shame

I wasn’t sure if I was going to comment on this #1reasonwhy thing.   Still not sure, frankly; I might very well not publish this post.  To be honest, I’m just not sure what to say about it.  This should not be confused with me being apathetic or disinterested or complacent or anything of the sort, however.  I’ve got very strong feelings about it, actually, the strongest one being that it’s incredibly disheartening that this sort of protest needs to exist in the first place.

The behavior of “gamers” – not all of them, but the loudest of them – is one that’s incredibly tough to swallow.  The racist, sexist, misogynist crap that spews forth from Xbox Live multiplayer sessions and Youtube videos and website comment threads – for better or worse, this is how gamers are being defined by society.  This is why Fox News can continue to talk about violent videogames and the downfall of culture and still get away with it, while the good stuff like Child’s Play and other charitable and well-intended works get largely ignored in the mainstream media.

I don’t want to be identified with these assholes; I don’t want anything to do with them.  I don’t play multiplayer with randoms, I very rarely read comment threads.   What I love about videogames has absolutely nothing to do with what these idiots bring to the table.   I mean, I’m a gamer, one week away from turning 37, and you know what?  It’s still a little embarrassing to admit it out loud, for fear that I’ll be branded as one of these scumbags.  When my wife says that she’s done with the DVR and that I can have the living room to play games, there’s still a part of me that cringes a little, as if I’m about to do something infantile.   (This isn’t my wife’s fault – this is me just reflexively being embarrassed.)

I have this blog, I’m a member of some private forums, and I email a few friends to discuss what we’re playing.  The farther I wade into the cesspool that is general games discussion, the faster I want to back out.

That women have been treated like shit in and around the gaming community is not news; it’s always been this way.  Let’s leave aside the gratuitous character designs of female characters in games themselves and talk about real, actual women.  Remember when the dominant story in a lot of the legitimate gaming press around the first Assassin’s Creed game was, for the most part, how hot Jade Raymond was – not that she was the creative lead on a major new intellectual property?  Do we need to discuss Booth Babes?

Hell, it’s not just women – it’s anybody who isn’t a straight white male.  My friend Caro is a senior critic for Gamespot, who also happens to be transgender.  She loves and knows more about games than pretty much anybody I know, and she’s also a marvelous writer with a tremendous mind for analysis and critical thinking; she’s largely the reason why I want to get into this business, to be honest.  But any time she posts a review for her site, my heart breaks every time I see the comments – comments that have nothing to do with her words, or her insight, but about the sound of her voice.

I’m very tired of this shit, and I don’t know what to do about it.  I am neither a professional critic, nor a programmer, nor anything other than an avid consumer and enthusiast; I am a straight white male with a blog that is about to have its biggest month ever – at slightly over 400 hits.  While my reach is limited, my aim is true.  I very much look forward to a time when being a “gamer” isn’t something to be embarrassed about.  In the meantime, I guess, all I can do is support the people I respect, and try to drown out the idiots.

EDIT:  Here’s a fantastic post from Rock Paper Shotgun.  http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/11/29/1reasonwhy-we-are-all-responsible/

And here’s Patrick Klepek at Giant Bomb.  http://www.giantbomb.com/news/from-1reasonwhy-to-1reasontobe-and-1600-comments-in-between/4462/

And here’s Leigh Alexander, who’s been all over this for a long time:  http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/174145/Opinion_In_the_sexism_discussion_lets_look_at_game_culture.php#.ULehR-RWxI5

3 responses

  1. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot too. And not just because I’m a girl and I play games, but because a lot of my male friends (like you) do too and I think they’ve been somewhat underrepresented in the conversation. Additionally, I also try to avoid the comments section of gaming articles because they’re, by and large, cesspools.

    I’ll try to make this brief but there are two things I want to point out. The first being that I’m glad to see that the discussion about women’s role in gaming (and also society) is happening – and it’s happening often with a lot of people participating. I think the first step to changing the inequality is to start talking about it. The second thing I want to mention is that I hate how much the vocal, misogynist group of immature man-babies get the most attention instead of the guys that respect women, like the men I’m friends with and like the man I married. Those are the guys who want to see their sisters, mothers, aunts, daughters, and wives be treated equally whether they’re playing videogames together or sending them off to work or school.

    While I don’t have a solution, I think it’s important to start by engaging in thoughtful, respectful discussion as well as supporting equality for all of those that we love.

    • Awareness is the first step, I agree. It’s figuring out that *second* step that’s so frustrating. There’s a part of me that wonders how different it would be if the internet wasn’t anonymous. There’s no question that people act a lot differently when they don’t have to be held personally accountable for the things they say. But, of course, this issue (and the hashtag) isn’t specifically limited to internet discourse – a lot of it is real, in-person, in-your-face sexism/racism/terribleness, and that’s the part that I really wish I knew how to fix.

      • Absolutely — I think that anonymity allows people to speak and behave in a fashion that they know to be generally unacceptable in face-to-face interactions. Remember that scene from Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back where they (spoilerz!) going to the homes of people who dissed them on the Internet and kicked the shit out of them? Totally unrealistic, but I think part of the problem is that people know they will, by and large, suffer no ill consequences for their poor behavior.

        I’m with you — I, too, wish I had the solution. I think in a lot of ways, that kind of bad behavior has to become socially unacceptable to the point where others, strangers even, would speak up to stop it when it happens. I don’t know how we’ll get to that point, but I hope we do soon.

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