LINK: Definition of Fear
LINK: Directed by Vincent Zhou
LINK: Read ’em and weep
Dark Matters befriended writer Tauriq Moosa last year through his fantastic essays on gaming, race, and representation. With his focus on digital culture, Tauriq eloquently breaks down social media, online harassment, civil rights, video games, racism and, yes, actual ethics. A scholar and a gamer, Tauriq’s background is Indian, but he resides in South Africa.
Writing from the perspective of a POC in the world of gaming has made Moosa a target of intense Gamergate stalking and numerous, ongoing racist campaigns to drive him from the Internet. Those efforts continue to fail — and have actually raised Tauriq’s profile as a defender of free speech and diversity in social media and gaming.
DARK MATTERS: What got you started with gaming?
TAURIQ: I started really young, playing games like Super Mario Bros. It was just accepted among my friends, though we were kind of behind because the white kids had these (games) we didn’t even know about. But the system that really got me was my Sega MegaDrive 2, which lasted me years.
DARK MATTERS: We interviewed you in the spring and shortly after, the online stalking you’d been already experiencing blew up. Before we talk about that, I know the initial harassment came from an early piece you wrote about the lack of representation in a game review. Could you tell us about that early piece and what the response to it was like?
TAURIQ: If you’re referring to the Sniper Elite 3 review, people were angry I mentioned that there were only white character models in a game literally called “Africa.” This wasn’t a documentary; it was a video game where you use basically magic powers to shoot men in the head. Yet, the idea of including people of colour — or just having colour shaders for skins that you could change — was too ridiculous.
DARK MATTERS: What was your reaction to that early uproar?
TAURIQ: I was surprised. People were angry because this wasn’t a concern of theirs and because it seemed to them like I hated seeing white people, or rather, hated white people. But of course it was mainly that they didn’t want to think about how they’re always the ones represented and what that might mean in terms of all others kinds of privileges.
DARK MATTERS: Who have you written for so far? Is this path an unexpected direction for you with your writing?
TAURIQ: I sometimes forget: but primarily, Daily Beast, Guardian, Polygon, Mary Sue. When I get a pitch through, I’m happy — it means writing on topics I care about. But freelance writing is not a good, secure position to be in. I’m not a staff writer or editor for any known sites so it’s flimsy. I don’t recommend it. Further, considering gaming culture is more toxic than any other culture I’ve written on, the ridiculous levels of aggression and anger do not warrant the effort and pay. Angry readers act as though your opinion of games is detrimental to the game’s existence, even when you’re a nobody writer criticising a huge AAA franchise that is doing successfully.
DARK MATTERS: In fact, you needed to step away from social media briefly, and I know that was not a matter of preference so much as necessity due to the sheer volume of attacks, racist and otherwise. What inspired you to resume your presence on Twitter?
TAURIQ: A lot of contacts are on Twitter. The biggest contacts I’ve landed have come from networking digitally, since I live on another continent to almost everyone involved in games. But these aren’t just contacts, but friends. I had enormous support, since people with platforms used those platforms to rally support to me.
Most of the time, targets don’t get two Mary Sue articles expressing support (which also created a safe space for me to operate in within the comments section and that friendly community). It was a strange, horrible time, but others have had it — and do have it — worse, with not nearly the same level of support I got. Considering the support I received and wanted to pass on, I returned.
DARK MATTERS: What do you do to cope with the stress that might be useful for others to try?
TAURIQ: I started using effective blocking tools — I have no idea why people who hate me still stalk me and read me and tag me, but there you go.
DARK MATTERS: If you could advise Twitter about methods of handling their hordes of harrassers, what would you like to see implemented? What are they getting right? What is still ineffective?
TAURIQ: I’d encourage them to listen to experts like Randi Harper. Unfortunately a SXSW panel on exactly this question about design implementations that could help mitigate online harassment was … well, cancelled due to threats via online harassment.
I’m not an expert, but one of the most important features I’d love is the ability to moderate replies. For example, on Twitter, tagging whatever tweets we like as Not Retweetable, Moderated Retweetable (“This person wishes to retweet, do you approve?”) Not Reply-able (?) or, if you reply, it must be approved by you. Further, make blocked accounts actually blocked — don’t show up on searches or in retweets. One of the issues is dogpiling: blocking one account does little when all their followers decide to target you too.
I prevent this by using BlockChain Chrome Extension — but I don’t see why there isn’t a way to block a person, then prevent all their followers replying. Don’t need to block them — just say “Person who follows X cannot reply to me.”
DARK MATTERS: What’s next for you?
TAURIQ: Next for me? I don’t know — be nice to get more secure job writing criticism and reviews somewhere — but that’s not likely to happen. Next is … well, Fallout 4 and my hope that I can finally enjoy a Bethesda RPG and not hate Bethesda’s writing.