You know what’s an amazing column if you enjoy intelligent, well-reasoned articles on all aspects of games and game culture? Scoot right over to GameSetWatch’s This Week in Game Criticism and you’ll find it. In fact, this is often the first place i’ll go when I’ve been out of town for awhile and need to catch up, something I’ve just been doing after a week of HTML5 conference-going and training.
It’s also wonderful because it pointed me in the direction of Leigh Alexander’s recent piece at Kotaku entitled, wonderfully: I’m Tired of Being a “Woman in Games.” I’m a Person.
Yes. Oh lord, yes. This piece will piss you off if you are precisely the sort of person who thinks “issues” have no place in games/games writing, or if you fit the following description from the very first paragraph:
“some of you will hear the s-word [sexism] and roll your eyes and go, “oh, this again?” You guys can piss off-–go click on some new screenshots or a trailer consisting of a release date slowly fading into view. You’re hopeless.”
Followed up by:
“It’s just that I’m shocked that grade-school concepts like “diversity is constructive” and “treat human beings equitably” are concepts that somehow still need championing, still need arguing for. I mean, really? I have to explain many times that the convergence of varied perspectives makes creating things-–like video games-–more fruitful? Or more simply: You think boys’ clubs are better than spaces where everyone gets equal respect regardless of their gender? What’re you, five?”
Sweet, delicious honesty – I could drink it in all day. I agree with her, in case you cannot tell, that it would be wonderful if the default position for game fans is to respect one another instead of act like angry, bitter children afraid of words that end in “ism” and obsessed with stereotypes.
It’s the main reason I get annoyed by things like Duke Nukem’s “Titty City” and the “whore” achievement that was axed from Dead Island. It’s not the exact instance that’s troublesome, its the bland, casually sexist, ridiculously pervasive attitude that it signifies. It’s the insufferably whiny “well, why don’t I get special treatment if you do?”; childish attitude that so many privileged people display when someone else (any “other” will do – woman, non-white, LGBT, disabled, etc.) is trying to point out that the way they have been portrayed – or seem invisible – really sucks, and gee, wouldn’t it be cool if it sucked a little bit less?
I agree with her ambivalence – that the sexism war in games is an unsolved problem (thanks, lowest common denominator marketing!) that needs champions, but it sucks to have to be pigeonholed into the “lady games journalist” or “lady writer” or what have you, as if all women who play games — or even all women who play games and write about them will have precisely the same opinions and ideas.
I’ve had many (oh, so many) developers/PR come at me at game conferences with “girl games” and insult my intelligence time and time again, giving me “great examples” of games “women will love!”. I refrain from telling these people that I’ve been teaching university courses (as faculty, not as a student teacher, mind you) since I was 24, that I know a thing or two about gaming, and that despite being female, I’m actually not a moron. There’s a whiff of this about the game press as well, though it’s usually not as obvious. I’m polite in person and in all my communications, but I’d be lying if I said that didn’t grate on me.
Her overall point is simple, and very (almost comically), easy to follow – treat other people with a modicum of respect:
“What I mean by “err on the side of respecting people” is this: when peers and friends speak up and let me know something is hurting them, I usually feel that the need to respect their feelings is way more important than obtuse arguments over someone’s all-important right to say “whore” in a codebase.”