I actually didn't know the young woman in question. I recognised her face when news of her death was posted but I can't recall ever speaking to her on Twitter. The reason her death affected me was because of something a friend of mine said about her: "She told me, nearly a year ago, she didn't feel that her voice was important". One of the reasons I wish I'd spoken to her was because in the past, I've felt the exact same way.
The thing is, whatever you're committed to fighting for -- gender equality in video games, ethics in games journalism or more mainstream stuff like combating intrusive DRM in games -- it can feel like you have a ton of great points to make but they rarely, if ever, receive the recognition or awareness you want. That sounds selfish or egotistical but everyone wants to feel like their opinion connects with someone. For example, I've no doubt that every single person reading this can formulate a perfect rebuttal to Anita Sarkeesian's Tropes Vs Women in Games videos. There are many, many videos on Youtube doing just that but some of the most well thought-out arguments end up falling to the bottom of the pile and don't often get noticed as much as they should.
I probably don't know how lucky I am; this blog doesn't set the world on fire or anything but I have a very friendly audience and a few people on Reddit who are kind enough to "signal boost" a lot of the things I write, especially the last few posts. I appreciate it a lot. Some posts have even been linked to by writers more high-profile than me, who I respect a lot. However, it still often feels like no matter what I say -- or anyone says -- about the subject of gender issues in gaming, it doesn't make a dent in the flawed "gaming is anti-woman" narrative. That can make you feel like your voice and opinion is unimportant.
It's a little more complicated than that. I don't update this blog very often anymore and there are a variety of reasons:
- Other priorities
- The narrative pushed by mainstream gaming sites remaining unchanged
- Waning interest in gender issues in gaming
- Better/more high-profile writers than me covering the same subject
The many articles of Adrian Chmielarz on Medium are some of the standout articles that I may not have seen without being on Twitter. Liana Kerzner's five-part series "Why Feminist Frequency almost made me quit writing about video games" is another bright spot. Whether other people are more eloquent, have a platform seen more people or simply have an interesting twist on their argument that I don't, I find myself more tempted to direct people to their points rather than write my own nowadays.
So, with all of this in mind, why is YOUR voice important?
I've heard it mentioned a few times that movements aren't made up solely of leading figures but of many smaller voices. I always thought that sounded a bit like a cop out but it's true; with a bunch of supporters making the same argument, gamers have made a movement out of what would otherwise be a few dissenting opinions on various websites. Without the "smaller" voices, the videos and opinion pieces by more prominent figures would be easy to dismiss. With them, on the other hand, it makes it harder for game journalists to do and remain credible. Instead, it exposes them as being agenda-driven rather than reporting on issues objectively.
The reason that seems like a bit of a cop out is because you still won't receive the same acknowledgement as a lot of people making the same argument and still feel like the things you say aren't being read. Plus, if you're anything like me, you don't have any intention of making videos and you don't live anywhere close enough to attend a meetup with other like-minded people. Hell, you may not like social media or may not want to go through the effort of writing an article/filming and editing a video. However, these things don't mean that your voice isn't important or isn't being heard.
You don't know who your words affect. There are tons of people who lurk on forums without posting or browse Twitter without having an account. Who's to say that one of those people won't see your intelligent, well thought-out point and use it in their own article or video? Although I can't recall any specific occasions -- I tend to give credit for good points I've heard people made -- I'd be very surprised if it turned out I hadn't done that at least once. And I know it's definitely happened to me, with both Adrian Chmielarz, mentioned above, and Milo Yiannopoulos (in the line "leveraging a tragedy to her own political benefit").
Plus, think about this; what's the big deal about popularity anyway? There are hugely popular sites like Buzzfeed, Polygon, a bunch of Gawker sites and more that have only achieved popularity through clickbait. So many of their articles and videos offer nothing of any substance but hey, they're popular! On the other hand, there are independent news sites, blogs and gaming media sites all over the internet that offer objectivity, intelligence and substance in ways that popular sites based on clickbait can't even comprehend. If you feel like your voice isn't being heard, take solace in the fact that you're still speaking out. You are like an independent news site. You have credibility and moral fibre for expressing your opinions when you aren't even sure if anyone will ever read them.
If you want a tip for making your voice heard, here's a practical piece of advice: post on Reddit, not Twitter. Twitter is like everyone shouting over a crowd of other shouting people, trying to get noticed. Reddit, and other more conventional forums, are closer to a discussion.
Finally, don't give up. You'll never know who you could reach or what impact you could have if you give up. Your opinions are valued more than you know. Even as someone who is normally pretty cynical when it comes to people who try to be motivational, I believe that. You never know when your opinion will be the one people take notice of, rally around and support/defend, whether it's as an article or in the comments section of an article.
And I don't normally say this but I feel compelled to, given what I've been writing about; thank you for reading.