Let Off Some Steam: Over The Drama

It's been a while since we've ran a 'Let Off Some Steam' post, but when Kotaku regular Kermitron wrote this piece, initially as a comment, a number of readers asked me to post it on the site. I read it and agreed. Internet drama, particularly as of late -- with issues of sexism and violence -- has become ubiquitous. And I think what Kermitron says has great value: sometimes we have to step back and think about what we're shouting about.

Thanks Kermitron.

Over The Drama

So is anyone else kinda over drama around the gaming community?

I think I hit breaking point yesterday when people started complaining because Felicia Day got support from her BFF Wil Wheaton and all her fans because some writer over at Destructoid called her a glorified booth babe.

Now I’d never heard of this writer. I’m not a huge fan of Felicia Day, although I do follow her on Twitter. Outside The Guild and generally being a nerd icon (much like Wil Wheaton these days, I’m sure being Wesley Crusher makes it hard to find acting work), I have no idea what Felicia Day does.

Nevertheless, what the writer wrote on his personal Twitter was a bit dumb. People are saying Destructoid fired him, he’s saying he approached them and said it was best if he was no longer associated with them, for their benefit (not his). Naturally on the back of this, people who Jim Sterling has been mean to came out of the woodwork to demand he no longer be allowed to write for Destructoid. If Ryan Perez, why not Jim?

It was about here I just threw up my hands and decided I’d had enough. After the constant stream of sexism and rape culture discussion lately, I am dismayed at the irrationality of people on the internet. The main problem with the internet is that too many people have access to too much information to be able to use it constructively.

Take Penny Arcade for instance: when they put out their comic about RPG tropes where you rescue SIX slaves from a camp and NO MORE, you have to wonder at the plight of that poor seventh slave. That was the punchline. Tragically they decided the best way to encapsulate the plight of the slaves by suggesting that each night they are “raped to sleep by the dickwolves”. How dare they joke about rape! Except they weren’t making a rape joke. They were making a video game joke. The rape part is supposed to be horrible. There was backlash heaped upon backlash and one would assume Penny Arcade learned their lesson.

Unfortunately, now, it can be constantly thrown back at them. They decided the Hitman Absolution trailer wasn’t that bad. “OH”, the internet cried out “well you wouldn’t UNDERSTAND, because DICKWOLVES, you insensitive PRICKS.” It may as well have happened yesterday, because as long as you can read it on the internet, it’s brand new to you. It takes a quick Google search to dig up the dirt on someone, and use it against them.

Yet at the same time Mike Krahulik (aka Gabe) was among the first calling for internet justice, for e-blood to be shed when Katie Williams wrote an article about the way she was demeaned when a male PR person took control of the game she was supposed to have a hands-on with, because in his eyes her slow, methodical style of investigation-through-play was interpreted as unfamiliarity with videogames in general, despite her position as a writer for a well-known video gaming publication. The call for justice was dismissed, because this was not the action of one man, it is a disease that permeates the industry, from the people teabagging you in Halo, to the people who make the games themselves who think Lara Croft can only be tough if she endures physical abuse and hardship first.

I think this was the right call. Think about the enemies to gaming. Jack Thompson. Michael Atkinson. The ACL. Paul Christoforo. The unnamed PR rep. Now we’ve got Ryan Perez, joining the ranks of millions of people who every day post thoughtlessly sexist comments for no other reason than they have the ability to. When we’ve engaged these people we might take what we think is the high ground, but they think they have the high ground too. We’re on completely different ground, oftentimes forgetting which battle we’re even fighting.

ENOUGH.

Being reactionary to all of this horrible nonsense accomplishes nothing, at least not in the long term.

I am not diminishing the seriousness of the issues at play here. I think sexism in gaming is a serious thing. I knew it when I was in high school, playing Counter-strike over LAN in net cafes in high school. I knew it when I was playing Halo over Xbox Live. I know it now, via my exposure to gaming journalism. I experience it second hand almost every time my wife plays online multiplayer -– hell, someone my wife assumed to be a friend once confessed after the fact that he masturbated to her voice while they were talking via Xbox Live party chat, because he’d been single for a year and was feeling lonely. No word of a lie. She didn’t know how to react. She wasn’t mad about it. She felt sad for him. But after a week of agonising over it she removed him from her friendlist and even felt bad for doing it. She was a victim in that regard, and was only even aware of it because he at least had the courtesy to admit his wrongdoing.

