That’s a lovely article! Thanks!
I would be inclined to agree; but I’d also be inclined to note the similarity to innumerable other instances where a ‘culture’ starts to exhibit severe butthurt despite having either lost nothing of their traditional holdings or even improved their lot:
Exclusivity. For whatever reason, a great many cultures, subcultures, religions, and so on place vastly greater value on being The people/in-group/church/whatever than they do on being one of the peoples/in-groups/churches/whatever. Even if there is plenty of room, or the arrival of the interlopers opens new opportunities, or the plan is otherwise not to just burn them to the ground and take their stuff; they can’t be satisfied because any amount of ‘other’, with the possible exception of a small despised minority that helps affirm what We Are by being Them, deprives them of exclusivity and reduces them to a mere place at the table, however nice.
The insistence on exclusivity isn’t a nice trait, and it causes all manner of trouble(see also: internecine conflict in countries where the winner’s religious laws get to be backed by state force, people freaking out about gays marrying with an intensity that would suggest that they’ve just been forced to get gay married, battles for control of mutually holy locations, and other lovely stuff); but it is very old and very common; and I suspect is part of what is at work here(even if some employ the rhetoric of being colonized or resisting colonization).
Hopefully, it won’t be as stubborn in this case as it has historically: it too Europe what, north of a century of effectively constant, indecisive, bloodbath to decide (more or less), that since neither the protestants nor the catholics were able to regain exclusivity; settling for a system where everyone had to obey the civil law and endure the heretics in the neighborhood was incrementally better than spending another couple of centuries attempting to finish up the fight?
It’s ugly, and very hard to come up with a dignified rationalization for; but people appear to treasure exclusive status of even relatively pathetic chunks of territory greatly compared to even rather nice sections of something they have to share.
The colonialism metaphor only works if the “invaders” are the ones with privelege and power, which is the opposite of the reality of game development.
A better analogy might be womens’ suffrage, or the civil rights movement, or marriage equality efforts. The haves are petulant about the have-nots becoming haves too, as if it’s some kind of zero-sum game.
The problem is not coexistence. The problem is that we see a tendency to declare your own preferred categories of games as “the only true way”. I very much would prefer a future where competitive games, AAA titles, and experimental games that doesn’t resemble anything previous or that have a message to say about the experiences of marginalized people coexist.
You point that criticism won’t affect AAA games and that is true. But the reality is that your criticism and call-out culture can affect smaller, independent developers whose ideas divert from your progressive views. By example, many found “Hatred” to be unsavory. They had to dig in the personal lives and facebook pages of the development team and found a like, to discredit the game as the product of neonazis. AAA studios can evade that kind of hitpieces, but below the AAA threshold, it means that either indies are forced to follow the party line of critics or else any embarassing fact from their past online lives will be used against them. Call-out culture in its finest.
That is really what is referred as “ethics in game journalism”. Not any conspiratorial hypotheses of developers sleeping with journalists and red lines in MSPaint diagrams, but the fact that certain political and social views are using gaming journalism as a weapon against the consumers and developers of games who dissent from their sociopolitical views, in many cases going beyond a cultural criticism of the work and towards a yellow-journalism direct attack on the creator.
I call a consumer revolt, not to sealion in the twitter lines of progressive critics, developers and journalists, nor to do any personal attack on them, but to learn game development skills, to create dissenting games, to fill the internet with playable versions of different visions opposed to the suffocating call-out, so-called progressive line of thought. To create the new Hatreds and HuniePops, to create the new doujinshi games based on Eastern media, to be a positive, creative community counterweight, to free games from tribalism.
I just don’t think the picture you are drawing of indie-game development being crushed by progressive social messages is accurate. You say we should make the new HuniePop, but was HuniePop taken out of the public sphere by progressive complaints? I can buy it on Steam right now.for $9.99. And games like this are being made all the time. Go check out retsupurae’s youtube playthroughs of games from the Meet And Fuck series. The world has no shortage of juvenile anime sex games for those who want that.
For every game that does attempt to actually have a progressive message there are a dozen top down dual-stick zombie shooters and procedurally generated rogue-lite’s with only a pretense of any message or story. The consumer revolt you are calling for looks a lot like the status quo to me.
Then you seriously need to clean house. I understand that you can’t control every whackjob with a twitter account, but right now, there no message that comes in strong and clear from the people who claim to be so concerned with “ethics” that harassment is not okay. Even if I believed that the gaming journalism community is completely corrupt, it would rank far lower in priority than people getting death threats for disagreeing with that premise. I hate to break it to you, but gaming journalism is not such an amazingly important arena that you could even begin to argue the ends justify the means. Not when people get so many rape threats that they’ve actually become inured to them. This is why people have such a hard time hearing the word “ethics” come from your camp. I see very little actual concern about unethical behavior.
