The End of the “Gamer”

downtownob

The last couple of weeks have been embarrassing for anyone who calls themselves a “gamer”, so much so that I am disassociating myself from that title.  Maybe I’ll call myself an “Online RPer” or something, I don’t know, but the “gamer” culture is over.

For a couple of decades now there has been this ongoing joke about the existence or non existence of the “girl gamer”.  At first it was kind of funny because the gaming community was so dominated by males, that females in the community seemed elusive as bigfoot.  Then over the past decade or so games that appealed to women, like “The Sims”, started matching and even surpassing sales of games that mostly cater to men.  The “girl gamer” was no longer a myth, it was a demographic to cater to.

For some inexplicable reason I can’t even rationally explain, a small group of narrow minded men in the gaming community were shocked and appalled that there were women out there that liked to play games.  They were offended and even felt threatened by this realization.  This led to many flame wars on the topic, as well as the birth of many memes.

For a while it was recognized that these misogynistic basement dwellers were just a vocal minority to be ignored.  Egged on by other social conservative anti-feminist movements, they started getting more vocal and more organized to the point that they became a blight on everything “gamer”.  To quote one recent commentary:

Right, let’s say it’s a vocal minority that’s not representative of most people. Most people, from indies to industry leaders, are mortified, furious, disheartened at the direction industry conversation has taken in the past few weeks. It’s not like there are reputable outlets publishing rational articles in favor of the trolls’ ‘side’. Don’t give press to the harassers. Don’t blame an entire industry for a few bad apples.

Yet disclaiming liability is clearly no help. Game websites with huge community hubs whose fans are often associated with blunt Twitter hate mobs sort of shrug, they say things like ‘we delete the really bad stuff, what else can we do’ and ‘those people don’t represent our community’ — but actually, those people do represent your community. That’s what your community is known for, whether you like it or not.

All of this came to a head over the last two weeks. First there were vicious personal attacks against a female game developer, followed by death threats against a feminist You Tube blogger, followed by vicious personal attacks against anyone who dare says nice things about these women.

I find this kind of crap offensive, reprehensible and indefensible.  Disagreeing with someone is one thing, threatening them, or exposing their personal life, is just disgusting.  To their credit, the International Game Developers Association released a statement saying the same thing.

I’m not even sure I understand the disagreeing part.  To quote another recent commentary:

Literally the worst possible thing that can happen here is equality. That’s the worst outcome, that’s the nightmare scenario. If, today, every AAA publisher said “We will start to include women more in our games and represent them better”, the only actual difference this would make to anybody shrieking about how feminists are destroying games is that they might have to pick their gender in the next Call of Duty game. Terrifying, isn’t it. Stuff of nightmares.

The problem here is that these squealing man-children, so desperate to keep women out of their precious games, want it both ways. They want gaming to be taken seriously as a culture and art form, while at the same time throwing an unbelievable tantrum when subjected to serious criticism. This is ludicrous and immature on so many levels. Gaming isn’t for you, anymore. Gaming is for everyone. Everyone gets to have their say, to make their criticism, and gaming doesn’t need you to defend it.

Misogyny in Gaming

I don’t want to spend a lot of time discussing Anita Sarkeesian’s criticism of gaming today.  I have seen her videos, and she is just saying what I already know: that there is a lot of sick and twisted scenes in video games that come off as sexist, degrading and even hateful of women.  Not every example she points out are good examples. Some of the examples she says are offensive are not so much when seen in context of the game story. But, there are enough legitimate examples that the “sexist” criticism of the gaming industry is justified.

Video games are at least partially about fantasy fulfillment, and the fact that many major video game today contains sexist and misogynistic tropes means that players have sexist and misogynistic fantasies to fulfill — or at least that is what developers of these games think.

The apologists often argue that games are just a reflection of the times, cheap escapist entertainment.  Lets take a look at another popular escapist art form from 60 to 80 years ago: cartoons.  They too were a reflection of societal norms of the time, filled with a lot of blatant racism.  Disney, Warner Brothers and MGM have been forced to censor their old catalogs of cartoon shorts refusing to release many of the old shorts and even at least one classic feature film.

