A K100 Update: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

Last month, I was ready to go off on a long-term adventure to complete Ubisoft’s 2017 Assassin’s Creed: Origins. However, during the first episode, my PC overheated and shut down upon pressing W, halting the show until I made some technical upgrades or decided on another game. That same week, George Floyd was murdered in the streets of Minneapolis, furthering a cycle of racial violence enabled by the systemic racism inherent in American institutions. My focus shifted and K100 was put on hold.

It didn’t feel right to go back to gaming as usual. As a nation, we took to the streets to speak out against the public murder–lynching–of black Americans. Hundreds of thousands of Americans risked their lives amid a global pandemic to address the public health crisis of systemic racism. Protests and violent police responses were documented, shared, and proliferated on social media. Users across several platforms held a blackout on Tuesday, June 2, stalling conversations about anything from Animal Crossing and TikTok videos to protest updates. The Twitch community, in response to a flood of accusations of sexual harassment against multiple Twitch Partners followed by a tepid response from the corporation and CEO Emmett Shear, called for a blackout on Wednesday, June 24. Serious Play participated in the Twitch blackout and did not stream on Wednesday. While this event was seemingly organically formed on social media in response to the gaming community’s longstanding issues with sexism and sexual harassment, my hope is that the community coming together in solidarity with women who have faced sexual harassment will lift the voices of creators of color who contend with racism on- and off-stream.

Beyond participating in the blackout, my hope is that Serious Play can aid the work needed to affect change for an equitable, anti-racist future in and out of the gaming industry. Which brings me to Serious Play, my own work in and out of academia, and where to go from here. The game(ing) industry contends with the same complex network of institutions founded and perpetuated by racist and exclusionary practices. Here I’m referring to the industry broadly to include sectors like game development and design, esports player pools and administration, individuals and organizations that stream live content, and other avenues.

Simply making a  statement of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement or the Me Too movement is not enough. For a short period of time, a brief solidarity statement from developers would appear before each match of Call of Duty: Warzone. It didn’t last very long, but more and more individuals have started using the BLM clan tag. Shutting Twitch down for a day in any capacity won’t singularly affect change. Individuals can’t wait for organizations to take the first step toward an anti-racist future. As a white-passing Hispanic woman, I’m not leading the charge here. But, as many in the Latinx community have declared on flattened pizza boxes and old Amazon deliveries: tu lucha es mi lucha. Your struggle is my struggle. My job as a white-passing Cuban-American is not to do what I think will help the community of creators of color, but to lift up the voices of individuals who have been silenced and excluded. We need to listen to them.

And so, the Twitch blackout. There’s been a lot of blowback against the Twitch blackout, mostly culminating in people asserting their right to stream and acknowledging the rights of others not to stream with varying degrees of politeness. Realistically, one day of boycotting Twitch for a day won’t force the corporation to address the range of issues we face that disproportionately affect minorities and marginalized communities. Similarly, one individual body joining a mass peaceful protest won’t force the government to reform. 

While on the ground, protesters often see people standing on their porches or balconies with anything from a BLM sign to a shocked expression at the sheer number of people gathering in the street. Invariably, someone in the crowd starts the “Walk with us!” chant. When people reluctantly and awkwardly shake their heads at the chant, someone suggests that they join the march for two blocks, even one block. Sometimes, that gets people out the door. So they walk for a block, maybe two. They might even stay for a while. But, it’s not that that one group of new marchers will turn the tide. Rather, it’s what that group takes home with them. Maybe the next day they will walk another two blocks, then three.

Not being racist isn’t enough. To get that equitable future, we need to be anti-racist. We need to openly and publicly reject racism. Walk for two blocks, maybe more. When K100 returns in July, we’ll begin with a quest to complete Nuchallenger’s Treachery in Beat Down City. This is a game I’m really psyched about and a place to start the conversation. From there, I’m hoping to talk to more people about what they feel we need as members of the academic and non-academic gaming community. It’s not enough, by any means, but I’m hoping that what starts as walking a block or two can become a march.

Never forget: Ain’t no power like the power of the people ‘cause the power of the people don’t stop!

Say their names: 