So I will continue to stand up for the rights of anyone in the gaming community, male or female. I am particularly interested in improving the issue of sexism so women no longer have to feel victimised. I am all for equality but we are so much further away from that in the electronic world than we are in the real world, where people can suffer real repercussions for this misbehaviour.

I will continue to monitor my behaviour, and those of the people I know directly. I believe that the fight against these issues, as with any social issue, starts at the bottom. Start with yourself. Move to your peers. Let the influence spread among the community. Refuse to backslide on your principles and be an example. We can’t go to the top and demand a change, an artificial installation of new values. It won’t stick. It would be like your body rejecting a piercing.

As the consumers, we are at the bottom, the broadest, strongest part of the social pyramid. Nothing lasting can be built without a strong foundation. This is how we’re going to make things happen. Being outraged, we have succeeded in nothing. It’s possible we’ve accomplished some very negative things, the ruining of a career or two.

Be mad, sure, but this vicious mentality we have as a community has to stop. I know we don’t like being threatened by outsiders, but at the same time it seems like we’re isolated from each other, ready to turn on ourselves as soon as there’s any type of dissent in our ranks. We’re so desperate to have our hobby treated seriously as mature, responsible, that instead of treating our diseases we cut away the infection, over and over, whittling away our community with an Us vs Them mentality -- lest someone mistakenly lump in our good with our bad and develop the wrong impression.

We like to think we’re not bad people. But our hobby links me to a lot of people who are. We can’t pretend sexist, racist and generally awful people aren’t part of our gaming culture. We can’t just disavow them and pretend the problem has gone away. We have a problem that isn’t just going to go away.

Let’s just try and approach these issues more rationally. Lend support to those who need it. Stop giving a voice to people who’d only abuse it. I know it’s in our gaming mindset to have an enemy, but let’s stop creating them. With one exception, everyone I named above has a larger voice, a larger following, more support, because our community engaged with them and villainised them. The sole exception is the unnamed PR rep. Maybe he now knows what he did. Maybe he doesn’t. What matters is, no one is abusing him on twitter. No one is sliding notes under his door threatening his family.

Most importantly, no one is sympathising with him.


Comments

    Just as good second time around.

    Glad to see this ended up on the site!

    Round of applause, Kermitron!

    This. Serious issues deserve serious discussion, and immediately calling for people's heads both doesn't solve problems and makes it look like they've gone away when nothing's really changed.

    Well written. Reflects my thoughts precisely.

    My feelings: Just because you're "offended", it doesn't mean you're "right".

    Also, on the note of the Unnamed PR rep. I still don't see how he was sexist. I'm betting, from his point of view, he hadn't seen many females come through the stall, and was genuinely trying to help. Sure, he did it in the wrong way, but to be offended and write an article about it is a little bit pathetic.

    The Hitman trailer: Sure, it's sexist. Sure, it's quite distasteful. But I wonder how many people were GENUINELY offended by it, in the way that it honestly hurt their feelings or challeneged their beliefs. My guess is very few.

    Political correctness has gone mad. Today, we can't say "jew" in any context without being anti-semetic (honestly, I was once told off for talking about a jewish mate and how smart he is), tomorrow, Blonde jokes are going to be a criminal activity.

    It's all a bit pathetic.

    /rant

      I think sexism comes more from your demeanor than your actual action (in some cases). From what I have read the unnamed PR guy was dismissive in his actions. Had he been acting in a kind manner then maybe the offended party would have identified that he was just trying to be helpful? I don't know.

      And yes, I was actually (GENUINELY) offended by the hitman trailer. But maybe more because it was a moment of "Is this really who we are as a subculture, is this what works in selling us games? Are we that juvenile as a group of people". And I don't think I am alone.

      (I know I shouldn't be surprised by the latter, but I am a reluctant optimist at times)

        Also I am automatically wary of anyone who complains about "Politically Correct Culture". Not saying it applies here, but too often it is simply used as a shield by people who are unwilling to change their behaviour for the better.

          Thats fair enough, but you have to agree people are going uttertly ridiculous with it (political correctness) at a seemingly increasing rate.

          Absolutely. I think Political Correctness has to exist in some form to govern the way people act. I just believe that purposefully misconstruing a comment in order to feel entitled to being "offended" is just ridiculous.

