We Own Our Art #GDC15

Nathan Vella, host of the 2015 Independent Games Festival, closed out the awards show with a plea to the better side of everyone:

This past year has exposed a lot of hatred and some significant unpleasantness in our industry. As of tonight, there continues to be women, people of color, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer artists who are being trolled, and spammed, and threatened, and doxxed, and hacked, and even driven from their homes.

It’s no longer possible for those of us in this room to ignore or minimize these issues with our industry or these issues with our art.

I know you all believe it. I know you do.

Pause for applause.

But just as this year has exposed all that ugliness, it’s also exposed a new generation of creators and activists who are fighting for video games and video game culture. They’re fighting for us, the independent games community.

I really don’t think they want our gratitude at all. I think they need our support.

I think they need us to work together as a community to show people a new way to engage with each other and play.

So let’s all fight back against this hate the best way we know how: through our games, and through our teams, and through our collaborations.

Let’s make sure our games aren’t embodying any stereotypes or caricatures.

Let’s make sure as a community we are supportive of one another, and we are as welcoming as possible to any and all new voices.

To me, this really gets to the core of what it’s about to be an independent developer.

We don’t have any stock prices to fret over. We don’t have any entrenched political dogmas.

We own our art.

This gives us a real opportunity to be the change that we all want to see in this industry.

And I think that we can change, for the better, together.

We own our art.

Four small words that lay down a huge challenge.

While a number of people think that games are just for fun or for kids or shouldn’t be subject to grown-up criticism, games are important.

They have meaning imbued in them by their designers. The mechanics and aesthetics are communicating something about the world, and since games are interactive, it means the player is not only learning how to play the game but also to interact with the greater world.

While I don’t believe playing violent video games turns innocent children into killers, I do think that if the only interaction they are exposed to is “attack”, then it shouldn’t be surprising that people grow up to have trouble resolving conflicts.

Instead of figuring out how to create solutions to arguments or disagreements, people learn that destroying the opposition is the way to get results.

All that said, violent shooters or games played “just for fun” aren’t bad games. They are thankfully just one facet of the entirety of games, and having a healthy, diverse set of experiences allows for more well-rounded play, which should translate into more well-rounded players.

Now, I’m not saying I think games will bring love and kindness to everyone.

But knowing that there is a game about people who aren’t like me, and learning about the creators who aren’t like me, means I have a chance at learning about them as more than a stereotype, so when I meet people in real life I’m more likely to treat them as human beings worthy of dignity.

We own our art. What we create is our uncompromised vision of what we want to bring out to the world for others to experience.

What kind of vision of the world are you delivering to your players?