Video game developers are likely to self censor themselves in the future, too.  As knowledge this stuff gets more widespread, and more socially embarrassing, I can see certain scenes and missions suddenly removed in updates and in re-releases.

We should be demanding better games than this.  I found this commentary to be extremely good:

You know what’s not escapism? Having to wonder if any given game (or movie, or book) you pick up is going to include women primarily as prostitutes, murdered girlfriends, vulnerable daughters, and rape victims.[…]  Games with realistic stories are still built on unrealistic mechanics and stylized environments … Prostitution is real, but a game that erases all women except prostitutes wouldn’t reflect our world. Realism is as much about what you leave out as what you put in, and an unfortunate number of games pare down the feminine experience to nothing except sex, childbirth, and vulnerability. […]

If you’re an author, writing down what you see is harder than riffing off things other people have already made, and even what we see is filtered through our preconceptions — in one of the best essays about writing I’ve ever read, author Kameron Hurley explains this idea with an extended metaphor involving llamas. If you’re playing a game, you’ll usually judge the story more by what you’ve seen in other media than by any real-life point of comparison. After a while, it becomes easy to say that something is unrealistic because you’ve seen it written differently elsewhere. Women in video games should be damsels and whores because damsels and whores are what women are in video games. There can’t be female player characters in GTA because the movies GTA is aping didn’t have female protagonists. It’s a lazy, conservative, and boring way to think, no matter how much you dress it up by saying you’re writing about “the concept of being masculine.”

And my own games?

No doubt there are those that would consider Date Ariane and Something’s In The Air as sexist, since in these games the player is a male character trying to undress and bed females, and you are free to think that, I don’t care. (Its part of my mission statement, I don’t care what other people think)

There are those that also find the games rather positive as all the female characters are strong, smart, successful, and don’t put up with any crap from the player.  In fact that is the central premise: Can you be a good enough “man” to attract these kind of women?  There is a reason why 30% of the “likes” on my Facebook page are from women.

My goal is to strive to do even better in the future.  I will continue with my personal policy of NO prostitution plots, or female victim assault/kidnap/murder plots, or non-consensual sexual assault plots.  I’m even planing a change of point of view, a Rachel story where you play as Rachel as she ventures through various fantasy scenarios.  Looking forward to doing something different.

Whither the “gamer”?

The reputation of the “gamer” community has soured to the point that it is no longer anything worth bragging about.  No, most people that play video games do not generally fit the the stereotype of the basement dwelling misogynistic nerd burst into flame wars whenever anyone says something negative about a game they happen to enjoy, but that is what mainstream culture imagines with growing frequency, and the “gaming community” is doing little to change that image resulting in a shrinking demographic.  I’ll give the last word to this opinion piece:

The word “gamer” is regressive. It accepts the portrait of us painted by the mainstream news media, and every time I hear it or read it it actually makes me feel a little sick. I believe in this art form, and I believe in the people who make it. That’s why I am so hard on this industry, because I believe that as great as it sometimes is, it can get better.

So play games, of course, but don’t let the playing of games define you. Why would you ever really need to describe yourself as someone who plays games, anyway? Do you walk up to people and say “Yeah, I watch movies.”

Update Oct 3, 2014:

The “gamergate” story refuses to die.  Two very good anti gamergate articles come from Cracked:  5 Things I Learned as The Internet’s Most Hated Person by Zoe Quinn herself, and 7 Reasons “Gamergate” Proves Humanity Is Doomed which proves that the primary arguments used by the misogynists in the GamerGate movement are completely illogical, and makes them look like a bunch of “birthers” or “911 truthers”.

A prominent GamerGate proponent submitted an article to Cracked as a rebuttal, which I thought was poorly written and very naive of reality and said as much in the comments, which of course got me a bunch of negative comments by supporters (as I expected).  I learned a long time ago, you cannot speak rationally or logically  to “true believers”.

