Antwand Pearman is a father. As we spoke on the phone this afternoon, his kids chattered in the background. He kept apologising, but I told him I didn't mind.
When Adam Lanza murdered 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn. last week, Pearman, CEO of GamerFitNation, was understandably affected. "I know I would lose my mind if my child didn't come home," he told me. So he decided to do something about it: he called for all gamers to participate in an Online Shooter Ceasefire on Dec. 21, abstaining from violent games for a single day to show respect for the victims and their families.
The response blew him away.
Pearman said the result was better than anything he expected. Based on the data he received from clans and organisations that participated and what he could surmise from social media, he estimated that around 50,000 gamers participated in the #OSCeasefire. Even hacktivist group Anonymous got on board, promoting the movement through social media.
He compared it to the Christmas truce that took place on the Western front of the first world war during 1914. As the holiday approached, British, French and German troops stopped shooting at one another long enough to exchange gifts, sing carols and play football.
"I wanted gamers to come together to try to show that we care," he told me. "It shows that we can come together and do something positive on a grand scale."
But not everyone was on board. Isaiah-TriForce Johnson (yes, that's his real name), internet famous for being the first in line for three Nintendo hardware releases in a row, told me on Friday that he would be playing whatever games he wanted.
In fact, TriForce, who makes a point every year to give to engage with charities through his organisation Empire Arcadia, held his own tribute on the night of Dec. 21. He and some friends live streamed a marathon session of games like Zelda II and Street Fighter X Tekken — games that feature storylines in which you save kids. To promote his point of view he created a simple image that he hoped would be impossible to misinterpret:
"I've been around gaming for a very, very long time and I've watched the media butcher video games and blame video games for a whole bunch of stuff that has nothing to really do with us, or the manufacturers, or the developers, the producers, the inventors — it has nothing to do with us," he told me.
"The reason I think that the online ceasefire is a bad idea is because, as I said before, the media will take anything that we say and they will manipulate it," he continued. "I think the media would take that and use it against him."
TriForce said as much to Pearman, but the two didn't see eye-to-eye. "TriForce voiced that to me as well, but I'm like, 'Listen, one: you can't be afraid, you know, to come out and speak against something in fear of what's going to happen,'" Pearman told me. "You can't let the media define who you are, you know? You define who you are."
Besides, he said on Saturday the media coverage of the Ceasefire had been positive so far. He even appeared on CNN with Piers Morgan, who later tweeted a quote from Pearman: "I don't see how videogames…contribute to violence, especially when most (games) emulate real life."
I'm more inclined to agree with Pearman; when you fly a flag half-mast, you're not blaming the flag. A moment of silence is not an accusation aimed at speaking. And screw whoever wants to twist the Ceasefire to their own agenda. We're saying to those pundits and politicians who would use games as a scapegoat: we don't care what you say about us. We're going to show respect, and we're going to do it our way.
"You and I both know Antwand means good," TriForce said. "But we are in a very tense position in the nation right now. We're really walking on egg shells, and anything we do or say will be used against us."
I say let them try.