Sunday, 16 February 2014

A Quick Update

I haven't created any new posts in a while so, just so everyone doesn't think I've disappeared off the face of the earth, I thought I'd give an update on what's going on. The short answer is "college work" but the bigger issue is the amount that has been heaped onto the entire games course for the end of February is remarkable. Basically, this happened because a lot of deadlines extended due to everyone being behind on a 2D game project. As great as that sounds, it quickly became an issue when all the students realised that now, assignment deadlines for every class except two are due in the same week. Still, I got to try out the Oculus Rift yesterday, so it's not all bad.

So what have I missed in the time that I haven't been blogging? Actually, before Christmas, I watched Indie Game: The Movie for college and was a lot more interested in it than I thought I'd be. For those of who haven't seen or heard of the film, it's a documentary that follows three indie games during different stages of development: Super Meat Boy, Fez and Braid. Early on in the documentary, Phil Fish (developer of Fez) and Jonathan Blow (developer of Braid) talk candidly about the abuse they received from the online community. I'd recommend the film even without that part but it stood out to me because of how often gaming sites promote the idea that online abuse is something that only affects women. This 2013 article from Polygon goes into online harassment in more detail, including other developers and harassment against women.

Around the same time, there was the harassment of Zoe Quinn over her game, Depression Quest, that she put on Steam Greenlight. Much like with Anita Sarkeesian, I have to say that the abuse she received was horrible. However, what immediately sprung to mind when I saw several articles claiming the usual harassment against female developers was Indie Game: The Movie and comments telling Phil Fish to "kill himself". Judging by the format, the comments also came from 4chan (or one of its similarly-unpleasant sister forums, like 7chan and 420chan); as we know, 4chan isn't known for being a welcoming place. Plus, Depression Quest is largely text-based; it's described as "interactive fiction" more than a game so I would've been surprised if there wasn't a backlash of some sort.

It sounds a lot like I'm defending this behaviour but in actuality, I just want to get two points across; there were circumstances surrounding the abuse unrelated to Quinn's gender and that women are not always the only ones affected. Oh, but actually giving her abusive phone calls? I've had abusive phone calls before, so that really annoys me. Hopefully, Quinn actually reported this and didn't just change her number because it bothers me that people -- even trolls -- would resort to criminal behaviour because they didn't like a game (if that is why it was happening; supposedly, the phone calls were erotic in nature, so I think this goes far beyond your typical internet troll).

What else? Oh yeah, Anita Sarkeesian is receiving a Game Developer's Choice Award!

I wasn't going to go into this too much. I've reached a point where I'm somewhat "over" Anita Sarkeesian, so I was just going to write "click Gamespot's 'Top Comments' button to see how I feel about this" and then more-or-less move on. However, I checked my e-mail and noticed that a reader had sent me a link to this report on another site, GamesIndustry.biz, which is a site where industry professionals (or those studying to get a job in the industry) post comments under their real names. Specifically, the e-mailer directed me to a commenter, whose name I won't write here for his own sake, who had left a comment that has since been edited but had been suspended and was told -- by a producer at BioWare, no less -- "don't expect any of us to be racing to snap you up when you've finished [studying games design]".

Here's his original comment:
"Anonymous rape and death threats on twitter are utterly meaningless and I expect a very high percentage of them are just trolls, if all these women just ignored these trolls then they would stop but they don't, what they do is play the victim "ohh look at me im getting all these death and rape threats over twitter poor me my life is hard!" I have no idea why they do this (I would love to know if they are attention whores or just very naive). Then of course video game sites/SJW blogs pick up on it (because real journalism is to hard) and it turns into a shitstorm which just amplifies the trolling towards that person."
The thing is, it seems like the e-mailer wanted me to defend this person but I have to say, I don't find him particularly sympathetic. Now, I get what he was trying to say. Having said that, there are right ways and wrong ways to discuss it and throwing around terms like "attention whores" is a wrong way. Is saying a game developer won't hire him after he graduates fair? Almost certainly not but hey, at this point in time, who can blame the BioWare producer for writing that?

So I'm not interested in defending this person's post but there are a lot of very reasonable comments on that GamesIndustry.biz article that are being unfairly criticised. There's the typical "too many white guys" comments, dismissing people's arguments based on their sex and colour of their skin (even though there wouldn't actually be much of a discussion without them in that comments section). One critic of Anita's writes "I now have about 20 tweets about me as a woman hater", even though his "edgiest" comments involved referring to Anita as a "troublemaker" and recommending that people report sexism to the authorities instead of complaining about it online. In fact, that same person gave an excellent rebuttal to the "too many white guys" commenters:
"There is an appropriate word to describe people who make sweeping statements and generalisations based on just gender and colour, and I'm guessing he won't like it when he figures out what it might be"
What bothers me the most about all this is the assumption that criticising Anita Sarkeesian's views is comparable to promoting sexism. Obviously, it's no surprise. It isn't the first time that opposing a feminist viewpoint has been treated as unacceptable and it won't be the last. Having said that, these opinions are about as reasonable as it gets without outright agreeing with the opposite viewpoint.

