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200,000 Gamers Took a Stand Against Woke Company: Now a Journalist Is Hunting Down Their Names

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The folks at Kotaku would like you to know that, if you have a problem with video game consultation studio Sweet Baby Inc. for injecting wokeness into a game, you’re part of the problem. They’re not doing it — even though that’s what one of the stated goals of the studio’s founder was.

Furthermore, if you’re one of the 200,000-odd gamers who have joined a Steam group focused on identifying Sweet Baby Inc.’s involvement in various projects, the author of a piece on the backlash against Sweet Baby Inc. seems to want to dox you — and allegedly thinks it’s odd that you won’t let her hunt your info down.

By way of explanation, Sweet Baby Inc. is a “narrative design company” that has consulted on the storylines of numerous video game titles. Its work stays in the background and, as writer Alyssa Mercante pointed out in an article published at Kotaku on Wednesday, it isn’t “solely responsible for the characters and stories in recent high-profile releases like ‘Alan Wake 2,’ ‘God of War Ragnarok,’ and ‘Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.'”

However, the involvement of SBI is usually a pretty good indicator of whether or not you’ll end up with a certain kind of fantastically woke content — something that precipitated a group on Steam “[t]o encourage people to avoid those games because the group had deemed SBI was pushing a ‘woke’ agenda by working toward greater diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Mercante noted in her piece.

That group, which would trace and confirm whether SBI had been involved with a game’s development, currently has over 200,000 followers on Steam and a server on the chat service Discord with over 3,800 members.

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The fact that there are groups this large boycotting SBI is a Very Bad Thing™, according to the author. Mercante made it clear where she stood on the matter, calling the group’s focus “a fundamentally misinformed, GamerGate-esque firestorm” — referencing the mostly aimless 2014 social media campaign against perceived feminist excesses in video gaming.

Issues with SBI aren’t necessarily just perceived, mind you; in a 2020 interview, the co-founder of the consultancy made it clear that part of her reason behind starting the company was to “get a team of people that is diverse and also gets a bunch of people that first videogame credit.”

In the interview with writer and blogger Alex Epstein, Kim Belair said she had been working freelance on an “Afro-Futurist project” when she “asked about the writing team, and it was an entirely white male writing team.”

“And I was like, hold on: this is an Afro-Futurist project. Most of the characters in it are going to be people of color. And you don’t have any on your team,” she told Epstein.

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“And they said, Well, you know, we tried, but everyone we found was too junior, and didn’t have the experience. They basically described systemic racism,” Belair continued. “And I was like — OK, well, maybe what I can do is, if you trust me as a writer, as an experienced designer, maybe I can hire some junior folks, and I’ll train them. I’ll get them to the point where you need them to be. And we can, you know, get a team of people that is diverse and also gets a bunch of people that first videogame credit.”

Thus, when Kotaku’s Mercante spoke with employees of SBI “to learn what the company actually does and how the misunderstanding of its role in the industry highlights a far broader problem,” you could probably read, quite accurately, that she was looking to confirm her own biases and then report on the perfidious Steam group and all the knuckle-dragging far-right trolls that supposedly populated it.

After all, Kotaku is a publication where you can find headlines like “We Have To Talk (Again) About How War Games Depict The Middle East,” “Dear Video Game Industry, Please Name A Woman,” and “The Industry Is Divided On How To Write Video Game Romance; ‘Baldur’s Gate 3’ is the latest big game to follow an inclusive (but divisive) trend in video game courtship.” This is standard fare if you’re reading their publication.

What isn’t, however, is an alleged attempt to dox users of the group’s Discord server. This was in a message posted in the Discord server’s “general” group (The Western Journal confirmed the authenticity of the following screen shots) in which a user with Mercante’s name asks for anyone willing to talk about the Steam/Discord group and then seems to lament that she can’t get anyone on the record.

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“[I]s there a reason why many of you don’t have your names/pictures associated with your accounts on here?” Mercante reportedly asked the group. “[J]ust curious if anyone could speak to the creation of this server/the steam page, and why they feel monitoring SBI work is important!”

In case you aren’t a user, generally speaking, people do not associate their real names and images on large public Discord servers — making Mercante’s question a curious one, indicative of someone with an unusual interest in getting someone who wasn’t anonymous on the record.

