I love gaming, and I love the culture that’s developed around it, but at the moment it’s the emotional equivalent of a drunken frat boy who’s still stuck in his mother’s basement- complete with misogyny, dick jokes, and poorly directed rage. The problem lies in the fact that every child of the nineties who grew up gaming- every kid who ever picked up Super Mario World or Megaman – has grown up(mostly).
But their games haven’t, in a few very noticeable ways.
Misogyny Ahoy:Gaming culture still doesn’t understand how to relate to women. Truth be told, I’m not really sure where to start on this point. There’s so many examples of the downright misogynistic attitude in gaming that it’s downright overwhelming. Should I talk about the disgusting debacle at Cross Assault? What about the Tropes vs Women debacle, and the hostile backlash it provoked against creator Anita Sarkeesian? Fact is, even though gaming isn’t chiefly the purview of women-hating, testosterone-addled adolescent males, a casual observer might not realize as much. For some reason, gaming is still very much a man’s world. Female gamers are objectified, female characters are oversexualized, and the whole industry is, quite simply, embarrassing itself.
Vitriol in the Global Village:I’ve just gotten finished with a long day of work, and I’m looking to get some gaming done. I pop online, toss on a headset, and within minutes, the name-calling has already started. Sighing, I reach for the mute button. Rinse and repeat. Online harassment is an ever-present problem when it comes to gaming- anyone who’s ever played League of Legends knows it’s true. Something about the ‘net seems to just bring out the worst in some people.
The Glory of Violence:In an interview this week, game development legend Warren Spector stated that we need to focus “less on violence, and more on creating believable characters.” I couldn’t agree more. A lot of games seem to revel in violence for violence’s sake- all while sacrificing believable characterization, top-quality narratives, and better non-combat AI. Even when games don’t focus solely on violence, it’s still an ever-present element in the vast majority of gaming media. Think about it- what’s the last game you played which didn’t feature slow-motion killshots, or some other mechanic to glorify death and wanton destruction?
I’m not saying violence is a crippling, terrible problem. I enjoy a good shooter as much as the next guy. What I am pointing to is the fact that, in many cases, it seems like violence is all there is. And that’s a crying shame- since those games could be so much more.
Flaming Fanboyism:In a sense, this one ties in with the sort of vitriol most of us have simply gotten used to when it comes to online games. Let’s face it: when someone doesn’t like what we like, or hates something we enjoy, it’s pretty difficult not to simply dismiss them outright. It’s tough not to believe they’re idiots. For some, it’s hard (or even impossible) to hide their contempt for their others. Back when I played World of Warcraft, I was actually involved in an argument- in person- with someone who expressed outright hatred because I played both Horde and Alignment. I was actually addressed with outright hostility because, out of two fictional factions in an imaginary world, I never picked sides. This sort of thing seems blessedly less common now than it used to be- but it still happens entirely more often than it should- and something needs to be done about it.
Developer Relations:Last but not least, let’s have a look at how developers related to gamers, and vice-versa. The word of the day here, folks, is ‘entitlement’: and it exists on both sides of the developer-consumer spectrum. On the one hand, there’s always a loud, angry, and selfish crowd which makes it out like the developers exist only to serve them. Their immature cries make any legitimate complaints look like more of the same. On the other end, you’ve got developers who seem to think that their customers are stupid or childish- those developers who don’t bother to put any effort into innovating and creating, who nickel and dime their customers with underhanded schemes, and generally treat the consumers as walking wallets rather than human beings.
Both sides are in the wrong, and both sides need to effectively vanish if the industry’s truly going to move forward.
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