          I've read far too many "articles" (READ: Rants) about people trying to take the moral high ground and get their audience to tag along on their journey to become moral arbiter of the universe. It's pretentious and detracts from the real issues sometimes. That's why, in my opinion, it needs to be analysed more carefully.

          Offended != Right, IMHO

        I'm glad you're honest. I just didn't see, in any of the comments I read, a single person who explained why they were offended at that trailer like you just did. Kudos for that.

        Whilst we may disagree on that specific point, I absolutely agree that context, intent and demeanor are huge factors when discussing "political correctness". Too many people have been raised without a sense of humour, though, making it difficult to wade through the crap to find someone who actually has a cause worth championing.

      +1 on the politcal correctness gone berserk. Bah bah RAINBOW sheep now? Give me a break.

        "politically correctness gone berserk" is the stupidest term ever. It'a usually just used by people who are all butthurt at being told they're making a douche of themselves. It's a way of turning yourself into a victim when you are actually the one who was being a bully in the first place. If someone has a problem with what you have said, they have a right to raise a concern. Calling them "PC" or whatever is just a way to deflect responsibility from your own actions. Developing insight into your behaviour is part of growing up, but unfortunately we live in a society which has minimised taking responsibility for yourself...

          For someone preaching about the use of political correctness, you've been quite a prat yourself. You insinuated that Woods and myself are "people who are all butthurt at being told they’re making a douche of themselves".
          Wake up.
          Grow up.

          Political correctness is the a black person calling someone a "whitey" and getting away with it. A white person calling a black person "blacky" would have them thrown in jail and heavily fined.

          You can respond in your same immature way and say that black people have been subject to worse conditions than whites and are therefore entitled to this right, but you're wrong. Neither should be calling each other those names. No argument you can possibly throw at me could ever change that.

      I think a lot of the overly PC controversy comes from people using terms like sexism and racism incorrectly, just slapping it on an article for effect, which devalues these serious and ignorant issues if anything. Case in point was the Penny Arcade 'dickwolves' joke mentioned above, which was just a joke about the weirdness of some video game mission choices. It wasn't sexist, or downplaying rape 'culture' or anything else, it was comedic hyperbole, in a humorous setting, intended to be a joke, that's all.

      I think proper education throughout SOCIETY (not just gaming) on what actually IS sexist or racist would go hand in hand with curbing the amount of controversy.

        I agree. Political correctness absolutely has a place in society. It should, however, be a set of guidelines to govern treating others with respect, and not having to apologise for comments that may be misconstrued a million different ways.

        I was recently given lip for saying "That's so retarded". I was lectured on how I should not say such a thing because it belittles the intellectually disabled, etc, etc, etc...
        Yes. It may well do that, but it was said as an exasperated curse, not an insult. Context is everything.

          It may be an exasperated curse to you, but shouldn't it also be of some concern to you how it might make others feel, for whom it might seem like an insult?

            Not really. If someone takes offence at "Oh My God!" or "Jesus Christ!" that is their own perogative. Not mine. The context shows that I wasn't aiming to be offensive, and hence they shouldn't aim to be offended. If they have a GENUINE complaint about it then I will consider it, but I think you'll find many people don't. Not every word that I utter is well-thought-out. Sometimes I'll exclaim something in frustration, or excitement... the point is, If you feel like souring a perfectly fine situation with "political correctness", go for it. Just don't expect me to suddenly have a change of heart and apologise over something I don't agree with.

        Not to mention that I didn't see any of the people wailing about rape jokes wailing about the fact that slavery was also part of that joke, and arguably a more integral part...

    This article offended my in obscure ways. How dare he suggest something contrary to my current position. I will find you Kermitron, and I will eat your family!
    /s

    Great read man, will probably be the best 10 minutes I spend today

    I almost quit the article at "rape culture". Glad I didn't though, it's a good read!
    Nice to see someone actually understood the dickwolves joke.

    Felicia Day also does the TableTop series. It's rather good.

    I just think it's far too easy for even the laziest of white knights to become hysterical when their only barrier to this behaviour is the ability to type.

    There are plenty of issues worth discussing, but a group of aliases working themselves up into a frenzy and calling for extreme levels of "justice" is just fucking boring and absurd.

