Monday, December 02, 2013

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Why We Shouldn't Accept Sexism from Established Gamer Communities (Comment of the Week)

Controller floral

Last week's post from Iris complaining about Xbox One's sexist advertising campaign provoked a lot of comments, including one from a reader who suggested that the sexism of gamers shouldn't be changed, because it's part of their community's established culture. Which in turn generated this great response from grad student Austin Walker (his cool website here), who eloquently explained why we can and should change gamer culture for the better:

"There's a lot of ways to tackle your beef. We could talk about how communities are always-already fluid, unstable things that grow and change. Or about we could have the debate about whether or not, in fact, there are times when we absolutely SHOULD try to rebuild some communities from the ground up.

"But we don't actually need to have those conversations, because there's a more fundamental problem with your premise. In your thesis, women -- and presumably others like ethnic minorities and LGBTQ individuals? -- should accept the social rules and standards of 'gamers.' When in Rome, you say, they should act like Romans do. Problem is they were in Rome all along, dawg."

Here's the problem with seeing gamer culture as a guys-only club:

"Gaming, and geek and nerd culture more broadly (whether you're understanding those things in terms of consumptive, play, or productive practices), have never been an exclusive club of straight white guys, no matter how effective countless efforts of erasure might be. Women helped to conceptualize, build, and operate the first computers, and have been making, buying, and playing computer and video games since there have been computer and video games. The same follows for other groups likely to 'rock the boat' with questions about representation in games and gaming culture.

"And to the degree that there may be a historical precedent that more men play games (and often, more men of means), that history is tied up with practices of exploitation of affective labor and attempts to actively exclude women (and others) from certain leisure activities. Often this practice was connected to broader ideological programs of categorizing genders, races, and classes according to 'natural' potentials and qualities.

"Put plainly: the community has always been bigger than you think it is, and to the degree that it is 'small' at all, it is small for reasons that are produced (not natural or 'organic').

"Put even plainer: You done goofed. We all deserve to play and we all deserve to voice concerns about the way we're treated." (Emphasis mine, because eloquence.)

Image from Iris Ophelia's post here

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Val kendal

You know, I played the RPG Dragon Age 2 a year or so ago, and in that game the main character can be male or female, if you're female you don't wear skimpy armor, you can have 'romances' with both male or female NPCs (which is also apparently true if you play the male lead), there are female NPCs in positions of power in the world, and you can create a party entirely of tough chicks if you want. Not once did I feel like that game insulted me in some subtle or unsubtle way, and I noticed all those things so much it made me wonder why more gaming experiences aren't like that (and I will totally be throwing my money at the next version of the franchise because of it).

Sjöfn Stoneshield

Internet and computer games exposes hidden problems of society. The terrible attitude to women that come to light is nothing special about the game world it lives and thrives very well in society, but a little more into obscurity.
That it comes to light helps us feminists to combat sexism.
We must all realize that computer games are not a separate part of society but an extension of the community. The values ​​that appear in the video games come out of a human brain.
Sjöfn Stoneshield
Doctor of Psychology

Arcadia Codesmith

I wish I'd written that. Austin deserves hugs.

Archangel Mortenwold

You know, there ARE guys who knit. My father, back when he still had full use of his hands, used to do latch-hook knitting as it was a form of physical therapy. He also did crafts like making reindeer decorations out of sticks and thistle-wreaths. The problem with leaping to conclusions is that it can lead to reaching erroneous ones. I've done it myself and have had to retract and apologize for what I wrote.


I'm amazed noone ever comments about the sexism by default of the men themselves by themselves. While women may be left out of the picture the stereotypical groove of men as ever violent and meaningless adrenaline junkies is made ever deeper.

Silly Rabbit

We ignore evolutionary biology at our own peril, Dr. Stoneshield. When academia finally admits that behavior is 85% innate, and provides society with the sociological constructs necessary to understanding such genetic determinism, we may actually begin to make progress as human beings.

In brief Doctor, human behavior is not a reflection of societal mores, it is actually the other way around...

Pussycat Catnap

According to Polygon, this whole gender-bias in games is a lot newer than people think:
Mostly a product of the 90s, though started by Nintendo in the 80s.

Several of the bigger gaming hits have been played by mostly women: Myst, Bejeweled, Sim this or that, and others. And many have been gender neutral, like Tetris and Windows Solitaire.

The bias is manufactured - a product of marketing.

Though I also look back to the source material of many game developers: Dungeons and Dragons - and see that aspects of racial and sex bias predate video games, and have merely been carried through.

Arcadia Codesmith

Evolutionary psychology is phrenology for the new millennium. It's pseudoscience, untested and untestable assumptions parading as hypotheses, when it's not just thinly-veiled racism, sexism and homophobia. The degree to which evolutionary psychologists are blinded by their immersion in their own cultural milieu would be merely pathetic were it not so laced with hubris.

They might as well invoke astronomy or alchemy to discredit social justice.

Pussycat Catnap

@Arcadia Codesmith:

We need to stop agreeing all up in here. Its just not natural. :)

@White Rabbit:

Leave the pills to Alice please.

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