Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I'm Not a Gamer

Every now and again, someone will link me to an article about another time where someone has complained about sexism either in video games or the gaming industry and the response has been at best to dismiss them. More often that they get swamped with hate mail and rape threats. I had been discussing one of these articles with a good friend and I said something to the effect of, yeah, I'd just come to accept that the video game industry and culture is hostile to me and doesn't want me as a customer (probably more accurate to say that the steps they would have to take make me feel welcome would alienate more of their current base than it would bring in in terms of myself and people like me). I know some perfectly lovely gamer gentlemen, but generally speaking, I'm okay with just writing the larger industry/culture off as a place I would not enjoy, and, if I ever doubt that instinct, it just takes one internet comment thread to convince me I probably did right.

But that did get me thinking about the things I won't cut ties with. Certainly science fiction has some atavistic little trolls lurking in its communities. And comic books seem to be in a race to the bottom in terms of drawing women as soft-core pornography. Is it a question of prevalence? Is it just that I can point to creators and creations within those other avenues that have been not only wonderful but friendly to me as a reader? Am I still okay with comics because for every Frank Miller and Dave Sim, there's also a Neil Gaiman and a Gail Simone (dreamy sigh! Gail Simone)?

What's our responsibility as consumers? As creators? At what point is it okay to just pack up and head for greener pastures and at what point is it morally imperative to say "no, this is mine as well, and I will not allow you to ruin it"?

EDIT 6/15:

You know, that all said, I've also been reading several things recently where people throughout the industry- not just the ladies- are stepping up and going "woah there, let's not just dismiss these complaints out of hand, and let's conduct ourselves like decent human beings". I apologize to anyone I offended or slandered with too broad strokes.


  1. I love your blog, Leslie. You always have interesting topics :)

    For me, I think it depends on how much I enjoy a particular activity. If I really like doing something, I'm more inclined to put up with a certain amount of crap in order to do it. But if there are a LOT of really awful people involved in a passtime, it will definitely make the activity less enjoyable.

    I've found it's possible to find ways to enjoy gaming communities while not running into the knuckle draggers more often (or much more often) than I do in other walks of life. I've gamed off and on over the years (more off than on these days, since I spend most of my free time writing) and I haven't run into an inordinate number of sexist slobs.

    Of course, it may be a function of the types of games I play and the fact that the gaming forums I've joined are pretty heavily moderated. I tend to prefer offline strategic games and have only ever gotten very into one MMORPG(WoW)which actually had a fairly high percentage of female players and a surprising number of people in their 30's, 40's and even older playing as well.

    Sadly, the internet does allow people to post things under pseudonyms, so there are always uncivil boors in unmoderated forums, whether they are there to discuss gaming, current events or celebrity gossip. I get genuinely depressed and pessimistic about the future of our species when I accidentally scan the comments on the yahoo news sites :(

    Sometimes voting with your feet is a good strategy.

  2. I think in part it's one of those weird labeling things, because I do play games and enjoy them, and was part of a small MMO for several years and had a great time. I grew up on Zelda and Final Fantasy and, you know, King's Quest and the Gold Box D&D games and whatnot. And you're certainly right, in the places I've actually gone, people who were really horrible were a very small minority.

    Maybe in the end it's about whether you're invested enough not to let other people make the definition of what constitutes group X- so that when that line in the sand is drawn, instead of looking at it going "well, I guess I'm not group X, then" you instead argue "now wait just a minute, that's not where that line goes".

    Social group dynamics are weird like that.

  3. http://www.projectafterforums.com/index.php?showtopic=2455&st=80

    Hello! This particular thread makes some great points about one of the games that Anita will be covering, notably the difference between sexy and sexist and why the game in question is in no way empowering or groundbreaking in its depictions of women.

  4. Hey, thanks for the link! I have to say, I'm really happy how much of a conversation the larger community seems to be having about these issues.