Gaming’s Hidden Toxicity

What is Salt-Mining?

Gironi Cover Image

At the 2018 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Todd Howard, executive producer at Bethesda Game Studios, revealed to an ecstatic audience the new instalment of the popular videogame franchise Fallout, titled Fallout 76. Nothing much was new here regarding the game’s core principles: rather, what captured the attention of news outlets and gaming fans alike was the announcement that, unlike previous titles, Fallout 76 would only be playable online. Fans’ reactions were, to put it mildly, polarized: some enthusiastically welcomed the new direction of the franchise, while others expressed their concern that making Fallout 76 online-only would open the door to toxic player behaviour. Continue Reading

Book Review: The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games

Why Gaming Culture is the Worst

Paul Cover

Reviewing The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games presented a bit of a meta problem for me. Once I finished the introduction, a thought popped into my head and refused to leave. I had been asked to evaluate on its merits, including the skill of the author, a book that is about the toxicity of games that “valorize skill and technique” (back cover copy). One of the major points of the book is that meritocracy is a flawed concept. Identifying meritocracy as a system in which skill is measured and outcomes tracked, with a mixture of talent and hard work rewarded, the author states that “meritocracy isolates, individualizes, and strips out context” (13). Continue Reading

Room to Reflect

Video Games, Meritocracy, and Toxicity

Paul Cover

Content Notification: online harassment/abuse

When I wrote my new book, The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games: Why Gaming Culture Is the Worst, I knew that I would be poking at a soft spot and would get a response. The title alone is designed to provoke and the content within it encourages readers to consider a variety of issues related to game culture, meritocracy, and structural privilege. All of these things get a reaction from people, but the primary argument I want to advance in this essay is the need for all of us to reflect on game culture, game studies, and on how the choices we make reproduce the defensiveness that is so readily seen in discussions around video games. Continue Reading