Some issues: First, when talking about those character’s franchises, if you were to take the statistically average player of those games, it would indeed be a young white dude. So, really, it is accurate. Its a commercial, it isn’t there to change the world or send a message, its there to grab at their core demographic (middle class, young white dudes). I have a hard time being upset about this.
Also, and this is what really gets me about this whole topic… Do we really forget what we’re talking about here? Silly video games, and a small minority community of idiots on the internet who act like… er… idiots? This isn’t a sweeping cultural issue, this is some morons on Reddit. Obviously these morons are toxic, but really they are nothing more than run of the mill trolls who managed to snag a hashtag or two. There really isn’t a single analogue to colonialism lurking here. Entitled idiots on the internet act like entitled idiots on the internet. I understand speaking out when they reach outside of their idiot community and do something heinous like make death and rape threats…
Also, as a white guy who enjoys playing computer games (I suppose I could be considered a “Gamer”, though I generally find that designation to be idiotic), I’m beginning to get wary of this topic. It seems to be moving from just pointing out the idiocy of the homophobic, misogynist outspoken minority, to going after normal people who enjoy games, but happen to have been born white, straight, and male. I’m beginning to feel like I’m a bad guy by some accidental association that I had no control over. That somehow by being white and a dude, and sitting down to marathon Cities: Skylines, I’m now going to be conflated with the toxic minority. Every gaming article takes care to point out that someone is white (which would make sure if this was a racial, not a sexism issue).
I know I’m going to get attacked for saying this. So, to get some defense out of the way: I don’t consider myself a “gamer”, since I find the term stupid, I’m no more a “gamer” as I am a “reader”, a “fictioner”, or a “watcher”. Games are just a form of media like any other, and not an element of identification. I don’t really understand why having women, non-straights, or people of varying ethnicity or cultures wanting to share one of my hobbies is a bad thing. The more the merrier, and the more people out there the better the community and the better the hobby in general. Different perspectives are always good. A broader demographic equals more diverse and interesting content. Self-supporting, insular, internet communities are generally toxic, all of them, and are best ignored since echo chambers are useless, and isolation breads toxicity. I am, 90% sure, I am not a bad guy, despite accidently being born Caucasian and male.
This seems like a very problematic way to think about it. The “average” player of those games would actually be of mixed race, intersex and have just under 10 fingers. Maybe the young white dudes have the largest plurality, or even a majority, but is designing everything for the majority a good thing? If 80% of people like chocolate and 20% like vanilla, should we buy 100% chocolate or an 80-20 mix, or use a random number generator to pick the winning ballot if a split isn’t possible? We can say, “Well, those companies are going to do it because it’s good marketing” then the answer to that is, “Well, let’s say we think it’s wrong so they question whether it is good marketing.” I don’t think we can just point the amorality of corporate decision making and say that therefore it’s a non-issue.
This way lies madness. I think it is entirely safe to say that somewhere out there there is someone who hates you just because you were born white and/or just because you are a man. That isn’t right or fair or nice. Of course for those who were born black or who were born women, it is entirely safe to say a larger number of people hate them for those traits. So you can see how when white men complain about feeling attacked for being white men, a lot of people roll their eyes. It’s tough to be taken seriously when complaining that the water isn’t cold enough at “White’s Only” drinking fountain when the other drinking fountain has lead in the water.
When an article makes you feel a little uncomfortable for being white, that should be a trigger to think about a couple of things: 1) Are you actually complicit in what they are talking about - that is maybe you should feel a little bad about it; 2) You have just been given a glimpse of how many other people are made to feel every single day about issues a lot more important than videogames.
Part of making things better is recognizing that things are bad enough that they need to be better. If you are used to enjoying how things are, that’s a painful experience. That’s never going to not be true, and the only alternative is to never make anything better.
I hope you don’t feel “attacked.” You are, however, expressing views that are exasperating to people who have it worse than white men and who have been asked their entire lives to ride the white-man-sympathy train.
Huh. Turns out nobody makes video games specifically for the average video game player. I sense an unexploited market niche!
I like to think this dovetails into the notion of rarity in a digital space. In bygone eras, there was a physical limit to the distribution of of culture: true fans could be easily identified by their possession of key artifacts and experiences (bootleg tapes, rare editions of printed works, physical access to ratified locations).
The digitalization of space has eliminated many of those barriers and thus made it easy for anyone to lay claim to the same in-group status, which in turn probably leads to more toxicity from self-identified stakeholders.
This is a fair point, I suppose “average” isn’t the right thing to say, perhaps “most common”? This, it seems, is the demographic they are the most sure to reach, being the most common segment of people who purchase the type of game represented in the commercial. On some level, I’m not even in the demographic they want to reach anymore. I do understand, and agree with, your point though. Sadly, right and wrong are not going to be considered, only what gives the biggest uptick in sales in the shortest possible term.
