Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Rant: On Gaming and "Growing Up"

I've written a few versions of this post but I can't make it work without feeling clumsy or "about me". So this is the best I can do.

There has been a lot of press recently about the levels of casual misogyny prevalent in areas of internet "culture", both on the gaming front - for example this horror - but also the in the bear-pits that appear "below the line" or articles wherever they are posted, especially if its a female writer "daring" to question the status quo. And there is a lot of rubbish spouted that it shouldn't be taken seriously, or its free speech, or that its a legitimate "gamer culture" position to expect boobs in all your computer games and if they're attached to a character with say, dialogue, then we should be grateful a developer has gone the extra mile.

What makes it worse is that a lot of this gets characterised as "women vs trolls", and it shouldn't be. It should be "decent people vs Trolls". Because I'm a straight, white, middle class man, and I have all the privilege, and I'm bloody sick of the dreadful way women are generally presented - and treated - in games and around gamer culture, and I'm certainly tired about how the debate around this is conducted.

It's not censorship to expect civility in debate with people you disagree with. It's not puritanism to object to the ludicrous character designs that most female characters have in games. Its not "political correctness" to expect female characters to have roles other than Princess to be Rescued or (even more shockingly) actually be playable in their own. We shouldn't have to applaud the few examples where strong, fully clothed characters exist because they shouldn't be such a stark exception.

And ultimately, and most importantly, this isn't womens battle - this is everyones battle. Because this is the tip of the iceberg, and underneath the churning waters are battles about racism, homophobia, transphobia, and all  those other bitter prejudices that are on display in the insults thrown around in online chat. Gaming as a hobby moving into the mainstream, demanding acceptance, demanding to be treated like a grown up. Well it has got to act like a grown up, and it's everyone's responsibility to shape what sort of grown up it will be.