A story about gamers hurling threats and insults at a woman caught my eye today on the front page.
http://www.destructoid.com/kickstarter-project-leads-to-harassment-and-threats-229304.phtml Critic and Vlogger Anita Sarkasian recently launched a Kickstarter project that aims to look at women in games. As a result, she has been the victim of ridicule and defamation on various online forums and message boards and she has been personally harassed through a number of channels.
First of all, disclaimer: I don't meet people like this and it always surprises me when i hear about them. No game enthusiast I know would hammer a keyboard just to call a woman names over a disagreement.
I know the common reaction to this type of hate speech is to dismiss it as a group of trolls and 4chan users but I think there's a bit more to it. Beneath the misogynistic comments I can see normal users getting very hurt and defensive over a perceived accusation that something they like or appreciate is sexist. Somehow many gamers have a short fuse if they hear that the things they like are shallow or filled with predictable stereotypes. Now I for one am surprised at this reaction.
Not because I didn't think there were gamers who said sexist things about someone they disagreed with. I was surprised because I naturally assumed that many gamers either don't care about character or story as a whole or that they just looked past these things in games. So why would someone get so bent out of shape if a critic decided to take this medium's stories seriously and look at the game they routinely play because they can decapitate aliens and start picking its gender roles apart? I'd predict a reaction like : "Wow, what a stunning waste of time your project is. They're video games, a lot of us skip cutscenes because we know the stories are hackneyed and stupid. Yeah, they're probably sexist and two-dimensional, Anita, but we wouldn't know, we couldn't tell you what happened in the story if our family was being held at gunpoint."
To me it shows that someone has this mindset where they feel that an attack on something they like is an attack on them. "You play games? Well, these games you like are filled with shallow objectification of women." So these people might feel as though they are being accused of endorsing shallow objectification. So they lash out and try to act like it's somehow the female author's bias and her feminist agenda.
To these people I say, please relax. You already have the perfect response: "I couldn't care less about the idea of story as a whole. I don't endorse these sexist portrayals, I don't even give a shit about them."
To gamers who really do value these things in games and believe that the medium does not have a problem with its portrayals, I also give the relaxation advice. I would like to add that I think games have plenty of good stories with well-made characters that are diverse and representative, but on a larger scale the game industry has problems with female representations. Arguably problems similar to those of television and film and problems that are worth discussing.
I've seen some of Sarkasian's work so far and I think she's pretty similar to an average critic but she focuses more on issues related to gender. I say more because she also touches on plot holes and storytelling. It looks like she's trying to critically explore the topic of gender in games rather than make generalizations. This isn't like some critic with no real experience in the world of games writing an article about how games are silly and childish and misogynistic. She's got a structured approach that will actually study the topic well.
If you take a look at Sarkasian's kickstarter she mentions a list of different tropes in female game characters; she doesn't simply want to play games and shout 'Why is that girl's cleavage showing?! Why is she curvacious?! Oh, this makes the hair on my unshaven legs stand!'. She's breaking it down and making specific criticisms based on a set of tropes. Once again, her approach is no different from any other critic or reviewer, she'll just be looking more at elements concerning gender. As with any critic, much of it may seem overanalytic. Is the princess really a 'reward' for the platformer hero? Is this or that character shown as being villainous because she's unattractive? We'll decide that when Sarkasian makes her arguments. Obviously we may have to navigate a swath of profanity-laden insult posts to discuss it, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Now I do agree with some people that this is an industry where in many games the writing and character development is, at best, phoned in. But that doesn't preclude the need for a thorough look at its shortcomings. If you're a gamer that doesn't care for story and characters in general then you can just go ahead and ignore this series.
If you want games with context then I think you would be interested in a work that explores the development of female characters. It's a debate worth having because of this phenomenon's effect on female gamers, the social role of games and of course the substance of the stories themselves. The game industry may not acknowledge this and we may not see much change, but it's worth understanding the topic a bit better.
I was pushed to finally write it when I was looking up Bejeweled and I found this
Wikipedia very casually describes Shariki's relationship with other puzzle games as follows
"Shariki proved to be a very influential game and eventually many games that closely matched its mechanics arose"
These are the games
I only know Bejeweled well enough to remark on it, so I won't discuss the other games. In the case of Bejeweled, PopCap should not be allowed to legally distribute their game. Bejeweled has become a household name in gaming, selling more than 75 million copies and being downloaded more than half a billion times. PopCap doesn't deserve that success, though; Eugene Alemzhin, the creator of Shariki, does.
Games should be copyrighted to the point of their individual game mechanics. Now the obvious problem brought up in the article rears its head again. What constitutes copying an idea? Apparently, in copyright law this is known as the Idea-Expression debate
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idea-expression_divide Basically, the law says that you can't copyright an idea, just the expression of that idea. I think focusing on the mechanics of the game is easier. If we were to try and enforce the aesthetic, games could plagiarize the other titles and still stay within the bounds of legality. Individual game mechanics are easier to quantify and identify. In the world of smaller puzzle titles, I think it's a distinction that can be made and the law should protect developers of these games.
I think it's a much bigger debate when you make the games even a little more complex. Is GTA's open-world sandbox gaming something that can be copyrighted? How about Angry Birds' physics-based gameplay?
What are the criteria? Which game came first? Well in that case GTA is by no means entitled.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GTA_Clone#Origin Is it about how you implement it? Then no one can accuse Angry Birds of ripping off Artillery games, because their version is implemented differently.
Honestly, outside of examples of a very basic game concept, I don't know what the right approach is to copyright. And sometimes a game can build on an earlier concept to become much more fun to play. I think if a developer comes up with a good idea, he/she should copyright it as soon as possible, and other developers should consider paying royalties if they feel their game takes too much from another title. I love the idea of paying tribute, but maybe paying tribute should go even farther than that.
The debate about game copyright opens up into a much larger debate about originality in creative media, so there's a lot to discuss. I'd love to hear your input
I think it's great how you described the idea of 'console age groups'. It had never occurred to me.
I never really thought of Steve Jobs as a tech ambassador, either. As for why people disliked his company, I feel there are other reasons. While the cynic in me agrees that it was because people felt his products were 'mainstream', there are other reasons. Many people felt like Jobs was selling flashy, overpriced tech that had superior alternatives and pandering to novice users who wouldn't know the difference.
The explanation is similar with indie culture. Many people feel that the motivation of mainstream media, be it film or games, is to sell tried and tested ideas rather than experiment or branch out. Thus, these people will eventually lose interest altogther.
Ultimately, the frustration with the mainstream isn't just an obsession with hating all things popular. It's more like people think a concept is getting way too popular and it doesn't deserve the attention. So there is a legitimate beef to be had with mainstream culture.
Having said that, I think your advice is excellent. Often, an item's mainstream status will cloud someone's vision. I think we should just ask if it's good or not.
I for one am a reformed Apple hater. For me what changed was realizing that I had never really looked at the products - I sort of joined a bandwagon. I still have criticisms - but I try to divide my criticisms of their products with my criticisms of their mass appeal. In fact, I embrace Apple because they really have become gaming's greatest evangelist.
Now my problem is the opposite: I mind game enthusiasts who feel that people who play iOS games aren't worthy of the 'gamer' title. I think it's important for the labels associated with video games to completely fall away, and I think game fans should spread the word after they've dealt with their own misconceptions.