Month: September 2014

Another Stupid Response to Christina Sommers Stupid #gamergate Video

Make no mistake, I disagree with Christina H Sommers.

However the recent Polygon article on her new video “Are Video Games Sexist” is an embarrassment. It’s basically a description of the video with lots of scare-quotes and personal attacks. So I’m writing this because they couldn’t give enough shits to write anything decent about it. Maybe I shouldn’t give any more of those shits than them but I think this Video is a good encapsulation of the Anita Sarkeesian detractors so if I’m going to respond to anything this’ll do.

“Conservative” or not, Sommers’ made a vacuous pandering video that’s obfuscated by a few irrelevant facts. First, the title question: Are Video Games Sexist?

I answer that by asking you ‘Who’s accusing Video Games of being sexist?’ Media can’t be inherently sexist, just those who create it. Video games are for everyone and by setting up the argument as Video Games being either sexist or not sexist she’s creating an easy target to take down. Video Games AREN’T sexist. I’m not claiming that, Anita Sarkeesian isn’t claiming that. Nobody is claiming that. Anything she says beyond this point is rendered moot because the question is one of her invention. It’s, essentially, a strawman.

Lets move on though to her first ‘fact’. She draws an imaginary line between ‘casual’ and ‘hardcore’ gaming. By doing so she can say that gaming is indeed a boy’s club because most studies show that people self-identified as gamers are overwhelmingly male. The problem with this first irrelevant fact is where you draw that line between ‘casual’ and ‘hardcore’. World of Warcraft is notoriously welcoming to women as are many MMOs. Are they casual or hardcore? What exactly defines a game as hardcore? The distinction is unnecessary and is only invoked to serve as a way to conveniently remove millions of women from the discussion because they’re threatening to Sommers’ point.

What is that point? It’s that Gaming is for boys by boys. She wants to answer the question “Are Video Games Sexist?” with “Yes, but it’s okay because they’re for boys.”

Lets not talk about that yet though, there’s more irrelevance between here and there.

She asks “Are there video games that are rife with sexism, is that true?” and “Do they promote a culture of misogyny and violence that must be dismantled” She doesn’t pause to answer the first question which any person taking themselves seriously would answer yes. Of course. While Video Games over all can’t be ‘sexist’ anything individual examples are most certainly “rife with sexism”. So of course, she answers no, without providing any relevant counter-examples that would disprove the claims of activists in the community.  The second question is loaded. She’s basically asking two more within it; 1) Do they promote a culture of misogyny and 2) Do they promote a culture of violence.

Video Games were for a very long time connected with violence. That’s because we had a limited understanding of how violence manifests and what can cause increases in it. Psychological studies have recently began to debunk the idea that media is a direct cause of violence and Sommers uses these studies to somehow imply that since they don’t cause violence they cannot reinforce inherent sexual bias. She never presents any relevant data to show that they don’t reinforce a culture of misogyny. We’ve long understood that unconscious and inherent biases are reinforced when someone is presented with images and narratives that agree with those biases.

We’ll tie all this together in a second but first I wanted to point out that while people are upset that Sommers is called an ‘anti-feminist’ when she self identifies as an ‘equality-feminist’ she refuses to accept the idea that Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist. Calling her a ‘gender activist’ and a ‘hipster with degrees in culture studies’ but not ‘feminist’. That refusal is purposeful and shady as fuck. If you claim the title of Feminist then you cannot petulantly withhold it from someone else just because you disagree with them. It’s possible for both yourself and Anita Sarkeesian to be feminists while simultaneously disagreeing. Also, gaming is a hetero-patriarchal capitalist pursuit and I don’t think she would disagree with me.

Anyway, back to the main point. She says that many women involved in feminist activism inside video games want the male Video Game culture to die. This is simply not true and is more pandering to the specific audience the video is meant to make happy. Not a single serious critic has called for culling of video games targeted at men. Like any media (this is a pattern) there’s enough creative latitude to make games for everyone. That includes gross pigs. As with most of the bullet points brought up by the video, it’s all in an effort to stroke the ego of gamers. She even goes so far as to give matronly compliments to gamers in a sickly-sweet voice.

She ends the video by telling critics to “stand down.”

So what should we take from this video? She proves that gaming is a boys club and she proves that vocal critics are attacked. Then she has the audacity to tell these same critics to shut up. This ‘keep your head down’ mentality is repeated through the, yes, patriarchal culture of video games. People say that there are plenty of women in games development and culture who aren’t attacked because they don’t speak up. That’s the important bit I italicized there. They say ‘keep your head down’ and anyone who doesn’t is subject to harassment. So of course they’re encouraged to not speak up.

Are Video Games sexist? No. Of course not. And nobody claims they are. Are they mostly patriarchal media that reinforces unconscious gender bias? Absolutely and Sommers does a great job of proving that to be true.

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Certain Age Gaming for September 7th, 2014 “Special Guest FORCE”

Today we get TWO special guests for the price of one because Zack is with us and it’s his first time so blame everything that goes wrong squarely on him and not Kody! Taryn is also there too, so yay or something. Anyway, Kody played Diablo III Season 1 and Don’t Starve Vita Edition, Taryn played DOTA 2 and Final Fantasy XVI, and Zack played Path of Exile and Smash Bros… sort of? We talked about Microsoft’s free game offer and other stuff in the news.

If you want to participate in the show, join us at http://www.twitch.tv/certainagegamer on Sundays or Mondays at 10:00 PM EST.

Certain Age Gaming for September 7th, 2014

CA Gaming final

 

 

 

 

Podcast Pre-Audio-

Atari arcade game commercial – Dig Dug

I Don’t Support #Gamergate, But I Understand

I don’t support #gamergate.

