GeekPlanetOnline’s Editor-in-chief, Matt Dillon, is a man of many passions - although most of them involve a joystick. In this semi-regular column, he shares his thoughts on life, love and the pursuit of video games (and occasionally other things).
A friend of mine, an ambitious man in the field of IT, refers to the process of making contacts, greasing palms and getting noticed as one climbs the career ladder as “playing The Game”. At a time when I was frustrated with office culture, and with the notion that you generally have to work twice as hard and twice as long as you are being paid to do in order to be considered for advancement, he told me “But that’s what you have to do. You have to play The Game.” If I’d stayed in the career that I’d originally chosen he’d probably have been right; I’ve worked in enough offices to learn that frequently it’s not what you know, but who you know – and, more importantly, how much they can squeeze out of you to benefit themselves. Some people are happy with that, and they do very well out of that kind of culture; I am not, and have subsequently decided that that kind of life is not for me. After a lengthy conversation with my partner, I opted out.
As it turns out, there is a Game in internet publishing as well. Anybody that has ever been involved with clubs or organised activities can tell you that with any sufficiently large group of people comes cliques and manufactured drama, and the wider industry that GeekPlanetOnline is part of is no different; I’ve lost count of the number of rumours, negative comments and outright lies that I’ve heard gossiped about me, my business partners, our volunteers and our various contacts. It happens more often that you might think from the outside, and in an industry and a wider community which involves a lot of gatherings and thinly-disguised parties – press releases, promos, book launches, conventions, etc. – sniping and rumour spread very quickly indeed. Again, some people are happy with that kind of culture, and revel in it; I am not, and once again I have opted out of it.
At the risk of sounding pompous – and that really isn’t my intent here! - GeekPlanetOnline is a website and community founded on positivity, comradery and fellowship. When I founded it* I was suffering through what was, in retrospect, the darkest period of my life and I needed to shine a little bit of light. I wanted to build the sort of community that my childhood and adolescence were sorely lacking; one full of enthusiasm, support and fun. Dare I say it – angry comments on standby, MRA-types – I wanted to make a safe space. Not just for me, but for everybody that wanted it. So whilst it's all too easy to be drawn in, and in years gone by I have been as guilty of it as everybody else, here and now I will not play The Game. I will not engage in gossip and badmouthing. I will not attempt to undermine other peoples’ efforts for my own benefit, or the benefit of this community, because to do so would fly in the face of everything that GeekPlanetOnline is trying to achieve. I opt out.
Ordinarily, I would end the column there, but given recent events here at the site – and in particular the departure of prominent staff members and a prominent podcast – there are undoubtedly those people who will assume (and perhaps even gossip!) that this column is a reaction to an inciting incident behind the scenes. So, to be absolutely, perfectly clear, it isn’t. In fact, various versions of this column have been bubbling away, only to be scrapped and restarted time and again, for the last year or so. It’s been difficult to find the right words to express my unhappiness at the unfortunate and inevitable side-effect of such a large community – and I speak here not of GeekPlanetOnline but the entire online geek community – coupled with the reach and presence of the internet.
You may well ask, “Okay, so what’s prompted this column now?”. That’s a fair question. The truth is that the world right now is the darkest it’s been in decades. In terms of the western world, we have deliberately extreme partisan politics dividing families, friends and communities – a flame which the immediacy and filter-free environment of social media are fanning to a considerable degree. I don’t want GeekPlanetOnline to be one more place where people feel that they must pick sides. I want that “safe space” to continue, and to be accessible to everybody who needs it.
Next week I’ll be back to ranting and/or raving about video games. Today, however, I want to encourage each person reading this to be a little light of their own; to reach out to somebody who needs a friendly word or two and provide it. Make friends, spread positivity. Don’t play The Game.
* Okay, that really does sound pompous. But I did! I did found it, Leesa!