Player vs. Player by @ACGormley {#Giveaway} @RiptideBooks

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Hi, and welcome to the Player vs. Player blog tour. Today I’m going to be sharing a scene from Chapter Four of PvP. This is a book very close to my heart, as a gamer and as an activist, and I think this scene is pretty important because it addresses something that plagued me from the first time I started seeing the toxic backlash against feminist critics in gaming: that the harassment could so very easily escalate, and that while it’s easy to dismiss it as mere trolling, all it takes is one person deciding to up the ante before the situation becomes truly dangerous.

Thankfully, this has not happened yet. But in recent months, we’ve seen a number of female game developers and feminist critics of gaming driven from their homes by threats that were credible enough to merit the precaution. We’ve even seen a college campus massacre threatened if one feminist critic spoke about issues relating to the portrayal of women in gaming.

This isn’t just harmless trolling.

*****

excerptJordan’s phone had already been vibrating with texts, warning him, before he arrived to see that there were people with signs picketing on the sidewalk outside the Third Wave Studios offices. Signs which read, “Protect our Children!” and “End the Violence.” There were even a couple about stopping the homosexual agenda. That was new, at least as far as the real-life picketers went. It wasn’t the first time antigaming crusaders had taken aim at Third Wave for their content, and those groups had been on a rampage since the Sandy Hook shooting, courtesy of the NRA attempting to divert blame to the gaming industry. The Phoenix Force franchise was no more graphically violent than any other first-person shooter game, nor was the sexual content any more explicit than any other RPG. It was considerably milder than many titles in the genre, in fact, and none of the violence was sexualized, which couldn’t be said for many other games.

But logic had little to do with the protesters’ platform.

Great. Just great. Because the harassment Niles was already getting wasn’t enough.

Jordan frowned again as he recalled the texts Niles had received last night. It was harder than he would have thought, seeing what some of the trolls were saying to and about Niles. Now the occasional glum and besieged phases Niles and Rosie went through made a lot more sense. He hadn’t been able to stop thinking about it since, even after he’d left the guy he’d picked up.

He’d lied to Niles about where he’d been all night. After leaving the twink, he’d gone into the office and started looking through the stacks of fan mail, as well as the email from the contact box on the studio website. There was much more where the harassing texts had come from. There were entire fan forums dedicated to malcontents who were unhappy with the gay storylines in Third Wave games. The shit the twerps said on the various forums, showing their internet dicks and talking big to try to impress one another, seeing who could say the vilest thing, was even worse. Jordan had started making accounts on every board and forum and mailing list he could find to keep track of them all, under the rationale that as Third Wave’s marketing director, he should know what the fans were saying, even the negative stuff. They kept egging each other on, prompting ever more extravagant threats and insults, and the big brother in him—admittedly only by six minutes, but still—wanted to start bashing heads together.

Sighing, he drove past the protesters, then hung his laptop case on his shoulder, and headed inside to where Niles and Rosie were talking in the door of the break room, cradling cups of coffee and looking far more tense than the picketers accounted for.

“So what’s their beef today?” Jordan asked, striding toward his office as they fell in step with him.

“They found a new angle,” Rosie nearly growled. “That video went up on YouTube just like I predicted it would, and now Niles is the poster boy for fags everywhere trying to push the gay agenda on unsuspecting kids.”

Jordan set his bag down a little harder than necessary in his chair. “Wait. They got that from you informing them that Niles wasn’t on the writing staff for Age of Valiance?”

“He’s our lead writer, even if he’s not working on a specific title. Or that’s the argument they’re using.”

Niles grabbed a remote off the filing cabinet and turned on the TV on the wall in the corner of Jordan’s office. “They’ve called the news outlets. There are going to be interviews.”

“Shit.” Jordan closed his eyes, imagining declining sales after the news broadcast claimed that Third Wave was shoving gay storylines on people’s kids. This was going to take some spin control. “We need to get ahead of this. Start a marketing campaign immediately touting the message of acceptance and diversity inherent in Third Wave’s games. Get it out to liberal parenting sites, not just LGBT and ally sites. We need to hammer home the message that equality is the ultimate family value. I’m going to draft a post for our social forums to be released immediately and start scheduling interviews.”

