Goodbye, America

I’m writing this from an Airbnb on my new laptop in the new country that I moved to. I’m a European gamedev now. I finally put America behind me!

I have a lot of thoughts and feelings that I wanted to encapsulate at some point, about having lived there for seventeen or so years. How I feel about it. Will I miss it? Can I miss it?
I’m not sure if I will, or if I have the energy, to talk about all that… at least to the extent that I would like.
Bouncing around Airbnb’s, while renovations are being done on your new home, without a computer to work on, and access to Netflix (after not having that for years) has been… introspective?
Jet lag sure is a wild ride!

(All things cynically speaking…)

I was watching this Netflix documentary about Swatters. It was the typical sensationalism that you would expect out of it. Over-platforming the person responsible for causing awful things to happen to people, while solemnly giving platform to those affected… While giving you, the viewer, all the gory details to satiate that morbid curiosity.
All I could think about while watching is that I am so relieved to be out of there. I’m out of the US! Out of reach. Being Swatted, or some form of revenge extended on me, was on the back of my mind for a long time. I sure got regular threats to make me worry.

A long time ago, before starting on BlueSuburbia, I wrote that I don’t feel safe in my own home. That’s where all the (digital, online harassment) things were done to me, even if just virtually, it happened in that space. It has a weird way of distorting your sense of safety.
You are in a home, in a metaphysical way all the bad things happening are just some theoretic construct of a digital realm that doesn’t really exist but… still caries so much real world weight. Too much weight if I’m being honest!

Offline, I would often talk about how America creates narcissists. It’s just part of being a good American. An encouraged and fostered part of the American experience: to stop caring about others, to see those down on their luck as “less than” (there’s something wrong with them that a bad thing would have happened to them. What a loser!), and to see others as opportunities (not people, consciously or not, everyone is chess pieces to the next big thing in life)…
It kind of is reflected in online (American) social justice too. (Yes, here I go.)
Where the dynamic turns into persecution Olympics, rather than mutual camaraderie, because the commoditization of identity is so strongly part of that picture in a way where personal identity, marginalization, and disadvantages, become a weird type of status symbol or competitiveness. Trying to make things better, or fight for a better world, would rob one of that marginalization, so tread carefully! Especially when the discourse becomes, I am more “marginalized than you” my suffering trumps yours, and I win this online argument… Or, even darker: Because I am more marginalized than the person I am attacking and siccing my followers on, I am justified in doing so. Criticism of my actions, or even to ask for accountability, is a form of oppression.

It’s all such a discourse game in the end where it’s hard to take anything serious anymore. Can I reblog the snarky social justice post or should I assume that it’s a vague post attacking someone else that’s marginalized?

I was taking a walk yesterday, looking at the people here, and asking myself in what context would they dogpile on me for stupid things… Honestly I couldn’t think of any reason. They have a life.

America rewards that type of opportunism because it’s all a personal brand, some ends to a means, some righteous posturing that will serve some kind of personal brand’s image.

Every few months I get a wave of online harassment calling me a liar for speaking out about my sexual assault. This mostly comes from the alt-right although the left often gets involved too in painting me either unhinged, too traumatized to remember right, too traumatized to take serious, etc…
These attacks often coincide with if a new game from a franchise that he did composing for gets some press. People ask why he won’t do music for it. Other’s speculate that it’s because he’s been canceled. Ironically enough these are games that he announced he would no longer be involved in, LONG BEFORE I came forward.

Whenever I read one of these conversations it strikes me how indifferent people are to the harm that was caused. Like it’s all just mental gymnastics to protect the sanctity of their entertainment.

That line: protect the sanctity of their entertainment, is exactly what I think encapsulates American (consumer) culture.

The fact that a predator got outed, and it will likely lead to a safer working environment long term if said predator is no longer part of a space… in no way maters.
The looming question is always “Ok, but will this impact the game?” Like the right to consume something is so much more important than the safety, agency, lives… of the people affected by said dynamic.
It would be easy to blame “gamer culture” and “gamergate” and call it a day, but the issue is so much deeper than some online hate mob with a name that you can conveniently blame all problems on.

