Alayna Cole is an MCA (Creative Writing) candidate who loves to write stories when she’s not studying.
Game Changers is a non-fiction book that explores the videogame industry and how games culture is changing and diversifying, while also dissecting the misogyny and harassment that has permeated facets of the games community. The book tackles large issues and acts as an educational experience for those unfamiliar with what has been happening within the industry.
Simultaneously, Game Changers is a comforting and cathartic release for those who are embedded in the videogame world as developers, writers, and players, and who are familiar with the damaging harassment that has come to the fore over the last couple of years.
This dual audience is established very deliberately, with authors Dan Golding and Leena van Deventer explicitly noting they have ‘written this book for the uninitiated, the curious, and the confused, as much as for the weary and the experienced’ (p. 4).
The book’s intentional appeal to a dual audience makes Game Changers an incredibly valuable text. I want to share it with everyone I know—those inside and outside the games industry—as a means of explanation, of comfort, and of support. I feel as though Game Changers perfectly captures the intricacies of the space I am involved in—both the reasons I love the work that I do and the reasons I am sometimes scared to continue it.
I spoke with Dan and Leena about writing for a dual audience and why it was important to both of them. Leena made a point about Gamergate—a movement thoroughly covered in the book—saying that the issue ‘got a lot of attention in mainstream media and left a lot of people scratching their heads’ and that therefore it was ‘important to write the book in a way that many people can understand’.
Dan felt similarly, saying that the book should be for everyone ‘because videogames should be for everyone’. He added that ‘the terror of Gamergate is specifically about excluding people; it seems appropriate that the best way to respond is through inclusion.’
The topic of Gamergate is a difficult one to explore and a potentially dangerous one to discuss. In fact, in Game Changers, Dan and Leena advise not to ‘use the Gamergate hashtag on social media—if you do, you’ll immediately want to throw your laptop into the sea’ (p. 4). There’s a reason Dan and Leena wrote an entire book covering the topic; the ‘movement’ and the complex series of events that led up to its commencement in August 2014 are difficult to summarise.
Perhaps, for those who are unfamiliar with the topic, it is most important to consider the fear and feelings of isolation that Gamergate has caused for many people who write about videogames, particularly writers who represent a social minority group.
Game Changers is a powerful response to this fear and isolation. The book feels like a rallying cry, allowing those who have experienced harassment to feel as though they aren’t alone while also giving those outside the games industry a peek in at what has been taking place. This includes a look at the lives of Anita Sarkeesian and Zoë Quinn, who are central to the Gamergate abuse and who are also incredible voices in the mission to make the videogame world a safer space; the book features informative, fascinating, and heartbreaking exclusive interviews with them, embedded within chapters of thoroughly researched and referenced content.
No matter who you are or whether you think a book about games might be accessible for you, I recommend picking up Game Changers and reading the beautifully constructed non-fiction within. As Dan said during our correspondence, ‘this book has a lot in it for people who don’t see themselves as having anything to do with games. They might pick it up in a book store, but see the word “game” on it and decide that it isn’t for them.’ Game Changers is an incredibly informative and powerful experience that acts as a bridge between those inside and outside the game industry, and I would love for you to experience it with me, no matter who you are.
Disclaimer: I have interacted with Dan Golding and Leena van Deventer online and in person at industry events, conventions or conferences. I have great admiration for both of them and for their work within the games industry. This review is based on a copy of Game Changers that I pre-ordered with my own money and waited for like everyone else.