Thursday, September 4, 2014

Life - On Pax

Life - On Pax

It's taken me a few days, but I've started to put some of my thoughts to paper finally.  I secret of the fact that Pax is reliably one of the best times of the year for me.  For six years now, we've been attending Pax as gamers, and I now attend it as well as a developer.

For those that don't know, Pax is a conflagration of gamers hitting Seattle for the Labour Day Weekend.  Over 4 days, games are literally celebrated.  If you play games, there's probably something at Pax for you.  And I don't just mean video games, although video games are a considerable part of that.  Exhibitors show off the latest and upcoming in video games, technology and merchandise.  Tabletop, board games, pen and paper, card games and deck building all show up and are played extensively everywhere.  You literally can't walk fifteen feet without tripping over someone in a hallway playing Zombie Dice or Cards against Humanity.  There are massive tournaments and tiny tournaments for games, everything from Towerfall tournaments to the League of Legends Championship Series that encompasses a hall for probably 5000+ people.  People bring their personal computers and set up a massive LAN play area, there are retro consoles, and D&D, there are huge tournaments and a hundred panels to attend.

There's something for everyone, in our crazy community.

Pax is literally an amazing celebration of our weird love for sharing these systemic events in our lives.

It's not perfect, and anything of the size of 70k people descending on 4 square blocks will never be.  We don't all agree, we aren't all perfect, we come from all walks of life, all ages, all genders, all races, from often all across the world.  But I'm proud to say we're getting better.

That said.

Getting better, is sometimes not enough.  Our progressive steps are not happening fast enough, or in a widespread enough way.

It's been no secret of late that the gaming community is going through a tumultuous time, to say the least.  Communities are fragmenting, our understanding and definition of 'gamer' is changing, and even the word in popular media and from a news perspective is being cast under an unhealthy light.

Mikey Neumann, the Creative chief behind Gearbox made an incredible, and compelling keynote this year.  The link is here, and I STRONGLY urge you to watch it.  If you have any investiture in modern social interaction, gaming or otherwise.  I cannot emphasize enough, that this is something people need to watch.

Mikey got dealt a pretty awesome, and also a pretty bad hand at the same time.  As is the way for a lot of creative people I know, instead of running away and hiding under a blanket for the rest of his life, he made it into stories to inspire people.

Please watch the video, I's like an hour long, it is a keynote.  But really, it's worth your time.

I have the privilege now,  when I arrive in Seattle for Pax of knowing dozens of people.  For many of us it's the only time of the year to hang out and exchange stories.  We play games together, we talk about all the different directions life has taken us, we watch each other's children grow up, and we share.  Gaming has brought us together.  Some of us make crafts to share, some dress up as our favourite characters, make games, bring games to play, we eat good food and wander the city together.

I hate that people are against our association of one another because of the moniker we use to categorize ourselves, gamer.  I hate that the word has made us villains, that this associated word, conjures images of teenage boys in their parent's basements with no social skills.  Kids who like violence and boobs, have no empathy, swear too much and spend hours shooting each other with guns.

I hate that this is happening, but I understand it.  I understand it because what they are doing is reprehensible.  And I don't mean all of them, but what is happening to Zoe and Anita is downright reprehensible.  Anyone that believes it is alright to threaten violence on someone else for their opinion, to threaten their families, needs to be tried in a court of law now.  I used to say that they should give their heads a shake, or go out and get some sun.  But I don't anymore.  Peers of mine now in the industry are being threatened in their homes.  Graphically.  With depictions of violence and rape.  Their FAMILIES are being threatened.  Their Friends.  People they associate with, buy coffee from, work alongside.  That's not acceptable.

That's not acceptable.

That's not acceptable in any other industry, in any other creative vocation.  Why is it happening to us?  It's happening to us because of the unique combination of this curious fantasy-reality we have crafted around our intellectual properties, and the first real time in history that people can be perceived to be largely anonymous.  It's happening because the rules to the way we socially interact are changing, and rapidly, and no one knows where it's all going.

I don't have a good solution, and I'm sorry for that.  If you read down these three pages of writing imaginging I was going to put something at the end a-la TED talk style about some systemic method for fixing all these broken things, well I'm sorry to disappoint you.  But like Mikey says, we need a band aid.  A really big band aid.  I wish we lived in a kinder world where these problems didn't exist, but we want to play, and be competitive, and passionately love these things that occupy so much of our headspace and time and money.

But we can't allow games to turn us into sociopaths.  We need to be kinder, we need to take steps back, we need to call each other on when they bullshit, not just in and around games, but in life.  We need to know where lines are, and defend with rationalism and intellectualism, instead of aggression and hate.

We've got a long way to go, and the world isn't black and white.

But I have to say, the world I just came from, the world of Pax?  The world where we play games together, and share, and enjoy, we tell tales, we make friends, we laugh and party and cheer.  We get things signed, we have systems to interact in, we roll dice, play cards, streetpass and enjoy one another's company?

That world needs to start touching on the rest of our real world.

It'll be worth it.