Why Je Suis Charlie and the Tragedy in France Should Matter to Gamers


The tragedy that has rocked France, and those throughout the world in the creative community, is still difficult to digest. For those who purposefully avoid the news, the gist of it is this: Several gunmen stormed the offices of Paris based magazine, ‘Charlie Hebdo’. The satirical magazine was specifically targeted for its repeated, satirical depictions of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. 12 people, including the editor of the magazine, are dead while 11 others are wounded. The news continues to break, and it’s worth reading the NPR post for more up-to-date information.

One really interesting phenomenon to come out of the tragedy is the phrase “je suis Charlie,” meaning both “I am Charlie,” and “I follow Charlie.” There’s a really good breakdown of the exact meaning at the ‘Washington Post’. The term is a show of support for the magazine and the right to the freedom of expression. It says that despite debate about whether what was said or drawn was tasteful, France will defend the magazine’s right to say it.

That is a principle worth remembering in the fuzzy debate around games. There are some games out there we may find distasteful, and even wonder initially at their place in the games market. Certainly, there are some games out there I recoiled at initially.

The Slaying at Sandy Hook Elementary, for example is a game I initially found distasteful. But after taking the time to experience it and its artistic message, I came to understand that sometimes we need rough games like the Sandy Hook game to make hard, but valid criticisms and statements.

More recently, controversy erupted over the game Hatred on Steam Greenlight, and even if this game doesn’t have an artistic statement, or even a valid point, it’s still something that deserves to be made. It’s that same freedom of expression “je suis Charlie” is about.

Videogames have been riddled with attempts at censorship arguably as early as Death Race 2000 in 1976.  It’s this kind of history we, as gamers, should keep in mind and it’s exactly this history of censorship and this fear of it that should drive gamers to support ‘Charlie Hebdo’ because all freedom of expression is worth fighting for.

That being said, we must also then support a business’s right to choose what games they want to provide, as those have an inherent impact on the business. A business pulling a game isn’t necessarily censorship.  However, we should absolutely be aware of laws that could be used for censorship like anti Net Neutrality legislation. We should also be aware of false information or misleading studies and quickly debunk them to spread the truth about our medium. We are living in an age of information freedom, and we must work to preserve that, and preserve it responsibly.

Even if it may feel trivializing to compare the horrific attacks on the magazine’s offices to the attempts by some to censor our hobby, it’s still a thought worth considering. Whether it is censorship by guns or censorship by law or media, we should all stand together and fight against censorship.

Armed Gamer stands with Charlie, and we as gamers should as well!

Featured image courtesy Flickr user Normandie2005

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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