It’s been interesting to observe the ongoing shitstorm about sexism and misogyny in games as it pulses through the loosely knit ‘gamer’ community, particularly from the perspective of someone who agrees to some extent with people on both of the major ‘sides’ of the debate. What I think is particularly interesting is that I seem to be one of very few people who aren’t on one side or the other, either claiming video games are fine the way they are or calling out sexism at any provocation.
Actually, I’m going to digress a moment to talk about the ‘Girlfriend Mode’ debacle. For those who aren’t aware, a developer for Borderlands 2 was describing the ‘Best Friends Forever’ skill tree, a skill tree based on a less twitch aiming skill oriented play-style, and referred to it as ‘Girlfriend Mode.’ A substantial portion of the internet then aggroed on this for reasons which, honestly, I don’t fully understand. And, lest anyone claim that this is due to ignorance, I’d suggest you consider the point that the only worldview which could perceive that as sexist is purely heteronormative. I alluded to this in a tweet but, yeah, it bears repeating.
This wasn’t what I wanted to talk about though. I wanted to talk about the sheer anger and self-righteousness I’m seeing from both sides and, more specifically, how disgusted I am that there are two ‘sides’ here rather than like-minded folks trying to find solutions.
Here in America, the right wing party has been forced further and further right in order to appeal to more extreme bases. To maintain some modicum of moderate appeal, they re-center the debate entirely on what their opponent is, and define themselves entirely as not being that; no matter how valid their characterizations of either their opponents or themselves actually are– though, of course, they can always find people on the idiotically outspoken fringe of any movement to fulfill whichever profile fits their dialogue. Then, having divided people into groups, they discuss everything in terms of ‘us’ or ‘them’.
This is a false dilemma, and it bleeds everywhere, and into everything. When someone characterizes us as the other, we strive to defend ourselves, and thus become the opposition they projected in the first place. What can you say to someone who thinks you’re hateful, immoral, in opposition to everything they hold dear? How long can you respectfully disagree while they become more agitated and violent? How long can you hold out before you make yourself a caricature of beliefs, before you make yourself nothing more than another vote or another sword?
And in most games that’s all we are, anyway. They’re taking aim at us, it’s do or die, kill or be killed. Who has time to worry about nuances of ethics in a war zone? They are other, they must die if we are to live.
This is why the declaration that some topics are too serious for humor scares the crap out of me. Saying that people can’t discuss serious topics with humor because some people might be triggered is a lot like saying that they can’t discuss those topics at all. Humor is a way of dissecting and defusing complicated and tension filled ideas and getting people to think about those ideas in a new way: It is a way we can connect with people who, perhaps, hate us. It makes us more human. It makes us better.
Do not mistake seriousness for pointless solemnity. Make jokes, but make jokes that mean something, that change the way people think! Seek understanding before you seek justice.
I don’t know. I’m not talking about video games much here. This is one thing that has genuinely always bothered me about, not just games, but nearly all fiction: I have never given credence to the concepts of good and evil, those two equal poison syrups we are nourished on from childhood. These terms are useful as superlatives, but destructive to critical thought.
‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ are antithetical to understanding.
–There are plenty of good reasons for fighting…but no good reason to ever hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty hates with you, too. Where’s evil? It’s that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side. It’s that part of every man that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive….it’s that part of an imbecile that punishes and vilifies and makes war gladly.
–Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate, only the unloved hate. Only the unloved and the unnatural.