 

13 thoughts on “The End of the “Gamer”

  1. Paul August 31, 2014 / 9:55 pm

    It is curious to see that there are guys that don´t like the idea of girls playing, liking or even creating videogames. This is not the reality in my country. I have known, and even dated, girls who liked videogames a lot, unlike me…I found them interesting but extremely time-consuming, and my real life was very busy…I was playing and singing in rock bands, working with comic books and paintings, dating a lot of girls… the “gamer girls” were not hard to find. I knew girls – beautiful girls -who used to spend many hours a day playing videogames… that is why the idea of guys who like games hating girls who also like them is weird. They should love those girls…

  2. Paul August 31, 2014 / 10:58 pm

    …unless if they don´t like the idea of being beated by girlsin those games.

    • Paul August 31, 2014 / 10:58 pm

      …beaten gy girls…

  3. Paul August 31, 2014 / 11:19 pm

    About the “Dating Ariane” game…since I am not on Facebook anymore, I cannot comment there. There is a bug I found, when you look at the stars and later she flashes her boobs, later in the hot tub she denies to take her top off. It is strange, because she had already shown the boobs before.

  4. Jason September 2, 2014 / 3:36 am

    I for one don’t have a problem with girls who game or can kick my butt in them or make them. Why is it strange that they like games? I say go for it if that’s what you love to do.

  5. Kate Pendleton September 3, 2014 / 5:18 pm

    The Zoe Quinn thing has nothing to do with sexism, it had to do with journalists lacking integrity. Her supporters made it a woman’s issue to deflect blame. You should look into it more before you make up your mind. Zoe Quinn actually campaigned against an independent gaming company looking for woman to design games for them just because she personally didn’t like them. Woman who use the feminist movement to deflect personal blame are just as hurtful towards the movement as perpetuating stereotypes.

  6. Kate Pendleton September 3, 2014 / 5:27 pm

    Also how do you have problems with prostitution but not strippers? Seems hypocritical. It’s still men using their money to buy female flesh. Plus about half of the feminist community supports prostitution as empowerment, a woman using her body in any way she wants. Why can’t a prostitute be strong, smart, and successful?

    • arianeb September 7, 2014 / 1:15 am

      I agree with you theoretically that prostitution could be portrayed as a form of empowerment, assuming they are not being forced to do anything they do not want to, and I have actually thought about plots along those lines, using “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” as an inspiration.

      But tropes are tropes because they are overused, and yes the strip club is one of those tropes. I put a female in charge of the club as sort of a way of saying “this isn’t your normal strip club”. In SITA, the strip club is used more as a pool hall.

      Since my stated objective is to get away from “violence” and to make “sex” more normal in games, these tropes will have to be addressed somehow.

  7. trevelyanuk September 24, 2014 / 8:43 pm

    Since someone asked the question to me about 7 years ago “Would you call yourself a drinker if you drink alcohol?”, it made me realise that you just can’t define yourself by one thing like this.

    I prefer the term “liver”, because I live. Maybe I should put an “O” at the beginning of my name..

  8. Bart R. November 15, 2014 / 2:19 am

    I know this is kind of a late comment, given the date of this post. But, there is something that hasn’t been commented on that I’d like to bring up. More of a proposal to the gaming community at large, really.

    Yes, people in the gaming community being viewed as simply “true gamers” by video game companies is a very bad thing: Especially with the overly macho and misogynistic men behind that depiction of the gaming community. But, what about a way to name the actual gaming community as a whole that can be both non-offensive, and also showing we’re better than “true gamers”?

    “2.0 Gamer” or Gamer2.0. Then, the word gamer doesn’t have to fade away into the dark corners of those “true gamers” and their basements. It already sounds like a step away from “true gamers”. At least to me, it does tremendously.

    Also, it reflects the times:

    Leveling up is a game mechanic in many rpgs…while updates are a mechanic of pretty much any console or software you could think of. And by consoles, I’m thinking of Playstation 2 to Playstation 3, Xbox 360 to Xbox One, and so on.

