Live Streaming, White Privilege, and Moving Towards Antiracism

Hello everyone!

(Today’s post is being done in conjunction with my live stream of Chrono Ghost at 12pm Central for Lunch Zone! Come join me as I play and talk about some critical race theory and some of the barriers BIPOCs have when creating games.)

So a couple of weeks ago I did my first live stream ever. Since the place I work at during the summer was closed due to COVID 19, I decided to revive my old YouTube channel, The Game Detectives, along with my friend Travis. We began posting podcast episodes and were planning to begin posting playthroughs of games. Then, George Floyd was murdered, protests renewed, and more than ever, funds were needed to pay for protestors’ bails, support oppressed communities, and provide food and shelter for people. I wanted to use the small platform I had on YouTube to help, but I hadn’t truly put in the work before this important moment.

As a YouTube channel with two White creators, The Game Detectives had never meaningfully discussed race and video games in our content. We focused much more on how women are treated as characters, fans, and creators, and we discussed the representation of queer individuals in games. But for too long we never discussed the issues that BIPOCs face in video game environments. (Neither does gaming academia but that’s a whole other conversation!) We needed to change that.

So, we decided to create a fundraising live stream, where I would play two games created by BIPOC creators and studios and accept donations. Unfortunately, our first hurdle was simply finding games created by mostly BIPOC developers. Although a few gaming websites featured articles with games by Black creators, the lists were maddeningly small. This may reflect popular press’ ignorance of Black gaming communities, White players’ rejection of games made by or featuring Black main characters, or White investment firms rejecting Black companies that need support.

For the first two hours of the live stream, I played Chrono Ghost, a fantastic platformer by NITETIME Studios that focuses exclusively on slowing down and speeding up time. As friends chimed in to watch me play, Travis and the audience members (one of whom was previously a high school student of mine!) asked questions about why there are just so few BIPOC people in games and development teams. We talked about the wealth needed to even play video games, the overt and subvert racism at indie game jams, and just the overall exploitation of video game workers, particularly workers of color. For the last two hours of the stream I played Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan, a game produced by Cameroon-based Kiro’o Games. We chatted more about some of the issues BIPOC developers face, particularly when it came to finding funds and getting access to game software. And we ended up raising $680 for an ActBlue fund that distributed our donation to over 70 organizations fighting for equity and racial justice around the US.

I did one small thing. I chatted with a few people to learn more about how video gaming development, fandoms, and environments oppress BIPOC creators and players. My fundraising stream is the least I could do as a White person who’s relatively financially stable. And I’m not expecting applause or adoration for doing this work. Rather, I wanted to illuminate both how easy it is to support people leading the charge with Black Lives Matter and also to show how few commercial video games are made and lead by BIPOC.

I hope us at Serious Play can do similar things throughout the next year, because our reach and scope could help raise funds for many important groups. More importantly, we need to continue to advocate for anti-racist practices in our research, live streams, and roles as graduate students to make video game communities and academic institutions more equitable. Fundraising via live stream is just one way to do that! But as we go forward, it’s also important that our organization is another space on the college campus where we’re advocating for Black lives.

Racism, along with misogyny, homophobia, transphobia etc., are all part and parcel with video games. Games have been constructed as a White, cisgender, middle class, male medium. It’s not enough to be mute about racism as I was. We need to put our theory and our money towards antiracism.

For more information, check out this article on racism in video games.

Confronting racial bias in video games” by Eric Peckham’

Also check out Janelle Malagon’s previous blog post that features links to more important articles about racism in games. It’s fantastic.

David Kocik

2 Comments

  1. Great post, David! I’m really excited about the enthusiasm in our group around issues of race and Black folks in games. I, too, have been trying to think of how to use even this little platform we’ve built to amplify Black voices and creators, and I hope that an acclimation of these little small things, like choosing to stream a game by a Black creator, will make some bigger change in myself or the world around me. Instead of “micro-aggressions,” we can call them “micro-progressions”. It’s still not enough, but it’s what I can work on in the day-to-day.

    If you’re looking for scholarship on race and videogames, there’s very smart stuff being written all the time, but you’ll find more articles and chapters than monographs. I recommend Soraya Murray’s work specifically. Her book “On Video Games” may be a good place to start, but its more focused on whiteness as ideology in videogame (and real) spaces.

  2. Hey David, it was a lot of fun watching you play Chrono Ghost and this post was a fantastic read. You bring up how maddeningly small the lists of BIPOC game creators are, and I suppose I can relate. It seems, to me, that outlets serving as game curation tools rarely care to maintain a functional list of games that come from non-white sources. I recall recently that Nightmind (youtube ARG MatPat) posted that he wasn’t sure what BIPOC ARGs were out there despite reviewing several on his channel. The comments were filled with talk about how puppet masters shouldn’t reveal themselves, let alone their identities. It was disheartening.

    There’s quite obviously a conversation to be had with regard to content curation and minority voices. Perhaps we should be more aware of the development teams of the games we stream. Maybe we should, at some point, curate our own list? I don’t know. I’m just spit-balling. Thank you for the post and getting me to retread old, important, cognitive waters.

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