This post began several days ago under the working title “Colin was wrong.” I had originally intended merely to reply to comments he had made in Episode 109, Part 2, of the Kinda Funny Gamescast, regarding “Gender Diversity in Games.” My response to such will still be included in this article, but during the course of writing it Mr. Moriarty took to Facebook this morning to announce his immediate resignation from the entertainment company he had co-founded, Kinda Funny.
Across all their various podcasts and YouTube programs, Colin and his fellow Kinda Funny co-stars had always referred to their fans as “best friends,” and this was what being a member of their audience truly felt like. Whether while working out at the gym or commuting to my day job, Colin, Greg, Nick, and Tim kept me company for a great many hours of my week – much longer, indeed, than the time I spend conversing with my actual best friends, closest acquaintances, and family members combined. I spent so much of my time taking part in this one-way conversation with them not merely for the sense of community they created, the entertaining banter they provided, or the information and insight they offered regarding the games medium, but rather primarily because of the immense respect I’ve come to have for Mr. Moriarty.
He was among the most invaluable voices in the enthusiast press. His outspoken political conservatism was a lone contrarian voice among the otherwise ubiquitous progressive politics of the mainstream games media – a fact he frequently noted. But Colin was never a mere contrarian. His politics were principled and well-informed. When he did debate those with whom he disagreed, his argumentation was never argumentative, never bearing any anger. Quite the opposite: he was the perfect paragon of civility in discourse, demonstrating boldness in his beliefs, genuine curiosity of others’, intellectual honesty in all ideas, openness to persuasion, patience with those he did disagree with, and unreserved friendship for individuals of any political persuasion. Every democratic country in the world would be enormously benefitted were all their citizens like Colin.
From his Facebook post, it is evident that Mr. Moriarty is not merely departing Kinda Funny but games media as a whole, pursuing his passions for politics, philosophy, and American history. Given the articulation with which he spoke to such matters on the Rubin Report recently, I suspect that he will flourish in the field of Conservative commentary with just as much success as he found in the enthusiast press for over a decade. Wherever his career takes him, I will follow it with great interest.
Nevertheless, his absence from the landscape of the games media leaves a void, one unlikely to be filled anytime soon. In part, this is due to the ideologically insular nature of the industry, one which is even more homogenously left-leaning than Hollywood or higher education. Though he was not the only conservative in the industry, Mr. Moriarty was the only one openly and vocally so, and given the circumstances of his departure, the chilling effect against other conservatives coming out will be more pronounced, not less.
Though it’s not mentioned in his resignation post, Colin’s departure was sudden and unplanned, coming soon after a controversial tweet. Previously, he had spoken with great enthusiasm regarding the numerous topics he intended to cover on his recently launched YouTube show, “Colin Was Right.” The few he had uploaded in the last couple of weeks were among the best researched, best reasoned, and best delivered works to date. They bore the promise of an already illustrious career about to reach new heights, but now they mark instead his career’s capstone – and his tweet its gravestone.
Whether one regards the tweet in question as inflammatory or innocuous is beside the point – it was a pretense for some on the other side of the aisle who would suffer no ideological dissent to vilify Mr. Moriarty, refusing to treat him with the same civility and courteousness he had shown them throughout his entire career. All throughout the election season, some Kinda Funny fans expressed frustration with Colin for holding and proselytizing his particular positions, disagreeing so vehemently that they no longer wanted political topics covered on the GameOverGreggy Show, lest they have to listen to a viewpoint that challenged their own. Such speaks to the increasing balkanization of our culture along political lines, with extremists at both poles making monsters out of moderates (which Mr. Moriarty mostly is, his conservatism being just right of center), merely as a means of establishing their extremism as normal.
I’d long been aware of this political polarization. As a critic, I’ve often had to identify political themes in comics, films, and games, but my analysis of such had been entirely academic and itself apolitical, identifying the creators’ arguments without responding to them… until recently. It was only within the last month (in my review of Justice League of America #1) that I publicly labelled my own personal politics, describing myself as “a #NeverTrump classically-liberal neocon.” I was emboldened to do so in no small part by the example of Mr. Moriarty. Mere days ago, he was proof that there was a place at the table for conservatives in games media. Now, he’s proof that there isn’t, and his resignation will instead embolden those with the illiberal impulse to shout down and silence those they disagree with.