    I think the drama will quieten down the day people stop clicking on those stories. Kotaku is among those sites guilty of stories like "This is wrong, we condemn it, but here's a link, here's the embedded video and cheers for the traffic".At the same time, for individual writers & blogs those stories are the most celebrated. Career-building, even. I hate being lectured about morals on a videogame enthusiast website, so I'm at the point where I ignore all culture posts.

      I've made a habit of skipping the majority of those posts these days. Can't say that I miss them that much.

      Unfortunately as far as Kotaku goes half the time, it's "This is wrong, we condemn it. Here's a link to some sexy cosplay pics." Mixed messages.

    In all honesty I didn't find this much of an article at all, it just summed up only some of the stuff that has happened recently in a very generalised way, which missed some of the key points and opinions from either side of the debates concerning the hitman trailer and the WASD article (and missed others such as the tomb raider pr blunder etc), which i feel trivialises what has happened and doesn't really give a proper scope of what happened, and more importantly why it happened, and the outcomes of the discussions.

    I'm not really sure what a guy jerking off over your wife's voice has to do with sexism in the games community either? It seems like the disgusting and inappropriate action of a disturbed individual, just because it was over xbox live doesn't make it about drama in the games community. it could have happened over the phone or outside a window, I don't think it fits with this article.

    You say that there needs to be community support, i totally agree, but you also say that we as consumers are at the bottom of the social pyramid. I don't think it's enough to just get everyone to think happy thoughts and it'll all go away, action needs to be taken in a positive and purposeful way in order to change anything. It comes from both sides of the argument taking responsibility for their actions and everyone learning what is right, reinforcing the good, tearing down the bad, from consumers to game developers and everyone in between, that's the only way to get anything done.

      Firstly, this isn't intended to be an article. It's more of a rant that got enough of a response that some folks thought it needed a little more attention, so it's presented here with a couple of small changes (typo and grammar fixes, mainly).

      Secondly, the masturbation event happened over xbox live, from a friend my wife knew only via xbox live. Maybe that person jerks off to girls he talks to on the phone. I don't know. I can't accurately speculate. But it's not even the worst thing that's been said to my wife while she's been playing Halo or Call of Duty. I know people think that being on xbox live is a hazard in and of itself, but we play together, and she catches all the abuse - despite being more consistently better than me at those games - because she's female and I'm not.

      Thirdly, I'm not suggesting we act passively by merely "thinking happy thoughts". I think we do have to take action. However if we want lasting results, it takes more than abusing people who act wrongly on a case-by-case basis. The gaming community is a broad one, and you can't simply law down the law. You can tell people sexism and racism are bad, but that's not going to stop sexually oriented and racial abuse over Xbox Live.

      What I would like to see is people be more thoughful. Hurling abuse back at people? Public naming and shaming? These only serve to make the participants look bad, and outsiders will tar us all with the same brush. At the same time, by taking the offensive we give people the opportunity to lend sympathy to our adversaries. At worst, we might even give these negative issues a figurehead to rally behind.

      Look at the most recent issue, the article about girls being "bad at gaming" that was the subject of an article earlier today. Many people find it reprihensible. Some people are very outspoken. Some others agree with it, and think this article (which is probably a joke or troll article, at least, I hope) appropriate reflects their own principles.

      If you're opposed to the idea that girls are bad at gaming, the second worst thing we can do right now is give those people a louder voice. The absolute worst thing we can do is engage them directly and make ourselves seem just as bad.

        And again, I should really start throwing my posts into MS Word when I'm not using a browser with a built in spellchecker. -_-

        I think you've got the right idea there, certainly in the way we as a community address issues that pop up. Kaite's WASD article for example was tactfully done. It didn't make the PR-guy the focus, or that game and its developers, but instead looked at the issue as a whole. Does one person deserve to have the weight of the internet piled on them for the way they act? Hell no. Personally I think we all just need to grow up and act like adults.

          Growing up and acting like adults means doing SOMETHING, not writing complaining articles on the internet. Adults take responsibility for their own actions and do something about their situation. If it is as bad as people say it is, it won't go away for all the million articles of complaining out there, the real issues need to be addressed and dealt with, people from all parts of the gaming community need to work together to stamp out ignorant behaviour. Trolls will always be trolls, so we have to find a way of working around that, it's just not good enough to say 'something bad happened' and not offer any solution to fix it, or even offer other people the opportunity to help simply because some people might go too far, if you want a change you have to make it happen.

