Social Issues in Games

I swore that I wasn’t going to get involved.

There has been a trend on Twitter, blogs and I’m sure other forms of social media, regarding commentary made by WoW developers, about the state of misogyny and inclusiveness in their game. More than one lengthy blog rant has been written, Twitter has been awash with commentary, and lines in the sand have been drawn. Some have crossed those lines. People are getting really pissed off at one another over things that they cannot change, and despite wanting change, these blog posts aren’t going to be the catalyst.

Sexism exists. Racism exists. Homophobia exists. Rather than focus on all of the change that’s occurred in the past 10+ years, people still want to focus on the things that haven’t changed. Those isms aren’t going to change over night. A hundred years ago women’s rights movements changed the world. Civil rights followed. Gay rights are the current hot button topic. Progress is happening, and yes it is probably slower than most would prefer.

My problem, is that social issues and games don’t mix. Fantasy is  imagination. It fulfills the psychological need to experience things that might not be legal or humanly possible. Playing a strange elf-like character, opening up rifts to fight demons from another plane of existence is a good time, but not realistic. As such, I’m not worried about my Elf character’s worldview, sexuality, or thoughts on the opposing gender. Yes, certain bits of the dialogue and storyline might reflect upon the creators of the game, but I don’t think any one company is setting out to sound misogynistic, homophobic or racist. I think many times people who are hyper-sensitive to those worldviews are reading too much into what goes on into a game, instead of appreciating it as-is — a work of art.

Going back in time, when people’s worldviews were different, the above isms weren’t really an issue. People wrote novels and plays and made artwork that went along with the state of the times. We still look back upon many of those works of art with fondness, and don’t question their motives, understanding that the world was different. Our culture is ever evolving, and people will eventually look back on these times and see that we were still changing, and accept works of art as they are. Of course, we could be Nazis and just burn everything that doesn’t have a utopian world-view. But how silly would that be?

Scree took a position of apathy in all of this. I applaud him for being able to state his position and stand by it, not worrying about the flames that would come his way. Others, like J3w3l are up in arms about the supposed wrongs that works of art have done her. When reading her post, I was inspired to comment, and I will relay that again here:

I’m going to go out on a limb here.

1. I realize that abuse/rape/etc does occur. I am not ignorant of misogyny. However, in my small group of people that I interact with, I have never heard of anything like this happening. Men that I know might get mad about not getting laid, but they don’t rape or belittle, nor do they physically harm women. I have never laid hands on a woman, and never will. I couldn’t bring myself to rape someone. In the cases where I have seen/heard about a woman being mistreated by a man, other men stepped in to help. In one case, a friend of mine slipped down the slope towards alcoholism, and as a result started showing patterns of abuse towards women. At one point a group of us put him in his place, and then we cut him out of our social circle.

2. I have been the victim of both verbal and physical abuse by the hand of a woman. It was only one, and I put up with it for years because I was “in love.” I’m not trying to make this about me, or take away from the negative experiences that women have had, but it goes both ways. Women can be manipulative, hurtful, downright evil towards men. The woman in my experience drove me to a point where I wanted to beat the shit out of her. I never did it. I fancy myself a good person, and one who wouldn’t use my size advantage against a woman. The point being, this outcry that women are the only ones having shitty things happen to them and that EVERY woman has a bad experience is a little bit tiresome. EVERYONE has bad experience with other humans. It’s part of life and how we deal with those things makes us who we are today.

3. It is true, most of us play video games because we are trying to escape from the bullshit that is life. We deal with social issues every day. We see terrible things on the news/internet. We are treated like shit by people who are supposed to provide a service, even if the only service is customer service. Our fellow man couldn’t be bothered by our well being. When I get home, I want to escape from reality into the worlds of fantasy. My fantasies include beautiful women, violence, progression, etc. Video games provide a means of being able to do the things that you can’t do in real life, without some sort of consequence. There have been many examples of strong female lead/sub characters. There is gay representation in games. It’s a psychological fact that people are attracted to attractive people. This is why women and men in games are portrayed with perfect bodies, while the people playing those games are actually fat and ugly.

4. If you don’t like a flavor of ice cream, you don’t buy it right? So why do you buy a game knowing beforehand that you don’t like the flavor? If you thought you might like the flavor and it turns out you don’t, wouldn’t you just go buy another flavor and throw away the one you didn’t like? You wouldn’t write the company making the flavor, or go on an all-out crusade about how the flavor is wrong and that company should go out of business would you? Don’t you think all of the people who DO like the flavor would instantly disagree with you, or write off your crusade immediately? When put into a metaphor like this, it sounds pretty silly doesn’t it?

I think this is why many people don’t get up in arms about these types of social issues. I’m all for women’s rights and gay rights, and hell even animal rights. But I’m not going to go on a crusade to make sure things get done for them. I’m a straight white male and that’s stereotypically the group with the most rights/easiest life, but I’ve been shit on my whole life, and no one is out there clamoring to give me more stuff. Sure, I’m not suffering, but I also don’t have life handed to me on a silver platter. When I see things I like I buy them, if I don’t like something I don’t. When a company starts taking advantage of my wallet, I take my wallet elsewhere. Instead of bitching about a company not following your individual mantra, especially when they have openly said they don’t give a shit about you, perhaps it’s time to move on to something else. It’s likely the people who don’t care or don’t see eye to eye with you won’t follow though, and in the end your crusade has gotten you nowhere.

There have been many other posts and discussions on the topic, but I’m not going to go and track them all down. Many of you have probably already had your fill of the topic, so I’ll just leave this here and hope that I haven’t alienated anyone. Really, I think we need to just get back to gaming and try to get along.