Tuesday, July 23, 2013

On Sexism & Censorship

It's important to establish early on that your personal, subjective views on any topics like this are completely meaningless. They hold no value. There are far too many variables in the equation to have any kind of worth in a discussion on morals and equality. If you really want to get into a discussion as to why, you need to have some kind of understanding of basic philosophic theory that predates last century. Objectivity is beyond critical.

That's what I'm going to try and do here. Be as objective as possible. You can make an argument like: "But Davey, you're a privileged white male living in a first world country, how objective can you possible be!?" - and you may be right, but that isn't going to stop me from trying. Not trying is silly.

I'm going to clarify something, and it's almost absurd that I have to do this, but I am not in any way, sexist. It boggles the mind that I have to clearly state this, but I am not. I get the feeling that I am going to have to justify this point on several points in this piece and it's insulting, but alas.

There's this huge divide in the Australian gaming community (and I imagine overseas may be even worse due to population) between the sexes. This should be news to nobody, regardless of whether you have had any exposure to it at all. There has always been competition between the sexes, and this competition has been abused to birth sexism and all the unfair jazz that comes with it. The inherent competition is not sexist. It's healthy - and if you really want to get down to it, you would be able to thread it through the needle of psychology and evolution down to the animal kingdom.

One thing that really irks me is broad generalizations occur like "game developers are sexist! All the game protagonists are male! Sexist!". Statements like this are made with sometimes moderate, but mostly little understanding of the game development business and the influence the market and publishers have on products. With a growing percentage of game developers (however, still quite small), being female - and I can imagine a HUGE majority of males working in the industry are indeed intelligent and free of sexist bigotry - there must be, by logic, a rather large percentage of female protagonists pitched to publishers. It doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to think that they are met with responses such as: "Well, this female hero does sound interesting, but the games that are on the market do best with a male protagonist, blah blah blah".

I'm not shifting the blame onto the publishers. They are, in the end, working to the market in order to make the most money from any particular product. So is it the markets fault? Are we all collectively sexist? I can anticipate quite a few of people reading this immediately spouting: "But women now make up 47% of gamers!".

The term "gamers" is such a loose, vapid term that has absolutely zero clarification. It can literally mean anything - someone who only plays Angry Birds while they're taking a shit can justify being called a gamer. This extends right up to the man-cave having, Cheeto-clawed man-beast that plays every single game upon release. If there is to be any shift in a male-protagonist-dominated market, there has to be market that reflects that yes, males and females will indeed buy this game regardless of the sex of the main character.

This is not sexist. It is just a bunch of people with their own subjective views, getting together to create a fluctuating market that will grow and wane just like any other market. Calling game developers sexist, without any indication that this is the case, having no prior knowledge of who they are, their philosophical and political leanings, or even their goddamn names, is so abhorrently ignorant and just plain wrong. It's not even the publishers fault. Is it anyone's fault?

Before tackling the meaty issue of whether or not male gamers themselves are on a whole, sexist, I want to digress into a conversation on censorship. The whole Saints Row IV debacle was literally insane. Post-banning, I had to read half a dozen articles in the wider mainstream media applaud a government-related board for censoring a piece of fantasy intended for adults, with titles such as "Gamers back ban of video-game". This couldn't have been more insulting to the intelligence of anyone who understands the line between reality and fiction.

The keystone of the argument was that "Rape is never funny, why depict it in a video-game". For those that were not privy to the shit-storm that it was: Saints Row IV revolves around you, the player, being the President of the United States and defending everyone from aliens. It is already absurd, right? Through the game, you have access to an alien-weapon, shaped like a big dildo, and you are able to use that weapon against anyone, male, female and alien, to effectively probe them in their behind and send them flying into the sky.

I guess, in a roundabout and intelligently devoid way, you could call this rape - if it happened in real life. If I ran around the streets probing people with a giant dildo, you would find that at best this would be sexual assault. THIS IS IN THE REAL WORLD. The justification of the ban was that it had no context. No context!? Isn't being a video-game enough context? What about being part of the realm of parody and absurdity that is the Saint's Row franchise, isn't that context? Having a piece of satirical alien technology, in a video-game that features aliens is context. The context argument is so loose and flimsy and nobody from the Classification Board has justified such nonsense with anything intelligible, let alone more than one or two sentences.

In a video-game, it is simply playing a video-game. It's fantasy. By censoring anything intended for adults, you are simply stating that Australian adults would have no concept of the line between reality and fiction, we are just too stupid and easily influenced. If you can't see that this is insulting, I'm not sure how to make it clear without going into long-winded metaphors of Soviet Russia.

The very fact that I can walk into any of the thousands of Adult Stores in Australia, purchase rape-fantasy pornography, go home and hit play-rewind repeatedly while watching someone get fantasy-raped, but not send someone flying into the air with a rubber dildo in a pixelated video-game is simply ridiculous.

If there was a video-game that only featured messed up rape-scenes and other interactive moral debauchery, it is up to me, the adult, to weigh up whether or not I would like to play that video-game, and how I feel about it. That is my own subjective perogative. If you were to be offended by this imaginary video-game, that has nothing to do with me and nothing to do with an overseeing government. As for the argument that this satirical probe weapon, a parody and addition to a concept that has been made fun of in pop culture for decades, endorses and spreads rape culture? Are you serious?

I'm going to make this clear: this is not about being able to sodomize people and whinging about it. It's about concepts, ideas and art being censored by a mysterious body of people without any realistic justification. The Australian Classification board has eight official members. Six women, two males. Five of those women are over 40. One male is over 40, while one is in his late 20's. All are white. Is this really meant to be a cross-section of Australian society, who is responsible for judging what is moral and acceptable for consumption? Hilarious.

Anyway, are gamers really sexist? Can women ever be taken seriously in an online, anonymous world? If this is what you wonder on a daily basis, it's the wrong question. Take a look at any stream chat, any forums. Male gamers are not taken seriously - as a whole. Any personality, male or female, is open to a huge amount of scrutiny and downright meanness if they put themselves out to the public. The ones who are taken seriously are the ones who are entertaining, honest, or if they aren't, show an incredible amount of skill and tact in their chosen video-game.

If you do not meet any of these criteria, more than likely you are going to be ridiculed. If an overweight person is on a stream, that is the first thing to be singled out, male or female. Why? Because it's easy to mock someone for their physical appearance. If they have a speech impediment, that might be made fun of second. If they are an attractive female with nothing else to make fun of, they'll be made fun of for simply being female. If you're following this closely, and remember, objectively, then you can make a logical conclusion that gamers aren't inherently, overly sexist, but just downright mean.

So what we are left with is just a bunch of people on the internet being mean to each other, using the first thing they can find to be mean about. Does this mean they are not for equal pay, maternity leave, breaking the glass ceiling and wife-beating? They very well could be, but judging a huge population of people you have never met on the basis that you can't be taken seriously on merits that you might not have earned yet, is very unfair.

Yes, there are many females who work incredibly hard to get into the industry - not using their feminine wiles to make it big - and perhaps they have had a hard time doing so. But you have to imagine that for every female trying to do this, there is a male trying to do exactly the same and meeting similar, maybe not exactly the same, but similar roadblocks along the way.

Granted, males will not have an inbox full of dick-pictures and 'hey qt, wanna skype?' messages on any given day, and I simply do not have a solution for culling anonymous, internet creeps. However, calling every one of those people sexist for not having the social standards or experience with women to approach them properly is quite a stretch. Oh, and calling me a bigot for wanting to send people flying into the sky with a big rubber dildo is equally ignorant on so many levels.

No comments:

Post a Comment