dese'rae l. stage

dese'rae l. stage

My name is Dese'Rae L. Stage. I'm 32 years old.

I guess my relationship to the [videogame] industry is I've always been -- I wouldn't say I'm a gamer, but I do have an interest in games here and there. As a child, videogames were the way I passed my time. And I guess the intersection is gaming and mental health, or suicide, specifically.

So, I'll have you elaborate on that by way of answering this question to sort of address or deflate the fact that you and I are talking for my thing. So I'm thinking of this as a thought exercise. I'm not making any sort of bold statement, and just saying that from my end.
Can you talk a little bit about your project, and also share your reaction to when I reached out to want to talk for my project besides, like, "Oh, it’s that guy who tweeted at me?"

[Laughs.]

Let's see. The project I'm working on is called Live Through This, and it is a series of portraits and oral histories of suicide-attempt survivors, and that comes out of, at least partially, my experience in the music industry because I taught myself both to photograph and to interview during my time in the music industry. I got involved with some music journalism. Blogs, mainly. I would go shoot shows and then, later, I segued into interviewing artists. I took those skill sets and added them to my academic knowledge of psychology and my interest in suicide, both academic and personal, and I kind of threw them all together in a pot or whatever. That's how Live Through This began. [Laughs.]

And my reaction to you -- I don't know. I didn't have a reaction. I think there is an intersection. Gaming can be a useful tool to cope with mental health issues. It can also be a detriment. So, it makes sense.

I'm not at all implying there is a link between videogames and people who are suicidal, but I'm curious to talk a little bit about the way people escape pain. I think games sometimes extend to, like, helping people escape smaller pains and then cumulatively they inspire or offer a way to escape and so I'm wondering: Do suicide counselors, do they tell people it's okay to escape from pain in ways like this?

That's a good question. I don't know. [Laughs.]

I feel like when -- you know, if you read articles about suicide on the Internet, or how to cope with emotional distress, you get that kind of standard list of, "Eat well and sleep as much as you need to and do yoga."

Yeah. "Exercise."

Right. Whatever.

"Tell a friend!"

Yeah, to some extent, I think it's a pile of shit. [Laughs.]

I would agree.

Yeah, I think eating healthy and sleeping well are actually really good suggestions because that's how you kind of maintain your rhythm as a human. And not sleeping can contribute to suicidality, so it's not those, but it's this idea of, "Do yoga and blah blah blah."

For me, we should focus more on what makes you feel better as a unique individual. For some people that's gonna be gaming. For me that's getting a really ridiculously expensive Starbucks coffee and walking around or smoking a cigarette or reading a book or whatever it is that I'm enjoying doing at that moment -- or irritating my dog. That's my favorite thing.

[Laughs.]

It should be more personalized.

Yeah.

But I don't know if a professional would be like, "Well, why don't you go play a game?" [Laughs.]

Yeah, I think some of this comes from, like, maybe parts of academia or something. Where does this notion of, like, the user or a person as a tabula rasa come in? Like, there was an article I saw earlier this week in Psychology Today saying that gaming makes people more anti-social and less empathetic.

[Laughs.]

So I'm kinda grateful, because I know that notion is still out there, but you don't see it stated so steadily and bluntly. But it also, like, suggests we're somehow all the same and all react to things in the same way. But it's also like saying, "Well, don't drink Starbucks. Don't irritate your dog. Those are unhealthy behaviors."

Right. Exactly.

So why do you think people feel authoritative enough to say that?

Because we're lazy.

[Laughs.]

And because we're afraid of the things we know little about.

Back in the day, Everquest-- they called it Evercrack -- did contribute to some really terrible things. And that was, what, 10, 15 years ago? Every gamer, every person who has any kind of hobby is unique. They're going to approach it uniquely. Some people will get addicted to games, like Evercrack. Some people won't. Some people will use it in productive ways.

