Yarp, it’s that time again, folks. Anita Sarkeesian is back with the latest installment of Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games:
It’s very much in line with the rest of the Tropes Vs Women series, including Sarkeesian’s occasional conceptual stretching in picking her examples. In a way it’s a shame, as it tends to give fuel to the dullards who think that rattling out laundry lists of minor factual inconsistencies automatically renders the overall point non-existent (Spoiler: it doesn’t). Watching her requires one to keep the wide view in mind and connect the very large and obvious dots that become apparent. Even when her examples can be argued as not intentionally sexist, the point is that they all too often reveal gaming’s often poor cultural shorthand, and the kind of lazy and immature writing that we’re gradually learning doesn’t have to be a given in the medium anymore.
The timing couldn’t be better/worse, with the Internet still convulsing after being hit by the semi-trailer of senselessness that saw Depression Quest developer Zoe Quinn come under fire for a range of alleged breaches of professional behaviour.
It’s been quite the shitstorm, with not a lot of proof to back up the mouth-foaming. Some accusations, such as Quinn’s alleged sleeping around with several games writers in exchange for positive coverage of Depression Quest, has been debunked save for one confirmed affair with a writer who covered the game before the hook-up occurred; others, that claim Quinn used her status and the industry support that has come with it to further her own ends, most notoriously in allegedly sabotaging a competing game jam, haven’t been corroborated in any convincing way (Unless you consider context-less Twitter and message board screengrabs any kind of empirical anything).
Seriously, the thing’s a humongous clusterfuck of rumour, salacious conjecture and unleashed resentment from some of the most unreliable, and outright unstable, commentators you could ever dread to meet. I’m here to talk about what she, Anita Sarkeesian and a lot of the new generation of game developers and commentators represent – something which has earned them the derogatory term SJW (Social Justice Warriors) and which seems to offend a lot of people to a depressing degree of loudness. Indeed, many don’t just dislike the idea of concepts like inclusion and the exploration of social issues becoming part of the videogame landscape but seem hellbent on ‘exposing’ them – or at least, its coverage by the press – as corrupting forces threatening Gaming Itself. The irony is, the nature of a lot of these protests have only served to highlight the following:
- Gaming needs to grow up;
- This idea seems to scare the shit out of an awful lot of people;
- Probably because it’s already happening.
But try telling that to a lot of Quinn and Sarkeesian’s ‘groupies’ out there and see how far that gets you. Instead, you’re likely to get yet another mealy-mouthed rant about how Sarkeesian has a tendency to go for intellectual low-hanging fruit and easy (Perfectly valid, but easy) targets in her videos, or how Quinn is this dastardly mastermind who uses the Internet to defame and attack those she doesn’t like or perceives as a threat, despite the fact that many of these people are not only doing the exact same things but boast about it.
Furthermore, the gaming press has been accused of cronyism by some, and in the case of the infamous (And as far as I can tell nigh-on impossible to find anymore) YouTube video from TheInternetAristocrat, which introduces its ‘expose’ of the Quinn thing by presenting the press’s growing interest in social justice issues in games as a direct expression of its corruption. Or this online petition (Those with even the lightest affection for the English language, proceed with caution). Writer Matt Forney takes a similar tack in his article Zoe Quinn, Phil Fish and the Great Social Justice Swindle (Google him if you like; I’m not linking his shit):
Even vultures sometimes gag, and several video game journalists have revealed that they were forced to shut up about the Zoe Quinn story lest they be fired. Some feminists have even broken ranks to oppose her, realizing that defending a sociopathic whore is probably not the hill they want to die on. Even editors of major gaming publications are admitting that their coverage of Quinn’s antics has been less than impartial, because the left never lets facts get in the way of the Narrative.
...Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Phil Fish and their friends… position themselves as our moral superiors, castigating us for our “misogyny” and “intolerance,” all the while committing repulsive acts in private to enrich themselves.
They are parasites in the truest sense of the word.
Video gaming thrived and grew precisely because it was free of these kinds of people. As long as I’ve been alive, Hollywood and the mainstream media have been defined by nepotism, cronyism and hollow moral preening. If locusts like Quinn and Sarkeesian get their way, video gaming will become just as degenerate as every other form of media. And they won’t stop there: every time we flee and establish a new culture, they’ll be hot on our heels, ready to destroy it.