* I’m including a link to the above because it’s proof of what I occasionally get. Scroll through the countless replies ridiculing me. On the other end of the spectrum I get told that I should not platform these people by showing this… Then I can’t help to think that maybe these are all just arguments to get me to shut up so nobody has to think about how this stuff happens. You know, if the bad thing happens to you, then just quietly and politely suffer through it otherwise *mental gymnastics*…

Before I left I hung out with the other person that was a source on that Kotaku article that mishandled our story…
It’s hard for me to even mention that entire ordeal without spiraling into a giant rant where I feel obligated to explain what happened with as much proof as possible.
There’s never enough proof. (The summary is here.)
I guess I’m desperate to be believed when every other week I get some awful theory directed at me about why I’m unhinged, crazy, not worth listening to…
I learned that the EIC at the time, and the journalist that abused the story, tried to get her to say something that would shed a negative light on my credibility or my mental health. I’m paraphrasing strongly, but hearing how manipulative these people were in that instance (again), trying to take the angle that I’m too traumatized to remember right, just sends me reeling. It sounded like they wanted something to make public.
I read a lot of threads from that crowd of people (former Kotaku and former Waypoint) that suggested this, so I would assume that’s just the narrative that they all agreed on so they don’t need to think about what they did.
Accountability is hard. Like some of them subtweeted when I was posting my daily Tweets to Kotaku asking for accountability: “What is accountability even?”… The invalidation never ended. It’s a permanent scar now.

When it’s from people you once thought would be allies because that’s what they built their brand on, it sure hurts to be the brunt of learning that they are anything but.

Then, from the other end of the spectrum, I see Redditors discussing why this “never went to court” and taking that as indication that I am lying like… When where we ever empowered to actually do anything about this?
How do you even start seeking justice, the “right” way, with courts, with lawyers, with jurors… when every step of the way there is an opportunist trying to exploit this awful thing?
There is no justice for someone like me.

Every once in a while I hear how game journalism is burning down, and there is a growing part of me that thinks “Oh good. Maybe if it burns down entirely then it can start over without these people.”
I know it’s wrong to say that, because there are good journalists out there.
At the same time, will the new people be any better? This is the exploitation machine. The only way to win is to exploit those that need help the most.
I want to be wrong about that, but how can I think anything else?

When you read enough online discussion about how you are essentially “crazy” and inevitably “lying” because (reasons) from both the right and the left, either side becomes indiscernible from eachother. I think rape culture is the last vestige where both parties can agree.
I can’t blame gamergate. I can’t blame The Gamers, or really any of the other popular things that people in my space like to blame when harassment happens. In the end… this is how the system is built, especially how social media is built, and it rewards those that play the most cruel.

I understand it tho. People need to consume the media that they built their identities on. Whether it’s the music from the predatory composer, or the writing from the predatory journalists and outlet. It’s not enough that they just read or listen to the media. They need to feel justified by it. It’s easier to call the victim a liar because then the media they are listening to is righteous. They don’t need to feel bad about it and have their identity muddled up by that reality.
It’s not enough to be a fan of something. You must also protect the moral sanctity of it (at all costs).

I mean, maybe I said it better when I angrily posted on various social media today:

“either fixate on the musical work of someone else that’s not a creep… or accept that he is a creep and just admit that you like his work despite that WITHOUT needing the mental gymnastics to invalidate his victims so you feel better about listening to video game music.”

I could say the same about game journalists and game critics who where abusive during this ordeal… that people feel inclined to uncritically defend so they don’t feel bad about being in that clique or making following that person part of their identity.
I guess there’s correlations to this in all of fandom… but that would be a tangent.

