So there’s been a thing doing the rounds the past few days about a dude who had a job offer rescinded at 343 (current custodians of the Halo series of games) after he was caught being a terrible human on the internet.
As ever with videogames internet the story had a bit more depth than at first glance – rather than just being someone who made a few snarky remarks here and there, there seemed to be an unending supply of entirely awful behaviour from sexism to transphobia to lord only knows what else as I gave up pumping bad words into my face after a short while.
In summary, not very nice person gets caught being not very nice and pays the price. I have little in the way of sympathy for bigotry at the best of times so yeah, whatever. No love lost here.
What niggled about it was a number of people, when discussing this, reached for a couple of points that well, let me put it this way, they wouldn’t be the ones I’d reach for.
The biggest one was, upon seeing this charade unfold, asking people to be professional in their communications online if they wanted to work in the industry. The second (and related) point was to suggest that it is very easy to be professional in your dealings online so you know, remember that.
It is true that videogames is a relatively small industry and one where a lot of people know each other and that’s always worth remembering. It’s not just people gathering at conventions for a chat or what have you, job insecurity comes with the territory. Working in videogames can mean moving from studio to studio, working freelance for different companies and so much more. Even at an indie level, contract work amongst folk is pretty common.
People know each other. Word gets round fairly quickly in some quarters. If you’re a nob to someone in games, someone else will now. And look, I’ve been a nob, I know.
Just you know, being professional is something you’re paid to be. Asking everyone to always be professional in their online dealings is entirely unreasonable unless you’re paying them. Being professional is doing your job to the best of your ability, it’s making your business dealings fit with a companies ethos, it is turning up and doing your job then going home.
It is something you do at work. That, you know, is the point of being professional. The clue is in the name.
Being professional is amazingly incompatible a lot of the time with being a good person because the very core of a lot of our businesses (inside and outside games) are rotten and built on exploitation. A huge amount of very professional people hold terrible views, do harmful things, use positions of power to be terrible to other people. Yet they still remain professional.
If you want to make this place better for people, if you want to tackle a lot of the issues videogames (and elsewhere) has, you don’t ask for people to be more professional. You insist they not be terrible humans. You insist they don’t abuse people. You insist they don’t stalk people. You insist that they push for progress that makes this space better not worse.
Asking everyone you’re not paying to be professional is asking them to remain complicit in an often awful status quo. It is asking for the silence of people who are disproportionately hurt by our society and businesses in favour of towing the corporate line. It is playing the politics of politeness. It’s not just the terrible humans you ask to shush, it’s everyone.
Sure, folks might not think they’re asking for that but when you ask for people to be professional in their everyday dealings with every other human online ever, you’re asking to place the values of corporations over humans whether you mean to or not and no, no thank you. We must do better than this. It’s crucial we do.
The problem with this dude online wasn’t his level of professionalism in his dealings with people, it was being an awful tool to people. It was holding and promoting hateful views. It was being terrible. I don’t want this terribleness to slip by because people hide it behind a thin veneer of professionalism and politeness, I want the terrible gone. I want it to have no place here, not to thrive in private but be exposed in the occasional public slip up.
I want fewer people hurt.
And we’ll never get that whilst we put corporate values above people so you know, maybe consider not doing that.