            Is it a complaining article on the internet, or an attempt at spreading awareness about an issue?

        I understand it's a rant, and respect your opinion, but for me having it published on a site, as opposed to it just being a comment moves it from being just someone's thought to a developed article. You've obviously done research and pulled together other articles and references related to the subject so it's more than an opinion piece. But having said that I felt like some of the serious discussion that has been had in the comments over the other articles you mentioned could have been valuable to this article/piece/rant, which could have helped make it more well rounded.

        I'm not condoning what the masturbator guy did, it's disgusting and inappropriate but also personally offensive since he actually told your wife in person. I'm not sure what I would do if someone said that to my significant other but it would almost certainly involve letting that person know it's not ok to do something like that EVER.

        I do completely agree with you over the attitudes of people on xbox live/psn/etc in general, which is basically a representation of John Gabriel's Greater Internet Dickwad Theory. But it's not just limited to the video game community, it's a societal concern, which i feel a lot of articles miss, and seem to act like it only happens in the video game community when it's much much broader than that.

        I'm with you on not condoning passivity and apathy regarding the subject, but I'm also definitely not in favour of lynching people purely to act as scapegoats. In a lot of other articles I've read the general theme is 'something bad happened/is happening' and that's it, complaining about how the situation is bad but not offering any solutions to the problem or even information so as other people can form solutions themselves. I admit that trolls will be trolls and if someone writes an inflammatory article condemning the actions of a certain PR rep (like the guy in the WASD article or the ocean marketing douche) then there will always be people who take it way to far. A much better course of events would be to write a blunt assessment of what happened and provide people who want to rally to a cause sensible avenues to go about helping, like online petitions, form letters etc, which would hopefully curb the amount of crazed trolls baying for e-blood and provide a concise, easy way for everyone to voice their opinion and show the people who are perpetrating the offences that the community won't stand for it.

        I whole heartedly agree that giving someone who is in the wrong a platform for their ignorant ways is not the way to go about it, but i don't agree with the notion of only looking out for ourselves and our own actions and everything will be ok. If people aren't held responsible for their actions in some way (obviously not with death threats) then how will they even know they are in the wrong? How will they learn that their behaviour is not welcome in this society? Why would they stop if what they are doing is what they think is right?

    On Felicia Day, Geek and Sundry is awesome, you should check it out :)
    But yes the drama needs to stop, we need more rational discussion and less witch-hunting.

    Mark I'm deeply offended you changed the 'let off some steam' from the stock picture from Commando. I demand it's return. As a fan I feel you owe me :p

    Most or all of the the sexist/racist comments I've heard over Xbox Live sound like they're coming from 15 year olds anyway. I don't think it can ever really be stopped because once they've grown up, there'll be a new batch of youngins to take over from there.

    As 'the wife' in this scenario maybe a better example could have been chosen but the masturbation thing was probably by far the most offensive. The most upsetting part wasn't even the fact that he did it or even told me about it, but that he believed that I as a female playing a game on XBL would be okay with it. It's this attitude that is the problem, that it's okay to act like that or make people feel less than they are just because they are different to you. And that doesn't just apply to gender either.

      I'm sorry you had to go through that, it's disgusting, offensive and really shouldn't happen at all, ever. The fact that he did it is bad enough but then to actually insinuate that just because it was over xbox live that you would somehow be 'into it' is absolutely absurd?!? I have never actually encountered (or even imagine i could ever encounter) someone with a view that all females on xbox live would be interested in such disgusting and offensive behaviour. He seems severely deranged, it is simply not normal to think that way.

        Are you kidding? Maybe it's just a way of coming to terms with guilty feelings about masturbation or they had a strict religious upbringing, but plenty of guys feel the overwhelming need to jerk off to an audience. It's quite a common phenomenon, I've only experienced it once during online gaming - but when I worked at a call centre you'd get so many wankers that I got desensitised to it. It's like "Hello, can I help you?" *sound of panting on other end* 'Oh, you're fapping are you? Oh that's good, well make sure you use plenty of lube and have a nice day!"
        It's outrageous, if they want to do that then they can damn well pay for it, thankyou very much...think of all those phone-sex operators and webcam performers with bills to pay!

