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March 06, 2018 2 min read
[Image courtesy of Actors' Equity Association/Jessica Palopoli]
"When the Bay Area announced [the play] was going to get workshopped last summer, the Tweet announcing it included 'hashtag Gamergate,' so immediately that made it to Reddit and I was heading into work when all of the sudden I had 40 Twitter notifications," playwright Walt McGough explained to me the afternoon after his most recent play, Non-Player Character, wrapped up its debut run at the Children's Creativity Museum theater in San Francisco. I was there on closing night, sitting in the front row, after a single tweet from the SF Playhouse Twitter account somehow appeared on my feed with the word ‘Gamergate’ front and center. And as I took my seat within tripping distance of the actors, I anticipated nothing more than the absolute worst.
The absolute worst, in regards to Gamergate and fictional stories inspired by it, would be the “Intimidation Game” episode of Law & Order: SVU. That show really hasn’t been good since Christopher Meloni left to pursue political arguments on Twitter -- and even when he was on it, SVU writers valued hard-to-believe twists over simple, effective storytelling -- but its take on Gamergate was an absolute dumpster fire. So over-the-top, so audacious in its interpretation of gamers, the industry, and the controversy, it makes its Rihanna/Chris Brown episode look well-researched and grounded. Its only redeeming factor was it cast Logan Paul as an asshole in the episode months before he cast himself as that in real life.
That was my expectation, and thankfully the play wasn't 90 minutes of unwatchable garbage. Whereas “Intimidation Game” sought to entertain through ridiculous fantasy, Non-Player Character offers a more restrained interpretation of the origins of the controversy. So restrained that, in fact, the end result is a production that doesn't have much to do with actual Gamergate.
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