|Let the shouting commence!
Due to a combination of burnout and health problems, I haven't been blogging for a while. Now that everyone has forgotten I exist, I am starting again, in order to fix a serious problem: I am still employable in the game industry.
Look. I'm 43 and I have 2 kids. The game industry doesn't want me, and, if it ever does, it'll just be to make me do 80 hour weeks and ruin what's left of my life. So I'm going to solve the problem by saying things that make the game industry think I stink like old fish.
And, if you want to piss off gamers, here is the number one thing you can say: "Women are human beings, and they deserve to be treated with respect."
And no, I'm not about to talk about Penny Arcade. There's a much bigger, more significant ongoing story that's been going on since I started my blogging sabbatical. So let's talk about Anita Sarkeesian!
(If you know this whole story and don't want to wallow in the absurdity once again, just skip to the last section. But I think the tale is surreal enough to merit multiple tellings.)
Anita Who Now?
I really think this story is fascinating, and, despite all the virtual ink that has been spilled on it, there are fresh things to say. So here's some background to the story. It's a good one.
Anita Sarkeesian made videos on YouTube for her channel, Feminist Frequency. It's what you'd expect: Analysis of popular culture from an "Are women in it? How are they portrayed?" kind of perspective.
They were decent videos. A little dry. Some people criticized them for not being up to the LOFTY quality standards of YouTube (chuckle). The standard, young male, testosterone-poisoning, Make Me a Sammich crowd that gets mad whenever women are discussed in any context, tended to come out and shout, but other than that, it was pretty quiet.
Then Sarkeesian did a Kickstarter, to fund a series of videos called Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. The idea: To prove that women in video games might, get this, not be portrayed in a well-rounded, three-dimensional way (when they are portrayed at all).
When I heard about this Kickstarter, I kind of shrugged, because women being portrayed badly in video games? Duh. Might as well have a Kickstarter to prove the moon exists. But anyone who takes time to call out game designers for crappy, hack storytelling is doing The Lord's Work, so I hoped she did well.
Instead, She Pulled In a Fortune
Turns out, she struck a nerve. As obvious as her conclusion was, a lot of people were thrilled to pony up bread to make some noise about it. And good for them. Her goal was $6000. She pulled in over $150000. Because, it turns out, fixing even an obvious problem involves people making some noise about it.
The Kickstarter was a phenomenal success.
And the testosterone-poisoning crowd LOST THEIR MINDS.
Tales Of Moral Courage In Video Gaming
If you ever have any doubt that nerd culture has some nasty, toxic issues with women, the harassment Anita Sarkeesian received should dispel them entirely. Her Wikipedia page lists all of the abuse she received, but the most infamous example is the anonymous and gruesome Flash game where people could beat her face.
Folks, this is beyond trolling. This is profound psychological damage. This is Invest In a Bulletproof Vest territory. That Sarkeesian persisted in the face of all of this shows her virtual balls are well bigger than mine. I would have hid under the bed and never come out.
This is surreal! It's a Monty Python sketch. And here's the thing! What was she trying to do?
Was the trying to eliminate Twinkies? Cancel My Little Pony? Make some giant James Bond laser and blow up Mount Rushmore? No! She was trying to make some lousy YouTube videos! To prove an obvious thing everyone knows!
(You know how everyone knows it? Because, in every one of the million discussion threads that bring out people to put down Sarkeesian's work, the arguments are always: It's not a problem. It's the creators' right. There's no need to make this video. The production values suck. Women don't spend enough on games to be considered. [WRONG!] Nobody ever says her actual conclusion is wrong. For the same reason there aren't impassioned arguments about whether adding two and two gets you four.)
So the money came in, and, unlike certain other Kickstarters I could mention, the promised product is forthcoming.
Videos That Exist!
As of this writing, three of the videos are out. They're exactly what you would expect. Carefully considered, methodical in their arguments, decently made, a bit dry, with occasional sparks of true brilliance.
I often see guys online saying that her videos are pointless and don't prove anything. This is how I know that they never bothered to, you know, watch them. Don't believe me? Go to this one and skip to 7:40. If anyone has come up with a better display of the tired hackwork that so often passes for video game story-telling, PLEASE send me a link.
One thing you'll note about her video pages is that commenting is disabled. Something that is inexplicably considered a horrible crime by the testosterone crowd. Setting aside that YouTube comments are the most useless way to make an argument about anything anywhere, I think it should be a rule that once the death threats start coming in, you are allowed to start controlling the channels by which people communicate with you. Duh doy.
(You will note, for example, that having YouTube comments disabled has affected my ability to give my opinion not at all.)
Now On To the Main Question
So that's the prologue. Nerd culture, as a whole, engaging in the biggest over-reaction/freakout in the history of freakouts. Whenever these videos are discussed anywhere, go to the comments and read the rage. (Which, you will find, is not unanimous, but not hard to find at all.) This, again, is far beyond mere trolling. Sarkeesian has poked a huge, sensitive nerve in the entire culture.
Now here is the thing, the point, the puzzle, the question at the heart of the whole mess ...
Why are guys so mad about this?
Y U So Mad?
|(All nerd-based blog posts are federally required to contain 5% Pony content by weight.)
It's a handful of YouTube videos, saying an obvious thing in a quiet way. Why the rage? Why any rage at all? Why not just go on to the next video?
The obvious reason surely has much to do with this: Humans are naturally loss-averse. In other words, people with privileges (the privilege in this case being young men having video games made to please them and only them) get very angry when those privileges might be taken away. Some people just never learned to share their toys.
This is a lot of that, but I think there's more. I think it's a real mystery, and, as much as it's been discussed, I think it's important to prod it a bit more. (Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it really is that simple. But it's at least worth thinking about, when I'm not going on about esoteric design issues or making fun of the stupid new Star Trek movie that was stupid.)
I have a self-serving reason: my two daughters are some of the biggest nerds in nerdworld, and I want them to grow up in the sort of geek culture where they can say things and have opinions and write games without getting harassment or death threats.
So, if you missed my blog, it's back. I've missed a lot of good stuff to talk about, and this is one issue I want to talk about a lot more. And thank you, Anita Sarkeesian, for tolerating a lot of garbage to say True Things. And hopefully make game stories better. Because it's needed.
Am I unemployable yet?