Monday, 1 April 2013

I Hate the Gaming Community

I do, or at the least the members of the community in high-profile positions. Journalists and certain developers. It's been one of those frustrating weeks, so this'll probably be more of a rant than a well thought-out blog and I intend to keep it short. Two things have been bothering me: the refusal to accept any opinion that isn't thoroughly pro-feminist, including Anita Sarkeesian's videos, and the attitude that the industry needs to mature while significant members of it refuse to mature themselves.

Let's start with Cliff Bleszinski, game designer for Epic Games (developer of Gears Of War). Back on March 11th, he posted a blog about Anita Sarkeesian that we've come to expect from individuals in the industry. Endless praise of Anita and the continued dismissal of all of her critics as "trolls". At this point, it's old news, but talking about Feminist Frequency over the last few days on forums, I can't help but take issue with some of Bleszinski's claims.

Basically, it's occurred to me that many of Anita's supporters have a worldview that is so set in stone that it would shatter if they ever acknowledged that there is some genuine criticism of Anita Sarkeesian. Their fingers would leap from their hands and run away from their keyboards rather than type, "you know, the critics might have a point". When it comes to the claims Anita makes, there's a general attitude of "we hold these truths to be self-evident, so criticism can easily be dismissed as nonsensical trolling". It doesn't matter how many points are made about Anita's lack of objectivity, cherry-picked examples, questionable money-making methods and censorship, the critics continue to be included with the abusers.

I was looking through some responses to Anita last night -- either to her Damsels In Distress: Part 1 video or her original Kickstarter -- and it's remarkable how many of them make an effort to point out that they think she's tackling important issues ... but she's just making a hash of it. They want to make it clear that they support the issues, or at the very least are not flinging insults and abuse in her direction, but they just think Anita is handling it badly. The Amazing Atheist spells it out with, "if you're expecting some stupid "pwnage" video, you're going to be disappointed". Kite Tales -- with my new favourite video on the subject -- spends the beginning and end of her video stating how much she respects Anita's opinion and hopes that the two sides of the argument can work together to create a better whole. Even one of her Kickstarter backers, while otherwise praising her, berates her for refusing to answer her criticism.

These people will all be ignored by the mainstream gaming press. It doesn't matter how much work went into their videos, they'll still be dismissed along with the misogynists. All this just makes me wonder what the point is.

For example, take a look at this paragraph from Bleszinski's blog:
"We’re the gamers, the dorks. We’re the ones who were on our computers during prom. We’re the ones that were in the back of the lunch room who were playing D&D instead of tossing a football around on the quad. We were supposed to be the open, friendly ones, the ones who welcomed all into our wonderful geeky circle.

We’re not supposed to be a mob that’s storming the gates with our pitchforks and torches.

We’re not the bullies."
Okay Cliff, fair enough. We're not the bullies. So why are we being treated as if we are? Why is sexism in gaming blamed on "privileged manchildren" and "dudebros", which is bullying in itself? Those of us who are in the back of the lunch room playing D&D, why are we being treated like sexists by publishers who think games won't sell with women on the box? Why do game journalists agree with that?
"More than that, it's kind of creepy to me that so few female leads, if any at all, are actually allowed to be in straight relationships, lest it incur the homophobic insecurity of the male audience."
Yes, it's a Jim Sterling quote. What he's saying here is that basically, female leads in straight relationships would only appeal to female gamers because the straight male gaming audience is too homophobic to enjoy it.

Game journalists and supporters of Anita Sarkeesian have this idea that the only reasons anyone could possibly oppose their brand of "equality" in gaming is because they oppose equality. Not because they oppose their arguments or methods of doing things. As Bleszinski said:
"Heaven forbid a woman actually take a magnifying glass to our beloved hobby and actually try to unravel and figure out why things are the way they are in the effort that somehow she might change things?"
And from Rock, Paper, Shotgun:
"All this talk of sexism isn’t going away, nor should it. The gaming industry’s sick, and the symptoms are plain as day. Mystifyingly often, however, the immediate reaction to even the faintest hint of that suggestion is “No, nuh-uh! You just want to censor expression! Give me one good reason we actually need to change.”* Well, if you really want to move beyond “Because jeez, it’s basic human decency to treat someone else the way you’d like to be treated,” Dragon Age III lead writer David Gaider’s got a laundry list of practical reasons for you.

