These are the faces of very pissed off nerds on the Internet. Mostly from 4chan’s /v/, one of them being outspoken misogynist, Cameron Frodger, better known as @Instig8iveJourn. In a crazed internet crusade, a 31 year old straight white guy performed “computer hacking” to dig up my online dating profile in an attempt to discredit me the other night. I followed by telling 4chan to “bring it,” only to be amazingly dissapointed. How did it come to this? Well…
Not too long ago I put out a piece on Bioshock: Infinite that was somewhat sarcastic, heavy on wrestling references to Stone Cold Steve Austin, and overall one of the few pieces acknowledging how disgusting it was that a $100 million plus production could play fast and loose with the history of racism in America for the sake of giving a straight white male protagonist a reason to shoot a few hundred more nameless goons in a power fantasy that games journalism as a whole has taken to referring as a “milestone,” “true art,” and an overall success, apparently.
My biggest disappointment is nobody picked up on the Stone Cold references, but then again, we don’t live in a perfect world. What’s worse is nobody picked up the sarcasm on “the terrible case,” apparently.
One person, Ian Miles Cheong referred to my piece as “inflammatory.” He’s more than right, of course, picking on Kirk Hamilton’s writings as a poster child for games journalism’s advocating for the removal of violence from Infinite as utterly disgusting considering Columbia is a white people fantasy land built on the backs of racial minorities. For one of the few times in videogaming’s short history, there’s a legitimate reason to cause untold destruction, and sadly it’s just not good enough for white people.
However, like I said more than once, I don’t mean to pick on Hamilton specifically. I honestly give him the benefit of the doubt, and don’t really place the blame at his feet. I used his face to prove a point, if nobody picked up on the string of faces I used in my piece. A point about what is truly more inflammatory than one foul-mouthed jackass with a blog who has zero interest in working in the games journalism establishment and quite frankly, doesn’t give a damn.
What’s truly inflammatory in 2013 is Infinite as a collaborative work with millions upon millions of dollars and man-hours put into it, couldn’t bother, apparently, to hire a non-white writer to put some proper perspective into the use of racism to justify a white man’s murderous romp through a floating city in the sky. The use of the (mostly non-white) Vox Populi and (black) Daisy Fitzroy as an enemy for the (white) player character to mow down and brutally murder is utterly idiotic, unjustified, and completely insulting. Inflammatory.
Criticisms of my piece have compared the Vox to the French and Russian Revolutions, saying that it’s a historically accurate portrayal of revolution. Which is weird, because those revolutions consisted primarily of white people who weren’t slaves. Looking at black resistance to slavery in America, however, is a far different story. So if Ken Levine wanted to portray a historically accurate black resistance to white oppression, he sure as hell failed on that matter. That’s inflammatory.
A historically inspired Vox Populi would have featured a number of things that weren’t cartoonishly over the top portrayals painting them all out to be a Nat Turner-esque band of monsters, to put them on the same level as Comstock and Columbia’s very real racism. For example - the sabotage of production, an underground railroad of sorts, escape attempts from Columbia, theft, so on and so on. Plenty of material to work with. Instead, because video games are apparently written for those with the mental capacity of children, “the truth is in the middle” as a white man decides just how racially oppressed minorities are allowed to revolt against their masters, and if they get out of line, a generic angry white guy will slice them apart and gun them down on the side, with the focus on his own personal sci-fi time travel romp. That’s inflammatory.
With regards to the Nat Turner rebellion of 1831, which has the closest historical similarity to the Vox Populi, that was about 70 enslaved and “free” black men, using a range of melee weapons, killed sixty white men, women, and children before the rebellion was put down by militia and military alike. In retaliation, 200 black men and women were killed by whites. So even then, Levine’s use of historical racism in Columbia is very far from the reality of the time. How inflammatory.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s what’s truly inflammatory about Infinite. White people get to be heroes and villains and fit along a wide spectrum of characters. The Vox and Fitzroy are ultimately just villains who “went too far” in standing up to oppressors and those who benefitted from the boot on their necks. Over and over and over again this has happened in videogames, and now with the very real history of racism in the mix, it’s the same old same old.
I linked the thoughts of people of color with regards to the use of racism in Bioshock: Infinite. I had to remove my links to one person because they had received an onslaught of racial abuse on their blog, primarily from Redditors. Weird, because according to the majority of people not happy with my writings on Infinite, we live in a pretty equal, non-racist society. Wait, that perspective is mostly held by straight white dudes, so why would that be true? Huh. Weird. Inflammatory, even.
I came under a lot of flak from primarily /v/ and Reddit, who’s main demographics are white males, let’s be honest. These males took on a wide spectrum of criticism, from the aforementioned comparisons to Russian and French Revolutions, to attempting to “doxx” me, to trying to argue me 6-on-one, either utterly missing the point, trying to divert the conversation into completely unrelated topics, from my profession to FEMEN, to reverting to all sorts of insults and slurs. What was worse is they kept arguing within the logic of the universe, acting in a death-of-the-author sort of mentality that couldn’t realize that Levine and his (mainly white) company chose to portray a woman of color and her band of oppressed masses in this way.
That’s pretty damn inflammatory. I put in several hours trying to sit down and explain, as clearly as possible, what I had written and Infinite’s problems.
I had to quit after someone, a white male, declared that suggesting Levine and Irrational hire a black, or at least non-white writer to help provide some perspective to the use of very real racism in the fantasy city of Columbia was racist. Yes, seeking the perspective of people who actually deal with racism in their daily lives is on the same level as hundreds of years of slavery and oppression. If you’re that fucking dumb to think that, or you’re willing to associate and share perspective with people that idiotic, then there simply isn’t any getting through to you at that point. That includes you too, Cameron.
I like Ian, but if he wants to call me inflammatory for calling out the games journalism establishment for throwing themselves behind yet another white man murder power fantasy that horribly crosses the line with it’s use of historical racism and imagining a series of events to make oppressed masses and their leader, a black woman, as bad and evil as the very real racism of Comstock and Columbia for the sake of giving the white male protagonist more goons to effortlessly mow down with his magical spells and shooty guns, well, shit.
Inflammatory is pretty generous considering how Infinite and it’s critical response have utterly overshadowed and shut out any criticism of white people using and profitting from very real racism as a window dressing in their white-centric power murder fantasy in the sky. Instead, it’s “true art.”
“True art” would have been using the setting of Columbia to look back about how the historical atrocities of the past have continued to have a hold on race relations in modern-day America. How white girls wear the sacred religious items of massacred and oppressed minorities their ancestors nearly wiped out, for the sake of fashion and/or entertainment. How statistically across the board, people of color earn far less than white men. Gentrification. Racial profiling. Cultural appropriation. Gerrymandering. I could go on all day.
Instead we got Shakespeare quotes and some white guy jerking himself over time travel and “the truth is in the middle” pseudo-philosophy. For a hundred million dollars. Weird, since Michaelangelo only got about $300k (3000 ducats converted to USD) to do the Sistine Chapel, and that’s undisputed “true art.”
To think, people tell me to write sober.