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Gaming And Politics

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Alex Jones is not a name you would easily associate with gaming and yet he has somehow created a huge dilemma within the gaming world, particularly esports. For those not aware of Alex Jones, here’s a short excerpt from his Wikipedia page:

“Alexander Jones is an American radio show host and conspiracy theorist. He hosts The Alex Jones Show from Austin, Texas. Jones runs a website, Infowars.com, devoted to conspiracy theories and fake news, and the websites NewsWars and PrisonPlanet.

Jones has been the center of many controversies, including his promotion of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting conspiracy theories, and his aggressive opposition to gun control in a debate with Piers Morgan. He has accused the U.S. government of planning the Oklahoma City bombing, the September 11 attacks and of staging of Moon landings.

He has claimed that several governments and big business have colluded to create a “New World Order” through “manufactured economic crises, sophisticated surveillance tech and—above all—inside-job terror attacks that fuel exploitable hysteria”.

Only recently however, companies have begun to push back on the outspoken conspiracist. The list of companies that have ejected Alex Jones from their platforms is as impressive as it is long. Facebook, Pinterest, Apple, Spotify, YouTube, MailChimp, Vimeo, LinkedIn and now even Twitter all removed him citing various reasons.

During this corporate backlash, many started to cite fears of censorship & it is at this point that Duncan ‘Thorin’ Shields stepped in. You can read the polarizing thread for yourself:

Thorin summarised that his point was not about Alex Jones, but rather about not accepting everything you get at face value.

Regardless of the point you’re trying to make, prefacing your argument with “Alex Jones is a G and always has been” is not going to go down well. The gaming community’s reaction was swift & merciless. People expressed dumbfounded shock at his stance on the matter. Some berated him for being a figure that the community was supposed to look up to. Others still resorted to, what is tragically the status quo on the internet, name calling and insulting him for his views.

Amongst his colleagues & peers, there was a more nuanced discussion around how much his statements hurt esports overall & if there should be repercussions for him personally. In the end, the result was a community divided on how to deal with one of its prominent “bad boys” in the industry.

The infiltration of America’s Right vs Left politics

American politics has enthralled the world for decades. It’s what comes with being “the leader of the West”. The world watches with bated breath when it is American election season. You would be hard pressed to argue against the notion that the American presidential elections are a global spectacle. It’s no wonder that the current landscape of American politics influences past its borders of sovereignty.

Over recent years, for a myriad of reasons that are not relevant to this article, America’s two-party system has created a highly charged, largely divisive political landscape. From the rise of the Alt-Right & Antifa in response to that, American politics has become a more violent & aggressive iteration of its past self.

This volatile landscape has created & exacerbated a culture in gaming that has been harmful to the industry overall. It has perpetuated the problems that have led to the rise in Outrage Culture & Cancel Culture. This creates a lethal trifecta of toxic rhetoric, a blind eye to rehabilitation and an aggressive narrative that revels on the destruction of an opposing opinion without care for critical thought.

The reaction to Thorin’s tweet is an apt illustration of how America’s zero-tolerance attitude to politics affects esports, as well as gaming at large. The issue at hand was never whether Alex Jones is a good person or not, his track record speaks for itself in that regard. It was that Thorin gave an opinion that was contrary to popular sentiment, and was almost exiled from the industry for it.

In the era of Cancel Culture, where someone can be ‘cancelled’ from an industry swiftly & permanently, it is a dangerous time to be alive on social media. In the digital archive that is the internet, people can dig back years into your life to bring up old tweets or things you said that ‘cancel’ you today. This is what happened to James Gunn.

Due to American politics, even in gaming battle lines are drawn according to Left & Right. Almost every situation that occurs in the industry is seen through this lens and arguments are made alongside it.

South Africa brings its own flavour of politics alongside the American influence that makes traversing issues in gaming treacherous. Much like Americans, South Africans too gravitate towards demarcating battle lines on a single core issue, whether it’s relevant or not. For South Africa, that is race. The issue of Ashwin Willemse and his Supersport co-hosts immediately became a racial issue before any real information was known by the public.

Race comes up fairly often in discussion when it comes to local gaming topics. Diversity, or lack thereof in the local scene is often brought up. With the rise of organisations such as Ekasi Esports however, this is slowly shifting. Nonetheless, it is an issue that adds a different perspective on other issues within local gaming & brings with it, its own tensions.