  9. Emilio November 28, 2014 / 12:13 am

    Lo teneis claro,aquí en España,si una mujer en las fiestas de San Fermin muestras sus pechos por iniciativa propia,ella es victima y todos los hombres violadores y machistas,y saldrá así en todos los medios de comunicación de masas,por otro lado jugarse la vida delante de un toro,es una fiesta reconocida,queriendo ser patrimonio de la humanidad,defendida por personas,incluso que son o fueron recticentes en condenar el terrorismo,hay casos esperpenticos,por otro lado,una mujer guapa desnuda se cubre con una bandera tambien es machismo sexista,pero por el contrario,mostrar el torso de un vigilante de la playa,es feminismo,por no decir,que aquí una mujer llama a la policia,lo lleban al calabozo,lo ponen en 2 días delante de un juez y este le pregunta ¿a insultado a su pareja?o ¿a dicho un insulto?,es considerado violencia contra la mujer,para llegar a un acuerdo que no acabe como delito penal,y antecedentes penales,el juez acepta,dejar a la mujer con el piso con el que vivia su pareja,incluso si es de propiedad de la familia del hombre,le deja pagar su parte correspondiente de hipoteca al banco(incluido si es toda),le pone una cuota de manuntención y le dice que o vaya junto el piso de su familia,amigos,o alquile una casa,le dá la custodia de los hijos a la madre,y se los dejan ver,en contadas ocasiones,además de una suculenta multa y hacerse cargo de los más importante,los costes del juicio,todo esto,con un abogado de oficio(el peor de los casos)o uno privado(en segundo peor),España.No existe una casa para el hombre,ni una asociación contra la violencia femenina por medio de denuncias falsas o malos tratos,han conseguido poner a los propios familiares en contra,creyendo que el castigo es proporcional y justo.Me queda por comprobar,pero 3.000€ dá Europa por cada caso de denuncia,a las organizaciones mal llamadas feministas,y hay 100.000 denuncias al año,y una media de 50.000 hombres que pasan cada año por los calabozos,donde estudios feministas,dicen que 1 de cada 4 jovenes(¿musulmanes?)creen que el hombre debe mandar en casa,y así suma y sigue,en un país donde la corrupción ha llegado hasta la Infanta princesa de España y Su Marido,por no hablar de todos sin escepcion partidos politicos.Nos conocen mejor que a nosotr@s mism@s.Tu abre la boca ya verás el linchamiento que te cae.

    You have it clear, here in Spain, a woman in the festival of San Fermin shows her breasts on his own initiative, she is a victim and all rapists and macho men, and so will in all mass media, on the other hand risk their lives in front of a bull, is a recognized party, wanting to be world heritage, defended by people, even you are or were recticentes to condemn terrorism, there grotesque cases, moreover, a beautiful naked woman covered with a flag is also sexist sexism, but on the contrary, show the torso of a Baywatch, is feminism, not to say that there was a woman calls the police, what lleban the dungeon, put in two days before a judge who asks are insulted your partner? o to such an insult?, is considered violence against women, to reach an agreement that does not end up as a criminal offense and criminal record, the judge agrees, leaving the woman with the apartment they lived their partner, even if it is owned by the family of man, lets pay its share of mortgage to the bank (including if any), puts a share of subsistence and research tells you or go along the floor of his family, friends, or rent a house, it gives the child custody to the mother, and let them see and rarely, along with a succulent fine and take care of the most important, the costs of the trial, all this with a lawyer (the worst case) or a private one (second worst) España.No there is a house for man, nor an association against female violence through complaints false or ill, have managed to put family themselves against believing that the punishment is proportional and justo.Me remains to be seen, but gives Europe € 3,000 per case of complaint, organizations misnamed feminists, and there are 100,000 complaints per year and an average of 50,000 men who pass each year through the dungeons, where feminist studies, say 1 in 4 young (Muslim?) believe that man must send at home, and so goes on and on a country where corruption has reached the Princess Infanta of Spain and Her Husband, not to mention all parties without exception politicos.Nos know better than us @ s mism@s.Tu open your mouth and you’ll see you falling lynching .

  10. Klinton August 4, 2015 / 9:11 pm

    When feminism uses the issue as a male bashing platform, the integrity of the argument is weakened. So women want to play games. Big deal.

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