Edit: Tim may have apologised for this joke since this article was published. – http://attackongaming.com/gaming-talk/tim-schafer-apologises-for-remarks-about-gamergate-and-notyourshield/
If you’ve paid any attention to the video games industry at all since the early days you’ve probably heard of a gaming legend named Tim Schafer. Tim’s biggest achievements are from Adventure games from his Lucas Arts tenure such as Day of the Tentacle and The Secret of Monkey Island. Since then he has gone on to work for his own studio Double Fine where they produce video games that go extremely over-budget and promise things that aren’t delivered or are changed at the last minute.
Finding time away from developing games, Tim has recently attended the Game Developers Conference over in the U.S.A where he was given a chance to chat on stage as himself and controlling a literal sockpuppet. While this would be all well and good under normal conditions, right now there is a bit of a cultural backlash against abusive behaviour and blatant corruption in the gaming industry. Some of you readers will have heard about it as something called #GamerGate, and whether or not it’s a hate group, or a legitimate push isn’t the point of this article. Instead we’ll be looking at the #NotYourShield hashtag, which is filled with ‘minorities’ (we hate this term, what is a minority? I mean, in Africa, is an African a minority? What about in China? Is a Chinese person a minority?), minorities that are fed up with game journalists and game developers pretending that they don’t exist and/or using them as a shield to deflect valid criticisms by labeling all gamers as white basement dwellers. And ‘minorities’ are clearly not white at the very least.
In Tim’s speech he makes a quip about how developing art in games is a much harder job now than it was a long time ago. He accurately states that making art assets now is much harder and takes more people to do than it did in the past. After that though, his sockpuppet jumps in. Now this sock-puppet itself is a pretty sore point from the get-go, considering that #NotYourShield posters have consistently had their ‘minority’ status questioned and it’s even been suggested more than once that #NYS supporters are #GG sock-puppets themselves. The below are a small few examples, but there a hundreds more out there.
Anyway, moving past the first offence, the next is a joke about how many GamerGators (used stylised spelling here as this is how the industry refers to them) it would take to screw in a light bulb or design a character or something. Being as big as #GG is, it would be expected that some jokes would be made at the hashtags expense during a big conference. However, the sock-puppet then went on to say (paraphrasing): that it would take 42 gators to do it and two more to tweet #NotYourShield.
This is massively offensive on so many levels. The first is the obvious one where a ‘minority’ is placed in a subservient role to their supposed ‘white’ masters. We can gather this from the history of #GamerGate where industry members have created an image of #GG supporters being white basement dwelling men. So then, the number of GG users, ’42’, outnumber the NYS users and also have their opinions spread out before them. This creates an image of a white male oppressor subjugating minorities for their own gains. Now this wouldn’t be as offensive (but still offensive) as it is, but the gaming industry and journalists have repeatedly denied that NYS are legitimate, and Schafer continues this line of ignorance.
Even more, an image of #NYS members not having their own wills is established in the joke. Once again, the fact that it is implied that NYS posters wait for a GG poster to do something of note and then latch onto that is incredibly terrible. The implication is that the ‘minorities’ of NYS are only as important when they are serving their GG overlords, and have no agency of their own. I can’t envision anyone that would honestly believe that a human being could not have agency of their own, but somehow Schafer does exactly that. He envisions a supposed minority that exists only to bow down to an oppressive force.
I’m sure that many other arguments could be made as to why this joke was not only offensive, but way off the mark as to the reality of the situation, but I will stop at these two because I’m incredibly tempted to write the rest of this article in CAPS LOCK just to emphasise how angry I am that a person I once looked up to is nothing more than an intolerant (or uneducated) ass that would throw his customers under a bus to get a laugh at a conference being watched at home by thousands of gamers. I sincerely hope that Tim apologises profusely for his statements, but I really doubt that will happen.
Below is a clip of the joke:
Just for good measure, here are a couple of reactionary tweets based on Tim’s comments.
So devs now make jokes on stage about us minority gamers, okay… keep proving us right.
— Main Event TV (@MainEventTV_AKA) March 5, 2015
— Silence (@fortunatelyacat) March 5, 2015
— Neffie Phoenix (@pocahontasphnx) March 5, 2015
— Experiment #626 (@Stitch_GG) March 5, 2015
— Alan Sobriquet (@oshiboribocchan) March 5, 2015
— Bridge Sockpuppet (@gameragodzilla) March 5, 2015