Companies & their politics

Companies too can suffer from their own politics. 2018 has arguably been the worst year for Riot Games, the creator of League of Legends. From the exposé by Kotaku which revealed a highly sexist and toxic culture within the company to the shambles that has been their preparation for Worlds, this year has not been going their way.

Things only got worse for riot when PAX West rolled along & Riot revealed plans to have a panel that was only for women and non-binary people. The reaction from the League of Legends community was fierce. People called out Riot for reverse sexism, a concept that in fact does not exist when you understand the definition of sexism.

Nonetheless, the feedback from the community was generally negative. Talent & popular figures in the scene also weighed in, each taking a side on the issue. In the end, two Rioters lost their jobs over the debacle, with allegations that it was down to their behaviour on social media with regards to the community. (The one Rioter called the League of Legends community “manbabies”)

Companies are finding it more and more difficult to take a stance on politics and allow their employees to voice their opinions and exercise their beliefs in those politics. In fact, companies are struggling in general to traverse social media interactions between its employees and communities. Guild Wars creator ArenaNet had to deal with a similar issue when its employee clashed with the community and resulted in two employees being fired over their conduct.

Perhaps gaming companies can take a leaf out of Nike’s playbook when it comes to internal politics for companies. Nike’s latest campaign has stood staunchly behind Colin Kaepernick, Serena Williams, Caster Semenya and a host of other sports stars. The reason I mention those three is that they are currently in the midst of controversy and the timing of Nike’s campaign could not be better.

Particularly, the support of Kaepernick has led to conservative America burning Nike apparel & calling for boycotts, yet Nike stood firm in its beliefs. Maybe the way forward for gaming companies is to grow a backbone and stop bowing to the pressure of angry mobs. Companies should stand firmly behind the employees that have helped make the company what it is. Gaming companies shouldn’t stand for anything at all if they continually buckle under the weight of their beliefs and their politics. If your employees aren’t willing to break, neither should the company.

Gaming & politics

Politics within gaming has always been a contentious issue. Politics itself and the nature of the arguments doesn’t lend itself well to civil discourse but when you combine that with gaming, it makes for often explosive moments. Many argue that politics doesn’t belong in gaming at all and that gaming is just about having fun.

At times, this is the case, but more often than not, it isn’t. For many, they don’t get to switch off and just play games. For many, every day is facing issues that many want to dismiss as unnecessary politics. Whether you agree with it or not, politics in gaming is here to stay and it’s something that we all need to deal with.

Restraining Cancel Culture & Outrage Culture would be a huge step forward in creating a harmonious environment for all. I rarely agree with Thorin’s opinions when it comes to politics, both in gaming & outside of it, but to call for his exile in the esports scene is absurd. You can disagree with people and still be okay.

Of course, some opinions become harmful and absolutely need to be called out and dealt with. That was the decision that many tech companies made about Alex Jones and rightly so. But those actions should be a last resort and should not be rejoiced. It is a slippery slope to censor someone and can lead to a bleak future if we’re not careful. Politics is here to stay in gaming – let’s ensure we don’t destroy ourselves and our scene trying to be right.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.

Last Updated: September 12, 2018

104 Comments

  1. Original Heretic

    September 12, 2018 at 14:16

    “Maybe the way forward for gaming companies is to grow a backbone and stop bowing to the pressure of angry mobs.”

    That should apply to the world, in general, not just gaming companies.

    Reply

  2. For the Emperor!

    September 12, 2018 at 14:24

    My issue with the Kaepernick thing is the “sacrifice everything” angle. He was not good enough at the time and needed to do something that would get him in the news again. He was a backup with a slipping future, so what did he sacrifice?

    Alex Jones – yeah, if the reasons for the bans were enforced elsewhere for “fake news” and “conspiracy theories”, I would not have an issue with it.

    “reverse sexism, a concept that in fact does not exist” – Oh noooo, reverse “isms” do not exist what so ever /sarcasm

    “Outrage Culture & Cancel Culture” – yeah, wonder which “side” started that and are crying about it now! I too am against it and hate it, but I laugh every time a virtue signalling libtard is hoisted by their own petard 🙂

    Ashwin Willemse – I was one of those who said “this is serious, if they are guilty throw the book at them”. The fact that he refused to take part in the investigations, and is yet to “go directly to the Human Rights Commission” speaks volumes.

    *Edited to add “Outrage Culture” and “Ashwin” parts, as well as spelling

    Reply

    • Original Heretic

      September 12, 2018 at 14:32

      That Ashwin thing, the reason everyone started calling it racism was because HE was the one who decided to play the race card, despite it having nothing to do with it.

