There is no easy way to discuss this topic, so I’m just going to jump into it and prepare for the hatred that may come. People were offended by the way a Polygon reporter handled criticism over his reporting of Vlambeer apologizing for perceived pro-Nazi symbolism in his new game Luftrausers. Twitter proceeded to explode and attack the journalist.
It all started last Friday when Vlambeer was made aware that people thought Luftrausers put you in the shoes of a Nazi in the Luftwaffe. This led to a public apology from Vlambeer in which he explained that even though it wasn’t the intention of the game at all, creators have to take responsibility for perceived meanings as well. He apologized profusely, even pointing to the fact that the developers are Dutch and aware of how upsetting Nazi imagery could be for some people.
The fact is that no interpretation of a game is ‘wrong’. When you create something, you leave certain implications of what you’re making. We can leave our idea of what it is in there, and for us, the game is about superweapons. We think everybody who plays LUFTRAUSERS can feel that.
But even more so in an interactive medium, we do have to accept that no way of reading those implications is ‘false’ – that if someone reads between the lines where we weren’t writing, those voids can be filled by the player, or someone else. If we accept there’s no wrong interpretation of a work, we also have to accept that some of those interpretations could not be along the lines of what we’re trying to create.
Over the weekend, Owen Good reported on this apology for Polygon. He was approached about this on twitter, and made the comment that caused social media to explode:
Being offended is a choice. Now, some things make that a very easy and reasonable choice. But it’s always a choice.
I actually only know about his exact words thanks to a screen grab – the abuse from “offended” people was so dramatic that he actually deleted his tweets. I found most of the twitter hate through Elizabeth Simins, who describes herself with the following bio:
comics, games, colors, cats, etc. // i think she is basically the Glinda the Good Witch of feminist gaming culture
She was one of the people offended by the use of Nazi aesthetic in the game. This ended up being redirected into some strange anti-white male view of reporting that honestly offends me.
Sure, Good might have handled the situation better, but the vitriol spewed in his direction is such a sign of manufactured rage. How many of those people were honestly upset, and how many felt that they should be offended? Also, why do we need to placate people just because they are offended? As Louis CK explains, it’s as if people think they have a right, “freedom from being offended” or something. The reality is, anything can offend people.
Vlambeer saw this was the case and apologized – why couldn’t the story just end there? In essence, it’s a situation where people raised concerns and a company replied intelligently and compassionately. Unfortunately, one journalist’s reporting on the matter (and the comments that followed) offended people even more, turning into a discussion about cis-gender, race, and all things offensive.
Sure, some people are offended that Good wasn’t offended. I’ve been there – I’ve been attacked for not being offended by perceived anti-woman/anti-feminist comments, games or culture. People are allowed to get offended for any reason; I myself can get offended for various and unpredictable reasons. That said, just because I’m offended doesn’t mean that I have a right to go on the offensive and attack someone. I may want to point out that something that was said/done offended me, but to expect anything more is unrealistic.
I’m sure I’m offending people with this article. While I apologize for causing offense, that doesn’t change the fact that I believe the words I’ve written – Owen Good reported on Vlambeer making a heartfelt and well written apology. People were offended by his reporting and turned it into a person attack. That offends me as a journalist, and a human being.
Last Updated: April 7, 2014