Stirring words, eh? By the way, as I look at this article the ‘Popular Posts’ box at the side of the page looks like this:
I checked out all those other articles and they’re just as foul as the titles promise (By the way, my favourite of Matt’s Fat Sex Tips is ‘If You’re Not Feeling Him, Get A Dick Extender’. Fabuloso.). The real kicker though, is the one at the bottom. Tips on how to attack your enemies with false claims using the Internet? I thought only SJW IndieScum Hypocrites and their journo lackeys did that kind of thing, Matt?
Christ on a fucking camel…
Filmmakers Davis Aurini and Jordan Owen are currently receiving a great deal of attention with their upcoming film The Sarkeesian Effect. The following extracts from the blurb on the film’s Patreon page summarizes their position like so:
The Social Justice Warriors have come to dominate the discussion to such a degree that the mainstream media will only acknowledge their side of the story. The official story as reported by mainstream news outlets is that a small group of brave activists (Ms. Sarkeesian outstanding among them) have been targeted with death threats, rape threats, cyberbullying, misogyny, racism, and other mistreatment for daring speak out against the white-male dominated gaming community.
We intend to shed light on the truth: that the SJWs have been the ones using manipulation and intimidation to push their agenda forward and that the mainstream media has accepted their story uncritically. Constructive criticism is not harassment. Pointing out that someone is factually wrong is not misogyny.
On the surface it’s a stirring and inflammatory claim, but again it also happens to be completely nonsensical. Again we get this wacky idea that the threats, bullying, misogyny, racism and flat-out illegal theft of personal information is some kind of fabrication when it clearly, plainly, absolutely has taken place. It’s there. Anyone can go look at it. Just type ‘Sarkeesian’ into the search bar of any popular gaming message board and you’re likely to see pop up lots and lots of words from people who sound like they should be under intense medical supervision rather than being let anywhere near a keyboard – and these are just the ones who haven’t contacted/hacked/DDOSd her directly. Same goes for Quinn, who in part is being villified of having similar abuse removed from online spaces and aggressive community members because apparently, free speech is more important than not publicly threatening rape and murder upon people.
I know, right? Who saw that one coming?
Ditto for claims such as this one – from an unnamed, self-described ex-writer at Kotaku – that the gaming press have been actively suppressing coverage of the Quinn debacle, to the extent of threatening to fire writers who ‘break silence’. Of course, these are absolutely necessary and important truths being imparted here, because this clearly has has everything to do with a conspiracy to hide information that could cripple the foul wooly mammoth that is the games press, and couldn’t possibly be because the whole thing is a massively dangerous clusterfuck of conjecture, intimate details of peoples’ private lives and personal vendettas indulged in the absence of corroborated fact, and therefore the last thing any sensible or ethical news source should touch with a shitty stick. Any dickhead can write on a tumblr page ‘I’m a games journo and my bosses won’t let me say stuff!’, but if you can’t back it up you can go find yourself another sucker.
The stuff about Quinn allegedly sabotaging other game jams, and holding back others to further her own career? Now if that stuff does turn out to be true, and has been suppressed by the press, then you may have a case – but one would think that the people who believe this stuff and claim they have proof would do something more productive with it than cut-and-pasting crap on Internet message boards, or more ethical and dignified than the personal harrassment, death threats, denial of service attacks, server bombing and theft of personal information that has been directed at her and anyone else the mouthbreathing Internet Entitlement Squad determines to be the new Beelzebub. Besides, there are pockets of the Internet who seem to get a kick out of blaming games journalists for everything from Quinngate to the invasion of Poland – this article by popular YouTuber (And one-time magazine journo) Matt Lees comes highly recommended as an informed insight into what the job is really like, and why it’s often fruitless trying to explain it.
Because the perpetual question that hangs in the air, unloved, unfulfilled and avoided by all of these SJW Killers and Keyboard Gladiators is why? Why are we supposed to believe all this stuff about these people, with a grad total of fuck-all evidence to support it, from people who are demonstrably worse than any of them? Zoe Quinn allegedly snookered someone’s game jam? Well at least she didn’t threaten them with rape and murder, make abusive calls to their families. Phil Fish is a bit of a cock? You don’t see him illegally stealing information about people (As was done to him last week after he defended Quinn, prompting him to announce the sale of his company Polytron). How stupid do these people think we are?
