The games industry doesn’t need to grow up – its audience does
on Nov 08 by

The games industry doesn’t need to grow up – its audience does

I’ve lost count of how many articles I’ve read stating the need for the games industry to grow up. To mature. To somehow take responsibility for how it’s perceived by those outside the bubble of fans that so enthusiastically discusses the content it produces. But is that fair?

 

 

Does the responsibility really rest on the shoulders of those men and women – artists, musicians, designers, programmers and producers that create the content we crave so much?

 

Should publishers alone, shoulder the blame for how games are seen by the wider world? I’d argue not. I’d argue that we are ALL complicit in creating the perception that our beloved industry is immature.

 

Is sexist.

 

Is promoting violence.

 

Needs to ‘grow up’

 

I’d argue that much of the blame for how our industry is perceived is as much down to its critics and, ultimately, its consumers as anything else.

 

GTA misogyny

 

As a recent example I’d like to draw your attention to Carolyn Petit who reviewed GTA and more to the point, shared her disapproval at the rampant misogyny on display. It’s not the content of the review that particularly interests me personally. What I find so utterly repellent about this review is the noxious torrent of idiocy that flows in the comments section below.

 

“…ever notice the least feminine looking women are the ones who are feminists?”

 

Says one commentator, as I repeatedly smash a steak mallet into my forehead. Just one comment of many, vitriolic in their disgust that Carolyn should so much as dare to bring the misogyny gun to bare on a game that, valid criticism aside, she goes on to describe as ‘beautiful, lively, diverse and stimulating’ – a fantastic title regardless.

 

In a rather bizarre turn of events her review prompted angry readers to call for her to be sacked. Fired, for expressing a justified opinion. To make clear her feelings that, though GTA is in many ways an exceptional title, it’s perhaps oh-so-slightly worse off for it’s depiction of women.

 

The unfortunate thing about this is that the comments themselves became as much of a ‘story’ as the game itself – and to the casual onlooker, those nasty comments paint a rather depressing, skewed and altogether unpleasant picture of what our community is like, what we as ‘gamers’ are really like.

 

Sure there are plenty of those in the comments section seeking to distance themselves from this ugly, but all too vocal minority – but the damage is done. It’s just one more, in a long history of examples of how, collectively, we are unable to conduct ourselves responsibly when anonymity and ill-considered ‘opinions’ collide.

 

Games journalists, critics and bloggers are not without blame in reinforcing this picture. I was recently dismayed by the press’ handling of Dragon’s Crown – more particularly the accusations levelled at it’s artwork. Now, I should point out, I’m probably not the best person to comment on sexism or the objectificatio of women in games – after all, I’m the person responsible for this article.

 

So, I’m not going to wade into the Dragon’s Crown debate with my own opinion other than to say ‘yes’ - the Sorceress’ breasts are rather large. ‘No’ the Amazon is not sexually attractive – and I’d question of the opinion of anyone who suggested she was supposed to be.

 

I’d also like to urge any journalists who suggest the game is ‘sexist’ to keep a dictionary to hand at all times.

 

Is there a case for Dragon’s Crown being singled out as a game which objectifies women? Possibly – were it not for the fact that the same groutesque art direction is applied to every character in the game – male, female, human or otherwise.

 

dragons-crown

 

I think what was never really addressed in the handling of Dragon’s Crown – or rather the real problem – was that often the use of the ‘sexism/objectification/feminism’ approach to this game had little to do with valid criticism but as a transparent attempt to generate controversy for no other reason than to attract traffic.

 

The desire to take the ‘easy’ path in the critical approach to the game, to find a way to court comment, to boost traffic was often chosen over and above a carefully reasoned analytical approach – which at once cheapens and debases the discussion of women’s representation in games altogether. None are more guilty of this than Kotaku.

 

“As you can see, the sorceress was designed by a 14-year-old boy. Perhaps game development studios should stop hiring teenagers? At least they’re cheap, I guess.”

 

Says Jason Schrier in his article about Dragon’s Crown titled Game Developers Really Need To Stop Letting Teenage Boys Design Their Characters. It’s a cheap shot loaded with a pre-concieved idea, a casual assumption of an artists intent behind his work. The article in question brought direct comment from the games artist George Kimitani – which unfortunately came loaded with a barb aimed at Schrier which can only be described as casually homophobic.

 

All very ill-advised, sure – but it’s this kind of tit-for-tat which our industry could well do without. The ‘Kotaku Incident’ around this game made both artist and critic demean themselves in an exchange which was little more sophisticated than a childish, playground squabble.

 

‘Look what George drew! She’s got big bewbs, I’m tellin’ teacher! ‘

 

‘Shaddap Jason – why U so gay?!’

 

‘Say you’re sorry! WAAAAAAH!’

 

etc etc etc.