          I am definitely not kidding, maybe it says something about the quality of company that I keep, but I don't know anyone (nor do I want to know anyone) that thinks that kind of horrific sh*t is ok.

          And damn straight if these weirdos are after something like that they should do something to help the economy and pay for it!

        The thing is there are pepople that believe that a sexist remark or sexist harrasment is perfectly acceptable. That is just a really extreme example. Let me give a different example:

        I was playing Halo:Reach. I came across a group of guys on the other team that seemed take offence at my simple act of playing the game, they began making sexist comments via proximity chat, following me around the map to do so. I just continued playing the game repeatedly killing them becuase they were far more interested in harrasing me than to play the game. I muted them after a bit and left the group, then the messages started, so I blocked them and avoided them. After a few days depite the avoid I was matched with them again, when they realised they couldn't talk to me or message me they went to my Bungie.net profile and placed these oh so important comments on my file share videos.

        Again not exectly an example of what Ilike to call 'normal' people but my point is that anyone who acts in a discriminatory manner in this day and age IS deranged.

          "anyone who acts in a discriminatory manner in this day and age IS deranged."

          Well said, I couldn't agree more.

    Bleh, the people who are spouting off all the vitriolic crap towards women and minority groups will eventually die of type-2 diabetes from sitting in their basements stuffing themselves with junk food and not exercising. And we won't have to worry about them passing their ideals onto their offspring, because it's not like they're gonna have an opportunity to breed. Unless their used tissues gain sentience and start slithering around looking for ovaries to fertilise. *shudder* Think I'll make sure my windows are closed tonight...

      That's not very nice to people who have diabetes or people who have eating problems.

    Good article, and a well made point.

    Now, Kotaku, having re-posted this? Please play attention to it, and try to quit stoking the drama yourselves. Ta.

    Gamers need to stop hanging onto their preconconcieved notion of gaming being a subculture of which they are exclusively a part of. What ever exclusionary pressure forced them to seek refuge in what they percieve as a downtrodden pastime doesn't belong to them nor does it exclusively define who they are now. Play they games that you enjoy and this issue will never be one :)

    /nice :)

    Personal position:

    "The Drama" would be far less inflammatory if some of the rhetoric used by the PC brigade was less hostile.

    Simple example:
    "Male Privilege"
    Technical Meaning: "There are some social situations wherein which males and females are treated differently, and sometimes this unequal treatment makes things easier for males and harder for females (in general)."
    What We Hear: "You horrible evil male! How dare you benefit from an accident of birth! How dare you enjoy fanservicey women! You're no different to a rapist because your Male Gaze sees her as an object to be raped!"

    "Privilege" is an hostile term. It shames and guilt-trips. THIS is why many men knee-jerk against the term, even if the TECHNICAL meaning is valid; it comes across as male-blaming, male-shaming and an attempt to inflict collective guilt.

    If you want to Make Friends And Influence People, then you should not alienate your audience. And no, it isn't "our privilege talking," it is normal for people to reject the idea of collective guilt. If someone accuses X of "male privilege" and X is offended, and THEN X is accused of "that's just your privilege talking," X is UNDERSTANDABLY offended! They've been attacked, and the attack is being compounded!

    If people are REALLY concerned about sexism, and want to convince people to try and be less sexist, then don't use guilt trips. Don't use shaming tactics. Speak calmly, and mind your audience's feelings.

    I've CONSISTENTLY found that people who find the term "male privilege" offensive will accept the technical meaning of the term refers to a valid phenomenon (and it should be noted that the technical meaning of "male privilege" does not deny the existence of the inverse, i.e. "female privilege"). What they object to is the RHETORICAL use of the term. They object to what is rationally perceived as an attempt to inflict guilt upon them for their gender.

      Well said. The only way these things get better is if people learn and recognise where they can do better; that won't happen if people feel they're being attacked, they'll just get defensive and then things only escalate.

    "The main problem with the internet is that too many people have access to too much information to be able to use it constructively."

    "I have no idea what Felicia Day does."

    I second these sentiments wholeheartedly.

    Lara being sexually assaulted in the game is sexist! Because it's impossible for males to be sexually assaulted and for it to have any bearing whatsoever on their personality.
    Everyone has the right to be offended. Also, everyone else has the right not to care.

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