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MrClaptrap avatar 2:09 PM on 08.02.2013  (server time)
Lenses Obscuring Reality in Video Games

I don't know if any of this is really all that factual, even the book I am going to mention is heavily contested, but I find this all very interesting to think about. So I am not asking people to believe me. Only to think about what I am presenting.

I was first exposed to the idea that all people perceive things through different cultural lenses when I took a Middle Eastern (still don't know if the region should be capitalized or not and I'm too lazy to Google it) geography class in college. We discussed a book by Edward Said on Orientalism. The book seeks to illustrate why we have preconceived notions of the middle east when we ourselves have never been there or have ever met anyone from there. It argues this by saying that the way the countries and people are looked at is through a lense that obscures the way the people and places really are.

How does this apply to video games? Well in a lot of ways actually. Think about for example the way that the media or the NRA views the presence of video games. When these news anchors talk about how video games are corrupting children to be more violent with no evidence; or public speakers get up there and talk about how it is the filthiest kind of entertainment acting as a killing simulator, as in the NRA's case. The people that make these accusations are doing the same exact thing as Europeans in the past. They have preconceived notions of the kinds of people that play video games without ever playing a game themselves or knowing individuals that play them. They too are guilty of looking in with a lense that obscures the reality of the situation.

I first thought about writing this while I was watching the Anita Sarkesian (don't know how to spell her name and I am too lazy to Google it once again) video that was on the front page of DTOID. The games she mentions within the Tropes vs. Women damsel in distress part 3 (or whatever the hell I watched) video are guilty of having a distorted view regarding their depiction of women. 

I also think however that she is guilty of doing the same thing except her lense obscuring her own view of reality is sexism/men vs women, or feminism and feminism seems to have changed meaning over the years the same way communism did, completely losing the traditional meaning of the word. (which in its traditional sense is the advocation of women's rights calling for women to be treated equal to men; which is fantastic and if we hold true to this definition then every decent human being is a feminist) I am not going to get into her analysis of the games because most of them are quite obvious and she is right. but lets talk about the Japanese games for a second.

Japan is culturally different from the United States however and their games can't really be judged on the same "is it sexist" scale. As a disclaimer I have never been to Japan so to some extent I am guilty of viewing japan a certain way. Anyway I had a friend back in high school who was Japanese and spoke it fluently. One day we were talking about Japanese cultural regarding video games and anime. He said the reason a lot of it is so weird and women are dressed in almost nothing half the time is because of the heavy amounts of censorship that had been imposed on the people for the past century. Their art styles and stories are more a backlash against censorship than they are an attack on women or an objectification of them. Taking their art or games and viewing them under the lense of western sexism could easily make them look sexist when that is not at all the case. They aren't trying to objectify he told me, they are just doing the things they weren't allowed to do in their past and now it has become a part of their culture.

I mean have you seen the Pikmin 3 trailer for Japan (if you haven't go and Google that shit); what the fuck did I just watch? It is very clear they don't see all things the same way as us (westerners; Kinda assuming everyone reading this is a westerner) regarding the angles they take towards the visual entertainment medium; so I don't know if it is fair to point at the game super princess peach like she did and say the gameplay mechanics like crying and throwing a tantrum are inherently sexist. Sometimes shit that comes out of there is just weird.

Another fun fact about Japan while we are at it. Their birth rate is rapidly declining and their won't be many people left in the country in another 50 or so years. This is largely due to women independence. Less women are getting married because they don't need to, they don't need to have a man take care of them because they have degrees in fields like mathematics and other sciences and make the money to support themselves. Since they don't get married, they don't typically have any kids. This kind of real life behavior heavily contradicts a lot of the ways that women are represented in a lot of video games. Especially the damsel in distress aspects she was talking about regarding the Mario series in the video.

This was only supposed to be an interesting topic to think about. I hope I illustrated my points well enough for you to understand as I wrote this somewhat quickly.

Here is a link to a video discussing Orientalism more:

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