Insert

There is definitely a connection between some gamers isolating themselves. On the other hand, people who aren't necessarily the best at human interaction, in person, can find communities online. And now, especially, we have opportunities that we didn't when we were younger and we were growing up on games. There's kids -- my brother is a heavy-duty gamer, and he's constantly on his headset talking to people. He's got an active social life. Granted, it's not, again, in his immediate community and immediate surroundings, but I don't really see that as a bad thing. Otherwise, he would be in his room, alone, playing the games, and he would be isolated in a very different, more detrimental way than he is now.

And for me, you know, I kinda understand this, and maybe that makes me more forgiving because I've been heavily involved in the Internet since I was a kid, since I got my stupid 486 when I was 14 years old. I've always been involved in chatting, and as soon as I was old enough, meeting people from the Internet -- some of my best friends in the world are people from the Internet. A lot of them, actually, from smaller social networking sites that don't really exist anymore.

ICQ?

[Laughs.] Not -- well, sort of. I was a big fan of Babygoth -- alt.gothic was a newsgroup for goths, and the babygoths were the young ones -- community back in the day.

But, no, the one I'm thinking about is consumating.com, and that shut down in 2008. But that particular site was really based on getting people to meet in person and resulted in a lot of antics, sexual and otherwise. [Laughs.] A lot of my friends are from that website that shut down seven years ago, you know? And I look at that as a really beautiful thing.

So I think that gaming and these Internet communities can really bring us together in ways that a lot of people don't expect and a lot of people are afraid of because meeting strangers means you're gonna get axe-murdered. Whatever.

[Laughs.]

You know, it's just not that simple. [Laughs.]

No, I know. That's why I'm talking to more than one person, too.

Yeah.

This is a broad question, but why do you think people who play videogames are sometimes stigmatized as suicidal loners?

Because sometimes they are? The moment we can identify a pattern, we run with it.

Would you agree with that?

Some are, sure. Some are suicidal.

Well, people are.

Exactly. People are. Comedians have this label of being depressed and suicidal and addicts. Who else? Why am I blanking right now?

Writers.

Middle-aged white guys. It's not a stereotype, but it's definitely a group that we look at.

Rockstars, sometimes.

Eh, sure.

There is that archetype --

Yeah, the tortured --

Dead by 27.

Right, right. The 27 club.

Yeah, I think it's just one of those stereotypes. Stereotypes come about because they hold some truth, but you can't -- that's not gonna stick to everybody. It's just not.

I mean, when I was a kid, again, it was all of these awkward teenagers. Usually white boys. They would get together and throw LAN parties and all lug their big desktop computers to someone's house and bring Bawls and play videogames until 6 a.m.

How is that isolating? That is not. That is a community.

Yeah. I mean, if you really want to get your tinfoil hat on, it used to be a much more social -- in a pre-Internet interpretation of that word -- activity. You'd be out at arcades or at LAN parties.

Right.

Which, some people reading this will remember and some will not.

"What's a LAN party?"

But there is a component of that, whereas it's gone increasingly online, I think there is a greater risk of people misinterpreting or choosing to look for ways to misinterpret what other people are saying online in these social environments.
What's your view of how the Internet has changed the way people treat each other online?

[Sighs.] The Internet is a double-edged sword. You have people who are fearless when they have anonymity, and fearless in a really detrimental way. I don't know that I have any unique opinions on it.

When we were kids and we were playing videogames, we just wanted to play Mortal Kombat and get the best fatality. I don't know! [Laughs.] I don't know. Maybe that's how it was back then. Or maybe -- I don't know. People really shit on these first-person shooter games. I know there weren't as many of them back then.

I don't know. I don't know what it is.

Yeah.

Maybe we're channeling more of our aggression through games, which means we're creating those games, which means we're playing those games, consuming them, and it can lead to bad things. I don't know!

No. That's crap. That's more of that kind of stigmatizing idea. That's not true. I don't know. I don't know what it is. I'm speculating. I have no idea. [Laughs.]

Well, so, when you do interviews for your project, has it ever come up that you learn people play videogames?

Yeah. I'm trying to think of a specific person who's really into playing videogames, but I have had two female game-makers involved in the project. One of whom I had to take her profile down because she was being targeted. The second continues to be targeted. I asked her just the other day, "Do I need to take your story down? Is that going to help you?" And she said, "Absolutely not."

