I’ve seen this a couple of times now (and I’m not picking on the person it’s coming from, just using it as a springboard to say what I want to say), and I think it needs to be addressed as a part of all of this #gamergate crap that is happening right now.
First, let me be absolutely clear — as far as I am concerned there are absolutely no legitimate aspects to this so called controversy. It started as a load of crap and there are some who have tried to recast the issue as some kind of journalistic ethics thing, but that is nothing more than a smoke screen.
I don’t need to hash over that. You can find plenty of articles on line that reference it and what it’s really all about and what it’s history is.
Instead I am here to talk about an aspect that hasn’t been touched on yet. It’s a small thing, but it’s the kind of thing that catches my eye and makes think.
A friend of mine has said, in reference to #gamergate, that these events make him ashamed to be a gamer or to be called a gamer.
They absolutely should not.
He is not like these people. Nor am I. Nor are any of the gamers I know. As I told him (paraphrased) – “We are the kind of people who believe that there is room in front of the gaming console and around the gaming table for everyone.”
It sucks to no end that women in games and comics are under-represented or completely misrepresented. I agree with that entirely.
But as I pointed out to my friend, most of us who think that gaming is a shared experience for everyone didn’t see this coming or should have been expected to see it coming. It never even dawned on us that these issues existed until fairly recently (over the past five years or so), and most of us learned of these issues in the context of “hey, there is this trend and it’s not cool so we should do something about it.”
And me and my gaming friends, both male and female, all collectively went “huh, I guess that is a thing. What can we do to help?” Okay, I’m exaggerating slightly there because I don’t know for sure about the gaming experiences of others, but I feel pretty confident in that assertion because none of my gaming friends ever said anything about it to me, and believe me when I say that if they had felt that there were being mistreated I would have heard about it. My friends don’t hold back. That’s why we’re friends.
My female gaming buddies certainly haven’t ever said anything to me about it, though it’s possible that I just never really encountered them in a context where it might have occurred in the first place. Most of my gaming experience with them is table top based and the bulk of this problem exists in the nebulous world of on-line gaming where the ether hides identities.
I’m not that in to on-line games because I generally don’t like interacting with people I don’t know anyway. If I’m playing on-line its with a group of people I’ve met in meatspace too. So my bubble is isolated in that sense.
But even in my earliest formidable years of gaming I never lacked for female gamers to interact with. In fact, they often were better gamers than the guys. So my world has never not included female gamers. I’m lucky.
Now there is this #gamergate crap and people like my friend and I are staring in to the abyss and wondering what the fuck is wrong with people. In his case, he started to take on board some guilt because he thinks he should have seen it coming and known better and spoke up sooner.
And to quote myself in the conversation I had with him —
Why would you have ever noticed it before? Again, you don’t do that and as far as I know none of the gamers you know would either. If they did you would have immediately said something. Not because of gamer culture but because of the human being you are. You don’t stand for BS and you have no problem calling it out when you see it.
But I doubt you would have been exposed to it in the right context to have seen it coming in the first place. Its surprised a lot of us. Yes we’ve seen bits and pieces of it over the past few years, but honestly every time I saw it ( women are under represented in games/comics/etc ) it was always in the context of “here’s this thing and lets start fixing it.” Most of us never really knew how deep the rabbit hole went until the whole thing exploded.
Point is, now we know, so now we do something about it. And in the meantime I am not letting a bunch of cry baby bullshit artists take away my label for their crap.
And that is the point.
Now we know. We didn’t before. Not really. Our gaming context never saw it because our gaming circles included women and included geeks and nerds and whatever else you want to call us. It doesn’t matter. We had a great group of people to work with and play with. We were having fun and not excluding anyone. Even the nerdy kid who really annoyed us with his rules lawyering.
Yeah, we broke out the gaming console and played games where there weren’t that many female character options to choose from, and yeah they were all depicted with giant boobs and skimpy outfits, but I have got to be honest with you, that other than mocking the game dynamics that made giant boobs wiggle stupidly in the opening credits of the game (Soulblade, I’m looking at you), it was largely invisible to most of us. (BTW, that character in Soulblade was one of my favorites to play because she had some badass moves!)
Not only was it invisible to us, but after the initial giggle it also became irrelevant to us. It didn’t matter that I was playing a female character and my girlfriend was playing a male character. Hell, we had fun regardless.
Did this negatively impact my female gamer friends? Apparently yes and in far more subtle ways than I would ever have noticed back then. Damn. That sucks.
But now I get it. Now I’m more mature and I understand the misogyny that is taking place in the midst of these games that was, to me largely invisible. Now I get how the depictions of these characters is generating things like bad body image and even worse life examples.
But the one thing I am not going to let happen is for these #gamergate assholes to cast a shadow on the word ‘gamer’ as if they own it and get to define it. That’s bullshit.
“GAMER” is a label I have claimed for most of my life. I play Video games. I play Computer games. I play RPG’s. I play card and board games.
And I play these games with men and women, equally. I don’t believe I am misogynistic, though I admit that I have not always been the brightest bunny in the forest when dealing with women and that I still make mistakes. Nevertheless, I think I am on pretty firm ground when I say that I do my damnedest to treat everyone as fairly as I can and the most definitely includes the gaming arena.
So, #gamergate doesn’t get to take the label of “Gamer” away from me. I will not be ashamed of it simply because a bunch of outspoken whiny brats don’t have the social skills to handle women in any context other than masturbatory fantasy objects.
Screw that shit.
I’m a gamer and I’m proud to be one. And if I ever have to deal with an actual supporter of #gamergate, it won’t be pretty.