Should I show more screenshots? Is this too much already? There was a point where my Steam reviews where being targeted to call me a liar but hey… I was told by journalists that sympathize with me that I’m blackballed by game journalists so I won’t be getting fancy social media posts from big names defending me anymore. It does not fit into a comfortable narrative that can benefit anyone.
Yes, I am bitter and sarcastic. Maybe even angry.

I watched another Netflix documentary…

It’s the last one, I promise! I canceled Netflix for a reason lol.

This one was called “Kai the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker”. It’s all about a vagrant, with obvious undiagnosed mental health issues, that intervened in an assault to save someone’s life using violence to stop that attacker, and became an internet sensation as a result.
The documentary unironically interviews different professional media successes (producers, journalists, etc…) responsible for trying to exploit his viral fame. This ranges from people admitting that they would buy him drugs if he just please played along nicely, to blatantly saying that they sat on his opportunities in order to be the only one to talk to him… Yes, I’m paraphrasing, if you read between the lines it’s a nightmare.
The person the documentary is based on very obviously struggled, and needed help. Something nobody gave him because the system that rewards those with success demands unsuspecting humans be fed it regularly.
All this amounted to a murder taking place where the protagonist says that he was sexually assaulted by the guy he murdered. Believe what you will, but I found it interesting that the documentary omits things police found, that you can easily google…
The documentary takes such great lengths to twist its own narrative that, if you know how that is like, it makes your skin crawl.
It’s a unique example because everyone that tried to take advantage of this person is given space to wash their hands of their involvement. I guess I should have known better than to watch another Netflix documentary. What am I doing? Watching this thing to satisfy some morbid curiosity? How am I any different?
I think it would be fair to point out that True Crime is probably not for me.

In the end, rape culture is a powerful force to be reckoned with. I’m faced with it everywhere I go. If something bad happened to you then you are condemned to the outskirts of society. The black sheep. The topic of speculation.
Hey, I’m making a game about my experiences. Every time I read a Reddit or 4chan post calling me crazy, making fun of how I look, or digging deep to find a reason that I should not be believed, I’m motivated to make the game cut even deeper.

There’s a character in the game (The Witch) that tells you if you go through with coming forward that “your pain is the prize of their speculation.”
I think that captures how all this unfolds time and time again.
It’s a lonely space where there are no allies. There is just the obvious burning reality that no mater how hard you work to prove yourself, it will never be enough.

I bounced between Europe and America my whole life. The last time I went there I was determined to make it as a good American. To really give it a chance. I don’t think I can. To make it in America, you have to buy into America. You have had to grow up there and completely buy into all the propaganda about America and American culture.
While I’m here being blatantly honest about how I feel, I will say this, as poorly thought through as I am about to say it…
America was built on radical, uncompromising, brutal exploitation. It was built on mass murder of indigenous people, and unspeakable exploitation of black people. It’s foundation is undeniably that. It grew out of that, as a culture, never really properly facing that past. That is the very core of capitalism. Exploitation is the driving factor.
That’s not sustainable. Capitalism cannot change because that’s where it comes from. It will always require the loss, sacrifice, or brutalization of someone else to make it work for the winners.
It cannot be saved. No amount of neo-liberal capitalism, alternative capitalism, conscious consumerism capitalism, new brand of capitalism, will fix it. I don’t see a scenario where it can work any other way than how it was designed to work. It is unsustainable at its core.
I’ll add one last story to this…
When my mom was growing up Socialism was the truth. Communism was the future of humanity. It was peak. Done. No discussion necessary.
There was no other salvation or future but Communism. It was a fact that it was going to be forever, along with the abuse and oppression surrounding it at the time. Under that propaganda and government it was impossible to envision anything else.
Then communism, and socialism, ended. I think the same will be true of capitalism. You can’t envision anything else if that’s the only thing you’ve ever known.

Still… I may not have escaped capitalism, but I left America. It no longer maters to me because, left or right, I’m out of reach to most of these people that want to hurt me. It’s just noise now. Nobody can act on it.
I’m on to my new beginning.