When we talk about mental health in the games industry, the conversation often focuses on two groups: game developers and game consumers. Surrounding those two groups are many others, though, including streamers, community managers, marketers, and journalists.
Steve Bailey, a games analyst and former games journalist, has an opinion piece in MCV that points out that increasingly, those are groups that are expected to take a lot of harassment — but they’re also some of the groups least likely to have support in handling the fallout.
I’m not here to try to address why there’s so much combative response out there, or tactics for minimising it. Instead, I think there’s another important facet of the conversation that needs to be addressed: if the weight of such emotional labour begins to adversely affect someone in the games media, what provision do we have for dealing with it? Having to experience a continuum of toxic noise can easily cause someone to cramp up on the inside, over time. And then what happens? If they get into such trouble, does it mean that they’re bad at their job? Dealing with this stuff doesn’t seem to be in the job description.
This is not exclusive to the games media, or even just games, but that doesn’t excuse us from discussing it. We also see it in the way that smaller developers are now expected to conduct their own PR, say, with little grounding in how to cope if their efforts backfire. Or in the way that YouTubers sometimes air their disagreements in public – and get tutted at for doing so – but what other recourse for resolution do they feel that they have to hand? Which institution here should be taking responsibility for education/provision on such a matter, if at all?
Some developers at large studios and journalists at major outlets are provided with mental health support, but many aren’t. And a freelancer or indie who lands in the midst of controversy may have no support to speak of, and may lack the resources to do anything about that.
In an industry where dealing with harassment is increasingly part of the job description, we need to be able to do more for people coping with its fallout. Bailey’s piece raises many questions, but there are no easy answers, at least not yet. Organizations like ours can be part of that support network, but there’s much more to do to make sure no one has to go through it alone.