Saturday, 26 October 2013

Three Recommendations

With college sapping most of my time lately, I feel like I've been neglecting this blog. I'm still aiming for three posts a month but I don't bother checking back every day, like I used to, and any hope of playing games to analyse gender issues has practically gone out of the window. Plus, except for some ongoing GTAV stuff, it feels like a slow news month for gender issues but that could be because I haven't had the opportunity to research as much as I used to. The few things I have found have been little things; the irritating, everyday branding of male-dominated industries as "problematic" and hypocritical articles wanting greater analysis of gender issues in games while branding huge chunks of the gaming audience as "abusers", refusing to acknowledge the lack of focus on one sexes' issues, etc.

We're used to that kind of thing by now and it's obviously important but game journalists aren't going to change their ways because of one critical blog post. So for once, let's focus on some people who are doing things right.

Do Videogame Stereotypes Hurt Men? - PBS Game/Show

In spite of the fact that this is the same Youtuber who compared Anita Sarkeesian to Rosa Parks, he released this video, which I think has a lot of good points to it. I saw this linked in Youtube's sidebar about half a month ago but didn't have time to watch it. I forgot about it until I checked my e-mail today and someone kindly provided a link to it.

Basically, I think the host -- Jamin Warren -- accurately sums up several points about male issues that we very rarely see reported by other game journalists (or, if they are, they're often dismissed or attempts are made to justify them). As well as portrayals, he talks about the two issues that concern me most of all; body image issues and male disposability/violence against men. He handles them well.

Having said that, if I have a criticism, it's that Jamin's arguments seem to be at odds with his previous video, "Do Gamers Need Anita Sarkeesian's Feminism?" If we want to define different kinds of feminism, "Anita Sarkeesian's Feminism" is one that is actually dismissive of male issues while Jamin seems to be in full support of them. They chime on more emotional male portrayals but clash on points about body image and disposability (or seem to; again, we find ourselves in the frustrating situation where we don't have enough information about Anita's views to say for sure. So I apologise if my assumptions are inaccurate but I'm going solely by her dismissal of the Chippendale-esque male damsel in Spelunky and glossing over important details like the final boss of Primal being the female protagonist's boyfriend, who she has to kill).

Anita's response to this video was quite interesting:

I'm not really sure what to say about this. I suppose disliking male disposability and unrealistic standards of beauty for men are "MRA type arguments" ... but the fact is that they're also equality arguments. Common-sense arguments. As far as I know, Jamin Warren isn't a men's rights activist but he was, at the very least, open-minded enough to read a Warren Farrell book -- a man who I suspect understands how "patriarchy" functions a bit better than Anita does -- and be objective enough to examine the issue fairly.

The thing is, harmful issues are harmful issues and it's a good thing that they're examined and given a spotlight in a well-made Youtube video. As far as I can tell, Anita cares less about the issues being given the spotlight and more than Jamin didn't blame them on patriarchy. I think that says a lot.

Vicsor's Opinion: Damsel In Distress

I've been following Vicsor's Opinion ever since he posted a blog featuring side-by-side comparisons of all the videos Anita took footage from a few months ago. Vicsor's most recent post is a thorough examination of the damsel in distress plot device in games and I'm astounded by how much depth he goes into.

Here it is, if you want to read it. I highly recommend that you do. It's all excellent but if I had to choose my favourite parts, I'd pick 2.1 Flat Narrative and 3.2 Damsel Saves Herself through to 3.4 Character Building and Narrative Twists. These parts, as well as perfectly stating points that we've all considered at some point, excellently deconstruct several of Anita's arguments, particularly about the high number of female characters who actually manage to escape their own . I also have to give a lot of praise for going out of his way to create a small RPG Maker game featuring a damsel who can't escape her predicament. I'd really like to play that, actually, so I hope Vicsor provides a link at some point.

There's lots to praise about the blog so I don't want to focus on too many specifics. I'm sure if you read it, you'll probably praise the same points I did. Although Vicsor's post on Anita's sources will certainly be his most significant contribution to the gender issues debate, I think his analysis of damsels in distress is his most satisfying. I look forward to seeing more from him in the future.

Jill Murray - The Trouble With Trying To Write Positive Female Characters

I don't have a lot of praise for when it comes to gender issues. It seems to take the same stance on feminism and gender issues as other game journalism sites, so it's hard to feel hopeful when an article about female portrayals shows up. Having said that, this interview with Jill Murray, Ubisoft Quebec's director of narrative design, is surprisingly good. She gets across all the flaws with writing female characters that have bothered me over the years, specifically that they're too often pidgeonholed into a "strong, independent woman" archetype rather than being a character in their own right. Jill doesn't cast blame on anyone, whether it's fans or other developers, so it comes across more about how writers can do things right rather than a list of what everyone is doing wrong.

When it comes to articles and interviews on gender issues, this is what I would like to see more of in future. Constructive points rather than a list of complaints. If that happened, I'd probably complain a bit less myself.

Anyway, feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at