21.9.12

going on (at) the game

There is a current furor in the gaming world, a divide of interests and sensibilities. On one side fire-fueled overzealous, liberal feminist posers facing off against the might of machismo ingrained in the hyper-privileged white male stronghold. War cries stream across no (wo)mans land as this hoard of harpies, armed to the teeth with history’s oppression and rhetoric storm the time honored Bastille of male-oriented, by-rights, verbose and staunch sexists; an ancient brotherhood of solidarity ready to unearth the inalienable truths of hidden succubae agenda.   
  
The sad truth of the matter is that this fight is fought by neither of these stereotypical champions at arms because, quite frankly, neither exists.




This battle is one of the few, minor players in life’s game picked up by the media in search of the true nature of the gaming community. Across the globe games of all genres and tastes are entertaining and finding definition amongst an equally diverse demographic of gamers. This story stems from way back in the now forty year history of gaming – and possibly beyond, into the days of early computer tech and the male dominated workforce.

Currently this unending gripe is being fought on the front of two key female warriors. Using the uniquely successful fan-funding website Kickstarter, Anita Sarkeesian had a plan to create a (now thanks to successful funding) 12 part video series documenting the stagnant and somewhat stereotypical gamut of female characters in gaming. By no means a feat which could purposely harm anyone, more an expose to allow us to think deeper and better serve all gamers in their choice of avatar. But inevitably the Neanderthal anonymity of the internet allowed for a torrent of abuse to erupt from the public voice of privilege. Beyond the idiocy of using such abhorrent hate-spit to get across obvious – if useless – objection, I can't fathom how a (with all respect due) small, publicly funded documentary would affect the lives of these venomous dissenters.

Ms Sarkeesian’s ideas and concept are inherently true due to previously noted leanings towards men being the sellable demographic in the gaming market. Women are notoriously mis/unrepresented in gaming and most accept this fact as redundant and archaic. The project itself is solid in its ideal and while raising some awareness is only really tackling an issue most gamers worth their mettle are aware of. The issue comes with the idiocy of its opposition, without their rallying cry it was quite possible for the series to go unheard of by the media as many kickstarter projects do, that is the inherent beauty of the scheme; those who care pay to see dreams come alive, those who don't simply…don’t.


The ridiculous, overblown and down-right offensive wealth of response only served to:


 


a) Verify the necessity of the project. Any claim that gaming and its proponents are in no way gender biased if not plain misogynistic were blown out of the water.


b) Increase the media coverage of Ms Sarkeesian’s dream thus gaining it more than enough funding to go 
ahead.


It wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of people backed it purely as a spit in the eye to the sexist responses.




The second wave of vitriol came courtesy of one of gaming true female icons, Lara Croft. In a new game to the franchise, due for release early next year, we are to see the founding of the ‘Tomb raider’; a prequel story outlining just what happened to create the gun totting, devil may care, risk taking adventurer for whom a high pedestal has been created in the light of female gaming characters.
The issue at hand is one of trauma. 
In our new grit filled, desire for the real media realm, the ludicrously proportioned Miss Croft no longer cuts it. Thanks mostly – in my belief – to Christopher Nolan, we now desire reality in our fantasy, less fiction in our fiction. This move away has created a fledgling Ms Croft who, stranded on a lone island via a shipwreck, must fight to survive in a more 'Lord of the flies' style adventure rather than the mysteries of the ancients gamers were used to.
In this the developers decided on creating the very moment Lara blossoms from innocent youth to calculated mercenary. THe scene itself is not unheard of in cinema, literature or any other artform for that matter but apparently in gaming we are not yet ready for the threat the soon to be Lady Croft must face and overcome.   

Lara is to be captured by a band of, as yet to be revealed antagonists and held under the threat of sexual assault. This creates a fight or flight dilemma in which, one would expect, Lara chooses to kill her would be rapists before they get chance to unzip their respective flies. As I've said this is no way a new scenario to most audiences but the gaming world has seen an outcry over the apparent 'undermining' of Lara Croft's sterling character. I for one can't see it changing the strength of will and hardy adventurer nature of the character. How did we all envisage that Lara Croft became so blaze to violence before this idea was put forward? Understandably the British upper classes have a penchant for firearms and mass hunting of animals but Lady Croft has always taken things to a little further extreme than that.

Once again a would be minor tidbit of information gets blown out of all proportion without any real concern for the final product, Ms Sarkeesian attacked by the over privileged male games, Crystal dynamics by the under represented femenist gamer community.

The question of sexism and the ‘white male privilege’ is not one inherent to gaming but gladly is one that is seeing a great deal more publicity and is thankfully being highlighted by major outlets such as the gawker network and the excellent highlighting work of 'fatuglyorslutty.com'. It is high time that developers and the gaming community at large understood the diverse nature of its audience and began treating the whole affair with a little more thought and humanity, but none of this is going to happen if we purposely undermine any attempt to challenge the world of gaming and its strangely youthful traditions.

Granted opinions are free to be expresses but as always they should be done so backed by a full knowledge of the argument not the seeds of grassroots projects or the breadcrumbs of press information on upcoming games. Both these projects are going to do a great deal in understanding and highlighting issues of unrepresented feminism in gaming but need to be judged on their own merits when seen in full. No doubt Lara Croft will still be able to hold court as queen of female gaming role models even after her brush with sexual assault and likewise 'Trope vs video games' will do great things in giving us a clearer view on how women are represented in gaming, who knows maybe Ms Croft will make an appearance.

But until then let's save the vitriol for call of duty, huh?

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