Does Gaming hurt us?

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:

http://laptops.reviewed.com/news/computer-games-may-be-more-effective-than-antidepressants

Disproving the link between gaming and sexism:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/olliebarder/2015/04/10/new-study-finds-no-link-between-gaming-and-sexist-attitudes/#52be32f621ad

Disproving the link between gaming and violence:

http://www.pbs.org/kcts/videogamerevolution/impact/myths.html

Video games have exploded in the last 30 years, and ALL types of violent crime have plummeted in that same time frame:

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/upshot/perceptions-havent-caught-up-to-decline-in-crime.html?referer

Future Proofing Game Characters

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.

http://www.pbs.org/kcts/videogamerevolution/impact/myths.html

So when it comes to the future of games, tearing them down is a non-starter.  It’s time to start building.

For great social justice! Let’s write off Call of Duty already.

So if you’ve ever read a feminist critique of games or gamers, I can guarantee you Call of Duty was mentioned.  But the truth is we need a better sample-  if you’re going to complain about gamers as a community, call them sexist bigots trolls haters basement dwelling angry curmudgeons or what have you, Call of Duty is the worst place to start. The quality of inter-player chat in that game is SO ridiculously hateful that it borders on parody.

I’ve played the war games online, action games and MMOs (massive multiplayer online games) and I can tell you the communities in games like Diablo and World of Warcraft are far more polite. There’s something about first person shooters, like Call of Duty, that brings out the tar-scraping bottom of the barrel when it comes to manners. The worst offenders are teenagers still learning the best derogatory phrases in their native tongue, but the sexist rage hate against women gamers and hate in general against ANY gamer who is perceived as underperforming or hurting the team, can come from any age person during a match.

So before we run out of salt listening to some of these angry pundits like Anita Sarkeesian who want to equate the gamer community with the decline of human civilization let’s be sure we’re critiquing many different types of games across different genres, and not using the troll-spawning nature of games like Call of Duty to spray paint an entire industry.

Now as far as a little context here, Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency is one of the industry’s most outspoken critics (and she does make some great points but tends to bury them in antagonistic bile and hand wringing) harped on CoD as the nexus of male-based-evil in gaming.  That is until a video surfaced where she admitted in a lecture that she doesn’t like or play video games…

https://www.reddit.com/r/KotakuInAction/comments/2xblwk/sarkeesian_finally_admits_to_not_being_a_gamer/

Now critiquing entertainment content is great, but would we accept a movie critic who didn’t watch films?  A literary critic who didn’t read or a food critic who didn’t taste what she was judging?  Of course not.  Critiquing the game industry needs to be a dialogue, not a diatribe from an uninformed party- and although the incredible hate-spewing and death threat reactions she got from internet trolls are NEVER ok (and speak to the larger problem of anonymous internet bullying- hardly limited to the context of games) I can’t think of a better way to bait gamers themselves then doing things like trying to convince us the word “gamer” is sexist.

 

Hello World

So let’s smash the bubbly on the prow of my yacht and get this thing rolling, and don’t let the lack of a yacht and fact that I don’t drink ruin the image…  The first post of a blog is awkward for several reasons- there’s no real precedent, and your subject has to be created and exercised in the same post.  To that end let’s start with this- what is Gameworld Guru?

I am a gamer, first and foremost, but I like to think I have evolved beyond my container.  Myself and the others who will be working on this site are students of the game industry- we’re afficianados, fanboys, developers, artists, writers, and on occasion holier-than-thou uber nerd trolls depending on what the situation merits.  In other words we’ve earned our stripes living and breathing the world that we love, and my hope is that this blog can distill some of our collective observations about the industry- where it is, where it [should be] going and perhaps some insight into the unbridled crazy that is this amazing interactive entertainment business.

So what’s the plan?  Well, I’d like this site to become an unhealthy habit- for us (of course), but also for you!  I’ll be offering my take on what developers out there are doing right, what they’re doing wrong, and what I see as the future of gaming and what the industry needs to learn to get there.  We’ll also bring the funny.  And by that I mean “political cartoons” about gaming, by gamers.  We’ve got a lovely little world in the works called NPCene; and with it we will finally be giving game NPCs the voice that they deserve.  No more sitting in your shop amassing billions of broken daggers because every hero who finds one wants to sell it to you.  NPCene will debut with comic panels like you’d see in the Sunday paper, and that’s just the beginning.

I’ll be doing some game reviews as well, and many will touch on an issue that is near and dear to my heart- women in games!  I’ll be talking about how female characters are depicted, how I’d like to see them depicted going forward, and making fun of critics for screaming about the trees and missing the forest.  There’s a distinction between deliberate fantasy and attempted reality that’s never talked about when it comes to game development, and it needs to be.

Artwork and short stories will also feature on the site, along with something we can certainly all agree on- GAMES.  That’s right we will be featuring games on our website- Flash games to start and then branching out as we go forward.  One of Gameworld.guru’s faces is that we are a game startup.  So it may seem like foot-in-mouth for a blogger to say ‘talk is cheap’ but what really drives us is the thrill of the project.  And there are quite a few!  We’ll be sharing details and offering up what meager entertainment we can for your perusal, refusal, ridicule and/or jealousy.  If nothing else games will make us one of the noisier blogs around.

So welcome!  And if you’ve read this far your check is in the mail. Stay tuned and game on.