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I'm ashamed of progressive game culture, and here's why

I'm ashamed of progressive game culture, and here's why

Over the last few years, I believe that the rise of progressivism and feminism has done a lot of great things for gaming.

It's helped to bring to the forefront a lot of talented people with interesting things to say in their art and writing that were quieted before.

Of course, as a white cisgender heterosexual man, I'm probably the wrong person to point all this out. Nevertheless, I have to get this all off my chest. I think that progressive gaming culture needs to take a big step forward from its current state.

It is very good at complaining and criticising – but it does a terrible job at actually improving things for the people it claims to represent.

It's time to turn words in to action.

Everyone's a critic

What it feels like right now is that the progressive movement that supports gender, racial, and sexual equality in gaming is very good at criticising.

Criticism is important. Allowing people affected by the actions and creations of the industry to speak out, and to have allies in the power structure who can amplify their voices, is important. I also think that if the power structures of culture and society are to become more diverse, it takes those inside those power structures to help make the change happen.

Retweet a few women or LGBTQ+ folk's angry tweets, maybe post an article about today's gaming drama, and you can look like an ally and be generally safe from the crusaders.

But the problem is that I don't think the current progressive movement is actually effecting any change.

What happens right now is that an issue comes up – usually a new issue every week – and a raging holy crusade arises from the depths. Yes, many of these issues need to be addressed, but there are two things that happen as a result.

One is that it allows people currently with power in development and gaming to merely pay lip service to diversity. Retweet a few women or LGBTQ+ folk's angry tweets, maybe post an article about today's gaming drama, and you can look like an ally and be generally safe from the crusaders.

You just have to ride an ever-higher horse to be safe yourself.

As well, there's a real martyr complex that occurs. The Feminist Frequency Kickstarter never gets $150,000 instead of its $6,000 goal if threats and harassment against Anita Sarkeesian aren't widely reported. With every video, it feels like she's martyred further, and the series becomes more popular because she's hated. As many people feel edified for what they've actually done as they do hated.

Well, guess what – there's people out there who think your martyrs aren't so holy, and that you're only riding the high horse to not stand on solid ground.

Alienation

I believe that GamerGate is happening because the progressive movement's tendency to try and stand above everyone else - to preach from the mountain, if you like - has alienated a group of normal people from well-meaning folks that misuse their megaphones.

It takes a generous reading of their causes, but when I talk to pro-GamerGate folks and read what they're discussing, I don't think they hate women, or even feminists, as much as how the progressive culture is operating. And with that reading, I think they're right.

Progressive gaming culture has become so toxic, so disconnected from reality that the tactic of dealing with a vocal opposition has literally been the same for two months: don't address their claims (even if you think they're mostly invalid) and don't engage except to insult.

It's time for that to change. And I think I know how.

Remember the #1reasonwhy hashtag that had women revealing much of what they perceived as sexism in the gaming industry? Well, there was a bit of an offshoot, #1reasonmentors, which served as a way for people that are part of gaming's power structures to help mentor women to become part of the industry.

It was an evolution that helped take complaints about the industry and try to act on them in a positive way.

That's what progressive gaming culture is lacking: a positive action to its negative reactions. Negativity is a strong emotion. Criticism is useful, and outlets like Feminist Frequency deserve to address their opinion and to receive fair criticism, not violent threats. However, what this movement for fairness, diversity, and equality needs is more positive action to make that a reality.

One example of what can be done can be seen in the controversy surrounding The Fine Young Capitalists. This charity was criticised in its early days for not being fully inclusive of transgender women, and for only giving 8 percent of profits to its developers. Pro-GamerGate forces helped fund it, with the claim that they were helping to get women making games in the industry, unlike those against them.

Frankly, they're right – I think the progressive movement has faltered in this instance. Why not create a similar movement to help get talented women with ideas the resources to make games that has transgender and financial policies that are largely favourable?

I bet there's plenty of people who could make it out-perform The Fine Young Capitalists, easily. They did it with Feminist Frequency, right?

