I see it’s time for our semiannual “make videogaming look as childish as possible” story.
For those who have missed it, a shitstorm is currently exploding in videogaming. The epicentre of this particular storm is especially pathetic & childish.
But now it’s spiralled off into an argument between a group who object to the increasing focus on things like ‘equality’ and ‘inclusion’ in videogaming and videogame culture, and those who have been championing this increasing focus.
For simplicity, some are splitting this into ‘gamers’ and ‘game critics’ – but that’s clearly not where the line is drawn.
No – the line here is drawn between a group who want to gaming to stagnate and those who want to keep it evolving.
We’ve been talking about properly including women and ethnic minorities in games for a while now – and some progress is starting to be made in this direction. I emphasise the word ‘some’ in this area, because – particularly in AAA games, it’s rare for a protagonist (or even a major NPC) to be anything other than a white, straight, man.
They’re the spiritual descendants (or possibly the actual descendants) of those who opposed this sort of thing in other entertainment media, like action & horror films. Which themselves still primarily feature straight white men hanging out with other straight white men.
But films aren’t quite as bad as videogaming.
Partly because there are simply more films. Partly because the movie industry has existed for a lot longer, and so it’s further along its evolutionary path (we started asking “hey, why aren’t the women in lead roles?” 30 years ago. We only started seriously asking that ten years ago in the videogame industry.
The derogatory term “social justice warrior” is getting thrown around a lot. It’s about as derogatory as being ‘politically correct’.
(“Fighting for social justice” isn’t actually bad thing – unless you don’t want a world (or in this case an industry) that enables equality.)
Along similar lines, many of those opposing this cultural shift are being labelled bigots, misogynists or racists.
Some of them are. Women do get treated differently on the internet in general, and in gaming in particular. I’ve been writing online for over 15 years, and some of that as a freelance videogame journalist. I’ve certainly had criticism and plenty of outright abuse.
But in all that time I’ve had one death threat. And I write controversial, politically charged, sometimes deliberately insulting opinion pieces, some of which have had huge audiences (i.e. not here 😛 )
I know female writers who have received dozens of death threats following a single low-profile blog post. The fact that this sort of thing is caused by – we hope – minority of people doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it or take it seriously.
The way videogame culture treats people who aren’t white also need to change. Anyone who has waded into Xbox Live will be aware that there are many online gaming experiences that resemble a KKK convention. If KKK convention attendees spend all day screaming racial epithets at one another, that is.
These things are not caused by the videogame community – to some degree it’s internet culture & anonymity at fault. But it’s very fucking far from healthy.
What the gaming community does is exacerbate these issues; we have games where anyone who isn’t a straight, white, man is barely featured. We tacitly tolerate racism, homphobia & misogyny in online gaming communities (often by trying to pretend it’s “just the way it is”).
This needs to stop.
The only thing being challenged is the (brief) marketing concept that “games are for boys and no girls (or brown people) are allowed”; the problem is that this marketing has now lasted for most of a generation.
Too many gamers have now grown up believing that ‘games are for boys’. That’s why you’re freaking the fuck out.
Challenging this can only be a good thing for our hobby.
More variety of games. More variety of gamers. Less of the exact same fucking game three times a year (Activision, Ubisoft… I’m looking at you). Less of the same old shit.
Our hobby can’t be only for little boys any more. Most of us aren’t little boys any more.
It’s way past time to grow up.