Arbitrary attacks for accidental characteristics are bad, no matter what those characteristics are, or what the motivation behind them are. I’m not going to claim that my feeling of being attacked is anywhere in the ballpark of others, but it is enough to make me want to get a bit defensive. Directing ire at someone just to make them feel what others feel like is still silly and wrong. I am not a sociopath, and can develop empathy the old fashioned way, by just discussing it with people who are different than me. Obviously I can’t have first hand experience with a lot of things (I can’t stop being white and male), but I don’t live in a vacuum, and can see how things affect people in my microcosm. I also have been raised by people who wanted to instill some modicum of human decency in me, which seems, to be honest, something that is sorely needed on the internet. A lot of this confuses me, since “all people are pretty much just like me, and thus deserve the same respect that I do” seems like common sense to me.
I don’t. But this issue can quickly conflate into a “with us or against us” type issue. Its one of those issues that can raise everyone hackles, and some communities have developed rather rigid definitions of what camp someone falls into. Also, I’m not asking for sympathy, just a bit of care in conflating classes with the subgroups within them. I share accidental traits with some harmful idiots, but that does not make me on of them, nor even gives me the slightest shred of sympathy for them.
Called it! Heh.
As an aside, I wonder why we never question or examine the metaphor of the internet as a “space” made out of “places?” 80’s cyberpunk imagined for us a vast black plane populated with neon pyramids and whatnot, but the internet really isn’t a place.
And you can’t have colonialism without place. What if those “others” aren’t even foreigners? What if they’re us?
Who did the map, and is there more of it?
I think at best a tiny, tiny minority of people would actually try that as a Machiavellian scheme. If someone were intentionally doing that, I would say it was shitty.
But we aren’t talking about what someone is intentionally doing, we are talking about how you feel when you read articles like this. The author of this didn’t say that white men are bad for being white. The closest they came to actually calling out white men for their actions is:
When marginalized voices come to take their seat at the table, there will always be an outcry that they are invaders, colonists, inferior versions of their straight, white male counterparts.
Which isn’t saying anyone is bad for being straight, white or male. If you feel a tinge of discomfort reading this, it’s probably because it’s the ugly truth.
That comes across as self-contradictory to me. “I don’t want sympathy but be careful so you don’t offend me.” You phrase the latter part as most of logical good-for-everyone thing, but because I don’t see anything against whiteness or maleness or straightness in the article we are discussing, it again seems to be about how the article makes you feel. Did the author actually group all white men with those who would try to shout down minorities?
I feel that what happened is that the author pointed out that marginalized groups usually don’t feel comfortable in spaces that are “reserved” for white men because of the reception they get in those spaces. If you have felt comfortable in those spaces even as marginalized people felt uncomfortable in them, then I can see how pointing that out would make you feel a little bad. That’s not the same thing as blaming you for being white.
There is the possibility of innovative games with non-progressive sociopolitical messages. Its not, as you seem to state it, either what already exists or the progressive way. By example, a society simulator based on RedPill ideas is probably a game that doesn’t exist currently, neither is “progressive” by your standards. But such game would never get a shining review on progressive inclined game sites, no matter how polished it execution were.
The saturation of the offer of available games in all platforms gives journalism the chance to shine the spotlight in what it deems relevant. But the act of doing so is a political act also, and until now the majority of game journalists adhered to the same end of the political spectrum. Thus the need to create dissenting voices able to shine the spotlight in what they find relevant from different points of view.
And yes, also the need to create original, well thought games that expose dissenting ideas.
I did the map, maybe I should …
make a game.
I genuinely have no idea what I said that you read this way. Yes, I contrasted a progressive thoughtful game with a zombie shooter, but I hardly denied the possibility of a pro-RedPill game that would also be a rarity among a sea of zombie shooters. You brought up Hatred as an example, and I doubt it got a shining review on a progressively minded game site, but on the other hand, it was the most voted game on Steam Greenlight and that was probably because it was temporarily removed from the site for being too violent. You are speaking as if progressive voices are effective at censoring or silencing games, but your examples suggest the opposite: When progressive voices speak out about games it just goes under “All publicity is good publicity” and helps the games along. People tried to shout down Piss Christ and the only result of that is that I’ve heard of Piss Christ. Like I said, the consumer revolt you are asking for is already the norm.
That sounds like you are saying you need to create new outlets for games journalism, not new games. But I still don’t understand the point. Let’s look at a review of HuniePop, which you mentioned:
In combining the compulsion of match-three puzzlers with a certain other compulsion we don’t talk about in polite company, HuniePop offers a refreshing and dangerously addictive take on the classic dating sim. At first glance it might remind you of the 18+ Bejeweled knockoffs that litter Newgrounds’ adult section, but it has them beat handily in terms of both mechanical intricacy and production values.