Talking tools

As well, let's get more game creation software into the hands of people with ideas so that they can help bring them to life. Twine is an option, but I think that gamebooks are a niche market – software for creating with limited programming experience does exist and can be powerful.

Let's get tools like GameMaker (used by Vlambeer), Clickteam Fusion (used to make the horror hit Five Nights at Freddy's), and heck, even something like GameSalad, into the hands of people with an itch to learn. These companies often give their software away for free or at least for cheap – let's get it marketed and get copies to women, non-binary people, people of colour, and LGBTQ+ people who have ideas and want to make them. Twitter campaigns, Google groups, IRC chats, whatever can help bring people together, including artists with creators!

Let's get the people in the power structure to help support diversity by getting people from marginalised groups the credits they need to help get more work.

Speaking of creators, let's get the people in the power structure to help support diversity by getting people from marginalised groups the credits they need to help get more work. We live in a society where the best way to advance is through experience, and there are plenty of people in the indie space who could help get experience for people who deserve it.

Do like Adam Saltsman and Finji Games are trying to do: specifically target diverse hires. 

Heck, if developers and publishers need a financial reason to do so, look at the way that casual and mobile games have taken off in the last few years, and it's because women and other people not used to the current gaming structure have become a part of gaming.

Want to target women, LGBTQ+ people, or people of colour? Hire them, they'll probably have a better idea than if you're not one of them!

Call for action

Even through social media, let's not just have #INeedDiverseGames. Let's have #DiverseGamesWeLove or something similar to help promote great projects from people outside the mainstream to help them become part of the mainstream.

Heck, even just starting to post positive comments on blogs could help, especially controversial ones.

Maybe we can help women who speak out about feminism, or people of colour about racial issues, or anything else from gaming's diverse voices talking about the social issues that affect their lives, to help them feel better that they have support even among the unfortunately - inevitable anonymous hate. And even supporting their writing about topics besides just their race, gender, or sexuality, because people should be defined by more than just their labels.

I ultimately believe that if the people in the current power structures use their power and their megaphones to be kind and to show that diversity in gaming can do some great things – and hopefully make some great games too.

I want to help. Here's my email. My Twitter is @wondroushippo. I want to help. Tell me what you need.

However, what I ultimately believe is that if the goals of diversity, fairness, and equality are to happen, it's time for progressive gaming culture, one I largely support but find myself a bit ashamed of at times, to not just tear down that which they oppose, but to use its powers to build up the causes they support as well.


Stateside columnist

Freelance writer covering mobile and gaming for @toucharcade, @Gamezebo, and more!

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Dustin Geels
The fact I've seen nothing more then a steady stream of hate come out of the so called progressive game culture makes me truly believe they don't really give a fuck they just wanna act like they are holy than thou.

You people wanna be accepted you wanna make the world a better place start acting the part. Remember you are dealing with people who disagree with you not monsters that need slain . The shit I've see come out of you people sickens me you claim the moral high ground yet you threaten peoples lifes their livelyhoods their very sense of self and you wonder why people think you are fucking nuts.
Adam G. Yoksas
The most unusual thing about #GamerGate and its critics is how hyperreal it all is (to borrow a term from Eco and Baudrillard). The virtual violence in the form of tweets invoke reactions typically reserved for actual violence. The exploitation of virtual women is treated with the same emotional distress as if these depictions were actual women. And the whole notion that these games are 'serious art' that deserves 'serious criticism' shows, more than anything, how banal we social critics have become.

'Gaming' used to be a term reserved for those banal, vice-ridden places called 'casinos', and I think casinos and computer entertainment share a lot in common. And, indeed, the entire notion of gaming--both in the Vegas sense and in the Steam sense--is an industry based on exploitation. People pay good money to engage in a fantasy, but the fantasy is an illusion. Steam is like Vegas in so far as it can give you the illusion of everything: fame, success, love, worldliness. But the illusions are just that: illusions. When the money runs out, Vegas--like Candy Crush--has no use for you. The novelty of escape from the mundane is only as persistent as the amount of money thrown at the thing.