But I understand.

Lots of stuff has happened in the 2 weeks since I wrote a response to Total Biscuit and his call to peace. Unfortunately both articles served more to be a small part in an opening salvo of commentary. The fires were stoked and gates were opened and Adam ‘I’m a giant conservative asshole’ Baldwin took up the cause against Zoe Quinn and her supporters with the now ubiquitous #gamergate. Things have, to put it kindly, evolved from there.

When it first began the hashtag was mostly filled with the kind of vitriol you would expect from people tilting their subtly (and not so subtly) misogynist lances at windmills. There were a few people with legitimate concerns about proper corruption in the enthusiast journalism of gaming… but mostly it was just a bunch of assholes fueled by hatred of Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkisian lead by Adam Baldwin retweeting the same ridiculous video over and over again. Throughout this humble beginning there was no evidence of any collusion or corruption (more on that later, collusion anyway).

Over the days however it became painfully obvious that the ‘movement’ was being co-opted from within to be… well, to actually be about corruption in games journalism. Yesterday and today you could see a wave of concerted effort by those within the hashtag to move discussion away from Zoe Quinn and her fabricated controversy into more substantive things. Those people will still tell you “#gamergate isn’t about sexism!” and they might be right as of this posting. They cannot deny that it began that way and that certain elements of the movement are still very much, as they’d hate to hear me say, problematic.

You see, gamers are silently coming to terms with the very real specter of sexism that pervades our culture and are working to remove it, while simultaneously insisting that it doesn’t exist.

There are problems with this tactic though. Videos that begin with misogynistic accusations against Zoe Quinn still circulate and are still made. Adam Baldwin is still considered a ‘leader’ of the movement. And people are still using #gamergate as an excuse and shield to harass and abuse.

People are hiding within the movement a new, subtle sexism that is supposed to be “Anti-SJW, not anti-woman” but in reality is just ‘classy‘ sexism.

Instead of outright hatred toward women. They say:

All you really need to know about SJW is that anything they touch has comments disabled.#GamerGate

Catching up on #GamerGate & I can’t even pretend to be shocked that faux-SJ white hipsters are trying to use minorities as weapons

Among other, stupider stuff. A search of “SJW” within the hashtag reveals that for many, this movement is really about the silencing of their progressive opposition. If you pay attention to what individual people say you start to realize that there’s a few groups within this protest and they’re overlapping.

There is the small core of, I won’t sugar coat it, assholes who helped orchestrate this in order to lash out at a few women they see as specific targets, then there is a large gooey coating of people concerned with ethics in journalism. Throughout that is a handful of nuts who hate “SJW” and want to stop progressive video games. All coated with a layer of people who believe journalism is corrupted by SJW women who need to be chased out of the industry.

Conspiracy

I had a long conversation with this person a few days ago about the goals and intentions as they saw it of #gamergate. They expressed genuine concerns about journalism and were never hostile towards me. There was nothing about this person that made them seem like they were unreasonable. Until I asked them why “SJW” was being pilloried by the majority in the movement. You can see his response to the left.

The same sentiment was repeated to me several times. Social Justice Warriors are in bed, literally or figuratively, with journalists and it’s ruining video games.

The problem with this supposition is that there is little evidence of social justice bleeding into games journalism.

Out of 84,796 articles published by the video-game press in 2013, 0.44% talk about feminism, sexism, or misogyny.

Out of 65,950 articles published by the video-game press in Q1/Q2 2014, 0.44% talk about feminism, sexism, or misogyny.

Tilting at the windmill of progress. It’s true that there has been improvements. Sites like Rock, Paper, Shotgun have made specific statements in regards to people complaining about how progressive they are. The statistics don’t lie, however, and the people who’ve style SJWs as some kind of inevitable tidal wave that will wipe out the games they want to play are paranoid and, perhaps unintentionally, sexist.

So no I don’t support #gamergate. Again though, I understand.

You see these people have been playing Video Games their entire lives. It’s been an escape for them as much as for me or anyone else and they desperately want to protect them from biased interlocutors. People like Anita Sarkisian and Jenn Frank are once again ostracizing them and encroaching on what has always been their safe place. The original Leigh Alexander article that lit this fire put it better than I could.

This is hard for people who’ve drank the kool aid about how their identity depends on the aging cultural signposts of a rapidly-evolving, increasingly broad and complex medium. It’s hard for them to hear they don’t own anything, anymore, that they aren’t the world’s most special-est consumer demographic, that they have to share.

They’re watching the walled-garden that was Video Games get torn down by artists and cultural critics who don’t share their life experiences. People react to this with the ‘fake gamer girl‘ shame trend. Gamers desperately want to keep gaming to themselves. Unfortunately for these few, these huddled masses of mostly well intentioned nerds, gaming is for everyone in 2014 and that means the language of Social Justice and the critique based on that cultural perspective is only going to become more pervasive.

Fortunately for those of us who just want to play games, #gamergate isn’t going to stop anyone from making games, SJWs or not.

And they may actually be doing some good by shining a dirty black-light across all of games journalism so that everyone can see their gross protein stains. Like I said before, I would touch more on corruption and collusion as it seems that throughout all this it’s been discovered that there may be proper bullshit going down with the IGF, IndieCade, and IndieFund. I can’t, in good conscience, link to the video detailing this (because of the gross fake Ventura “Quinnspiracy” intro) but needless to say that if there has been wrong doing happening within the walls of my beloved indie development scene we need to flush it out.

Oh, and if you’re reading this and are against the trend of social justice within video games… don’t be afraid. No one is going to stop you or anyone else from playing whatever game you want.