With so many perfectly reasonable comments being so heavily scrutinised, I'm not willing to post in the GamesIndustry.biz comments section. For one thing, I am interested in entering the games industry at some point. Technically, I could join, either with the title "Blogger" or "Studying Game Design". I used to have my real name in the sidebar of this very blog but removed it when I realised that, as passionate as I am about men's rights, my anti-feminist viewpoints may be frowned upon by people who automatically assume that criticism of feminism is the same thing as sexism. Plus, the conversation has stopped over there and I would likely be repeating arguments I've made here.

So I'll say what I'd like to say here, rather than there; I'm sure this won't sway a single person but for anyone who thinks that any of the critics of Anita Sarkeesian or feminism in general in that GamesIndustry.biz thread are against equality, you're incorrect. Those critics are as in favour of equality as you are but are more realistic in how it's being lobbied for and would prefer to see it done properly -- with more inclusivity and fewer faulty arguments -- than a video series that is very easy to pick apart by someone who does not face up to the criticism received.

A big issue that I've had in mind for a while now is the praise Anita receives for "creating a discussion" around gender issues in games. However, I don't see how on earth she can be credited with that when she is so intent on shutting down any criticism against her and her supporters seem all-too-happy. The thing about a discussion is there has to be "back-and-forth". Arguments from both sides. With Anita, there is only "forth". No "back".

The fact is that there are some severely closed-minded attitudes on display in that comments section, many of them not coming from the "attention whores" commenter I quoted above. The thing is, you have Mike Bithell -- developer of Thomas Was Alone -- writing comments that include statements like this:
"Young men looking to get into industry: Leave your phobias and gamer bro bullshit off of sites read by future employers. Ideally, grow out of it. Sooner or later you're going to have to step away from the computer and into an environment filled with human beings. Human beings of beautiful variation and awesome differences. It's not scary, it rocks. And you will be so embarrassed by the silly little opinions you had on feminist theory in your late teens."
This is ignorant of every single criticism against Anita that was posted and the ad hominem attacks -- insisting that all of her critics are teenagers, male, "gamer bros", fearful of variation, computer-obsessives and carrying nothing but "silly little opinions" -- come across as defensive. I think it shows that Bithell doesn't really have an appropriate response to the criticisms against Sarkeesian, so he has to sling insults against the people making them instead. It hasn't occurred to Bithel -- or it has and he's dismissed the idea -- that other people could have formed their opinions of feminism due to greater knowledge and study of the movement and not less.

Edited 16th February 2014: Interestingly, Mike Bithell linked to my blog on Twitter. Here's what he wrote (and two other tweets that I assume are directed at me):



What Mike calls "selective quoting", I call "relevant quoting". People are free to check out Mike's full comment on the website I linked to and at no point did I indicate that the above quote was Mike's full comment. However, that's the part where Mike so clearly displays his unwillingness to accept any information that doesn't fit his set-in-stone worldview. Case in point: "college aged chap" and "teenage pursuit". Not that I particularly care about someone getting my age wrong but I can only assume that Mike is as egotistical as he joked about and scrolled right past the "About Me" to find his own name.

The fact is that up until my late teens, I probably would've called myself a feminist. I didn't have a concept of what "men's rights activism" was and, except for negative portrayals of men in US sitcoms -- hardly something worth campaigning against -- there weren't any "men's issues" that I was aware of. Then I became aware of things such as a lack of domestic violence shelters for men in the UK. I visited Refuge's website -- Refuge is the name of a series of women's shelters in the UK -- and saw constant references to abusers as "he" and victims as "she", which I thought not only undermined male victims but also female victims in same-sex relationships. I became a frequenter of Glenn Sacks' site (Mike, he's not a teenager) and, in recent years, Karen Straughan -- GirlWritesWhat on Youtube -- has been my favoured source for news about men's rights activism (again, Mike, not a teenager. Or male. Or straight. Or a "gamer bro").