 

They kissed an made up in the end. Presumably teacher made them shake hands in the staff-room after lunch-break. But honestly, how on earth did we get here? It’s a fucking embarrassment, frankly.

 

Now, speaking of playground squabbles, I’d like to address Microsoft’s E3 nightmare.

 

xbox-one-vs-n4g

 

You’re 12 years old. A fight takes pace between two kids you don’t even know. Up goes the chant – ‘fight! fight! fight!’ You don’t know who these kids are, what their argument is about. What their personal circumstances are even – but there you are, joining the pack like a hungry wolf cub. You have no interest in the fight itself perse – you’re just there for the excitement that surrounds the action.

 

Do you take a step back and, from the sidelines, suggest, sensibly, that perhaps ‘we all calm down and discuss this sensibly’? You could, but only if you want to invite the derision of your fellow onlookers – caught up in the surrounding frenzy.

 

I’m not going to go over my opinion of Microsoft’s Xbox One Announcements, as I’ve already done so here and here - but I am sympathetic to what they’ve been through since the summer. I think the sad thing is about this that we won’t know what Micrososft’s world of DRM, 24 hour log ins and pervy spy-cams would have been like.

 

What, exactly, would Microsoft’s ‘future’ have entailed? What impact it would have had? We’ll never know.

 

That upsets me. I don’t want an Xbox One that’s been changed to be more more like a PS4. I want an Xbox One that Microsoft genuinely believes is the right direction – regardless if that turns out to be for better or for worse.

 

What if Valve had said, ‘oh, okay, we’ll shut down Steam’ after all the criticism they faced in the early days? I’d wager those who were initially so;

 

‘This-Steam-shit-is-a-fucking-abortion’

 

are the very same people who are;

 

‘enjoying-it-a-lot-now-thank-you-very-much’.

 

Microsoft’s biggest mistake wasn’t its stance on used games – rather, firstly underestimating just how many rabid imbiceles there are on the internet – and then secondly, taking the internet’s tanturm on board and allowing it to completely change the nature of their new console’s business.

 

Did that really happen? Did Microsoft really read N4G and GameFAQs and then go – ‘yeah, we should probably listen to those guys.’

 

Really?!

 

microsoft-vs-E3

 

Through sheer volume alone – Angry Internet managed to make one of the world’s most powerful tech companies change direction. I’m not 100% certain that’s a good thing – especially when Angry Internet has a history of being a bit of a dick.

 

Take poor Crytek for example. The community manager recently tweeted that 11, 500 dinners were served while the team was crunching to get Ryse ready for launch. Here it is, in case you missed it;

 

tweet

 

Now I can’t speak for everyone – but personally, I read that as ‘We’re working really hard to finish a game for you’. The internet read it as:

 

How dare you work so hard and then tell us about it. The fact that you’re working so hard is a fucking disgrace to you, and everyone involved in games development. Your hard work disgusts us.

 

I get it. Crunching isn’t funny. Not seeing your spouse, friends and kids because you’re working so much is nothing to be proud of. But the fact is, for this game, for the developers of Ryse – that’s the situation they’re in. Does this insincere outrage at an innocent tweet help? No, no it doesn’t.

 

Is it just one more layer of aggrievation that Crytek feels it could really do without right now? Of course it is.

 

These people aren’t tweeting responses becuse they have a burning desire to help – they’re tweeting responses because they like the sound of their own voice, want to revel in a little controversy while they hurl lumps of their own feces from the moral high-ground.

 

I could pick out plenty of other examples – but I won’t. WordPress tells me I’m already at 1500 words, and nobody wants to read any more of this crap – least of all me – so I’ll end with this final thought:

 

Back when I was a kid when someone disagreed with me that the Mega Drive was better than the SNES I had the luxury of being able to throw a ham sandwich at Jeremy Walter’s forehead (sorry Jeremy) before kicking him REALLY HARD in the testicles at lunchtime.

 

You can’t do this over the internet. Instead you get to write things like:

 

Forum Capture

 

The internet itself is not an arbiter of good taste. Whatever you put out there sticks. Comments can quickly gain audience. Can be read by anyone who passes by – games enthusiast or not.

 

How does it look to you? More to the point, how does it make us all look to the objective observer?

 

Mercifully, the games industry is a comparatively young creative industry – even compared to film. It’s still finding its feet. Coming to terms with its own language and critical theory. It’ll get there, but until that happens we have a responsibility to conduct ourselves properly – lest our industry descend in into farce.

 

Anyway, to surmise – because, I’m really, really bored of typing now  - there’s one golden rule we can all remember to employ before we put finger to keyboard. As my dear old grandmother would have said;

 

don't be a dick

 

 

This feature was brought to you by ILJG who runs the I Love Japanese Games Facebook Page.

His views are definitely not those held by Rice Digital or it’s partners. He will forget about this stuff and resume posting pictures of hot girls at his earliest convenience.