To criticize gaming on the basis of gendered standards in art is like criticizing Las Vegas for the topless shows and the prostitution, while remaining oblivious to what transpires on the casino floor; only someone who was already under the delusion that gambling is 'worth saving' would try to save gambling from such turpitude.

By the same token, the #GamerGaters themselves take the notion of 'gamers' too seriously, as if it was something to be 'proud' of, something real. It is as if their PSN friend networks and Twitter followers are real friends and a real community. But it is all just hyperrreal: a simulation of friendship and community that seems more real than real.

Meanwhile, in the midst of this conflict, more and more men, women and children are getting addicted to Candy Crush and League of Legends...the true exploitation remains undisturbed. And why? Because the so-called industry critics have done the industry a huge favor by giving us the impression that the true exploitation of women and children is in one place (Bayonetta 2 and Grand Theft Auto), letting the real exploitation of women and children (Candy Crush Saga, League of Legends) slip under the radar.
Dustin Geels
These communities you so clearly don't understand are very much so real. We talk we party we meet up and party some more we interact every day hell people get married too people they meet in these non communities we even mourn our dead.

Talk about a high horse.
Daniel Kromand
I agree that positive and active contribution is great, and of course fully support it. However, I don't really get the painted contrast between 'the progressives' and the #1reasonmentors though: Isn't the latter basically a part of the progressive movement?

(On a side note: I hate the word 'progressive movement' as I'd prefer 'not an immature dbag')
Tessa
> Of course, as a white cisgender heterosexual man, I'm probably the wrong person to point all this out.

You're on the right track here....

> It is very good at complaining and criticising - but it does a terrible job at actually improving things for the people it claims to represent.

Do I get to "represent" myself, or do I only get to "claim" to?

> One is that it allows people currently with power in development and gaming to merely pay lip service to diversity. Retweet a few women or LGBTQ+ folk's angry tweets, maybe post an article about today's gaming drama, and you can look like an ally and be generally safe from the crusaders.

What if I want the right to criticize things I disagree with without the validity of my statement being filtered through what someone "with power in development and gaming" thinks about it, pro or con? Am I allowed to do that?

> As well, there's a real martyr complex that occurs. The Feminist Frequency Kickstarter never gets $150,000 instead of its $6,000 goal if threats and harassment against Anita Sarkeesian aren't widely reported. With every video, it feels like she's martyred further, and the series becomes more popular because she's hated. As many people feel edified for what they've actually done as they do hated.

You appear to be saying that Ms. Sarkeesian is quite fortunate for having a large-scale harassment campaign directed at her. I hope that's not what you're saying, because that would make you a horrible human being.

Just as bad, for every one woman like Ms. Sarkeesian who gain notoriety, there are 10, 20, maybe even a hundred more like these women writing anonymously in the The Escapist who are afraid to speak out openly under their real names because they are afraid of having the internet hate machine pointed at them:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/video-games/features/12306-Female-Game-Developers-Make-Statements-on-GamerGate

> I believe that GamerGate is happening because the progressive movement's tendency to try and stand above everyone else - to preach from the mountain, if you like - has alienated a group of normal people from well-meaning folks that misuse their megaphones.

I think that's garbage. I think harassment and threats are evil. I think a movement that started with harassment and threats is unsalvageable trash. I think trying to say "ignore the fact that this movement started with harassment and threats, NOW we're talking about something else" is delusional, and I think trying to argue that the way games are reviewed is a bigger issue than women being harassed and hounded out of gaming is the kind of utterly sick nonsense that marks the person making that case as having either thought very little about what they say or having so underdeveloped a sense of priorities as to be actively dangerous to the women that person comes in contact with.

> It takes a generous reading of their causes, but when I talk to pro-GamerGate folks and read what they're discussing, I don't think they hate women, or even feminists, as much as how the progressive culture is operating. And with that reading, I think they're right.

Oh no, marginalized people aren't being sufficiently fair to the people who marginalize them -- this is clearly a much bigger problem than the fact that they are marginalized in the first place.

> Progressive gaming culture has become so toxic

Wait -- the people speaking out AGAINST death and rape threats, harassment, doxxing, and the rest of this garbage are the ones who are toxic. Sure, that makes sense.

