The Akuun’Dur continue to take center stage here… below you will see an example of their dark alien fleet after having annihilated a planet, as well as the Akuun’Dur ‘whisper’, a dreaded mind invading entity that aims to sew fear and dread into the heart of humanity. The third picture is a massive Morarch- the dreaded world-consuming Akuun’Dur engines, invading the sky of a vulnerable planet, and unleashing the “black tide” that will coat the planet in a living layer of dark sludge.
Identity politics surround us these days, and gender politics is one of the larger branches, but growing up outrageously geeky myself there are a few things that stick out when I see feminist/social justice critiques of gaming or geek culture, and how men treat women therein.
- I’ve never met the guys they are describing, in almost 40 years of active geekiness. The popular PC blogger narrative is that men have a vast, insular geek culture that amounts to a “no girls allowed” club, and that women who are interested in their hobby are often quizzed or tested to establish their geek credentials, and then maybe, perhaps grudgingly, let in.
Now here’s the problem: In the real world men and boys who are geeks are probably the complete opposite of that. As a kid, as a teen, as an adult, my reaction to women passionate about fantasy/sci-fi/geekdom has always been the same: OMG she’s a rock star. We LOVE women who share our passion for these things, and I would bet secretly every geeky guy wants to marry one.
2. Passion speaks for itself. Women who rail about how women are treated in the game industry tend to NOT BE GAMERS IN THE FIRST PLACE. It is the classic critical fallacy- peering in from the outside on ANY activity that tends to be male dominated (which in the case of geeks/gamers isn’t even accurate with half of gamers being women), and pronouncing judgment AS IF you yourself were in the know and part of this culture- when in fact you’re interested in the politics far more than the hobby. This type of critique is no different from food critics who don’t like food, or a film review where the author couldn’t be bothered to finish the movie.
Passion for fantasy/sci-fi/video games is its own reward, and millions of people (male and female) understand this. It is its own private paradise, something you can scarcely even put into words except around people who are passionate about the same things. So my heart goes out to any woman (or man) who feels the need to tow the line and talk about how sexist gamers and geeks can be… because it sounds to me like they don’t know any. Geekdom is probably the most inclusive lifestyle there is, and we welcome all comers- all you need is an irrational obsession with your geek poison of choice- be it anime, Star Wars, Harry Potter, World of Warcraft, cosplay, Magic cards, Doctor Who or anything in between. You don’t need to be a certain gender to meet peers who have the same geeky love you do, all you need is the interest. And if you bring that, they’ll love you for it. I promise.
So Mass Effect Andromeda has just come out for PC and consoles, and the female characters have been deliberately made to look “uglier” than the models they were inspired by, while the male characters are dead ringers for their model motion capture actors, and still as hunky as hell. In the annals of game industry mistakes this one is just flat out bizarre; not only out of touch with the bottom line, but out of touch with what real gamers (male AND female) would prefer. Mass Effect games have always featured customization tools which would allow a player to modify a character’s appearance and make them as ugly as they like; but now that ugly appearance is mandatory- unless of course you play the male character who is still dashing.
This strikes me as backwardly sexist against women; ugly protagonists in adventure stories (especially high fantasy and science fiction) are generally not what people want to see to begin with- so forcing female characters to be uglier than most REAL young women you might see in the world is a very poor choice. On top of this the game has emotionless expressions and facial animation that looks 15 years old. Is this is what happens when a game studio hires highly political writers who have never worked in the industry?
Massive update for my Coredawn content on this blog. For those unfamiliar Coredawn is the closest thing I would describe as my life’s work. I am determined to turn it into games, TV series, movies, novels, or all of the above. Out of all the content I’ve created for Coredawn over the last 20 years there’s just a small fraction online here, but it’s a start!
Most people have always found the claim ridiculous, but video games are “hippest” leisure activity to criticize these days and so it bears repeating: Violent PEOPLE are violent, and video games have absolutely nothing to do with it.
Here’s the latest study; it’s time public discussion of video games returned to things like entertainment value and story.
So there’s 155 million active gamers in the US now. It’s safe to say the hobby is here to stay- and in fact it has eclipsed all other hobbies in every measurable way. Let’s hope the trend continues, and 2016 proves to be an even better year for beautiful and varied interactive entertainment than 2015
BBC published an article detailing the experience of ‘TotalBiscuit’ an online game pundit who stood with #GamerGate out of loyalty to their original brand- the idea that journalism in gaming is corrupt and it had drifted away from consumer focus as an industry.