It wouldn't help her? Would not?

Right. Yeah. It's interesting to me that the only people who are involved in the project who are specifically kind of labeled as gamers or game-makers are women.

How many people have you interviewed?
    127.
I think I just passed the 100 mark myself. I switched recording programs early on, and so I either passed 100 a while ago and should have thrown a party or I'm about and I don't know. So we have a similar sample pool, but I'm curious: Those interactions that you had -- you said it was two individuals who made games? How do those interactions with those people, how did they maybe differ from your others, or do they not differ at all? And I'm not at all saying people around games are different in some way.

Right.

I think it's just a tiny facet of their interests or their hobbies or their professions. It's a small part of who they are. I don't really see them as being any different from anyone else that I've interviewed. It's just something they identify with, whereas other people identify with being musicians or comedians or writers or, you know, whatever.

I don't want you to name names, but what was upsetting people and making them want to go after your interviewees? I mean, were they going after you?

No. Nobody's come after me. I had one woman who was involved in the project say, "Hey, I'm being targeted. I don't want any more information than is necessary on the Internet about me. Can you take my profile down?" I said, "Sure," knowing full well that once it's been on the Internet, it's gonna be there forever. But I need the people who have participated in the project to feel safe inasmuch as I can create a safe space for them. So, if she wanted her profile taken down, it was going to get taken down.

Same with the other woman. They were targeting her. I don't know the details, but it was the same thing.

That was something else I wanted to ask you a little bit about, with safe messaging, as I'm starting to claw at the perimeter of where I'm taking this project next. Obviously with our projects, we both draw on a certain capacity for hearing about other people's pain. But for people outside of videogames, they likely have very little idea about the nuanced politics and splintering and frictions around the medium, that the Internet is either distorting or muting or just showing a small fraction of. I think the thing a lot of people in videogames don't realize or don't want to acknowledge is that death threats, bomb threats, rape threats, writers being threatened for having opinions, an audience lashing out at people who make companies -- this is not normal? [Laughs.]
I guess it's typical in games, but it's not normal. And so as I go about trying to make people outside of games a little bit more aware -- it's almost like I'm asking for advice here. But I'm more wondering: Do you have ways that you try to carefully approach really sensitive subject matter with people, where you don't want to traumatize them or rush them to talk about things they aren't ready to talk about?

You know, I do more listening than talking.

Me too.

People who can sense that you are coming from maybe not a neutral space, but an open and non-judgmental space are more likely to share. Obviously, you're pretty skilled at interviewing. You just asked the question: "Do you want to talk about this? If not, I totally understand, that's fine."

I guess my experience with safe messaging is more around the language we use around suicide.

This will get a little meta, asking about your project.

[Laughs.]

Do the stories ever start to wear on you?

Oh, yeah. Yeah. There are some days, some interviews, where I leave and I'm just like, "Okay, I'm done now. I need to not think about this."

Because of the way I approach it, I get a lot of emails about this stuff. About suicide, specifically. People are really dropping their darkness on me. So I read the emails and, obviously, I respond to them. Then I schedule an interview, a time to meet with somebody. But by the time that I meet them, generally, I am a blank slate, and I prefer that, which is both good and bad. Bad because I don't know what I'm getting into. And I know what my triggers are. For me, my biggest trigger is cutting. So, you know, the moment someone starts talking about cutting, I'm on edge. And sometimes they go into great detail and that really fucks with me, but I'm not gonna say, "Okay, you need to stop now. You're making me uncomfortable," because the whole thing about my project is allowing people to tell their stories however they feel most comfortable doing it.

Granted, I'm not going to put the gory details on my website, but there is, from what I've seen, some sort of catharsis that comes out of sharing that with somebody. So I'm not gonna stop that. But that does put me in a position where I need to take stock and step away and go drink a beer and hang out with my wife. [Laughs.]

Irritate your dog.

Irritate my dog, who is laying right next to me not currently being irritated. I love irritating my dog.