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief

        September 12, 2018 at 14:33

        110%

        Reply

      • For the Emperor!

        September 12, 2018 at 14:34

        With the investigation and evidence thus far, yes that is true. If he has/had evidence it would have been exceptionally valuable because such behaviour as alleged is reprehensible and needs to be rooted out.

        Reply

        • Original Heretic

          September 12, 2018 at 14:36

          Completely agree.
          But if his history is anything to go by, he won’t do anything. That was the huge issue Mallet had with him, he just never bothered to do any work. Just wanted to rock up and do his part on TV. No preparation, nothing. Leaving all that stuff to everyone else.

          Reply

          • Admiral Chief

            September 12, 2018 at 14:37

            I’ve got no issue with male/female/colour, if got a MAJOR issue with lazy clowns. You are spot on

          • Original Heretic

            September 12, 2018 at 14:41

            Yah man, laziness, jeez, I fucking hate it.
            Especially when I need to deal with lazy people in my work environment, because their bullshit directly affects me.

          • For the Emperor!

            September 12, 2018 at 15:11

            I am all for diversity and equal opportunities for all. I do however dislike that people expect equal outcomes for less effort…

            Guaranteed equal opportunities and guaranteed equal outcomes are mutually exclusive…

    • Admiral Chief

      September 12, 2018 at 14:33

      So true (your point about Ashwin)

      And what about the tantrum Serena threw? I really feel bad for the lady who won. And shameful on the crowd for booing.

      Reply

      • Original Heretic

        September 12, 2018 at 14:34

        It has been VERY rightly pointed out that there are various examples of men who threw tantrums, at the same ref, and no penalties were given to them.
        So then why was she nailed the way she was?

        Reply

        • Admiral Chief

          September 12, 2018 at 14:36

          Because of repeated transgressions? Blatantly abusing the ref? Bad sportsmanship? Being a role model for young tennis players and acting this way? The list goes on my friend

          Reply

          • Original Heretic

            September 12, 2018 at 14:39

            I am not for a second trying to imply that was she did was right. Not by any means. In fact, I find behaviour like that in ANY situation to be downright reprehensible.
            But, just like in any sport with any refereeing (I’m looking at YOU, rugby refs!!), there needs to be consistency.
            I can’t really argue this point too much, I’ve only seen reports on the Williams issue and those can be VERY biased.

          • Admiral Chief

            September 12, 2018 at 14:41

            Take Saturday’s game (Boks vs NZ), Nigel Owens is reffing. So, Boks will lose. And lets not forget that poepol Bryce Lawrence

          • Original Heretic

            September 12, 2018 at 14:42

            Even the game against Oz this last weekend, saw a few dodgy calls.
            And how many of those line out throw ins (from BOTH sides!) were skew?!

          • I_am_Duffman!

            September 12, 2018 at 14:43

            Rassie could reff the game himself and we would still lose!

          • For the Emperor!

            September 12, 2018 at 14:44

            Can’t really blame the pending loss on old Nigel 🙂

            The Bryce thing, eish that still hurts. Especially since the IRB (Or WR these days?) has a RULE which says a referee should not officiate a match where the outcome could influence which team HIS team would face next. IE the way he blew it could be seen as enhancing the chances of the All Blacks. Ok, lets drop that for now, I am still not back into watching Rugby full time after that 🙁

          • Admiral Chief

            September 12, 2018 at 14:47

            I haven’t watched Rugby in many years

          • Original Heretic

            September 12, 2018 at 14:51

            I only get a chance to watch when I visit my in-laws or my brother, since they have full DSTV.
            We only have limited at home and even that is only there because my wife wants it. I personally cannot stand it, would much rather opt for streaming services.

          • For the Emperor!

            September 12, 2018 at 14:59

            Yeah, I cancelled my DSTV long time ago, because I only had it for the sports. Not going to lie that I miss watching rugby and cricket, but if I am really desperate I can go to a friend or a pub. Or Loftus!

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            September 12, 2018 at 15:02

            Why would you go to Loftus to watch rugby? HEYOOOOOO! 😀

          • For the Emperor!

            September 12, 2018 at 15:05

            True, I can sit on a farm and watch the Bulls kak for free 😛

          • Admiral Chief

            September 12, 2018 at 15:10

            HAHA

          • Original Heretic

            September 12, 2018 at 15:26

            My father-in-law is such a huge Bulls fan.
            He’s had a tragic couple of years!