*This can also be translated as “I’m a blathering numbskull. Gobble gobble gobble ptttthrtppt” I’m sorry. I tried to be mature. Instead I just made you read more of the article."
It's clear that journalists don't want to listen. They want to blame. There are plenty of places they could go to online if they want reasonable feedback about sexism in gaming but they've instead adopted an "us vs. them" mentality, even though it makes no sense. They've invented a mythical oppressor; a white teenager who shouts sexist slurs into his microphone while playing online multiplayer. This is the person they wish to blame everything on and it's a stereotype they force everyone who disagrees with the popular opinion into, especially if they're a straight white male.

However, let's take a look at some of the well-reasoned arguments against Anita Sarkeesian, from both her Kickstarter and her Damsels In Distress: Part 1 video. InuitInua, for example, who is female. Kite Tales, who made this video after Anita's Kickstarter video (as well as the one linked to above), is female too. This comment from a woman named "Elsa" has also been doing the rounds. And that's before we get to male examples such as The Amazing Atheist above, Thunderf00t, Instig8ive Journalism and J.J. McCullough. All of whom are doomed to be ignored by mainstream gaming journalism.

As I said, all of this makes me wonder what the point is. How long can gaming journalists and developers go without acknowledging that Anita Sarkeesian may not have all the answers? That men may face issues in games too? That putting Elizabeth on the back of the Bioshock Infinite box wasn't a big deal because she was only a supporting character?

It wasn't the first and it won't be the last but it was the only one singled out. As someone who has played Bioshock Infinite from beginning to end, the critics made a mountain out of a molehill. There was nothing so special about Elizabeth that she deserved a spot on the front cover any more than Emily in Dishonored, Kai in Heavenly Sword or Ashley Graham in Resident Evil 4.

I was going to write about controversy over the IGDA hosting a party with "inappropriate" dancers but ... I can't be bothered, so I'll keep it short. All I'll say is this is what they looked like:

Sounds to me like the IGDA just wanted to create a party atmosphere by putting on some entertainment that happened to feature dancing women. From the way it's been treated -- two people resigned (although one was leaving anyway) over the "inappropriate" "objectified" women -- people have been acting like strippers were giving lapdances. I've read people making the claim that it didn't belong in a professional setting, which sounds like an excuse to me. I can understand that being said about the ridiculous Adria Richards debacle (which I'm not explaining. Just Google "Donglegate") but this was entertainment put on by the International Game Developers Association. It was done by the professionals so the other professionals could enjoy themselves.

In a link to Eurogamer I posted above, in an article about Remember Me -- Capcom's upcoming sci-fi game starring a female protagonist -- they write about how the gaming industry won't mature if it isn't more accepting of female protagonists, which I agree with. Cliff Bleszinski also echoed David Cage's sentiment about the industry needing to "grow up". However, how on earth is our industry ever going to grow up if we take such an immature attitude towards (A) other people's opinions and (B) inoffensive entertainment at the Game Developers Conference? The games industry has much more basic and fundamental strides it needs to take if it wants to mature, never mind the ones where money is involved.

Rant over.

By the way, I'm not too pleased with any of my articles about Anita Sarkeesian. I feel like I've given a decent argument about her work but it's spread out over three blog posts. I'm not happy with it and I think all of the others I've linked to in this post have given better arguments than me. Particularly Kite Tales. As I said, it's my new favourite video on the subject. I still have more to say about Anita though ... and I hope her Damsels In Distress: Part 2 video gives me the material to write a better blog. I know I can do better.

As always, leave a comment below or write to me at