EMMETT TILL – MEDGAR EVERS – DR MARTIN LUTHER KING JR – HENRY SMITH – JOHN CRAWFORD III – MICHAEL BROWN – EZELL FORD – DANTE PARKER – MICHELLE CUSSEAUX – MARY TURNER – LAQUAN MCDONALD – MALCOLM X – TANISHA ANDERSON – AKAI GURLEY – TAMIR RICE – RUMAIN BRISBON – JERAME REID – MATTHEW AJIBADE – JAMES N. POWELL JR. – FRANK SMART – ERNEST LACY – NATASHA MCKENNA – TONY ROBINSON – ANTHONY HILL – MYA HALL – PHILLIP WHITE – ERIC HARRIS – WALTER SCOTT – WILLIAM CHAPMAN II – ALEXIA CHRISTIAN – BRENDON GLENN – VICTOR MANUEL LAROSA – JONATHAN SANDERS – FREDDIE CARLOS GRAY JR. – JOSEPH MANN – SALVADO ELLSWOOD – SANDRA BLAND – ALBERT JOSEPH DAVIS – DARRIUS STEWART – BILLY RAY DAVIS – SAMUEL DUBOSE – MICHAEL SABBIE – BRIAN KEITH DAY – CHRISTIAN TAYLOR – TROY ROBINSON – ASSHAMS PHAROAH MANLEY – MICHAEL STEWART – FELIX KUMI – KEITH HARRISON MCLEOD – JUNIOR PROSPER – LAMONTEZ JONES – PATERSON BROWN – DOMINIC HUTCHINSON – ANTHONY ASHFORD – ALONZO SMITH – TYREE CRAWFORD – INDIA KAGER – LA’VANTE BIGGS – MICHAEL LEE MARSHALL – JAMAR CLARK – RICHARD PERKINS – PHILLIP PANNELL – NATHANIEL HARRIS PICKETT – BENNI LEE TIGNOR – MIGUEL ESPINAL – MICHAEL NOEL – KEVIN MATTHEWS – BETTIE JONES – QUINTONIO LEGRIER – KEITH CHILDRESS JR. – JANET WILSON – RANDY NELSON – ANTRONIE SCOTT – WENDELL CELESTINE – DAVID JOSEPH – CALIN ROQUEMORE – DYZHAWN PERKINS – CHRISTOPHER DAVIS – MARCO LOUD – JAMES BYRD JR. – PETER GAINES – TORREY ROBINSON – DARIUS ROBINSON – KEVIN HICKS – MARY TRUXILLO – DEMARCUS SEMER – AMADOU DIALLO – WILLIE TILLMAN – TERRILL THOMAS – DEMETRIUS DUBOSE – ALTON STERLING – PHILANDO CASTILE – TERENCE CRUTCHER – PAUL O’NEAL – ALTERIA WOODS – BOBBY RUSS – JORDAN EDWARDS – AARON BAILEY – RONELL FOSTER – STEPHON CLARK – COREY CARTER – ANTWON ROSE II – TAYLER ROCK – MALICE GREEN – RAMARLEY GRAHAM – ELIJAH MCCLAIN – AIYANA STANLEY JONES – BOTHAM JEAN – PAMELA TURNER – DOMINIQUE CLAYTON – SEAN BELL – ATATIANA JEFFERSON – JEMEL ROBERSON – JAMES LEE ALEXANDER – RYAN MATTHEW SMITH – DERRICK AMBROSE JR. – ADDIE MAE COLLINS – CAROL DENISE MCNAIR – CAROLE ROBERTSON – CYNTHIA WESLEY – NICHOLAS HEYWARD JR. – CHRISTOPHER WHITFIELD – WILLIE MCCOY – VICTOR WHITE III – MARCUS DEON SMITH – CHAVIS CARTER – MARTIN LEE ANDERSON – CHRISTOPHER MCCORVEY – BRADLEY BLACKSHIRE – TIMOTHY THOMAS – REGINALD DOUCET JR. – DANROY “DJ” HENRY JR. – KARVAS GAMBLE JR. – ERIC REASON – KORRYN GAINES – REKIA BOYD – KIONTE SPENCER – DARIUS TARVER – WAYNE ARNOLD JONES – MANUEL ELLIS – VICTOR DUFFY JR. – KOBE DIMOCK-HEISLER – CLINTON R. ALLEN – DONTRE HAMILTON – TIMOTHY CAUGHMAN – SYLVILLE SMITH – COREY JONES – TYRE KING – ERIC GARNER – MILES HALL – KENDRICK JOHNSON – CHARLEENA LYLES – MICHAEL LORENZO DEAN – TRAYVON MARTIN – RENISHA MCBRIDE – OSCAR GRANT III – BREONNA TAYLOR – KALIEF BROWDER – DARRIEN HUNT – TROY HODGE – WILLIAM GREEN – AHMAUD ARBERY – DION JOHNSON – TONY MCDADE – JAMEL FLOYD – GEORGE FLOYD – RAYSHARD BROOKS – ITALIA MARIE KELLY – DAVID MCATEE – CHRIS BEATY

Special thanks to the Baby Names website for its demonstration of solidarity with the Black community. I grabbed this comprehensive list from their homepage. You can read more about that here and here.

Further reading regarding the gaming community and issues of race:

Janelle Malagon

I am a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the English department’s Media, Cinema, and Digital Studies plan. My research in media is multifaceted, ranging from platform studies to game studies, but above all I am always interested in the relationship between media and the climate crisis.

3 Comments

  1. Beautifully said, Janelle. I’ve felt much the same way over the past few weeks which, as you know, led me to play TBC. For me, thinking about how my comp class might have developed around this movement (if not for also Covid) just got me thinking about what kinds of communications and media matter right now. It got me thinking what kind of game I’d like to make about protesting, and I came across Allen’s work. I’m really interested in looking at the ways ideas like these have been handled in other games (the good, bad, and ugly), and I’m super-stoked you’re taking this one on in full. Excited to see what you think!

  2. I can’t help but agree with Ryan; this is incredible well said. Year after year of has seen the games industry at large ignoring systemic oppression and instead simply altering a logo or putting out a statement. Apex Legends apparently did less that Warzone – You had to navigate to a 18 point font link on the busy game selection page in order to get their BLM statement. Activision Blizzard donated 4 million dollars to various BLM related charities, and yet took in 228 million dollars in federal tax rebates (this as of 2018). “Kind” of Activision to donate the taxpayers money in their quest for performative activism PR. I could go on. I feel extremely lucky to be a part of this collaboratory; you all are incredibly inspiring. Anti-racist pedagogy is an absolute must and gaming has to fit into that.

  3. Thank you so much for this Janelle!!! There are so many issues in video games and vg communities and I’m glad we’re going to orient more of Serious Play to being anti-racist <3

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