I know. [Laughs.] Don't irritate her on my behalf. [Laughs.]

But yeah, I mean, it definitely wears sometimes.

If you had to put a percentage to it, what percentage of people seem to be self-aware that they realize the emails or tweets they send you -- that they're not the only ones reaching out to you? In other words, self-awareness online as far as the impact they're making on others or the bandwidth they're occupying.

Some of them know. Some of them will say openly, like, "I know you probably get a lot of emails," but most of them are just pretty straightforward because of the contact form on my website. It took me a while to get the formula right, just trying to ask all the information right there: your name, your age, where you live and, briefly, the circumstances surrounding your story. So, they're definitely gonna share. It is not often brief because how can you really be brief? So that is expected. I'm expecting to get that. Sometimes I'll get emails that make me uncomfortable because they're just -- they don't say, "Hey, I want to be a part of this." They just dump on me.

Those are difficult to deal with, but I don't get them very often. But it's those that emails that, when they do come through, make me feel a little like a receptacle.

I know the feeling.

The thing about this project is that it has become a community. All of the people who have been a part of it are connected in some way now -- and it's very collaborative. It's collaborative and we take care of each other and we talk to each other. But there's a stark contrast between that -- doing the interviews and sitting in a room with a person and kind of listening to these stories, and I'll share some of my stuff and they're sharing all of their stuff -- and those emails. That small minority of emails cheapens it, in a way.

But mostly, yeah, I feel like a receptacle when I get emails like that. Thank God they don't happen often.

In the aftermath of something traumatic, what are the sort of permanent problems that people are looking for coping skills on dealing with?

I think that's based on the trauma and the human involved. I don't know. I think that's unique to every person. But I definitely think being aware of how things affect you is key to anything.

I was just talking about this with my wife, so it's tangentially related. Last night we were talking about awareness and I don't remember what she brought up, but I said, "You know, I didn't realize how bad my anxiety was until this year because I spent so long trying to manage extreme emotions and feeling suicidal and hurting myself."

So now that I've finally gotten that mostly under control, I can see how terrible my anxiety is and how I do have to continue to live with that on a daily basis. And I'm aware of that.

I think, in terms of people who have been through traumas, it's how you get to a point where you can be aware of what's happened, how you're dealing with it, and find some perspective on how you might better be able to deal with it. And what your specific needs are. Like we were talking about earlier, it's not one size fits all. It's not, "Go to yoga and everything's gonna be okay again."

It's what makes you feel better.

That is surprisingly hard for people to think about -- or to know, rather.

Can you elaborate a little?

[Laughs.]

I mean, I would completely agree. It's just a journey of introspection and --

Yeah, and who wants to do that?

Uh, I do?

Do you want to? Or are you forced to by virtue of who you are?

Both. [Laughs.]

[Laughs.]

But I'm the same age as you and there is still stuff where I'm like, "Shit, I wish I was better at this, this, and this."

Of course.

But I don't blame videogame companies for anything about the way that I am or as a thing that makes me feel a certain way. Then again, maybe it does, because I am fixated and trying to figure out how other people get so angry about videogames.

Well, I mean, it's the same with anything. Like, you see reporting on suicide in the media and right now bullying is really trendy.

"This teenager killed himself because he was bullied."

That is not true. Nobody kills themselves for any one reason. And you can't blame the videogames industry for making you the way you are. Certainly it's going to contribute, but it's not the cause of anything. That's a copout.

What is your perception of the videogame industry? I know you mentioned you have a brother who plays.

I don't know much about the politics. I know that there is a part of Gamergate that has to do with journalists having opinions and everything. The little experience that I have with it is the women who I talked to. Specifically Zoe Quinn, and I haven't talked to her in detail -- I would love to. But she made, or at least --

Oh, Depression Quest.

Depression Quest! Depression Quest is the greatest fucking thing I've ever seen. [Laughs.]

My favorite detail about it is just how some of the options are completely grayed out.

Yeah.

Because that's what it is.