I find the thing that Mike, for all his fun jabs at this blog on Twitter, is capable of but actually unwilling to understand is that people who disagree with Anita Sarkeesian can still be supportive of equality. Better portrayals in games, less online abuse, equal marketing budgets regardless of the sex of the protagonist, etc, etc. I've even agreed with Anita on occasion. I suppose only glancing at a few paragraphs doesn't communicate that very well. However, I, and other gamers like me, have our own issues with game content and the industry that is ignored and belittled when we try to bring it up.We care about accuracy in our arguments and fair treatment for gamers regardless of race, sex, sexuality, religious beliefs and disability. The problem is that this sometimes involves saying phrases like, "you know, men have exaggerated body types in games too". This isn't saying that women don't have exaggerated body types and it doesn't do anything to diminish the argument that they are but, when this is brought up, we're accused of "derailing" the issue.

In other words, wanting both sexes to receive equal treatment goes against the grain of "women are victims, men are not". Yet that's all we're interested in; equal treatment. This blog's been in existence for a year and a half now and there's a plethora of posts that say the exact same thing, on a variety of different issues (and if you would like to see the logical arguments I've written against Anita's views, they can be found here, here, here and here). However, to quote one of Mike Bithell's own tweets, "I'm not sure idiots like this really care though :)"

End of Edit.

The short version of this is "Anita Sarkeesian receives an award that some people think she didn't deserve. Their reasonable viewpoints are met with dismissiveness based on their race and sex, as well as belittling insults and accusations of bigotry".

I've written about ten more paragraphs on that than I would like to and what was intended to be a short, not-too-serious blog post has turned into a lengthy one that has made me incredibly irritable. So I'll try to finish on the light-hearted note that I had originally planned; Anita herself retweeted something from a fan of hers yesterday:


"So what's the big deal?" you ask. Well let's just say that this isn't the first time that Feminist Frequency has been used in an assignment for a class:

 (Screencapped, rather than copied & pasted, just in case of programs and websites that check to see if assignments have been copied online. It's mine but I just don't want to have to go over it with my tutor.)

Yep, I used Anita's misrepresentation and failure to cite sources as an example of the difference between primary and secondary research. Better yet, for that particular assignment, I got a Distinction grade. So a big thank you to Vicsor, for uncovering all the stolen videos in the first place and an even bigger thank you to Anita Sarkeesian! Without you, I don't think I'd have been able to come up with a gaming-related example.

Feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at themalesofgames@gmail.com. I still visit frequently, even if I haven't been able to post as often.

8 comments:

  1. I'm surprised Anita Sarkeesian will get an award. The only reason I know her it's about the fact she was harassed online. Her videos are questionable and she offers no possibility of debate. Her supporters argue people who dare to critic her are white misogynistic heterosexual men even if they have no clue who are posting behind their computer. Her supporters lost debate when people brought evidence and fact her argumentation is weak and flawed.

    About online harassment it's not specific to video games and will become more frequent as people are not careful about what they post on the Internet. They need to be aware about the threat about exposing themselves like that. If death threat and anonymous call are not new, it became easier with the accessible flow of data we are releasing online.

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    1. The thing is, she receives an award for what has happened to her, not for what she did. That's the exact same thing she criticizes the industry of doing. Of course, people are much likely to think in terms of traditional gender roles than not. Which is why Anita is so popular. She doesn't challenge any believes, she conforms to the ones we already have.

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    2. Such a great point. Sarkeesian has set herself up to benefit from being a damsel. Whether she did so consciously or not is another question.

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  2. Let me guess you cannot make a logical argument because you're an evil men's right activist.

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    1. Yep, that's why. I'm too busy eating kittens and buying fedoras to put together a logical argument.

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  3. Mike Bithell's "commentary" is just embarrassing. When he resorts to sweeping, largely-inaccurate generalizations and ad hominem attacks on Sarkeesian's serious critics, this is what he's essentially saying: "I am incapable of formulating an effective counter-argument. I can not compete in the marketplace of ideas." And that's the nice way of putting it. What a tool.

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  4. Annother thing I would like to note how I developed anti-feminist views after my teenage years. Heck, I regard my largely pro-feminist views back then as a folly now, relying upon my lack of knowledge about feminism at the time. That people get these ideas mainly when they are young and are bombarded with feminist propaganda quite frankly makes no sense. Feminism is the status quo right now and getting to oppose it requires finding the information speaking against it, which quite frankly isn't forced down your throat as opposed to reasons you want to support them. The idea that only young and, presumably, immature guys have these views is, quite frankly, just annother shaming tactic with no basis in reality. It also goes to show that they know what currently is the status quo, when they point out how you too will be part of the feminist hive mind.

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  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjthIKHxE34

    this video was just posted and I thought it was extremely interesting and informative.

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