Over the last week, dozens of devel­op­ers, jour­nal­ists, and stream­ers have come for­ward on Twit­ter with alle­ga­tions of abuse they’ve endured as part of the video game indus­try. Their sto­ries span sev­er­al high-pro­file com­pa­nies and include fig­ures in pow­er­ful posi­tions. While the sheer num­ber of peo­ple speak­ing up at once is remark­able — and con­cur­rent with sim­i­lar waves of #MeToo alle­ga­tions in the worlds of com­e­dy, pro-wrestling, and com­ic books — it’s not new. This is an impor­tant moment of reck­on­ing; it’s also one that seems to replay in the video game indus­try and oth­ers every few months. Now that gam­ing has had what many call its “#MeToo moment” sev­er­al times over, we know what to expect. Each new sto­ry — if acknowl­edged at all — is met with the same weak promis­es and lit­tle mate­r­i­al change.

It’s true that some indi­vid­u­als accused of harass­ment or assault have expe­ri­enced con­se­quences. But remov­ing per­pe­tra­tors one by one after they have caused harm nei­ther undoes that harm nor pre­vents its wider spread in the future. Indi­vid­u­als cre­ate their own behav­ior, yet they are not the only ones respon­si­ble for it. Only a sys­tem that enables abuse can allow so many offend­ers to flour­ish across the indus­try. The only way to solve this prob­lem is for the peo­ple in charge to admit the truth: that they have failed to pro­tect their col­leagues by instead pro­tect­ing abusers and cre­at­ing tox­ic work­places. And so many of the video games on the mar­ket have an unseen fea­ture in the trau­ma of those who made them.

They have failed to pro­tect their col­leagues by instead pro­tect­ing abusers

For years, women, non­bi­na­ry peo­ple, and oth­er vic­tims of harass­ment have turned to whis­per net­works to seek sup­port and keep each oth­er safe. The rise of the #MeToo move­ment on plat­forms like Twit­ter have helped ampli­fy those sto­ries, giv­ing new pow­er to those pre­vi­ous­ly forced into backchan­nels or silenced com­plete­ly. It is, and has always been, an imper­fect solu­tion. Vic­tims who speak up do so at a huge per­son­al cost. Loud vic­tims have his­tor­i­cal­ly faced black­list­ing or retal­i­a­tion after speak­ing up, and the game indus­try is no dif­fer­ent. Com­ing for­ward online also means waves of harass­ment from fan bases and even threats of legal action from the accused. It is ugly, cru­el work that places a heinous bur­den on indi­vid­u­als to stop preda­tors, rather than the insti­tu­tions that armed them. A vic­tim hav­ing no oth­er option but to come for­ward on Twit­ter, a plat­form that can’t even keep its own employ­ees safe from harass­ment, is not just trag­ic. It’s a fail­ure of the sys­tems cur­rent­ly in place that claim to keep peo­ple safe.

Con­sid­er that it took a tidal wave of more alle­ga­tions made against more than 60 Twitch stream­ers for the plat­form to begin per­ma­nent­ly ban­ning those in ques­tion. At Ubisoft, rot formed at the top. Alle­ga­tions made against sev­er­al Ubisoft employ­ees, includ­ing vice pres­i­dents Tom­my François and Maxime Béland and Assassin’s Creed Val­hal­la cre­ative direc­tor Ashraf Ismail, prompt­ed a fee­ble pledge from the com­pa­ny to “do bet­ter.” That includes launch­ing inves­ti­ga­tions into the alle­ga­tions as well as now “audit­ing our exist­ing poli­cies, process­es, and sys­tems to under­stand where these have bro­ken down, and to ensure we can bet­ter pre­vent, detect, and pun­ish inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior.” After mul­ti­ple women came for­ward with sto­ries of sex­u­al mis­con­duct and harass­ment about pro­lif­ic games writer Chris Avel­lone, Dying Light 2 devel­op­er Tech­land told Kotaku that “togeth­er with Chris Avel­lone, we’ve decid­ed to end our coop­er­a­tion.” Busi­ness Insid­er reports that EA has also cut ties with Avel­lone on Star Wars Jedi: Fall­en Order.

On Twit­ter, vic­tims con­tin­ue to speak out about their expe­ri­ences; count­less more sto­ries have yet to be told. For each per­son made vis­i­ble for bad behav­ior, they are only the tip of an ice­berg sail­ing through the indus­try. The work is far from done. This is not a moment that will pass. It is a long-estab­lished real­i­ty of game indus­try cul­ture, one that can­not be solved by pluck­ing out a few harm­ful fig­ures every few months. Out­ing a sin­gle preda­tor may, in an ide­al out­come, remove that one per­son. It does not pre­vent a new one from pop­ping up in their place.

Hand-wring­ing has no place in this con­ver­sa­tion

The task before the indus­try is one it’s need­ed to tack­le for years: reform­ing its cul­ture on a mas­sive scale. Those who work with­in games are already plagued by tox­ic work prac­tices and harass­ment from overzeal­ous fans. As more dan­ger­ous men are out­ed, it is impos­si­ble to ignore how many held pow­er­ful posi­tions with­in games. If com­pa­nies want to fix their prob­lems with sex­u­al mis­con­duct, harass­ment, and assault, they have to exam­ine their rela­tion­ship to alco­hol-dri­ven events, in-house poli­cies for report­ing, and the struc­ture of their teams. It’s easy to dis­avow a sin­gle per­son and hard­er to iden­ti­fy the points of fail­ure that allowed them to rise in the first place. This requires stu­dios across the indus­try — not just those exposed in each new round of alle­ga­tions — to get their hous­es in order.

Com­pa­nies have an eth­i­cal oblig­a­tion to their employ­ees to pro­vide safe work envi­ron­ments. One person’s bad behav­ior does not only affect those they vic­tim­ize; it is a source of sec­ondary trau­ma for col­leagues. Left unchecked, it is a poi­son that spreads to any­one attached to the cul­prit. As the cur­rent cul­ture of harass­ment stands, it asks indi­vid­u­als to do the work. Account­abil­i­ty must be a com­mit­ment from the com­mu­ni­ty, but espe­cial­ly men who want to claim ally­ship. It’s true that women can be abusers, and men can be abused; yet the game indus­try, in par­tic­u­lar, has demon­strat­ed an over­whelm­ing­ly male-dri­ven pat­tern of harm. Men must hold their male col­leagues account­able, both at work and out­side of it. Hand-wring­ing has no place in this con­ver­sa­tion.

As alle­ga­tions sur­face, it’s okay to mourn. It’s nor­mal to feel shock, anger, and grief. But those feel­ings can­not be a stop­ping point. They are the begin­ning of a long, hard con­ver­sa­tion about abuse and how even the best-mean­ing peo­ple can be com­plic­it. The game indus­try can no longer say it didn’t know, or its more tire­some coun­ter­part, that it isn’t sur­prised. Com­pa­nies and indi­vid­u­als can’t floun­der in their shock and guilt or con­tin­ue to be selec­tive about what qual­i­fies for cor­rec­tion. Good prod­ucts require healthy com­pa­nies. Abuse is everyone’s prob­lem.

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