Ah it’s been a lovely week or so around the sphere reading all the various responses to Anita Sarkeesian’s video series while also keeping up with the various “events” in gaming.  I don’t know why, but it seems that so far in 2013 gamers are getting serious even more than before about games, finally …specifically, the content of them. It’s about time! Where to begin?

Stubborn wondered last week about the use of “Adult” themes in games. Specifically, he wrote an opinion piece about the use of so-called adult content in video games in agreement with Anita. He has a problem with gratuitous use of sex and violence which attempts to masquerade as “adult theme”. I commented in agreement as well because it goes to another related issue of how games are rated by the ESRB/PEGI. The non-sensical application of ratings is largely based on how much money a company will lose if they rate the game for adults. As I stated on his blog, the result is that the Adult rating is reserved pretty much for porn. This makes it impossible for customers to make an informed decision about the content of games. But more than that, it’s a ploy designed to give the impression of sophistication, as Anita put it, even though the content is quite juvenile.

Spinks gave some good commentary to CCP’s latest revelation that only 4% of their player base are women. I replied that I think those numbers are far from true, even though the survey itself may be an accurate reflection of player responses. She believes that the gaming culture surrounding the Sci-Fi genre “edges out the women who would otherwise enjoy it.” I couldn’t agree more and Liore over at Herding Cats also harps on this point with a short list of reasons.. It’s one of those vicious cycles: Women don’t announce themselves, men claim women don’t play, and it’s concluded that women don’t like it. The greater question to me isn’t why women don’t like Sci-Fi, but how do developers manage to craft a game to target men.

Syl emphasized this pointwith some well-known scientific findings on human psychology. As Anita explained it, tropes reinforce negative cultural beliefs. Syl’s point was that exposure to subtle repetition is the little discussed mechanism that makes this possible. It’s through repetition of imagery and messages within our games which makes us vulnerable to harmful cultural messages. It takes conscious criticism of the subtexts of the content in our games to examine our habits. Gamers are not exempt from this.

In my delinquency, I missed the opportunity to make comment on Klepsacovic’s post titled “Do Not Mistake Caste for Hatred” a little over a week ago. In that article, Klep talked about the treatment of women as a different class of citizens. I’m not sure I agree with the nuance in terms when he examines the meaning of the word hate and it’s use. If  person says “I hate you” they mean to say they are hostile towards you or dislike you strongly. Therefore, if a person says “I hate women” this is a very accurate statement in that they have hostility towards women when they step outside of their “caste”. I don’t think it’s important to discriminate between full-time, all-the-time hatred of women and mere conditional hate. I don’t think this is a meaningful distinction in terms since the consequences are just the same. Even to say that someone hates something about women as a group is dislike for the group. In other words it’s nonsensical to say I hate that squirrels have tails, but I like squirrels. This distinction just isn’t meaningful, but it’s entirely possible I didn’t grasp what Klep meant to imply. I welcome clarity on this point.

 

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  • Spinks

    I am reminded now that I did read one other commentary on the tropes in gaming video that made a really good point. Plot devices like having the hero’s partner/child die or get kidnapped only look so anti-woman because so many of the heros are male/straight.

    If video games had a much larger proportion of female or gay male heroes, having a partner fridged might still be problematic but no one would think it was a trope vs women.