It is perfect. I don't think I've ever seen any other kind of rendering of depression that fits so well. I had an interactive exhibit. I worked with an exhibit designer last year and she kind of read my mind, because I wanted it to be very interactive and include different kinds of media. I had posted about Depression Quest at some point on one of my Live Through This pages and she was like, "How about we have a computer set up and people can play Depression Quest while they're going through this exhibit?"

And I was like, "Fuck yes." [Claps.] "Yes. Yes. Yes."

[Laughs.]

It is amazing. I would love to do a game that is like that, that is more geared towards suicide and what it's like to be thinking about that and the decision processes that are involved.

But I lost my thread. I just got really excited about Depression Quest again.

Insert

No, you're fine. That's just a sentence I've not heard anyone else say before.

[Laughs.]

I mean, I think just in general you were talking about -- and I remember you said earlier, too, that you have some interest in the space and the medium, right?

Oh, for sure. I would love to -- I think those simple text-based games and those games that are kind of novel in their approach, like, what is that game that I played recently that I fell in love with on my phone? Hold on, now I gotta look for it. Device 6 was incredible. Or Lifeline, which is a game for the Apple Watch, has -- I chose Lifeline because of its title and then I read the description and, it's like, you have to get this astronaut or whatever off of this planet alive or something and I was like, "This really appeals to my interest as a suicide-prevention person." And it did. I won the game because of my training in crisis intervention. I knew how to approach it.

Games like that I am really drawn to. In the same way that I'm drawn to books or novels that are structured strangely. [Laughs.]

Insert

How do you hear about games? Does your brother just tell you? Or do you have the proclivity --

My brother is a butthole.

[Laughs.]

[Laughs.]

Sorry he's getting so much play in this interview.

No, I love him. But, no, we play completely different kinds of games. He plays, like, Black Ops and he’s really into League of Legends right now.

He visited me for three weeks in the spring and watching him played that just bored me to tears.

Why?

I don't know. I just can't get into all these creatures running around killing each other. I didn't even bother trying to understand it. But what was interesting about it was the community aspect.

What interested you about the community?

Well, it's that same thing we were talking about earlier. People look at gaming as being isolating, and it can be, but you're also meeting people from around the world and broadening your horizons in a way that we weren't able to when we were kids.

That's why I was drawn to the Internet and meeting people through the Internet and everything. I have a couch anywhere in the country basically. Like, I can go hang out wherever I want because I know people from the Internet.

Yeah.

So, in that way, I don't think that it's isolating. It sucks that you can't hang out with a lot of your friends on a daily basis, but what can you do? All things in moderation -- it's going isolate some people, but other people, it's going to open a whole new world for.

So, yeah. There's another friend of mine who says just a lot of these stigmas around games are not really real anymore, but I do think there is still that perception that games are seen as subtracting from life.

Right.

Rather than adding to them.

Yeah.

Are there other activities you can think of that are still thought of in that way?

Internet dating!

[Laughs.]

Meeting people from the Internet, at all!

We are firmly in the Internet age at this point. Internet dating is still seen as this thing that we shouldn't do, but everybody does it. I met my wife on OkCupid. Everybody I know is on Tinder or OkCupid or match.com. I don't know if I just have a special subset of friends who really want to dating on the Internet, which is not fun, let me tell you -- [Laughs.] But I think it's seen in very much the same way, like, "Oh my God, I can't believe you're doing that." Meanwhile, everybody is doing it. [Laughs.]

Everybody is doing this.

I mean, the Internet can be such an isolating place that's also so hard to generalize about, but can you tell me a little bit about the ways that maybe you see people not being aware that they're actually just being lonely assholes to others online?

Mmm, yeah. I think that I have mostly kind of extracted myself from that kind of Internet culture. I don't really know how.

I guess I see it most often when I write an article. I definitely have a policy of not reading the comments, but sometimes I do. It seems like it happens mostly on Facebook. People are really -- they can be really evil, you know.

Has there been an uptick of that? Do you think that's changed? Like, were people like that as intensely 10 years ago?

