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The Game Awards’ silence on Palestine is disappointing but not surprising Dot Esports

Over half the TGA Future Class of 2023 signed an open letter calling for recognition of the games industry’s role in dehumanizing people from South-West Asia and North Africa (SWANA), yet Geoff Keighley remained his usual silent self on the issue.

Thousands of developers and journalists also signed the letter, which urged The Game Awards to break the industry’s silence regarding its complicity in creating games that “dehumanize and vilify Muslims, Arabs, and the many brown and black people living in the regions of South-West Asia and Northern Africa.”

Unfortunately but not surprisingly, there wasn’t a single mention of this, or the crisis in Palestine that prompted the letter. Considering Keighley couldn’t even say something about the thousands of developers who’ve been laid off this year, I didn’t expect him to say anything about Palestine, but I’m still annoyed.

Matthew McConaughey at The Game Awards 2023.
He doesn’t even go here! Screenshot by Dot Esports via The Game Awards 2023

If you’re wondering what video games have to do with Israel’s destruction of Gaza, I’ll fill you in quickly. We live in a culture that allows the genocide of brown people and Muslims because they are seen as lesser humans. The games industry has contributed to this view through its constant use of Muslim/Arab-coded baddies and obsession with waging wars in desert countries that definitely aren’t stand-ins for Iraq and Afghanistan. The first step to undoing the damage is recognizing it’s been done in the first place. Fat chance that’ll ever happen.

The Future Class is supposed to represent “the future of the game industry […] a diverse, inclusive and caring workplace.” How do these people get treated at The Game Awards? They get seated behind a camera jib that blocks all the trailers and have their letter completely ignored. Disresepctful doesn’t even come close.

This is pure conjecture on my part, but I believe developers were given just 30 seconds to give their speeches upon collecting their awards because Keighley was terrified someone would mention Palestine or all the layoffs. The Game Awards is, first and foremost, an ad show. Advertisers don’t like divisive issues, like people being allowed to keep their jobs (or their lives), so it’s more profitable to sanitize the show and stick to the fun stuff: Which new games are coming out.

Rather than honoring the developers who created the games we all loved this year, Hollywood actors were given more stage time to do silly little stand up bits and talk about their hurty foot than all the award speeches combined. Most awards weren’t even given to people on stage, they were just read out in double-time so we could get back to the ads. Future Class member Sarah Makdad wrote, “The TGA being a full on masturbation session for Hollywood suckers rather than a celebration of Devs makes you wonder what’s even the point of being part of the Future Class.”

It’s hard to see a future where The Game Awards are relevant. People have long joked the show is nothing more than adverts, but this year really proved that. I hope we get a show that actually honors the hard work of the devs who make the games we love, but I doubt Keighley is the man for the job.

Issy van der Velde

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