Breaking Arrow: Ellen J Miller

Breaking Arrows is a Soapbox series published by Highland Arrow relating the views and opinions of smaller developers, independent journalists, and gamers, related to the GamerGate movement.  To read more about it, read the lead article here.

Gamer was a term I had started to shy away from using, at least until recently. When several websites over the space of a day aired their 'gamers are over' articles, I realised that the best way to be a force for positive change is to try and make things better, not walk away.

I'm a gamer. I've been playing games since 1989. Games have been the thing that have helped me bond with and make friends. Online gaming has introduced me to people from all over the world, who share their music and ideas and culture with me, and I with them. I have been the maid of honour for someone I met through an MMO. I've participated in Sinterklaas festivities with players from the Netherlands. Some of these relationships ran deeper than friendships. They've become like family, a few even became lovers.

Some have said that gamer is a ridiculous term, like eater would be. But we have gourmets, foodies, connoisseurs. People for whom eating goes beyond a necessary task and becomes a pastime. Lots of us read, but bookworms and bibliophiles take that simple act further. My mum has played games, she's the family champion at bowling on Wii Sports, but she wouldn't call herself a gamer. It is not a term that anyone can apply to you. It's something you choose to identify as. Why? Because we like to put things into little boxes, and it can make it easier to find other like-minded people.

I've gotten some harassment in games. I've seen other friends of mine get harassed. Harassment is a horrible thing whoever it happens to, whoever is doing it. The way to stop harassment isn't with broad brush-strokes, generalizing and stereotyping your 'enemy' while silencing or ignoring those who disagree with you.

But that has been the reaction I've seen.

The fastest way to get something talked about is to prevent people talking about it. The fastest way to make people band together is to attack them. The fastest way to rile people is to claim you speak for them, and then imply they are not who they say they are when they speak up and voice their concerns and opinions. It doesn't starve a situation of fuel, it feeds it.

Passions can run high. Gaming is a hobby that people invest a lot of time and money into. A hobby that they may have been attacked for liking in the past and may be sensitive to perceived threats from members of any ideology. We shouldn't let our tempers get the better of us, but it happens. That's not to excuse it.

I do not want harassment to happen to anyone. Death threats, cruel photo manipulations, unwanted phone-calls, doxxing? It just hardens hearts and turns off minds.

I want to see a varied cast of well-written characters and stories in games. Writing in the industry can be a bit hit-and-miss no matter who or what is being written. I'll also note that games without story or characters are fine too. Tetris is beloved, after all. Many other games without them are.

I'd love to see people free to make the games they want to make and use the multitude of social media, digital storefronts and video services available now to get to their audience.

Since this started I've seen writers state that games are for everyone. I disagree there. Video gaming as a medium is for everyone. There are people making games accessible to those who might otherwise have difficulty. Kenji Eno, who sadly passed away in 2013, made Real Sound: Kaze no Regret as a game that could be played by those with or without sight. Charities like Special Effect help people to play games, bringing them closer to family and friends.

Games on the other hand can appeal to a broad demographic or a niche market. Not all games will appeal to everyone, and that's okay. I'm not that into sports games. I have a few, but generally they hold no appeal for me. I might disagree with yearly releases for them, but I wouldn't begrudge anyone a digital kick-about or shooting some virtual hoops.

Sports games are an interesting case because you can get people wondering why they exist, why people don't just go and do the real thing. A friend of mine loved football games because a heart condition made it hard for him to do the real thing. Games let him play as his favourite team. He'd wear their uniform as he played. That's a beautiful thing, and part of the power of games.

So that's games. As for me? I'll talk and write about the games I love from my time playing them. I'll support developers by buying their games. I'll recommend games to friends based on what they like and what I think they may like. Try Iji, it's free and I found it to be a fantastic game featuring a great protagonist with choices that are tied into the gameplay and not made obvious with dialogue prompts. Give Phantasy Star a shot, the 1987 JRPG featuring one of gaming's early leading ladies Alis Landale. If you're tired of games with gore and violence try Elite Beat Agents or Endless Ocean. Wii Sports Resort or Rhythm Heaven. WarioWare Inc. or Audiosurf, or...

Or KLAX! It may not be the 90's any more, but there is always time for KLAX.

I could recommend a lot of titles, because every month my collection of games grows with interesting titles from the past to the present. Each one has interested me, appeals to me, or is a long-cherished game that I've spent a lot of time with. It's similar to my book collection. My album collection. My film collection. They are games that I will show my niece and my nephew as they grow up, and enjoy with my family and friends.

I may make a misstep here and there but I'll keep on going. I'm bound to meet great people of all walks of life and experience imaginative, carefully-crafted and enjoyable games along the way.

Breaking Arrows: Ellen J Miller

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