His ‘Social Justice’ detractors came at him with an avalanche of inhuman threats worthy of any bombarded feminist. This story illustrates how hatred for those you disagree with can come from anywhere, and the idea that we can bottle online bullying and sell it as something that only comes from privileged white men is as absurd as it is dangerous.
I am a huge fan of artistic expression, and a huge fan of gaming. I think interactive entertainment presents an incredible opportunity to teach everything from basic math to teamwork, reaction time, problem solving and even empathy.
But there is a movement to tear down gaming and promote censorship of expression. In the 1990s this movement was launched from the far right- moral police that tried to convince us digital violence and nudity would destroy our young people. Today the threat of censorship comes from a new hate movement on the far left. These fact-free idealogues make their careers out of trying to convince anyone who will listen that gender relations and our basic humanity is under threat from gaming culture.
Now I am all for gaming being more inclusive, but inclusive means there is content for EVERYONE to enjoy depending on their game of choice- and things like sexy female characters or pointless violence are an enjoyable escape for millions of gamers- these things are here to stay. So raising awareness of tropes in specific games is really only useful if you are a designer bent on innovation that you believe will have wide appeal while at the same time bring something new to the table.
Claiming the majority of games are blood thirsty, sexual, or perpetuate racism/classism/sexism only happens because admitting their findings are carefully cherry-picked wouldn’t turn any heads.
Fortunately the facts are in, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with gaming or gaming culture. In fact with the advent of interactive entertainment we have been able to broaden minds, tastes, and experiences, and now that we are on the cusp of Augmented and Virtual Reality we can expect that to increase 1000 fold in the coming years. So let’s hope the future is developers that continue to take risks and bring us ALL types of games for all types of gamers.
Video games more effective than medicine for treating depression:
Disproving the link between gaming and sexism:
Disproving the link between gaming and violence:
Video games have exploded in the last 30 years, and ALL types of violent crime have plummeted in that same time frame:
The debate on the depiction of male vs. female characters in games is loud, screechy, and depending on who you talk to either vital to the survival of our species or toxic and unnecessary. I’m throwing my hat into the ring because I think our answer is self-evident.
First we need a game, so I’m going to make one up. We’ll call it Fallcry. Now Fallcry is your typical post-apocalyptic adventure game, where the player can choose a male or female avatar. For this exercise we’ll say the developers abide by two basic convictions:
1) They aren’t trying to repair the real world order of social justice through the medium of video games.
2) They don’t want to build a game that makes some gamers feel unwelcome or excluded.
So here’s what they do. In Fallcry you have complete control over your character’s body type to start with- if giant breasts are what you have to have, go for it. If you want to make an obese male with long hair and short legs, more power to ya. Then we have a cosmetic armor system- the armor you wear to protect and progress through the game can be visually replaced by more “costume” style clothing, ranging from leather g-strings to diving suits. You keep the stats and powers of your original armor but precisely control how your character looks. This allows you to make everything from pop diva impersonator to cross dressing male stripper, from navy seal bad girl to average joe in a suit, from sex-forward superheroine to hockey mask wearing freak.
As far as enemies in the game this same cosmetic costume system could be used to generate a staggering variety- depending on the story of the game, from rogue camps of leather wearing death strippers to grease monkey ninja pirates.
Naturally additional factors like plot, violence level, characterization and genre will appeal to some gamers and to others it won’t, but in Fallcry at least you won’t have a gamer pick up a copy and feel they can’t create an avatar they connect with.
The problem we have today is that no such game exists. So what do we do until then? Well boys and girls until then we are just going to have to settle for games with strong females like Lara Croft sitting on the shelf right next to a game featuring a big breasted bubble-gum chewer who kills zombies in a bikini. We won’t find one game that satisfies every type of gamer, but if you look at the entire gaming landscape the variety is truly enormous- and there is something for everybody.
Thus when it comes to developing games it’s time for the dialogue to be about including ALL gamers, rather than shaming one group and excluding another. And until that day comes, developers can learn to appreciate that females make up nearly 50% of gamers, so if your only character options are stripper-with-sword don’t expect a lot women to buy your game. But as a developer expressing creative freedom, if you don’t mind losing the sales you shouldn’t be judged or labeled over it either. The camp that would like to retroactively lecture developers and claim real world behavior is affected, or gender relations damaged by characters in video games, would do well to put in the research and settle in to the fact that there is no real data to support that position. In fact there has never been a study or experiment that connects real world behavior to mass consumption of video games, and making such claims only serves to divide and enrage, which will never build a bridge or effect real change.
So when it comes to the future of games, tearing them down is a non-starter. It’s time to start building.