By Matt Gerardi
Welcome back to The Roundup, the New York Videogame Critics Circle’s weekly look at our members’ writing and news from around the world of videogames. With protests against racial injustice and police brutality emerging around the world, there are obviously more important things to be discussing and supporting at this time than videogames. Please, even if you aren’t protesting, take the time to donate to relevant causes, to support petitions and campaigns, and to educate yourself about why these protests are happening, why Black Americans have spent centuries in pain and fear, why systematic racism persists, and what you can do to be a better ally and anti-racist. Thank you.
With this week’s installment of The Roundup, in addition to our usual selection of stories published by our Circle writers, we’d like to focus our Beyond section exclusively on stories about the experiences of Black members of the games press and our gaming community, as well as those inspecting how the industry has reacted to the protests.
With the meaning and importance of her promotion to editor-in-chief of Laptop Mag finally sunk in, Sherri Smith took this moment to publish a passionate letter about her vision for the site and its staff. The statement is brimming with all the charm and enthusiasm we all know emanates from Sherri, but most importantly, it reflects her heart, too, as she outlines her dedication to diversity and outreach while the site evolves and grows.
Like most industries over the last week, game publishers have been using their social media accounts to spread statements in support of the nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice (more on those statements later). Daniel Howley reported on how those efforts for solidarity have included delaying major announcements and content releases. Most notably, Sony postponed what would have been its biggest PlayStation 5 showcase yet, while EA called off news about the next Madden and Activision delayed the release of its latest Call of Duty update.
With everything going on, it’s actually become kind of easy to forget we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. Many states, municipalities, and businesses are starting to reopen, and while we’re getting the first rumblings of how professional sports might return, there’s no telling when they’ll be back in earnest. Samit Sarkar wrote about how he’s coming to terms with the fact that sports videogames will have to fill the void in his life that a summer without baseball is going to create. It’s not a replacement, he admits, “But in the midst of a crisis, you take what you can get.”
We featured pair of great articles from our students this week on the Circle site. First up was senior intern Kimari Rennis, who wrote about her time playing Treachery in Beatdown City. She’d been looking forward to it ever since designer Shawn Alexander Allen debuted its killer trailer at the New York Game Awards in 2019. Clearly, the final product didn’t disappoint. Kimari described it as the best game she’s every played, thanks to its humor, its social commentary, and its confidence in its identity. “But when I play Treachery in Beatdown City and I face a cop who proudly admits to getting famous on TV in a bad way for abusing innocent protestors, I don’t have to be afraid,” she says. “At that moment in time, I and the character that I am playing are one.”
Also this week, Danny Castillo, one of our Bronx high-school students, published his first article on the Circle site. Danny watched the NYU Game Center’s 2020 Showcase, which took place live on Twitch this year due to social distancing measures and, as usual, featured the thesis projects of graduating BFA and MFA candidates. For the site, he put together a list of his five favorite games from the presentation and his thoughts on each. He had some especially beautiful insights about Hot Pot For One, noting it “seems so familiar because it’s about the way immigrants have to live in New York City. All of the traditional stickers on the refrigerator door and keeping as many traditional things as possible in the small apartment reminds us of our native country.”
From Beyond The Circle
As mentioned earlier, gaming companies have been among the many corporations pushing out statements in support of the widespread international protests. But as Gita Jackson wrote in an article for Vice, those statements are often too little, too late. They might decry racism (as if that’s a bold stance to take), but they make no effort to mention Black people or anti-Black racism. They might mention donating to charities, but they won’t say which organizations or how much money. And they certainly don’t own up to the fact that representation and racist toxicity have been problems the industry has failed to properly address for years and years. “I am happy to see and hear the solidarity,” Gita wrote. “But the games industry has to clean its own house too, and admit that it is part of the problem.”
Kotaku’s Ethan Gach attempted to follow-up with gaming companies regarding these messages and what kind of specific actions they are taking to address institutional racism. Some have offered further public clarifications, but hardly any of the major companies he reached out to have responded and fleshed out their statements with specifics.
Also at Kotaku, staff writer Ash Parrish wrote a post about what it’s been like for her as a Black writer over the last week, living with, as she puts it, “the conditioning all Black writers suffer from—the impulse that tells them they must speak during moments like these.” She talks about her struggle to grapple with that impulse, and her realization that it’s okay to let it go and just focus on the people and things that bring her joy in life. “Because I’m Black and Tired. And, right now, that’s all I want to do—it’s all I can do,” she said.
Kahlief Adams and the Spawn on Me Podcast have been doing fantastic work for years, providing a much needed voice in the very crowded, very white world of gaming podcasting and acting as a platform for highlighting people of color in the gaming industry and gaming culture. The show’s most recent episode is essential listening. Adams assembled a crew of Black content creators to talk about their reactions to George Floyd’s murder, the American Black experience, what it’s like to be Black in gaming, and how the games industry has and continues to fail its Black community members and creators.
That’ll do it for this week’s Roundup. Thank you for reading. Stay safe. Stay vigilant. Seek out and support diverse voices. We’ll see you next week.
Matt Gerardi is a writer from New York, the former games editor at The A.V. Club, and a member of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.