For my own part, I intend to stay the course which I recently followed Mr. Moriarty onto, serving as a center-right voice of reason within the larger enthusiast press (and hopefully one day as part of the mainstream games media). I’ll continue to be open in my objections to the white identity politics of the Alt-Right and the minority identity politics of the Alt-Left, making my argument for individualism instead of tribalism and the whole of humanity instead of disparate demographics.
Indeed, it was precisely our culture’s current fixation on identity, representation, and relatability that inspired me to make the leap from long-time-listener to first-time-writer, this article originally having begun as an editorial regarding the response Colin gave to a fellow “best friend” on an episode P.S. I Love You (which I would have then forwarded to the show in the hopes of continuing the conversation). Per Mr. Moriarty:
There is a current of social justice in games coverage… I don’t believe in diversity for diversity’s sake… Creators have to create the story that they want. If the story contains all white people, well that’s the story; I don’t think it’s a racist thing. Or if it takes place with just men and there are not many (or any) women, I don’t think it’s necessarily a sexist thing, but… I certainly don’t consider [gender inclusion and race inclusion] as a negative step.”
To borrow his favorite phrase, “Colin was right” on all of the above. Not merely as critic myself, but as someone who’s tried his hand on numerous occasions at short stories and novellas, I’d never want a fellow critic to wrongly regard any of the works I’ve written or might yet write as racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted, not on the basis of what the story contains but on the basis of what it does not contain. I feel no obligation to reduce my own work to a checklist of every different demographic which might represent one of my readers, nor do I imagine game developers. There was almost certainly no prejudice on the part of any staff member from CD Projekt Red when the Polish developer included only white characters in the The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, and the accusation of erasure leveled at them exploited the popularity of the game to advance a political pet cause. To be clear, games are art, and as such oftentimes included a partisan political message, but too often my fellow game critics seem less interested in games’ actual theses than the creators’ identity politics (or lack thereof).
Colin’s critique is different. Beginning at the 9:42 mark in the video, he lays out an argument as to why no character in any work fiction is particularly relatable, particularly in science fiction (such as Horizon Zero Dawn) because the situation the characters are in are themselves unrelatable. And here is where I think Colin was wrong. Firstly, a character’s situation is an extrinsic characteristic, whereas other aspects of their identity (such as race or gender) are intrinsic. A character with exactly all of Colin Moriarty’s intrinsic characteristics (including his entire personal history up until the start of the story) could be placed in any science fiction scenario an author can imagine. Presumably, the real Mr. Moriarty would relate more closely to this fictionalized Colin than a randomly constructed character.
Secondly, a player-character is one with which a player is intended to identify. Indeed, this is one of the most unique and important artistic devices available to game designers, and the reason why many mediocre narratives which would not work for cinema or literature are nevertheless entirely engaging as games.
My final point was actually the first thing I thought while listening to Colin address this subject and the initial impetus for this article. It was a quote by C.S. Lewis in his essay On Science Fiction regarding the efficacy of establishing an Everyman as the protagonist of particularly exotic science fiction (or fantasy) stories:
Every good writer knows that the more unusual the scenes and events of his story are, the slighter, more ordinary, more typical his persons should be. Hence Gulliver is a commonplace little man and Alice is a commonplace little girl. If they had been more remarkable they would have wrecked their books. The Ancient Mariner himself is a very ordinary man. To tell how odd things struck odd people is to have an oddity too much: he who is to see strange sights must not himself be strange. He ought to be as nearly as possible Everyman or Anyman.”
Those of us gamers who have been to Rapture know full well that the setting of a game can be its most interesting character, but to bring such into sharper relief likewise requires sketching Jack rather thinly. Moreover, as I note in my editorial We Need More Games About Masculinity, historically in the games medium femininity bears a markedness which masculinity traditionally has not. That is changing, in part because of characters such as Aloy, but the change is not that Aloy’s femaleness is less notable but rather characters like Kratos’ maleness is more. As such, I disagree with Mr. Moriarty’s (uncharacteristic) lack of empathy for the male player who’d expressed difficulty in relating to Horizon’s heroine. Instead of dismissing his hang-ups with female protagonists, I’d have taken the tactic of exhorting him to power through the game despite such initial misgivings. Horizon Zero Dawn will be remembered as one of the great games of the generation (I’ll have my full review up within a few days), and I’d hate for this individual (or anyone else) to miss out on it altogether.
It’s truly tragic that the very day which I intended to first write to one of the few living individuals whom I hold among my heroes (close behind Morrison and Moore) by happenstance became the same day he left his longtime post. I’d had hoped to, like Mr. Miller, have a “Conversation with Colin.” It’s hard to believe those days are gone forever.