          • For the Emperor!

            September 12, 2018 at 15:33

            I am too. But each time the other supporters try to give me grief, I ask them where their Super Rugby titles are? Lol. All our teams suffer from the player drain, but after the last Bulls title, we lost 7-11 players each season to predominantly overseas clubs. One cannot remain competitive like that, and now the Lions will go through the same thing 🙁

          • HvR

            September 12, 2018 at 15:35

            Must say would prefer a home team that at least wins the title some times even if that means they compete with the Kings for bottom place the rest of the time

        • For the Emperor!

          September 12, 2018 at 14:36

          In the same tournament, man threw a hissy fit. Umpire warned him, he stopped. Serena got a warning for coaching. She then proceeded to break the racket. Warning 2 and a point. She then continued to throw the tantrum. Warning 3 and a game. The difference? The guy stopped when warned, she continued. Yes, there are issues to be sorted, but people need to look at the “whole body of evidence”

          Reply

          • Admiral Chief

            September 12, 2018 at 14:37

            Point, Lardus
            😛

  3. Kromas

    September 12, 2018 at 14:39

    ArenaNet did not need to grow a backbone. What they did (fair or not) was in line with their company policy. Even after pressure for them to retract it they said sorry but no.

    Reply

    • Allykhat

      September 12, 2018 at 14:59

      ANet were fully justified in what they did and to make it worse, Jessica is STILL throwing a hissy about it on her social media.

      Reply

      • Pariah

        September 12, 2018 at 15:05

        It’s funny – I’m busy working on an elearning course about the dangers of social media and the legalities behind it all. All of the content is so, so relevant, and examples like the ANet/Jessica one are prime examples of why it’s important to understand the legalities and dangers behind it all. ANet had all the grounds they needed to do what they did, and no amount of philosophical debate can outweigh the legalities.

        Reply

      • Kromas

        September 12, 2018 at 15:11

        I agree however most gaming websites don’t specially RPS and Kotaku.

        Reply

  4. Alien Emperor Trevor

    September 12, 2018 at 14:43

    Nice read, Glenn.

    I’ve always believed you should be open minded when listening to people and try to understand where they’re coming from. It doesn’t mean you agree, and if you’re serious about fixing a problem instead of just screaming about it the best way to solve it is to understand it. And then I balance that with one of my favourite game quotes (from Dawn of War): “An open mind is like a fortress with its gates unbarred and unguarded.” There’s a limit to my open-mindedness. Someone who continually makes outlandish claims or advocates for discrimination doesn’t get to tell me I must pay attention to them just because they could be right this one time. Broken clocks are right twice a day, doesn’t mean the clock isn’t broken.

    Reply

    • For the Emperor!

      September 12, 2018 at 14:45

      One of my favourite Dawn of War quotes!

      Reply

    • Pariah

      September 12, 2018 at 15:02

      tl;dr

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief

        September 12, 2018 at 15:04

        xD

        Reply

  5. Kromas

    September 12, 2018 at 14:46

    The problem I have is everyone is either far left or far right. What ever happened to the middle? I was called a racist a long time ago in a spiderman article because I said “Peter Parker is white and should stay so but spider-man can be a different colour just look at Miles Morales”. This was less of a race issue and more of a “don’t screw with my lore” issue but people don’t see it that way. Same with Serena and her outbursts …. she did it REPEATEDLY as in over and over again. At one point that ref was going to penalize her regardless of her being black and a woman. But all we concentrate on is “if it was a man this would not have happened”.

    Reply

    • Admiral Chief

      September 12, 2018 at 14:48

      ^^^

      Reply

  6. For the Emperor!

    September 12, 2018 at 15:13

    I gotta hand it to Glen, I do not always agree with what he says or his conclusions, but he gets us thinking and talking, and he does it well and in quite a measured approach.

    Reply

  7. HvR

    September 12, 2018 at 15:26

    I think you are giving Nike too much credit for taking a “political stance”. They are playing the Trump-Pauls tactics.

    Most of the big names they backed were seriously underperfomring so they manufactured outrage by dusting off their most controversial sponsored athletes for an ad they knew would generate a crapload of social media outrage. Being top trending leads to massive sales as they have already seen paid dividends

    Reply

  8. Sageville

    September 12, 2018 at 15:43

    Alex Jones…. Sheesh, never thought I’d see his face on these streets….

    Reply

  9. Craig "CrAiGiSh" Dodd

    September 13, 2018 at 09:01

    FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT !!!

    Reply

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