When it comes down to it, for all these people’s rhetoric about the evils of your Quinns, Sarkeesians and SJW and for all their self-aggrandizing posing, these people are not heroes. They do not speak for you. They only speak for themselves, for their own twisted, myopic worldviews, their own delusions of victimhood, and their own arrogant beliefs that the cultural landscape belongs to them and them only. They’re nothing more than bullies, and the keyboard is their stick; but like all bullies, all they have is hate. Don’t look to them for alternatives or answers, or to really give a shit about anything other than their own hatred and the narcissistic charge it gives them.
Ultimately, they’re swimming against the cultural tide and only care about wrecking as much shit as they can before they drown. The truth is, this isn’t about individual personalities or PC dilettantism. This is about a new artform finally beginning to earn its spot in the cultural landscape, and it was always going to happen. As of April this year, the ESA reported the following statistics:
- The average age of gamers in the U.S. is 31 years old;
- 71% of gamers are age 18 or older;
- 49% of gamers are female.
It may be a thundering cliche at this point, but the fact remains that gaming genuinely isn’t a hobby for kids anymore, so is anyone really surprised that their cultural significance is becoming more of an issue? Whenever the subject of social issues or ‘games as art’ comes up, you can rely on someone at some point petulantly proclaiming “Well it’s just these older gamers wanting to justify why they still play video games!”.
It’s meant as a retort when all it actually is, is a statement of the pants-shitting obvious. Of course we want our cultural sources to become more sophisticated as we get older, and more closely reflect our own experiences and the world we live in. It’s a natural part of how our tastes mature, even in this current era of geek when we’re allowed to revisit even the cheesiest of our childhood entertainment with no irony required. It’d be a worry if we didn’t begin to crave something more refined and grounded. That’s not to say that we should expect all games to be artistically or politically sophisticated – in fact, there are plenty of games that are solely about gameplay mechanics and are perfect for what they are – but the fact is that we’ve all grown up with games as part of our cultural landscape, and the turmoil we’re seeing lately is in part the growing pangs of a medium realizing that it is part of culture, and figuring out the best way it can be part of it.
History has shown us time and again that artforms do not evolve easily. Major shifts in form and/or thinking are always aggressively resisted by those who perceive these changes as something permanent, something that will somehow obliterate the things they already love and replace it with something they don’t understand and which belongs to someone else. Of course, history has also proved time and again that this never actually happens. Rock n’ Roll didn’t wipe Pop from existence; the independent/grassroots explosions of the cinema of the 70s and 90s didn’t stop the Hollywood system one bit; Hair Metal survived Grunge just as well as Prog Rock survived Punk, which in turn survived New Wave’s inexorable slide back round to Pop. Genres or philosophies may slide in and out of fashion, but artforms only expand when change comes knocking. It just so happens that one of the major symptoms of this change is a lot of melodrama and paranoia that never turns out to be true.
This sturm und drang is fleeting, but what threatens to linger and leave a permanent mark on gaming is how some people – specifically, white, middle class people -are dealing with it. Are we still struggling with the idea that acknowledging our own privilege and respecting those who are culturally victimized isn’t actually a bad thing? Then again, maybe I’m just giving too much credit to the people – the embittered, immature and socially backwards ‘people’ – out there who just want a target to shit at. I don’t know Zoe Quinn or Anita Sarkeesian and I can’t speak to their personalities. What I can say, however, is that seeing the kind of awful crap spouted by a lot of people over the last few years, and the last week and a bit especially, has made me feel embarrassed to be a gamer. It’s been a long time since I felt like that, and we’ve come far too far at this point for that to be in any way acceptable.
Ultimately, the way forward is for all of us to make sure we keep an open mind. To watch things like Tropes Vs Women, to hear these opinions, and be mindful of the wider point rather than assume some kind of personal attack that isn’t really there. To give new styles of game a fair shake and instead of roll our eyes when they explore the lives of people of a different demographic to us, approach them with a willing curiosity to see what universal truths they do hold for us. To start thinking of this thing we call ‘gaming’ as not just a hobby, but a wing of modern culture that will enrich us the wider it expands. And when the trolls, the haters, the failed come along with their hysteria, and abuse, and masturbatory half-baked conspiracy theories remind them that gaming belongs to the grown-ups now.
We have great times ahead of us, my gaming brethren. Don’t let the bottom-feeders drag us down.