“Get on it, then,” Rosie said shortly. “In the meantime, we’ve got another problem.”

“It’s not a problem.” Niles spoke between gritted teeth.

“The fuck it isn’t!” She snatched an envelope from his hands and threw it on Jordan’s desk. He picked it up. It had Niles’s name and address on it and inside was a plain, white sheet of paper with two large, stark words:

WATCH YOURSELF

Jordan blinked at it. “You still going to tell me they’re not threatening you?”

“Don’t make a big deal out of it.” Niles ran a hand through his hair. “We might not get many of these sorts of fan letters by snail mail, but they do come.”

“To your home address?” Rosie folded her arms across her chest, her posture aggressive. Yesterday, she’d been on Niles’s side of this issue, but today she was clearly in Jordan’s camp. “It’s bad enough that they’ve got your personal cell phone number.”

Niles rubbed his forehead as if he were getting a headache. “It doesn’t matter. It’s still just a bunch of punks talking big.”

She narrowed her eyes. “If they’ve tracked down your physical address, we have to assume it’s more than talk.”

“Oh, come on! Finding someone’s physical address is a search away these days. I don’t remember you reacting this way when the Google Earth images of your house went online.”

Rosie went very still. “You’re right. I didn’t react. I just sold the house I loved and moved into a cookie-cutter high-rise condo building downtown with a doorman and a security system.” The ragged edge to her voice cut through the heated debate, and Niles fell silent. “I let them make me afraid. I let them drive me out of my house, Niles, and if you didn’t see me react to that, you weren’t paying attention.”

“Rosie—” Niles reached out to her, but she was still closed off, pulled into herself. Making an admission like that had to have cost her.

A detail caught Jordan’s eye, and he felt himself go cold. “Jesus! Niles, there’s no stamp on the fucking envelope.”

“So?”

“You didn’t notice?” Jordan slid it across the desk back at him, and Niles stared at it, blinking. “Whoever sent this hand delivered it.”

“Oh Christ.” Rosie covered her mouth with her hand. “Niles, they were at your house.”

“Fuck.” Niles dropped into a chair, closing his eyes and letting his head tip back.

“Okay, we should call the cops about this.” Jordan picked up the envelope Niles had left sitting on his desk, and studied it again.

Niles scoffed. “And say what? A bunch of gaming geeks are stalking me because they have a stick up their ass about queer characters in their games? The cops aren’t exactly well-known for taking gay issues all that seriously.”

Jordan rolled his eyes. “C’mon. This is Portland, not the Deep South, and you know it. Besides, getting them to investigate isn’t the point, at least not yet. Starting a paper trail of complaints is, so if it escalates, they can see that it’s an ongoing problem.”

“Or if it ever does get serious—which it won’t—they won’t believe me because they think I’ve been overreacting to every troll who tries to bait me.”

Rosie gave him a flat look, leaning against the wall. “Okay, Niles, I get it. You know I do. It’s nearly impossible in gaming culture to separate out the genuine threats from the usual smack talk. You don’t want to overreact because you don’t want to make it look like you can’t cut it. You don’t want to seem like some precious snowflake. I get it. But this is not trolling. This is menacing. They’ve crossed the line. At the very least, whoever left that note for you was trespassing. And probably in violation of some postal laws.”

“Fine. Okay.” Niles’s jaw shifted as he glanced back and forth between them. “If I make the complaint, will the two of you quit nagging me and let me get back to writing? In case you’ve forgotten, I’ve got a production deadline for the Gairi DLC.”

“I’ll go with you to the police bureau at lunch.” Jordan gave him a tight smile, and Niles tensed as though he was going to argue again. Then he pushed himself up out of the chair and strode from Jordan’s office. They stared after him.

“I get why he didn’t want to overreact, which is why I backed him at the club last night.” Rosie slipped into the chair Niles had vacated. “But why am I getting the vibe that his resistance to the idea that this might be a problem goes deeper than that?”