I think people were like that 10 years ago. I think it just depends where you hang out on the Internet. Like, 4chan? All those guys are assholes. Come on. My brother used to, and 4chan has definitely provided quite a bit of amusement for me in the past. [Laughs.] But, you know, no, I don't think it's any different than it was 10 years ago.

I just think it's how you use the Internet and where you go and who you talk to. Like, with the comment thing, I don't see the awful comments on the articles usually. If Huff Post posted on Facebook, because people know that hundreds of thousands of people are gonna see this and the comments kind of fly in there really quickly, people seem more willing to say asinine things. There's a level of anonymity there in numbers, you know, because we all have our real names attached to it on Facebook, and yet we're willing to be total dicks.

But still, that's safety in numbers.

So, I don't know. I don't feel like I come across it too often because I've made a point of not allowing it in my life. And when I see it, I usually choose not to engage with it.

Did you watch Breaking Bad at all?

Yeah.

Do you remember about the Anna Gunn stuff?

It's been over a year.

The actor who played Walt's wife -- just, all the Facebook groups and people who were making tons of threats against her.

Why?

Well, she wrote a thing about it, trying to understand why. She said it was because her character was getting in the way of Walt's fun and it "had little to do with me and a lot to do with their own perception of women and wives."

That -- what? They were directing it at the actress?

Yes.

For playing a role?

Yes.

That was written for her by somebody else?

Yes.

I see. That's stupid.

She wrote an op-ed in The New York Times. I can send it to you.

Yeah, I wanna read it.

So obviously you can't speak too much to that specifically, and I don't know if you can equate these two, but there was that Zelda Williams thing last year. I don't really know what to ask you about that. I don't know if you've ever talked about that. What is your feeling on just, like, why people think lashing out in these types of way are a socialized or okay thing to do?

I can't even -- I don't remember exactly what it was. That she just went offline because people were saying her father was a coward? That thing?

Yeah.

Okay. Yeah, I don't know. It's just a complete lack of forethought, a lack of compassion, a lack of self-awareness.

You do come across that a lot in terms of people's commentary on suicide. Like the thing people love to say is that suicide is really selfish. You know, "How could you do that?" It's that same thing. The cliche is a cliche for a reason. Put yourself in the other person's shoes. What do you think it would take for you to want to kill yourself?

And to be willing to go like that? To go alone in pain and to walk away from everyone that you love? What would that take? Just take a moment and think about that.

And people don't. They don't think about their words and how our language matters. Especially now that we are living in the Internet age, because our words are on a screen and we're less careful with them, the tone that can be taken can be even more damaging because of the person interpreting them on the other end.

I don't know if that answers the question.

I don't know if any of my questions have answers.

[Laughs.]

From the initial conversations you have on your projects, like, after you're interviewed them, how do subsequent ones tend to go? I don't know the level that you stay in touch with everyone.

Right. Two years ago now, I created a secret Facebook group for the people who have been a part of the project, and I'm Facebook friends with all of the ones who are on Facebook. So, while we may not have detailed conversations everyday, there is definitely a private avenue for them to contact me on that group or via email or to contact each other. I find that -- I don't know if it's because of the way the project is set up, we get in deep pretty quickly, so, by the time we're done with the interview I feel like I'm very attached to that person. So I do like to know kind of where they are and what they're doing as much I can. A couple of people have fallen off the face of the planet. I don't know where they are. But the majority I'm in touch with and we can talk to each other, especially in times of crisis. There have been a couple of dicey situations with some of the people who have been in the project and I've done my best to help. It's really great that, now that we've met each other and we kind of all have this community, this safety net, we have the ability to help when we can.

So, I don't know. That's how subsequent conversations go. I do feel like a lot of them are a part of my life, even if I don't get to see them very often. I've gone back to some cities that I've been visiting for conferences and whatever and I've hung out with some of the people I've interviewed, because I do want to see them again. I do want to be a part of their lives. And I want them to be a part of mine.

How do you feel about the stories that you post? I don't want you to chart it on a binary, like, I feel like most people would ask you, "Do you think they're affirming or depressing?" Don't tell me they're either of those things: How do you feel about them?

