The games media scene was ablaze just last week with rumblings of Nick Robinson, (now) former video producer at Polygon, sexually harassing multiple women in the games industry. After the allegations came out, Robinson went dark on social media, until yesterday. You can read his statement/apology here:
The apology came in the wake of mounting social media pressure on the videogame personality, who’s actions towards female members of the industry have left a bad taste in gamers and journalists mouths.
In my opinion, the apology feels… empty. Certainly contradictory in a few places. For me, it is hard to grasp the idea that after being in a “position of power”, as Robinson puts it, for nine years, he couldn’t understand the levity of his influence. Robinson mentions a failure to grow alongside his fame, but that excuse is problematic because rarely does fame bestow wisdom upon anyone. He wasn’t given the opportunity to grow because fame doesn’t make you a better person, at least not inherently. Instead, it is indicative of Robinson’s long-standing character; that he was and is a manipulative individual who used his cyber clout as a way to aggressively “flirt”, with women in the industry. Robinson’s mannerisms are not likely anything new; we’ve only heard about his actions because so many people follow him closely. Whether Robinson understood his power or not is inconsequential though, ignorance is never an excuse.
Furthermore, Robinson’s apology minimizes the systemic issue of how women in the games industry are treated. I don’t fault Robinson for apologizing; it was important that he did. What I am cautiously pessimistic about is how the industry will react to it. In America today, there is a massive discourse regarding police brutality and the concept of ‘bad apples’. Essentially, a ‘bad apple’ is a term used to isolate one problem individual from a population in an effort to deny any widespread issues with said population, such as officers who abuse their power and position to commit horrific acts.
In the current situation, I am worried the industry will internalize Robinson’s apology and chalk him up as a bad apple, at best, when we do in fact have a huge problem with the representation of women in games, as seen by the events at VidCon this year surrounding Anita Sarkeesian. Very rarely does the industry get a well-publicized event like this to use as a conversation starter regarding a long withstanding issue in games. To let this opportunity slip because we relegate the transgressions to that of a lone wolf would be shameful.
I feel what Nick Robinson did was wrong. I know not everyone will agree with me, but that’s not really the point I am trying to make. There is no better time than now that we, a passionate collective with a die-hard love for the interactive arts, start having conversations about our flaws regarding inclusivity and fair treatment. Instead of letting one man’s poor actions fade into obscurity, let’s not go quietly into the night.