here is a collection of random shit
‘Give The Mule What He Wants’ by Queens of the Stone Age
underwater one day / gonna sink it / make ‘em think it’s too late / for your love
‘Hotel California’ by Eagles
they stab it with their steely knives / but they just can’t kill the beast
‘Capital G’ by Nine Inch Nails
I used to stand for something / Forgot what that could be / There’s a lot of me inside you / Maybe you’re afraid to see
It’s embarrassing to even admit I feel like this towards anything, especially something so seemingly frivolous. If I like something it has to be silly and shameful, and should never be shared with others, but paragraphs keep popping into my head and I need to put them down somewhere.
One line of thinking I’ve encountered over the past two days of spirited discussion about Giant Bomb’s long-anticipated hiring of Dan Ryckert and Jason Oestreicher, both of whom seem like quality people* and contributors, is that those of us voicing our disappointment and immense frustration are coming “from outside the site.” The implication seems to be that we view Giant Bomb as a fun target of our feminazi ire and have no idea what it’s about or who we hurt by levying such terrible accusations and denouncements. While that’s both irrelevant and disproven with the quickest glance at who is critiquing or otherwise not happy about the decision — many of whom have appeared on the site multiple times and have professional relationships with the staff — it also gets under my skin because my own visceral response stems from the polar opposite of detachment.
If anything, I’m far too invested in a website where people riff on video games and talk about terrible food for hours at a time. I’m a contented subscriber with a day one registration date and altered my sleep schedule to purchase a signed poster. I make videos that attempt to convey the joy and absurdity of their shows. That’s why this particular example of the same ol’ shit happening again stings so much. It feels personal.
I take no glee in being one of many voices expressing my disappointment and frustration. Even discussing this with a close friend last night was anxiety-inducing enough that my teeth started chattering. This is not a fun topic. It’s draining, it’s sad, and it’s inherently confrontational.
Another crucial factor is that this is happening at a time when many marginalized people are offering valuable observations and discussing the awful experiences and living situations they face in an industry that generally ignores or actively resists their presence. Less than a month ago, Patrick Klepek acknowledged the extreme gender and racial imbalance of Giant Bomb’s E3 panels.
The staff there is made up of Very Decent folks, in general. They’re funny and quick-witted and often quite thoughtful. They open up about themselves on a regular basis and spend hours every week directly addressing an audience. These sometimes intimate interactions make people feel connected to them. I never expected to feel such an array of emotions about a game website or the people working on it when I first listened to the Arrow Pointing Down podcasts six years ago, but I do.
This time last year an awful tragedy spurred me to think about how much has happened since 2008. My life is completely different than it was or what I’d have expected of it, but when I think about Ryan and Jeff’s adventures with ever more bizarre energy drinks I’m back in my old neighborhood a thousand miles away. I’m on an early morning walk after being up for 18 hours, ensconced in near-total silence aside from cheeping birds, the odd yappy dog, and the whimsical musings of what became the Giant Bombcast.
In the intervening years, Quick Looks and Unprofessional Fridays and holiday streams have been the backdrop to a lot of memories. Many people express how much the site has affected them during difficult times. It has emerged as a unique and valuable space for a lot of us, and their missteps hurt.
A lot of people know how important it would be for this shining beacon of not-awfulness, this God Damn Institution of games media, to employ people who don’t fit the preconceived notion of “games journalist” or whatever the fuck it’s called these days. This has sparked so much discussion because a lot of us do trust the intentions of Jeff Gerstmann and the rest of the staff and want the site to improve.
That’s why it’s so important that these conversations happen now. Ignorance or unwillingness to address these issues leads to exchanges like this. The selection of established people who happen to be white men (a demographic filling most of the existing jobs in the industry) isn’t shocking at all, because that’s exactly how systemic biases continue to exist and reinforce themselves without even being noticed. It’s not an act of malice for a white man to give a job to two other white men in an industry bursting at the seams with white men, but it contributes to the problem all the same.
This was allegedly anyone’s position to apply for. The language used to describe the job opening felt more genuine than the vast majority of job postings. A lot of talented, smart, funny people possessing valuable experiences and viewpoints and impressive track records expressed interest in joining Giant Bomb to make it a better place with their presence.
Now a lot of people are upset because those potential contributions were declined in lieu of a well-connected industry veteran who fits the same general profile everyone else on the site fits. The same people praised by Giant Bomb staffers are being insulted and told that their qualifications don’t measure up to the Objectively Superior™ ones that a particular white man held. I get why these excuses are invoked: it’s hard to acknowledge how arbitrary and unfair the ~real world~ is, especially if you’ve never had to confront the oft-ignored problems faced by others.
Continually bearing the brunt of that unfairness makes it crystal clear, though. It’s downright insulting to hear, “it’s getting better, this stuff just takes a while” for the nth time and one lazy rationalization after another when trying to discuss how to move forward. It’s especially obnoxious to hear that while being talked down to like a child.
Hiring decisions aren’t the result of a rigorously scientific selection process. Flawed, emotional, complicated human beings make those decisions with the extremely limited time and information available to them. It’s possible to understand those limitations while criticizing the decisions that are reached under the circumstances.
This outcry and others like it are a plea to those who have the ability to alter the makeup of a stagnant industry. There are decent people who have the opportunity to refute, rather than perpetuate, the preconceptions that have deprived us all of better content and coverage. Most importantly, though, the failings of the status quo have deprived producers of excellent stories, videos, and podcasts of chances to be heard or steadily employed.
Most organizations and individuals in a position to change things for the better, including Giant Bomb, say they want things to change. They’ve said it for a long time. I genuinely believe they want it, but this bitter taste won’t go away until they take action to show they consider it a priority instead of a convenient platitude.
So: do better. Please? I want to like you as much as I always have. I want the world to suck a little less.
*Apologies to Phil Kollar for implying that Dan Ryckert is anything but the dirt beneath your feet. Please don’t hate me, I was just trying to be civil.