I think that they are honest and I think that you don't need a positivity campaign to create hope in other people. I think that honesty can create hope and I hope that that's what the project is doing. You know, there are some conversations on the website that are uncomfortable, I'm sure, for people to read. We get into childhood sexual abuse, self-injury, postpartum depression, and those are just more things that people don't want to talk about. But they need to be talked about because they are experiences that many of us do have.

So -- I feel really great about them. [Laughs.] You know? I think it's cool that we can take these shitty things that happen to all of us and create a community and in that honesty kind of create hope in other people. You know, people—because I'm a photographer—people are like, "Well, are you gonna do a book?" I thought about it for a while, like a photo book of what's on the website, but I don't think that's a good vehicle for the project.

Who's gonna give a shit about a coffee-table book at 3 a.m. when they want to kill themselves? Nobody.

I was going to say, it's hard to imagine it as a coffee-table book, and that's what that book would be.

Exactly. I'm thinking of writing a different book about my story and all of that, but in terms of the portraits, even though that's how it started -- I don't know how much use there is for it in terms of exhibiting it and putting it in a book. I think the best place for it is on the Internet where anybody can find it at anytime.

Are there things you wonder about with the game industry or the audience, even if you don't really think about it that much?

I don't think so.

You don't have to.

Yeah, I wonder how I can find more cool games like Device 6 and Gone Home and Depression Quest. I mean, those games are -- they're just art. They're amazing. Like, Device 6 is basically the House of Leaves of videogames. I've never seen anything like it. [Laughs.]

It's pretty cool.

It is so cool. I spent, like, a whole day just trying to figure it out and then I felt really validated when I finished.

[Laughs.]

Do you think a lot of this ugly shit around games, does it turn people off from being more interested in them? Or are these just distinctions people inside of games are drawing and they aren't even perceptible to the outside?

I don't think that people who aren't already involved in gaming know anything about Gamergate. [Laughs.]

This is true.

[Laughs.] Yeah. I think it could potentially push people away who were involved.

And it has.

Yeah, of course, because death threats. But I don't think that people are going to consider, "Oh, is this Gamergate thing going to affect me?" when they're trying to pick out a game system or getting on Origin or whatever, you know.

What do you think videogames have accomplished?

God. I don't even know how to answer that question. They have -- I mean, just having grown up with the technology, seeing what's happened from Atari to whatever systems are out now is mind-blowing in terms of the graphics and the realism. I've been really having a good time playing Super Mario World on my Wii and Super Mario World 2, which came out in 1986. Seeing the stark contrast in the art is really interesting.

Insert

And then, just going back to these kind of indie games. I don't feel like indie games were around when we were kids. I mean, maybe Dungeons & Dragons and tabletop games were considered indie games way back when. And I guess still are. But even that, you know, Kickstarter has created a whole community or at least -- what's the word? Coagulated? I don't know. The whole community has coagulated around the making of these games through Kickstarter.

Yeah.

I just think the assumption that any kind of gaming is only going to be isolating is a load of crap. Because even though Gamergate is happening and it's really terrifying, the things that some people are doing, the reality is that there is a huge community around gaming. More than there ever was before.

And it really just depends on how people choose to use that, and just like with anything else, people are going to abuse it and some are going to do something productive with it.

It's weird because sometimes I think those two facts are indications that, like, it's a maturing space. Or it's arrived in some way.

Right.

Do you know what I mean?

I think so. I think gaming can be a totally healthy thing. It's just like any other outlet. If you use it positively, then it is going to be healthy. It's just that -- there are assholes that ruin things in every different community. Gamergate's just getting a little more play right now, you know?

I mean, if you go back, and I have: There used to be fistfights over the opera and Goodreads, that community has its assholes. It's just a sign that communities are made of people. And people are people.

Right. It is what it is. We've been blaming videogames for things for years, starting with—the first time I can think of blaming videogames was Columbine. I just think, like I said, look at the bullying thing. "Bullying is causing suicide." "Videogames are causing mass shootings." "Marilyn Manson is causing mass shootings."

It's just laziness.

don't die Logo