The game industry has been in the spotlight for the past week, with several incidents of harassment and sexism making headlines. And now the game developer community has had enough.
“We believe that everyone, no matter what gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability has the right to play games, criticise games and make games without getting harassed or threatened,” the letter reads. “It is the diversity of our community that allows games to flourish.”
It then says that if people see any form of harassment on places such as Twitter or Facebook, to report them on the respective sites. It also says people should take a public stand against any form of harassment.
More than 2,000 industry professionals have signed the open letter, including from big-name players, such as Ubisoft, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and BioWare.
Signups for the letter have since been closed. “Writing and signing a letter is easy. Making change happen is hard,” Zecher writes.
There’s been backlash to the letter. Zecher tweeted that people have signed the petition using fake names, so that they can then claim the list of supporters has been padded.
People are trying to signup with fake names to accuse me of adding fake signups.
— Andreas Zecher (@andreaszecher) September 2, 2014
And even gamers themselves have started their own petition on Change.org. “We are asking indie developers, AAA developers, and other folks to stop branding gamers as neckbearded, misogynistic, hatefueled, ignorant, homophobic, idiots,” the petition reads.
As of this writing it has more than 3,000 signatures.
Zecher’s open letter comes in the wake of several incidents involving harassment within the video game industry. Video game critic Anita Sarkeesian was forced to leave her house after she received a ton of threats following a video she did critiquing how women are portrayed in video games.
Game developer Zoe Quinn was harassed after a former boyfriend wrote a blog post about her, accusing her of having personal relationships with video game journalists. The gaming community exploded, alleging that her personal relationships advanced her career and that the game journalism industry is corrupt, and culminating in a trending #GamerGate hashtag on Twitter.
Game developer Phil Fish came to Quinn’s defence, which led to hackers taking down his studio’s website, and posting his personal information online.
And a Sony Online Entertainment exec’s plane was diverted after hackers tweeted a phony bomb threat to American Airlines.
And all this over video games.
The gaming industry landscape has changed. As have the people who are playing the games. The Entertainment Software Association reports that 48% of people who play video games are women. And more adult women are playing video games (36%) than boys 18 and younger (17%).
“Gamers are over. That’s why they’re so mad,” writes Leigh Alexander over on Gamasutra.
Joseph Bernstein at BuzzFeed writes, “[Video games] are becoming simply another medium — one with no inherent bias towards any group. In twenty years, it may sound as old-fashioned to call someone a ‘gamer’ as it is to call someone a ‘moviegoer.’ And we may well look back at these few weeks in 2014 as the moment when the medium finally separated from the limitations put on it from outside, and from within.”
An open letter to end harassment is a good start. And an even better next step would be for the game developers and designers to continue the trend, and continue making more games that appeal to everyone.