer culture for their actions. We should instead fix our attention on the good aspects of this culture. Most gamers like to play with others. They want to have fun with you. They want to compete with you. And they don't care about your race, your gender, or your orientation.

What is the root cause of GamerGate? Do you see it as part of a larger "culture war"?

I think GamerGate is part of a larger cultural issue. We have a tendency to take responsibility for the harmful actions of other people. We can't afford to do that. If we focus too much on the negative things that other people do, without any thought of the good things that we are doing, we will bring down the entire culture.

Do you feel there is corruption among the game press? If so, is it primarily mercenary corruption (pay to get a good review) or primarily ideological corruption (toe the party line to get a good review), or a mix, or something else?

Yes, there is corruption, but this corruption is not unique to the games industry, nor is it disproportionately large.

What are the primary concerns that developers have, vis a vis the game press?

As a developer, I fear that my game will be labeled "intolerant" by the press. If I have a specific story that I'm trying to tell, I'm going to be true to my vision; I'm not going to compromise it. But if my game is not politically correct it will be labeled as sexist, racist, homophobic, even though that is the story I wanted to tell.

What are the primary concerns that developers have, vis a vis gamers?

I have fewer concerns when it comes to the gamers themselves. If my game is fun, then most gamers will say nice things about it. Yes, there will always be hateful comments, but those comments come from a very small minority. Most gamers are nice people.

I believe GamerGate is a situation that has been brewing for years. Do you agree? If so, when did the situation begin brewing?

Yes. It's been brewing for a very long time. I can't even try to pinpoint the beginning. A decade for sure.

If you have concerns with the press, what could the press do to improve relations with you?

Perhaps the press should refrain from labeling games as "racist," "sexist," or "homophobic." Such accusations are very damaging to the game's creator(s) and may not accurately reflect their intentions.

I want people who play my games to be inspired to perform small acts of heroism in everyday life.

If you have concerns with gamers, what could gamers do to improve relations with you?

I don't have as many concerns with the gamers, themselves. Most gamers are loving and open-minded. (A very small minority seems to taint the culture of the entire group.)

Some developers have expressed concern over being blacklisted or stonewalled by if they side with gamers on #GamerGate. Are you concerned by this? Do you feel this is a legitimate concern?

I think that is a very legitimate concern. As a culture we are quick to condemn and slow to forgive.

Some developers have expressed concern over being attacked by gamers if they side with game journalists or do not support #GamerGate. Are you concerned by this? Do you feel this is a legitimate concern?

I think this is also a legitimate concern.

Have you or developers you know received any abuse or harassment from gamers? If so, what form did it take?

I have never received harassment from gamers. As a YouTube content creator I have been harassed via hateful comments on my viral videos.

Have you or developers you know received any abuse or harassment from game journalists? If so, what form did it take?

No.

Do you know of any studios or developers that have been silenced by concerns of how gamers or journalists will react to their opinion of GamerGate?

No.

Have you ever been subjected to criticism of bias, radicalism, agenda-pushing, misogyny, racism, or similar because of your public comments, your actual game development, or other work in the industry?

Not yet. (It will happen.)

Are there particular articles, journalists, or game communities sites that are considered particularly egregious in their criticism on such matters by you, or developers you know?

No.

Imagine a development team composed of middle-aged white men creates a game explicitly aimed at young men called AMERICAN VENGEANCE that features a lantern-jawed white American soldier attempting to save his exotic-dancer girlfriend (complete with jiggle physics) from torture at the hands of Jihadists. Violence is the only way to advance in the game and the girlfriend's torture is as graphic as anything in the movie SAW. But as far as violent shooter games go, it is exceptionally innovative, gorgeous, and fun. Is it fair to give the game a low review score for lacking inclusiveness? Is it fair to give the game a lower review score for having violent or misogynist themes?

As a game reviewer, it is fair to give the game any review score. However, a good reviewer provides reasoning why that particular score was chosen.

Do you believe videogames can affect the personality of their players, making them more violent or sexist, for instance? If so, how do you as a creator respond to this? How should the industry respond? How should society respond?

Yes, videogames can affect the personality of their players. Being aware of this fact, I want to create games that influence players to make good moral choices. I want people who play my games to be inspired to perform small acts of heroism in everyday life.

I think one industry-wide area for improvement is the physical portrayal of women. Female game characters are frequently depicted with large, exposed breasts and impractical, revealing outfits. I think this portrayal does affect how our society views women.

Ultimately, which is more important: The individual artist's right to create artistic works, regardless of how distasteful we may find them; or our society's right to create an environment free from bigotry and hatred?

The artist's right to create artistic work is more important. Although an artist may produce something that is offensive to others, without this possibility there is no freedom of speech.

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