Over the years I’ve considered a dozen possibilities for what to write here. I knew that whatever I chose, I wanted it to represent the parts of the gaming community that I love the most.
Gaming has been an enormous part of my life for a long time. Playing World of Warcraft and helping create and run guilds is my favorite hobby. I helped create a community that has spanned multiple MMOs and games and is going six years strong now. Our current home is WoW Classic.
My guild has always taken a hard line against keeping real-world politics out of the game. It’s a policy that I probably made up myself, years ago, to avoid those uncomfortable and often alienating conversations among my friends. So no one was more surprised than me when I found myself breaking my own rules: Among the council that runs my guild, I unilaterally made a decision to address the racial inequity that we can no longer avoid.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t received well – initially. Some of my guildmates argued that it was too political, that it broke our rules. I understood that argument, even if I found it willfully off-base. I defended my point initially, saying that I believe this particular issue transcended politics. I argued that there were people of color in our guild who deserved to hear that we are behind them.
I admit there was a part of me that wanted to back down. I wanted to accept that this wasn’t the place and avoid the conflict, to stay comfortable with my friends. That is not a part of me that I’m proud to show, but I have to be honest that it’s there because I can’t move forward unless I examine it.
But I made a choice. I asked myself if I really wanted to be better. Did I actually want to make a difference, or did I want to look like I was making a difference? They are not mutually inclusive concepts.
The short version of the rest of this story is that I chose to leave rather than stand down. I chose to leave the guild I founded and the people I loved. I told my leadership privately that if this was not a space that was open to recognizing the humanity of our players even if we only know them by their avatars, then it wasn’t my home anymore.
I am exceptionally lucky that once the issue hit the light of the rest of the leadership team, it gained significantly more traction. I am lucky that I didn’t have to stand alone. The rest of my friends helped me fight for the right to take a stand in our tiny corner of the internet.
The fight won’t be as easy elsewhere.
I’m not writing this for self-congratulatory back pats. I’m keeping my own name and my guild’s name out of this story for the express purpose of making sure the focus stays where it needs to.
We, as humans and citizens of the U.S., have spent a truly embarrassingly long time saying “not here” when confronted with race issues. We carve out these spaces and say that they’re “not appropriate” for politics. We lump anything that makes us uncomfortable into that “political” bucket so we can avoid it.
So after years of wondering what to write, I realized last night that this is the only thing I want to write. This is the only message I have right now that I think is worth reading. We need to stop saying “not here.” We need to face the discrimination and systemic mistreatment of our fellow humans of color. We need to have these tough conversations and use these spaces to encourage change.
The answer is really simple. I’m a small person. I’m a normal person. I don’t have a platform or a voice anywhere. I have a small circle of friends in “real” life, and most of them already think the way I do. But I have influence in one tiny corner of Azeroth and the internet. I made a name for myself there, and only there do I have voice that is louder than others. This small space is where I can make the biggest impact.
And I believe it is an impact. I believe that my small victory is just a tiny symbol of bigger victories happening everywhere. They’re happening because people like us are using our privilege and our platforms, however small they are, to speak up. We are long past the time when all of our jobs are to grab a bullhorn and make a good show at a protest, though I don’t undervalue the folks who are out doing that – Godspeed. For most of us, our biggest job is to have these conversations in uncomfortable spaces and force each other to face and accept what impact we’re having on the movement. We are at a point in our collective experience that silence is complicit.
What I’ve heard from my friends of color is that they do not need or want us to come to them and say “I’m an ally” and expect that to be meaningful. What they need is for us to turn to our peers and challenge them to show up.