So, we kind of avoided the topic of what the gaming hobby was going through on the last episode of TigerTails Radio. Given what has been going on since, the articles and “some” discussion, I thought I’d better get some of this into words before the next show. Otherwise we’d be over-running just a bit.
Topic the first: Gaming journalism and bias.
This has existed for some time, all the articles that are being brought out are partly old. When this hobby was beginning to develop advertising was not the biggest thing. Sure, we had TV ads and billboards, but it was about kids games, toys and fun. Publishers had budgets and market research to help them get the best positive message across and slowly we had gaming articles written and journalism about it.
To start with, most was from the people who made the games/software as a way of getting more people to buy products. Nintendo Power is the easiest example to mention. Cross promoting with reviews seem to be somewhat of a thing. As the independent press realised that the advertising from games was also a thing, we saw the rise of other magazines. Edge, PC Format, etc, and as with some areas of journalism bias was created. This exists because money will get favourable views.
The problem often came when more force came from the “big” publishers who threatened to not send games to the magazines, blacklist them etc. A small mag could not deal with the lawyers of a big company.
As the Internet grew, a new form of journalism came about, blogging. Where as journalists will usually have actual education and training into being a journalist, bloggers are people with opinions who might have some normal education, usually a different viewpoint, and a need to get it heard.
Journalists have become stronger in dealing with the idea of bias and weighted opinion based on advertising. With some sites changing their policy to the point that they don’t write about kickstarter projects they fund. To the journos who care about the hobby they saw the frustration of their readers and took steps to make sure they were reporting about games. Important word here, reporting. Any reviews had to be recognised as having the writers opinion causing some weight, which is why the guy who reviews sports games always reviews sports games. He had a well rounded opinion about it.
But as bloggers and journos became interchangeable, so did the scrabble for getting money. And believe me, that is an actual thing that is also an issue. Page views, clicks and hits are taken on board by advertisers. Unless you are on your own page with no advertising at all, you will be getting some sort of revenue and presence in clicks. So articles which get hits will be good things, same for newspapers, same for TV.
Conclusion: Bias will exist because of advertising, and good news sites will do as much as possible to separate themselves from that due to professional reasons. Can’t say that always happens, but they will. Bloggers, and sites that run on advertising funding will look favourably on getting more hits, and doing things to get more hits. Some won’t, but when you actually start getting money/product because of something you have done on the internet, it will be hard not to do more to get more.
(Point: Any advertising seen on the whole TigerTails Entertainment Network is powered by Google. This is so we can remaining wholly impartial as we don’t know who is advertising on our sites/videos in advance – and the adverts constantly change anyway. We like to think we are open about our own personal bias towards games/consoles and they are not in anyway influenced by monetary gain.)
Topic Second: Sexism.
I like sex, I enjoy sex, I enjoy the idea of sex and sexualisation of men and women. It has its time for being appropriate, and time when not. I am not saying sexism is good, not in the term of using or abusing because of ones sex inappropriately. (Note from the editor: Normally I’m reasonably good at translating XavierSpeak into English, but even I’m struggling with that paragraph.)
We have seen examples of when this sexulisation has been over the top in video games. From Custer’s Revenge to Metal Gear, women have been portrayed as sexual images and not always in a positive light. The industry has cried foul at times and we have seen a change in games and stories to some extent.
But that is the thing: Games and stories sometime require images and plots that will be extreme. Speaking as someone who tries to run role playing games, there will be times when I want a sexualised image or shocking scene. I will work within the boundaries of my players to generate that story, to develop that immersion to get a reaction. But the scene will be as appropriate to the story and tone of the story as I can make it. This is also true of games developers who are looking to evoke a reaction from the player and to immerse them in the story. Just because the lead female has large breasts, does not mean the game is sexist. Unless that was taken out of context from the game. Just because we have the option to create female characters as sexual objects, does not make the player sexist. Unless this is taken out of context of the game.
Things become sexist dependant on the context and situation. To say that games should approach this theme in a more sympathetic way is a good thing, but most games are not actually putting these themes to be sexist in. Often, they are put in to help immerse the player (whatever sex they are) into the world. To generate connection and often to help progress gameplay and development.
Conclusion: Sexism is about the context of the act within what is going on. Lots of things can be called sexist when taken out of context. For example, Premier League football is sexist because its full of men. Gay porn is sexist because its full of men. Sexism is an act taken out of context of the environment, and with story and game telling you have to take the whole in order to make a proper judgement.
That said, marketing has caused a lot of issues, because the largest demographic will be the one often targeted. And despite surveys and stats been passed about who plays games, the largest audience for most things are young males.
Third: Gamer identity.
I strongly identify with being a gamer. Those who listen to TigerTails Radio will know my rants against the papers and research saying gaming is bad because [insert random nonsense reason here].
But I am a gamer because I play lots of games, from computer, to console, to boardgames. and role play. Gamer is a thing that I am as much as a furry, film lover, and reader. When people begin to actively target identities with negative press because of things done wrong or perceived by them, people who identify with that will get upset. Especially in an age when finding who you are is a big thing.
Now I am not a fan of the idiots who will do stupid things, spread hatred, or be aggressive towards other. I certainly don’t support their actions, but I won’t try to take away the identity, or claim all are that way. Why? Look at football fans, they have as much diversity of good and bad as gamers, but you don’t see people trying to take that identity away, or say football should not be for the fans. In fact, every kind of label and identity will have some sort of extreme on one side and the other.
So why try to take this away? I’ve seen articles saying that gamers are dead and you should not market to gamers. The people who are writing them are probably just as angry over things, but they are being stupid. Gamers are those who play games, sure we have bad apples but its down to everyone else to then say “we are not like that” and say good things. Trouble is it’s easier to make labels hit larger audiences because of the bubble that most people are in within the hobby. If the only people commenting that they are gamers are being dicks then your assumption is that gamers are dicks.
