I think it's fair to say that I need to stop saying “time to blow dust off of this blog”. I just realised that I dated the most recent game diary entry January 21st, and it's still not published. So here's some random content.
This is a bit of a rant. And it has to do with another so far unpublished blog entry, I guess – specifically, a blog entry on why I persolly think feminism is a very relevant social movement while some loudmouths claim it isn't. But that's all more suited for my generic personal blog. This particular rant is about gaming.
I wish to address one particularly persistent line. Here's two direct quotes:
“Video games don't handicap by gender. You either play well or you don't. I wonder if that has something to do with it...”
“If you're so thin-skinned you can't handle the toxicity of random assholes in a pub[lic] game, you don't have what it takes to cut it at a competitive level, regardless of what sits between your legs.”
Both were taken from a daft thread in Reddit's Men's Rights subreddit.
For those who don't know the terminology, theoretically, the Men's Rights moment is supposed to be complementary to Feminism – both movement are attempting to seek the same goal of gender equality. Of course, that's just the theory. I personally identify as a feminist because “men's rights” issues are already recognised by feminists and everyone knows that equality cannot be achieved unless the needs of both genders are addressed – plainly put, two wrongs don't make a right.
However, the online Men's Rights movement is practically, for all intents and purposes, just about anti-Feminism and preserving the status quo. And the above quotes just show exactly what their thoughts tend to be about video games and gamer community.
It is a reality we, the clueful gamers, are trying to forget ever happened. And it's a reality they want back.
“Video games don't handicap by gender”
I've lost track how many times I've heard this sentiment from supposedly adept gamers and people who analyse video games. It's always amusing how that particular insight fails in reality. People can expertly deconstruct video games and then they totally fail at deconstructing this bit of insight.
It's the sort of thing that people just nod along to because it sounds correct. And when you start thinking of it, it suddenly dawns to you that it's so fundamentally stupid that it burns.
Want a hint? Video game design is entirely separate from video game culture.
Yes, one influences the other. Designers listen to the players. Players think of game design. And yes, modern video game design tries to eliminate this sort of handicaps by making the games accessible to all sorts of audiences. So that part of the statement is true.
But there's another unstated implication: “It is an unquestionable fact that video games don't handicap by gender; therefore, the prevailing game culture is incapable of handicapping you either.”
In other words, we're left to assume that game design directly influences the game culture and that whatever the game designers say is unquestioningly accepted by the gamers. (Which is an extremely funny idea, because gamers tend to whine a lot about unpopular changes.)
The statement somehow implies that the video game design is some kind of a moral dogma that all gamers accept. In essence, this statement is kind of like saying “The Bible teaches us to be charitable and merciful. Therefore, nobody ever bombed abortion clinics.”
I don't think that people need a whole lot of cluefulness to see why that sort of arguments don't tend to work out.
“If you're so thin-skinned, you don't have what it takes”
Yes, the gamer community kind of sucks. But let me make one thing extremely clear right away: I'm not saying that everything has to be puppies and sunshine in the gamer community, and everyone has to be smily peaches all the time. I'm not saying that having a thicker skin is not a good thing – people need to be able to handle justified criticism and not get overly offended by minor things.
But what about unjustified criticism? And there, friends, lies the fatal flaw of this particular argument.
I am saying one pretty important thing: The game community is getting better, and it's no thanks to the idiots like this. The game community is getting better because clueful people are coming in and making the narrowminded jackasses an ever-vanishing minority.
Yes. They were a loud minority before. Now they're even smaller minority, but dammit if they've gone ever more louder.
So this is my question to the super-leet gamers: Why would anyone want to particularly defend “the toxicity of random assholes” at competitive level, or anywhere else in the gamer community? What need does the toxicity serve, other than to keep people out?
Because that's the only thing it does. Just another thing to keep the elitism alive. Just another thing to keep other people away from your precious little corner of the world.
It's particularly amusing that this discussion was about Halo, by the way, because these days Halo is a pretty good example of how the game culture has potential for greatness. It's a good example of how positive attitudes can create something that still looks the same, but also accommodates other people.
You keep hearing about how Halo is a haven for homophobic 12-year-old boys. Funny thing is, that hasn't been true for a while now – in the recent years, most of the idiots have migrated to other games. People rarely use mics in public games and tend to be more supportive in general. You see actual cooperation. You see actual awesomeness. At very least, most seem to agree that living and let living is a good way to go. And yet, the core of the game is the same as it has always been – everyone comes to play Halo just to either have good crazy time or to get some seriously awesome shit done. (Okay, you can make a whole lot of arguments whether or not the state of Halo 4 in particular is actually as awesome as it could be, but the point is, it's not drastically different from what it was. Even pros will agree that it's definitely a Halo game, and it sucks because it's not Halo 2, and as such it's totally typical of the series. The following games will undoubtedly fit that criterion. Right?)
Except these jerks tend to still show up in Halo too, every now and then. Yes, they sometimes come from under the rock. And I damn well wish they'll go back there, dammit.
No, life isn't all rosy in Halo land, but the parts that are rosy are rosy indeed. And you notice that the state of the world is far from the horror scenarios that these people talk of when they fear the Imminent Feminist Takeover™.
All everyone can expect from the gamer community is just acceptance of the fact that there's different people out there and they want to play different kind of games – and things that serve no other purpose than to keep People You Don't Like® out of the games should just be done away with.
I'd also say that this particular quote shows another fantastic side of the online Men's Rights movement. “The community is terrible, and obviously can not be changed by any societal means! Even our human rights movement is totally powerless! We must never, ever try to foster any kind of positive changes, ever – that is doomed to fail!” I've always said that the worst kind of politicians (and political activists) are the kind of politicians who spend way, way, way too many words on why something constructive can't be done, especially if it only serves to reinforce what is already in place. Progress demands us to look at things rationally. If something can't be done, there should be a good reason for that, not just “this is how it has always been”.
...and some more ranting to wrap this up
I wholeheartedly encourage video game designers to keep on being clueful. As I said, on its own, the statement is true and games are becoming more accessible. I personally believe that video games are something that everyone should be able to enjoy, and the video game culture has to shed its elitism. Game designers can make the games accessible without compromising their artistic integrity and without compromising the design values that people appreciate. I hope that in the future, games can continue to be challenging without introducing “artificial” challenges that only serve to annoy people.
I also hope that game culture grows more accepting of the fact that because peoples' tastes vary so much, we need all sorts of games. Gamers tend to grumble about casual games, all the while ignoring the fact that that's the vast majority of the market right now. We don't need less casual games, we just need the games to be better. The casual game market has to be served somehow – yes, the current offerings kind of suck, but the solution is to offer something better for them, not to tell everyone to either
stick to hardcore games (wait, scratch that, I forgot the gamers don't want that) or quit gaming altogether. It's too late for the latter.
Ultimately, sticking to game designs that cater to a very narrow group of people leads to stagnation. For a good example of this, just see what happened to Final Fantasy and Call of Duty series. While the developers deliberately focused on their core audience, the gamers just came to the conclusion that maybe seeing the same thing over and over was too much, and then they saw that the other game companies are actually doing more interesting things. We need variety. We need innovation. Both of those things ultimately serve the goal of making better hardcore games.
Is a little bit of cluefulness really that much to ask, both what comes to the game design and the direction we should take in shaping the community?
We as a gamer community have come so far. Don't let the idiots ruin it and make us all take steps back. Don't be an elitist. Having fun and having competitions isn't something that should be artificially limited to some random definition of who's worthy and who's not, because that's all that this sort of attitudes ultimately accomplish.
Let's keep awesome stuff happening. Together.