> so disconnected from reality that the tactic of dealing with a vocal opposition has literally been the same for two months: don't address their claims (even if you think they're mostly invalid) and don't engage except to insult.

The most devastating claim that I've seen is that a bunch of professionals in the same industry who work for different employers had a discussion amongst themselves about the professional ethics of giving space to people harassing a game developer, and that this discussion of professional ethics constitutes collusion and conspiracy.

I've also heard about 100x more words devoted to saying "GamerGate is about ethics in journalism" than actually ABOUT ethics in journalism.

But possibly the worst aspect of all of this is the part you have implicitly endorsed -- the idea that because lots of people have taken up this banner, there -- by definition -- must be something valid that they are saying. This is wrong, and it is false equivocation to think that because someone is trying to make a point that their point must be worth considering. Lots of people make points that aren't worth considering -- anti-evolutionists, anti-global warming folks, pro-segregationists who "just don't want to see their property values hurt". Some views are simply wrong, and taking them seriously just makes things worse for everyone involved, other than those who profit from advancing toxic views.

> Remember the #1reasonwhy hashtag that had women revealing much of what they perceived as sexism in the gaming industry? Well, there was a bit of an offshoot, #1reasonmentors, which served as a way for people that are part of gaming's power structures to help mentor women to become part of the industry.

Awesome -- I'm so wrongheaded for trying to voice my concerns, when what I should be doing is listening to a dude like you explaining how I should be letting other powerful dudes fix my problems for me. Can you really not see how unbelievably condescending that is?!?

I don't need guys to tell me how to fix my problems, I need guys to stop arguing with me and talking over me and trying to convince me that I'm wrong about everything and that if I could only see it their way all my problems could be fixed.

> Frankly, they're right � I think the progressive movement has faltered in this instance. Why not create a similar movement to help get talented women with ideas the resources to make games that has transgender and financial policies that are largely favourable?

Why not throw resources behind actual women who make games instead of men who want to "help" women make games? Do you really think the problem is that we're too helpless to be able to do anything without guys leading the way? If so, YOU are the problem.

> Want to target women, LGBTQ+ people, or people of colour? Hire them, they'll probably have a better idea than if you're not one of them!

Finally, something sensible in this article!

> Maybe we can help women who speak out about feminism, or people of colour about racial issues, or anything else from gaming's diverse voices talking about the social issues that affect their lives, to help them feel better that they have support even among the unfortunately - inevitable anonymous hate.

Sure. Just as useful is signal boosting -- instead of offering your own commentary, help OUR commentary reach a larger audience. This might surprise you, but we really do know more about the problems we face than you do.

> And even supporting their writing about topics besides just their race, gender, or sexuality, because people should be defined by more than just their labels.

This is good too.

> However, what I ultimately believe is that if the goals of diversity, fairness, and equality are to happen, it's time for progressive gaming culture, one I largely support but find myself a bit ashamed of at times, to not just tear down that which they oppose, but to use its powers to build up the causes they support as well.

The real problem is not that we're attacking the parts of gaming culture that we see as toxic, it's that gaming culture attacks back with 10x the force. By definition, progressive gaming culture is made up of the people who actually care about fixing things and not simply making people feel better about the status quo. Want to help us move on to other things? Help make the people attacking us STFU.

But we will address any combination of criticizing the problems we face and fixing them as we see fit. You can help us with that, you can stand by quietly or lecture us on what we "should be" doing, or you can join the forces attacking us -- whichever suits you.

P.S. Just to be clear in advance -- I'm sure there's a line around the corner of really swell guys who want to engage me in rational debate about this comment. I couldn't care less, and I will not engage in said debate. I might pop back up and say something again if someone says something interesting, but I will not agree to anyone else's terms of having a discussion. If you accept that, as a trans woman, I am the marginalized party here, then understand that what I want is for my feelings to be respected, not to debate you ad nauseum about my existence or my place in gaming. And if you don't accept that then I think you're a terrible person and I don't care what you think about me or the fact that I think that.
Mikel Crawford
Pretty much the main problem with the current mainstream Social Justice Movement.
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