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Bethesda founder calls for action on Ukraine

“The gaming community has power.”

Like a lot of people watching Russian forces advance across Ukraine, Christopher Weaver has been feeling “despondent.” But unlike a lot of us, the video game pioneer behind some of the world’s most beloved titles has the power to do something about it.

Weaver, who founded Bethesda Softworks in 1986 and worked on the popular Elder Scrolls series before being pushed out of the company in 2002, is hoping to leverage his status in the industry he helped build to make a difference.

In a call-to-action written by Weaver and shared with Inverse (read the full message below), he implores the world’s largest video game companies to either ban Russian players outright or add in-game messages urging them to take a stand against their government.

He writes:

“What if every major game company that has an online platform collectively blocked all Russian IP addresses or put up in-game pages in Russian to better inform and speak out against the Ukrainian invasion?”
Protesters in London, England call for further action to support Ukraine.Mike Kemp/In Pictures/Getty Images

Blocking all Russian players might sound harsh, though Weaver tells Inverse that in this case, the ends justify the means. However, his suggestion of in-game messages may already be in motion.

“I spoke to a couple of my friends who are CEOs, large companies, actually, would, would be part of the interface here,” Weaver tells Inverse. “I had one or two really good discussions with them where they agree that we need to do something. But one of them in particular sort of intimated this is what we can do with our chat rooms.”

In a country like Russia, where news is widely controlled by the state and censorship is the norm, Weaver sees video games as a direct line to an important demographic.

“We basically have the equivalent of telephone lines into tens if not hundreds of millions of Russians of the right age,” he says, “the Russians who are going to inherit Russia in the future, the Russians who are going to decide whether or not the Putins of the world get to hold sway.”

An anti-war protest in Rome, Italy.Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images

Read the full op-ed, reprinted with permission from Christopher Weaver, below:

As so many others, I am witness to the increasingly stark images of murderous destruction happening in Ukraine and suffering despondency from feeling powerless to stop the madness. To see an independent country attacked without provocation while the rest of the modern world stands back lest they be drawn into a war with Russia means we have not learned from history. But any sane person bearing witness nevertheless feels a tangible sense of revulsion.
The madness in Ukraine has forced me to look backwards into a chapter of childhood that amplified upon unseen history by being exposed to the aftereffects of war’s madness on a personal level. Many of my relatives were lost to the death machine of the Nazi empire. My grandparents kept pictures of family I would never meet on their walls. They spoke longingly about those who refused to leave Europe as they could not imagine their countries of birth immolating them in the fires of insanity. My friends had grandfathers with numbered tattoos on their forearms and I was told not to ask what they meant. These memories left an indelible impression on a young boy growing up in the generation immediately following WWII.
I have sought for some way to fight powerlessness and not be complicit by silence. One answer may reside in another past chapter when I founded what became one of the most successful videogame companies of all time, Bethesda Softworks. I know how fans related to the games we made. The gaming community is remarkably wide, diverse, and loyal. Taken together, the gaming community has power.
What if every major game company that has an online platform collectively blocked all Russian IP addresses or put up in-game pages in Russian to better inform and speak out against the Ukrainian invasion? The gaming community has a powerful voice that could be used to send an equally powerful message. Many in the community are of the principal age groups who shall inherit the earth from the madness of their elders. This is a time to show the world that the power of games can be applied for social good. Collectively we have the power we lack individually.
Such an industry-wide gesture would send shock waves directly to the young people in Russia — who may be unaware of how badly their country is acting on the world stage. It also would demonstrate clearly that games companies are made up of socially responsible people who are willing to take a stand—even at the expense of Russian income. The young people of the world collectively love playing games. The gaming community should collectively stand and be counted. Tell Russian players what is going on in a country that controls the narrative. Show Russian players that the games community is morally outraged. Do not be silent in the face of evil.
In Journey to Ixtlan, Carlos Castaneda wrote, “In a world where death is the hunter, my friend, there is no time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions.”
It is time to decide.
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