Boy Problems… a Follow-Up

So Wednesday’s post on “Girl Problems” is relevant to a link recently posted by a friend that strikes me as one of the most fundamental problems not only with gaming, but with a particular majority demographic that has never been but somehow likes to think of itself as “oppressed”: the straight white male (SWM).

Although I can understand how the SWM might take the recent sociopolitical trend toward inclusivity and equality as a marginalization of their demographic simply because it has increased emphasis on other demographics, I fail to see how a group that is almost universally privileged in the Western world is being “discriminated against” in any way. Yes, reverse racism and sexism do happen, and they should be tolerated as little as any other form of bias or bigotry, but this particular complaint on the Bioware forum (although articulate) is the sort that drives me batty.

The poster takes issue with the Friendship/Rivalry and Romance mechanics in Bioware’s Dragon Age II, stating that the game is not designed for the “straight white male gamer,” but for the fringe audiences of the “gay” and “female” crowds (and also asserts that female gamers play The Sims rather than DAII, a point which I will say is both blatantly false and personally offensive… no offense to people who play The Sims).

First of all, the idea that women are a fringe demographic is becoming increasingly ridiculous as the female gamer crowd expands. Second, simply because a homosexual romance is an option in DAII does not oblige the player to engage in one – there are plenty of opportunities for a heterosexual romance, and more than one NPC (non-player-character) will refuse a same-sex relationship option. This strikes me as reminiscent of the argument that legalizing gay marriage will somehow corrupt heterosexual marriages… just because you can does not mean that you have to. If you wish to play through DAII as an SWM character, it is well within your purview to do so. If you don’t, well, you can do that, too.

But it also assumes that people play their avatars the way they are in real life. My husband – who is a straight, white, male gamer – plays many games as a female avatar. I play most of mine as a male, often as non-human when that is an option (and I can assure you that I am, in fact, both female and human). How people choose to play does not necessarily reflect their personal demographic whatsoever, and the developer should not feel under an obligation to always create an avatar and play-options that reflect only their primary demographic, something Bioware not only acknowledges in their response to the post, but does in their games (quite well).

The demand that only the majority demographic be taken into consideration in the production of any product is ridiculous; while the majority of gamers may be SWMs, the industry may wish to expand its target audience. It may realize that while the single largest demographic is SWMs, perhaps the other demographics make up a larger portion of the gaming community than the poster is aware. It may also recognize that in a global community of gamers, SWMs are actually a minority – and perhaps they are trying, in fact, to engage in cultural leadership by forcing SWMs like the poster to not only witness the expansion of their demography to include people of other genders, ethnicities, and persuasions, but to perhaps even realize that he – as an SWM – has an obligation to accept that those other genders, ethnicities, and persuasions are just as valid as his own.

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