Mercante notes in the article that she interacted with users on the Discord server.

As for what SBI does and whether or not it’s worth passing on games it’s involved with over wokeness, that depends on your definition of the term. Belair, quoted at length in the piece, seems to indicate that it’s something you should give thought to — albeit without saying it quite that way.

“Sweet Baby is, at its core, a narrative development company,” she said. “That means anything from script writing to narrative design to narrative direction, to story reviews.

“One of the things that we do offer is cultural consultations or authenticity consultations. For us, that generally means that we might be asked to look at a story if there’s a character in it who is marginalized in certain way, and [the studio] wants us to connect them with a consultant who can bring a little bit of authenticity…But the perspective is never that we’re coming in and injecting diversity,” she continued.

“For the most part, it’s the reverse. It’s that a company has created a character and they want to make that character more representative and more interesting.”

“People can’t imagine that we might do anything else but DEI,” Belair added.

“They can’t imagine that we’re just talented writers, that we’re talented narrative designers and that people are hiring us because we tell good stories, because we collaborate well, and because we write video games. They have to diminish our accomplishments to our identities. They can’t imagine that the work I did on ‘Spider-Man’ was story work versus adding pride flags, you know?”

Never mind that this is not what gamers are necessarily saying, merely that SBI’s involvement in a project is generally indicative of a certain tenor of work as a whole. If and when National Review ever gets around to making a hybrid first-person shooter/RPG about the life and times of William F. Buckley Jr. (working title: “Firing Line 2“), neither Belair nor anyone she’s ever hired will likely be involved — nor, in fact, does one guess they would want to be.

And then there’s this quote in the Kotaku piece from co-founder David Bedard, formerly of Ubisoft: “[Detractors] would rather believe that there’s a shadowy cabal of people forcing them to put that stuff in…they would rather believe a make-believe fairytale than accept that,” he said. “Making something more representative and more joyful for a marginalized person in a video game is not a zero-sum game. It doesn’t make anything worse for the male character in the game, for the white character in the game.”

Again, though, this isn’t a matter of gamers deciding that, because Bedard claims he wants to make things “more joyful for a marginalized person,” he must be trying to shove woke dog-whistles into games where they weren’t previously. Rather, it’s that the kind of company that would hire a narrative consultancy firm where the principals blather on like Belair and Bedard did to Kotaku is producing exactly the kind of content you’d think they might, whether it was authored by SBI or not.

Meanwhile, perhaps there are bad actors in the Steam and/or Discord space. I would assume there are, in fact, given the size; there are bad actors everywhere online, both on the right and left, and the larger a group gets, the more likely it is to have a toxic loudmouth or three attached to it. Anyone who thinks there aren’t going to be bad actors involved hasn’t spent much time on social media.

Hanging an entire thinkpiece comparing people who simply want to avoid games SBI is involved in to rabid GamerGaters based on the scanty evidence that there might be some toxic actors mixed in with what was a 200,000-strong group — something Mercante doesn’t even really manage to document, anyway — is a premise that should have gotten shot down by editors at the pitch stage. Then again, the writer is a senior editor, which should tell you something about Kotaku.

And, as for the evidence that this is an extremely toxic group? There are a few anonymous mild quotes that she apparently got by speaking to two (2) members of the Discord group and some memes she found. None of it is incriminating. In other words, Mercante provides about as much evidence of “GamerGate-esque behavior” as someone on X was able to provide about her allegedly trying to dox members. Is it real? Is it not?

Just trust me, Mercante seems to be saying. I’ve done all the work. I’ve talked to two people via chat! One tends to trust the user on X, instead.

The author, it’s worth noting, later laments the opacity of the videogame development process as being the source of “a straw man for bad-faith arguments that characterize DEI as an imposition by nefarious, unseen forces rather than an effort to cultivate a more accurate reflection of the world around us.”

She doesn’t seem to get the irony of invoking a straw man argument in a sentence where she gripes about the straw man argument which ends an article which is essentially one huge straw man argument — but irony, one surmises, is not Mercante’s strong point.

Neither is doxing, apparently, if she goes on Discord and openly wonders aloud why so many users don’t have their names and photos associated with their accounts as she prepares to do an attempted “exposé” on the group.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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