This Week in Gender-Related Game-News…

25 Jul

So this week’s Gamasutra “This Week in Video Game Criticism” did a write-up of some of the more recent incidents in misogyny and bigotry in the gaming world, which I’m going to reproduce here at length:

I would be remiss in addressing some of the higher-profile pieces of the week, starting with Leigh Alexander’s opinion piece for Gamasutra in which she speculates we’re finally seeing a positive, rising trend in the discussion of sexism and misogyny in the industry and in gamer culture– but she also notes we should address where the underlying issues of those attitudes lie:

“[In] games, as well as comics and other male-dominated nerd arenas, the business model leverages risk aversion against a habituated, narrow audience. It doesn’t favor experimenting to try to give these people newer, smarter things. More importantly, neither do the traditions of geek culture, which is founded in misunderstood people prizing their special escapes from the uninitiated, keeping sacred the spaces that make them feel powerful.

For most people, this is their identity, and if you tell them you want to change it in any way they are going to fear losing their power. It’s not surprising that issues of privilege get tangled in the morass.”

The other big sexism-among-gamers piece this week was this ill-advised opinion piece by Colin Moriarty for IGN, which in itself does not merit inclusion here, but to set the context for a couple of great response essays.

The first of these responses comes from (one of my personal favorite young game bloggers) Mattie Brice, who lays into Moriarty’s article with a heavy critique and adds:

“[What] is cute about the ‘save creativity!’ angle is how much people like Colin are protecting incredibly old, entrenched attitudes. There’s a push against how video games deal with sex because it is incredibly UNcreative. Scantily clad women with no other purpose than to be so? What is creative about that? There is nothing creative of our western culture appropriating and exotifying other cultures, we’ve been doing that way before free speech was written into law. Or the glorification of a war we had no business initiating as another excuse to shoot brown people? Something tells me that’s not the ‘fresh’ Colin is looking for. The people that Colin’s article represent don’t want anything to change, unless you consider figuring out how to get a girl as close to naked as possible without financial retribution creative.”

Touching off this, GayGamer editor and Border House contributor Denis Farr writes in his own blog that “90s Politics are Dead! Long Live 90s Politics!” critiquing the use of the terms “politically correct” and “offended” in editorials such as Moriarty’s:

“[The] idea that everyone will be offended by someone is akin to just throwing your hands up in the air and saying we may as well not to anything and just let things be. There is a certain person for whom this is a viable response, and it is typically a person to whom the market is advertising. Even if it is in an increasingly puerile and stock manner. For people who are not represented fairly or equally, it is not just a matter of being ‘offended,’ it is a matter of desiring a more rich landscape. Leaving that to the free market might sound good, but unless a desire for better and more is expressed, companies, who are typically conservative in how they want to spend money, will continue pumping out the formulae they feel are safe.”

On a little more positive note, we’re seeing an increase in the discussion of The Bechdel Test among gaming critics. In addition to this (woefully neglected) blog beginning earlier this year, the Gameological Society have treated us to a roundup of 15 games which (some of them, surprisingly) pass the test.

Lastly on the subject of sexism, we are rather late to the party on this one, but you simply must watch this hilarious dramatic reading and machinima by George Kokoris of a misogynist gamer screed. Which if nothing else is a lesson in minding what you post onto the internet, lest someone on the other end has a copy of Garry’s Mod and a booming voice.

I don’t really feel the need to comment on each of these, save to say that several people have already reacted to Moriarty’s article in a similar way to my own response, and that the Bechdel Test is an interesting example of the way we think not only about women, but about what defines “heroism” in general (and the fact that our “heroes” tend not to be women, almost across the board in popular media).

The fact that Gamasutra  is putting out an article like this (which did have some things to say about non-misogyny-related gaming news, as well) shows that people are starting to pay attention in a positive way to the elements of bigotry and misogyny in the gaming industry, which is great. If there are games that pass the Bechdel Test, that’s wonderful. If we’re starting to see public voices like Moriarty’s be criticized (and tastefully) for helping to perpetuate, if not defend, misogyny in games, that’s a sign that the industry critics and developers are trying to lead their audience in the right direction, and that gives me hope.

But whether the gaming community will allow themselves to be led (will become followers) of the developers and critics who are trying to lead them away from their entrenched bigotry and “privilege” remains to be seen. Because, as many people have pointed out, it is very hard to convince someone to leave a position of privilege.