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During Public Speech Gamergate Asked Leigh Alexander About “Pushing Values” in Video Games

BlockheadQuestionShutterstockIt’s easy to start a conflict online; it’s another story in person. Many who would be emboldened behind a keyboard would never dare say the same things to a person’s face. Mostly from fear of getting punched, I’d wager, but also from sheer awkwardness. Personally, I’ve always wondered when a commenter would jump out from behind the computer into real life; and, well, it seems that’s just happened to Leigh Alexander.

Alexander, Gamasutra writer and oft-target of Gamergate, did a lecture as part of “Games Now!” from Aalto Media Factory and Media Lab Helsinki, “a series of lectures and panels handling the hot topics of game industry and culture right now.” After she spoke about the state of the video game industry, what the public sees, and her personal history with gaming, there was a question and answer segment.

Here’s part of one back and forth as transcribed on reddit’s GamerGhazi thread:

“GG” stands for “GamerGator” since there’s no name for the guy given. Also, note that English is clearly not his first language so the long pauses and awkward phrasings can be at least partially attributed to that. Leigh Alexander at Aalto Design Factory Gator transcript [From 58’16”]
GG: Uh…Uh…Okay. So you are basically doing a…a cultural revolution, in a sense.
LA: Sort of. [Laughter].
GG: Yes, okay.
LA: Maybe a little.
GG: So…uh…when you are…uh…pushing values in the gaming industry, I mean the gaming, uh, press…don’t you need to be criticized…in…objectively…and …what do you think about ethics in video games? [Editor’s Note: He said it! He said the thing!! (Basically)]
LA: [Delighted Laughter] Um…yeah, I’ll answer that! What is “objectively”? Tell me, what is an objective opinion?
GG: Objective opinion, uh, means that you are, uh, taking yourself off your agenda and you are looking yourself…
LA: How would I have an opinion that wasn’t informed by my beliefs? Should I pretend I’m not myself when I’m playing a video game?
GG: No, but you should, uh…take yourself away from your personal feelings and what…
LA: So I shouldn’t – so, if I’m playing a game, I’m not going to have feelings about it, only thoughts?
GG: No, no, you sh –, you will have feelings of course, but most of the games are, uh…
LA: Then where do those feelings come from?
GG: Those feelings come – they are psychological, of course. And your, uh, social connections.
LA: And are informed by my…?
GG: Social connections, yes?
LA: Yeah, and my experience.
GG: Yes. Your experience and social connections.
LA: And my…my identity.
GG: Yes, but my point was…uh…if you are pushing a cultural revolution in a sense, in a gaming culture, so, why are you doing it, why aren’t you just make up your own circle of…culture in a game industry…
LA: Oh, I am and I have!
GG: Why, why aren’t you, you’re trying to –
LA: Excuse me.
GG: In DiGRA –
LA: I’m answering your question.
GG: Yeah, okay.
LA: So the, the thing about why don’t you make your own circle – I am and I have and I do. Certainly, I’m very transparent about my agenda, my politics and my beliefs, and if you don’t share them, and you would like to hear reviews from someone else, the option is simply not to read my work and to read someone else’s instead. But the idea that someone can be objective when they’re talking about an emotional creative medium is fallacious, and it is a heritage of product culture where we believe that there’s one right way to see a game– you put a number on it, and you buy it or not. And I just don’t believe in seeing games that way. Um, there are a number of websites that do, though, so you just don’t, you know, if, if you’re of the opinion that agenda doesn’t belong in games, then, I don’t know, read Gamespot! [Laughter]

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Ahem.

In between that question and the next one, Alexander had a moment to give a woman in the audience some advice on how she deals with the harassment she experiences, and the worry of walking into a room where “one of those guys” might be. “If I can do it, you can do it,” she said.

To be clear we’re not claiming the questioner is a Gamergate supporter, the thread states that the previous one, and this next one, are:

Q3: Okay, so, uh, I want to know if you’re, like, trying to reform gaming culture. Do you think that, uh, there’s enough consumer demand for this kind of culture that you’re trying to advocate?
LA: Well, um, I want to make a slight correction in that I’m not trying to change what exists. I think commercial gaming culture will always exist. I hope it does always exist. It should always exist, for the people that enjoy it. We are proposing alternatives. We are making games bigger by adding more to it, and inviting more people to it, and, uh, making it broader and making it reach more people, um, having different markets of games. Um, so, yeah, there’s a demand for it. I make my whole career on it, so, I hope it grows.
Q3: Uh, yeah, but I’m just like, um, if you, um, what reads on the, on the screen right now that you, uh, you want us to find an, an alternative.
LA: Yes?
Q3: So, isn’t there like a risk that if you’re, uh, going to push this niche view in gaming you’re also going to have a niche audience?
LA: Um, I mean I think games currently already have a niche audience. There are about, like, one or two different things for about one or two different kinds of people. I think that we can only benefit by making games more intricate – more interesting, more sophisticated, and more diverse. Um, it’s not about pushing something artificial into a space that doesn’t want it. It’s about enriching every space with a broader variety of perspectives. So it’s not…it’s not like you’re going to suddenly force “Call of Duty” players to play a game about feminism or something, you know what I mean? But I think there’s room for all kinds to exist in the same space and to learn from one another.

Remember what I said earlier about what people are willing to say in person versus online? Alexander pulled a bit of commentary off of 8chan from the individual who asked that last series of questions:

Here’s the entire talk if you’d like to give it a watch.

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