Platforms, Voice, and ToxicityJuly 24, 2014
Modelview Culture has been putting out a ton of great articles on videogames and the tech scene. Today’s article covers the issue of how platforms (programming languages, tools for building games, online organizing tools, etc.) end up being used by marginalized folks who end up promoting the platform, but at the end of the day, the same social circle that benefits the most can’t be bothered to open the door in return…
Here’s a common pattern:
- Male programmers builds a platform out of code.
- Platform is adopted by a huge user base of marginalized people.
- Those people drive widespread adoption and popularity of the platform.
- Original creator turns out to give no shits about oppression, happily takes all the credit without mention of these creators.
Many of the POC, women, queer designers I personally know have had situations where they haven’t been paid, had the credit for the work they’ve done lifted in projects, or had people out and out plagiarize their work for profit.
Who is community? Who gets to be human?
Although you’ll always run across cases of unethical exploitation, what is more problematic and worth talking about is the overall community that allows this kind of thing to thrive, and the fact that only some folks are targeted for that abuse.
What the article points to is the fact that these platforms, just like an RPG system, or a play style movement, or a social scene – all of these rely on a network of people to gain viability… and the question is how much does that serve the people who form the network. Or rather, WHICH people get to be served in that network.
Ten years ago, I went to my first GenCon. I remember someone said something to me that encapsulated the problem in full: “Why should we care about people of color?”
The idea that, as a gamer, involved in the scene, that I had to prove myself UP to being worth considered equally as any other (white) gamer? Oh, well, there’s the problem right there. The disconnect was that “people of color” didn’t equal “people”. “Prove to me that you are people” is the underlying assumption.
Questions we shouldn’t have to answer
Just as much as you have to navigate whether your money is going towards someone who wants you literally dead, the other parts you end up having to navigate as marginalized person are:
– Will working in this (rpg platform/community/etc) help me by creating outreach, or will it just promote people who will exploit then throw me away after the fact?
– Will participating and promoting this particular geek thing be fun, let me engage with other folks and “finally prove” to people we’re also part of the hobby? Or will it just be promoting a scene that will shit on and harass me?
The balancing act between useful network and meaningful connections vs. harassment and exploitation is one each person has to navigate for themselves. Much as I said before, the options often boil down to suffer in silence, suffer more for speaking up, or walk away.
If you find my blog entertaining and valuable, consider supporting me on Patreon.