Was the reviewer not supposed to tell you that it’s basically pornography in the review? That would seem like a terrible disservice to the reader. And if a reviewer is put off by racist stereotypes or sexism in a game, are they supposed to just keep that to themselves? What would be the point? If I thought I would enjoy playing a game where every black character is a one-dimensional stereotype of a ‘thug’ (or, at least if I thought that would be immaterial to my enjoyment of the game) then I could read someone pointing that out about a game not let that affect my decision about whether to buy it. If that kind of thing would really put me off then I would not buy the game based on that review. I would only trust a numerical score in a review if I knew from the past that the reviewer tended to like the kinds of games I like. Is there even another way it could be?
The real problem for HuniePop is that metacritic says it has been reviewed by just one critic. That is, it’s not that IGN wrote a negative review of it, it’s that they didn’t review it at all. Then again, from what I can see (to be honest, I hadn’t heard of the game before today) it is actually porn, so it’s not some novel progressive impulse that would keep mainstream sites away. (As the review above says: “This is a difficult review to write – not because HuniePop is hard to evaluate by any stretch, but because in writing this I have to admit that I played it.”)
I still don’t see how your complaint aligns with reality. If progressive voices have shouted down games I don’t know of any examples. If games have failed specifically because they were so odious, shocking or pornographic that no one would review them - and so almost no one heard about them - that seems to me like a failure to understand the market (and maybe a problem with a lack of avant-garde video game galleries). I’m going to release a game in the next week and no one is going to play it aside from a few people who know me, but that’s really down to me.
It means the seizure of land, then its resources, and then the co-opting of those resources to the captive market of the colonizer.
Are there “natives” to non-physical spaces? Physical space is finite.
On the internet, of course, people in fandoms can literally just go somewhere else. The market isn’t shrinking, changing focus or expelling anyone—it’s growing.
I like the metaphor and framing of colonialism, but I think we need to give attention to the role of game design in shaping gamer behavior, and thus giving rise to the norms and values that define that culture. My remarks are particular to multiplayer games.
Consider most competetive PC games. The design of client/server games (like the Quakes, Unreals, Half-Lifes, Minecraft, and their derivatives) has a distinctly different impact on territorialism and group behavior than cloud matchmaking games (Like DoTA, LoL, HALO, COD, Battlefield, etc).
In client/server games, you have the ability to set up your own server. Like real property, this costs money, and if you don’t take care of it you’re likely to find that it’s been taken over by low-lifes who piss all over the place. When you are paying your own server bills, you tend to run things how you want because you literally own the place. It’s your bar.
Each server develops their own reputation, and I always hopped around till I found the ones that ran a tight ship. For me that meant:
- no overt or even casual racism
- as little homophobia as possible (would prefer none, but those slurs are sadly too hard for some to let go. I’m encouraged that the Furries and the LGBTQ kids on Tumblr seem to be changing this).
- the regulars are good sports. they fight hard every time, but don’t hold grudges
- the regulars like to laugh. they give as good as they get, and most can laugh at themselves
- no tolerance for abusive players, griefers, spammers, etc.
- no tolerance for hacking or aimbotting in serious play, but nothing wrong with messing with game mechanics. I love when an admin gets too tipsy to play, but spends the round randomly turning gravity on/off.
- and, this is a high bar, hopefully the sexism is tolerable. I’ve yet to find a game or a community that doesn’t make me cringe a little whenever the new person is discovered to be gaming while female. The bad put-downs, the bad come-ons, the sadly predictable unpleasant “welcome” of “wow, I didn’t know you were a girl.”
When it’s your own server, your clan name, you as an individual have a vested interest in demonstrating, and enforcing, those things that you value about that community. Regulars get empowered to defend their space against those who would undermine the values of the server/community/clan. Community volunteers with admin rights are on call to address any instances of aimbotting, bigotry, or griefing. (It’s not lost on me that @jlw used to run a famous quake server, and I see much of the same guiding principles in the community management of this bbs).
When a game is designed around the cloud/matchmaking paradigm, you and your friends no longer have “space” to control. Publishers of such games assume the responsibilities of policing a minimum floor of acceptable social behavior, an ever-moving target with regional differences that’s more often a cost-center than a sales-driver. Consider the lengths that HALO and LoL and any MMO need to put forth to prevent just the most toxic of the toxic. To some degree, MMOs through Guild/Faction affiliation features seek to help build a bubble around the worst of the persistent environment, but asking to get into a good guild is not the same as joining an open server that has a reputation for being a beacon in a sea of filth.
But, that said, as more and more cloud/matchmaking gamers harbor progressive values, they have expectations that the game publisher will continually raise the bar of community standards. So, in that sense, as far as progressive values continue turn into mainstream values, regressive thinkers can be displaced from particular games.