by: Stephen Crane (Photo: Gamer Bliss)
2013 is finally here, and with that comes a fair amount of looking back at the previous year. It's a time of reflection where we went right, and where we went wrong. Even more important, this is a time for us to look forward and make resolutions. After this year, there's one clear resolution the gaming community should make: Be less sexist. Actually, here's a better one: DON'T be sexist. At all.
2012: Your Year in Gaming Misogyny, published by UnSubject on their blog Vicarious Existence, provides a handy timeline showing some of the biggest headlines of 2012 relating to video games and sexism. Aside from the fair amount of sarcasm, and occasional hyperbole, the feature makes a strong point. There wasn't a month that went buy without either games or game developers making a very clear statement about how unwelcome women can be in the gaming community.
I'm no stranger to writing about sexism in video games. Last year I wrote a five part feature discussing the gaming community (Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five), so I can at least say I've started to become aware of the facts mentioned in UnSub's post.
Unsub makes a very decent point in showing what is wrong, but I disagree with the assertion that "In 2011 it looked a little bit like the gap in attitudes about women in gaming had started to close." While there weren't really any huge headlines discussing sexism in games, that doesn't mean it wasn't there or that it was getting better. It just means we weren't ready or willing to discuss it.
UnSub also sarcastically makes the point, "We guys have set up a pretty good amount of momentum for keeping video games as a safe male space." That's not where the momentum is, however.The sexism wasn't the uncharacteristic part of 2012, but the response to it certainly was.
Gamers, journalists, and developers used to turn a blind eye to some of the more sexist practices in the community. They didn't suddenly just crop up, but were the result of 20 or so years of going unchecked. If we looked hard enough, I am sure we could find some pretty egregious examples we missed in 2008 that wouldn't have been complained about in 2012. So what changed?
These headlines are evidence that the community is starting to get more open. Journalists, developers, and gamers are all starting to complain about the "status quo" and actually demand a change. We're seeing professional gamers in the e-sports community being put to task for now only how they play, but what they say. These headlines and the apparent "momentum" for those supporting the status quo are signs of positive change. Those who are rejecting the new shift in culture may be vocal, but we're seeing them get shouted down more and more often in turn.
Gamers are evolving and so are our games. If the gaming community wants three REAL resolutions to combat sexism, they should be:
- Call out gamers who are being jerks. Don't just mute or block them. The only way to make someone stop is to publicly shame them for being awful. Don't wait for someone else to start the complaint either.
- Don't try to call someone out for just trying to enjoy something you do in a different way. This whole "fake gamer girl" witch hunt needs to end. No one is trying to steal your fun or your games (Except maybe Fox News), and if someone doesn't know as much as you, cool. They don't have to. There's no test for calling yourself a gamer, and there shouldn't be.
- Don't be hostile when something you love is criticized and don't simply dismiss it. Video games aren't perfect and it's not only important for us to discuss not only the triumphs, but the flaws. Don't immediately accept criticism either, though. Think about it. Ask questions, get answers, and above all, get facts.
Things can, and will get better. We just have to keep one very important mantra in mind.