The sites that are posting these articles are really not trying to step away from the news or even report it. And in doing so they are alienating the people who claim that identity because no distinction is being made.
Conclusion: Everyone has labels that they will defend to the death. But every label has a diverse collection inside it, including idiots and fanboys. Who are usually the most vocal.
Fourth, but not final: Death threats.
I understand the argument of being open about harassment, encouraging people to do things about it and not suffering in silence. What I would say is you need to deal with it in the right way, and as one journo actually tweeted, don’t write a blog or make a YouTube about it.
If you personally know anyone in the newspaper industry, or editorial/magazine industry, ask them what they do about thing like death threats. Same goes for any celeb. They will report it, then get on with things. That is it. Some things do need to be publicly addressed, but stuff like this will not solve problems, it just generates more.
Death threats are treated seriously by the police and if they have credence people will get arrested. They have people who are trained to look into this and will usually find and prosecute. ‘Cause if you’re stupid enough to send death threats, you probably don’t know how many things you have given to the police to help them find you.
Posting about it and saying its because of this, that, or the other, basically polling for opinion, is also stupid. It’s not asking for help unless you perhaps need the straightjacket kind.
Now, with the way online is, and the way people are, you will always have those who will be vocal and angry and want to say something to make you hurt. When 10% of your reader base will respond, you have to acknowledge that they are the most passionate of each extreme, so you are going to have to accept some flack. I’m not saying you should accept threats, those you pass to the police and then you get on with things. Tweeting about it will then get the most vocal 10% of those who want to respond to the idea of death threats contacting you.
Conclusion: There is a right way to respond, and a wrong way. Wearing a sign saying “I Hate [Racial/Sexual Epitaph]” is the wrong way.
Lastly: Blogging with no Goddam point.
There was a lot that has led up to what is going on now, much of it over years, which could still be simmering on except for a couple of things. First the depression quest thing. Now I’ll say the timing wasn’t great and the game is certainly not. But I’m fairly sure I was behind the idea of getting this kind of supportive message out there. Depression is a thing, I’ve certainly had to fight it off and I consider myself fortunate that I’ve not gotten to the bottom of a bottle or had to manage via pills. But awareness of this matter is good.
My issue was when Phil Fish, a guy I can kindly describe as a tool, put his oar in about the whole matter. Now, arguments aside, this could have stopped there.
However, much was then made of her links with others, links being a word that could be replaced with sex. This also could of been passed except by the action of a few idiots and then people raising her up as a social avatar.
Then came the female tropes thing.
Now, if I want an opinion on women in gaming I can very easily get Evee3 on the phone and be raged at. Usually, she will have a point and get to it. However, the lass from female tropes proceeded to make a project about women in gaming. I’m sure we commented on it and thought it was a good thing, although I did not back the kickstarter to fund it.
I have read the transcript that she put out for her second episode.
Now, if you’ve got this far, congratulations, but frankly, she is a blogger who really should not have gotten the funding. This is an opinion based on her work, and more over the complete lack of conclusion or any recommendation of how to move forward. In school if I had put what she did out as a piece of homework I’d be marked down for those things.
Her article is pretty much her making terms up for female representations. Picked examples of background scenes within a game to make a point about sexism in the game. No context was given about why it was in the game, what the main player was doing or the world that it was trying to represent. In fact, she skimmed over it more that most people will reading this. All her examples then led to the point that women were being sexualised and exploited and game developers should address this. No mention on how. No mention on why. No actual psychological research on the impact or anything except the suggestion that this was aimed at the obligatory target market.
This is what makes me angry, as really there was no point in the project. She cherry picked scenes to prove a point, and a fellow journo defended her work by effectively saying the same thing, but with wordier words. That is not an argument, that is not a project, that’s colour matching. That is saying I found all these separate pieces of red in different sports strips, so red must make people aggressive.
I have strong opinions on gaming and how we are represented, and no illusions of how we are “perceived”. The reason I am pissed is because people are trying to make logical points based on perception and the actions of those who actually make some sort of comment (even if it is stupid). I’m not a flag waver myself but will be vocal about things and if you can provide arguments with good points I will listen.
Doing some quick online viewing I see a lot of independent gamers and bloggers getting pissed about everything. These people are usually spouting more thought out points than seen in the shit that started this, or the bull reports and editorials from those who might be getting a quick like off it. Which is frustrating because the journalists who should be reporting on all the sides of this, are being strangely quiet.
I will always be vocal on how gamers are perceived, and the issue with #gamergate comes down to how we are perceived, and how we are enjoying our games. Gamers love the idea of getting more girls into gaming, the memes say it all. Gamers love games, the challenge they present, and stories they tell as it gives them experiences they wouldn’t normally have. Good or bad, but it does not mean the gamer is that.
This is something that is going to pull gamers away from the idea of journalists being fair and for them. The flag waving and finger pointing will affect how people will make games and how they get reported on. The long and the short of this is that there will be opinions, and we want to be heard, but don’t just point a finger back and say well you’re “this”.
For those who got to the bottom of this, do yourself a favour. Look at all the reports on both side. Look at your games and make your mind up on who you are. And if you don’t agree with how you feel you’re being portrayed, go out and make a point on this. Give a reason behind it and solid argument on how to go forward. For me, we need to realise that gaming journalists are not bloggers, they get to review and critique, but they are professional enough not to hold bias opinion, or not see all sides. Bloggers need to realise they just have opinions, and unless you’re are an academic who is doing a paper, thats all you will have and frankly we can then ignore it.
Lastly, play some games. That is why we like the hobby.
(Edited: So TK doesn’t have to.)
(Edited by TK, as Xavier’s editing wasn’t enough.)