This is an event that’s positively ancient by today’s social media cycle, but I am willing to be most of you have not heard of this particular controversy and it is a perfect illustration of something I’ve been seeing.
To summarize: Zoe Quinn decided to make a game about depression. Some assholes decided to protest it.
Of course, artistic criticism is always fine. I as a writer, Zoe as a creator of video games, and other people as screenplay writers, painters, poets and content creators of all kinds only get better when people are brutally honest. It can lead to some long nights worrying that you’re a hack, but it is worth it.
But I will quote one line that made my stomach curdle, and I apologize for the uncensored sexist language but it really has to be posted exactly as the misanthropic shithead who wrote it felt it should be:
“All females are sluts and have no right to be depressed. They can just go out onto the street, lie down with their hole open and have any man come and solve all their problems. But they would still be depressed because they’re all stupid whores”.
Now, I won’t comment on the rampant misogyny here. This is not an okay thing to say in public. It’s not an okay thing to say in private. It’s not an okay thing to say to a woman. It’s not an okay thing to say to your guy friends. It’s not an okay thing to think. If you don’t see why this thought is grotesque and evil, neither I nor anyone else can do anything for you. (Moreover, if quotes like this don’t make you think that maybe “feminazis” have a point or that maybe some men might think so little of women and their rights that they’d be willing to victimize them, I don’t know what statement possibly would).
But there’s a much deeper problem, and it’s one I’ve seen repeatedly as I’ve begun to increase the work I do with other people.
These people on this site, Wizardchan (which I admit I do not know much about as I avoid all these image hosting sites like the plague), were acting in the comments as if they had some kind of righteous crusade.
Their depression was their armor. And Heaven forbid someone else take it away.
I don’t know Ms. Quinn. From the things I’ve seen of her, it seems that she’s really passionate about what she does. I doubt that she spent the time making a game called Depression Quest when even as an indie developer she probably could have made more money and attracted less controversy by just making another innocuous pixel art game or some kind of roguelike.
But the only way that any kind of protest would even be remotely acceptable, even if it were expressed in a civilized fashion (and these would-be protesters demonstrated that they are children deserving a timeout, not adults worthy of respect and attention), would be if all of the following statements were true:
a) Ms. Quinn was insincere in her motivations to create the game
b) There was absolutely no redeeming merit to the game such that it would be worth it to be created, no matter her intentions
c) The game’s lack of merit could actually trivialize depression, making the problem worse instead of being benign
I have worked repeatedly, including in these last few weeks, with people who are in serious depression. Some of them become nasty and vicious. They say that they don’t care that anyone else is hurting, that they’re being selfish, that they want everyone else to die.
Sometimes they’re saying things like that to get your attention, or to provoke a reaction.
Sometimes they’re saying things like that to hurt you.
Sometimes they’re saying things like that to get you to go away. To create a self-fulfilling prophecy: “I’m worthless, no one likes me, therefore I will act in such a way that no one can ever get close so they can’t hurt me”.
Sometimes they’re saying things like that because in that moment of despair they actually truly believe it.
To those of you who suffer from pain, confusion, emptiness, sadness, and trauma, my heart goes out to you. I’ve made it my life’s work to try to find ways of being helpful.
But everyone has pain. Everyone has emotional content. Ms. Quinn’s game, even if it was made with dishonest intentions (which no one had any actual evidence to prove), could clearly help some people express their emotions and point to a vehicle to communicate to their friends and family what they felt. Instead of respecting what someone else did to get through their own pain, these misanthropic monsters created a circle of hate and sadness.
Your depression is not a shield. Your sadness is not a lifestyle. Your pain does not make you deep.
Embrace something real and share it with the world, or don’t talk. At least that way you won’t do any damage.