“He’s a pacifist.” Jordan tapped the end of a pen against his desk blotter. He was far more edgy and energized now than he’d been when he’d arrived at the office. He hadn’t slept in over twenty-four hours, either, and this wasn’t going to do a thing to help him rest tonight. “Always has been. I don’t think he’s really ever internalized how serious homophobic violence can be. He can’t conceive of someone having that much hate in themselves.”

She smiled at him, her eyes soft. “I don’t think you realize just how sappy you get when you talk about him.”

Jordan ducked his head, coloring. “He’s my brother. Good thing, too. Someone’s got to look out for him because he’ll never look out for himself.”

“You think they realize that about him?” She jerked her head toward the exterior wall of the building and ostensibly the picketers outside. “This guy they’re so up in arms about, who is such a threat to their kids, is just a gentle little lamb who wants to write stories about people like himself finding love and being heroes.”

“Do you think it matters to them?” Jordan grimaced and turned up the volume on the TV. The local morning show had just cut to the reporter outside Third Wave’s headquarters, where an officious-looking guy had handed off his picket sign to act as spokesman.

“What we’re seeing here is a clear-cut agenda, an insidious attempt to work fringe liberal ideology into the hearts and minds of our kids through what is commonly perceived as harmless entertainment. We, the concerned citizens who form the Coalition for Responsible Media, are making a point of bringing to light this sort of brainwashing that’s being embedded in music, television, movies, and even video games, and bring back family-friendly entertainment . . .”

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PlayervsPlayer_400x600blurbPushing for change can be dangerous when change starts pushing back.

Video game writer Niles River loves the work he does at Third Wave Studios: creating games with mass appeal that feature women, people of color, and LGBTQ characters. To make his job even better, his best friend is his boss, and his twin brother works beside him. And they mostly agree that being on the forefront of social change is worth dealing with trollish vitriol—Niles is more worried about his clingy ex and their closeted intern’s crush on his brother than he is about internet harassment.

But now the bodies on the ground are no longer virtual, and someone’s started hand-delivering threats to Niles’s door. The vendetta against Third Wave has escalated, and to make matters worse, the investigating detective is an old flame who left Niles heartbroken for a life in the closet.

No change happens without pain, but can Niles justify continuing on with Third Wave when the cost is the blood of others? If he does, the last scene he writes may be his own death.

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bioAmelia C. Gormley may seem like anyone else. But the truth is she sings in the shower, dances doing laundry, and writes blisteringly hot m/m erotic romance while her son is at school. When she’s not writing in her Pacific Northwest home, Amelia single-handedly juggles her husband, her son, their home, and the obstacles of life by turning into an everyday superhero. And that, she supposes, is just like anyone else.

Her self-published novel-in-three-parts, Impulse (Inertia, Book One; Acceleration, Book Two; and Velocity, Book Three) can be found at most major online book retailers, and be sure to check Riptide for her latest releases, including her Highland historical, The Laird’s Forbidden Lover, the The Professor’s Rule series of erotic novelettes (co-written with Heidi Belleau), the post-apocalyptic romance, Strain, her New Adult contemporary, Saugatuck Summer, and of course, Player vs. Player, available now. She is presently at work on two more novels set in the Strain universe, Juggernaut and Bane, coming summer/fall of 2015.

You can contact Amelia on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookLikes, Tumblr, or contact her by email using the form at http://ameliacgormley.com/

giveaway

Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a choice of one a book from my backlist (excluding Player vs Player.Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 13th. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. 

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3 Comments

  1. Trix

     /  December 8, 2014

    It’s a really powerful premise!

    Like

    Reply
  2. bn100

     /  December 9, 2014

    Nice excerpt

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

    Like

    Reply
  3. Thank you so much for having me here on my blog tour! I apologize for the delay in replying; my husband lost his job last week and things are a little off the rails here as a result. But I will be doing the drawing and notifying the winners shortly!

    Like

    Reply

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