I read an article about Anita Sarkeesian being harassed at a panel by Gamer Gaters, and it doesn’t surprise me at all. She’s become a lightning rod for all the problems hidden within the gaming community, and she’s dealt with a ton of harassment, much of it vile. She was targeted from the beginning when she announced that she was going to look at games from a feminist perspective because she loved games. That was it. It was enough to get the haters hating her, and someone made a game that allowed the player to beat up Anita. Before she even had one video, the hatred was intense, and it made me wonder why gamers’ egos were so fucking fragile. When her first video came out, I watched it. It wasn’t terrific, but she had a couple good points. I’ve watched a few more, and I’ve had the same conclusion every time. She makes some good points, but she’s overly broad (ha!) in her assessments. Also, she needs work on her presentation.
That said, there are a ton of problems with game and representation. Not just of women, but of any minority. Ian once asked me why I spent an hour customizing my avatar, for Mass Effect, I believe it was, when I can’t see my character as I play. It’s hard to explain why I do it, and I do it for every game when it’s possible. My favorite avatar is from Saints Row IV because she looks like me if you squint and as long as I keep sunglasses on her. I was so in love with her, I took dozens of pictures. Because of her, I liked the game even more than I normally would. Here’s the thing about representation. It does really fucking matter. Whether it’s movies or books or video games, seeing people like me makes a difference. Being invisible in media is a way of society saying, “You don’t matter. I don’t see you, and I don’t care.” It’s hard to explain if you’ve consistently had representation in media how alienating it is not to see yourself anywhere. I was watching RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix, and it would occasionally show an ad for one of its shows. I would say, “It’s white people doing white people thing!” Every fucking ad was predominantly white people. It’s 20 fucking 17, and I will not watch something without people of color in it. It’s really that simple. There is no excuse for it, and it’s just willful at this point.
Back to video games. It’s funny how the assholes bleating about special snowflakes (those of us who want diversity in video games) are the same ones who are upset when, say, Mafia III deals with racism in America. At the last E3 conference, there were three games coming out that I knew would piss off the Gamer Gaters. Gators? Whatever. Far Cry 5, Assassin’s Creed Origins, and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. The enemy in the first game is far-right Americans; the second is set in Egypt with mostly non-white characters, and the third is set in America in the sixties, and the leading character of the American resistance in a black woman with a big Afro. The minute I heard about the last game, I tweeted:
Between Far Cry 5, Asscreed Origins, and Wolfenstein, the right-winger tears are going to be delicious.
— Minna Hong (@asiangrrlMN) June 12, 2017
Little did I know how right I was, especially about the first and third game. The tears were free-flowing and copious. So much wailing about how victimized the right-wingers were by these three games. It’s funny how quickly they played the identity politics card when they felt they were being targeted for who they were. I saw a hilarious tweet about the last game in which the person was lamenting how Wolfenstein was jumping on the killing Nazis bandwagon and setting it in America. Wolfenstein, for those who don’t know, has always been about killing Nazis! Let’s be clear–it’s the black woman leading the resistance part that really bothers the fuck out of them. It’s also depressing that they think any game with a person of color in the lead is a slap in their face, but that’s white dude entitlement for you.
Here’s the thing, though. I’m about to bait-and-switch you right here. Whatever problems games themselves have with diversity, the problem is worse in the gaming community. If you watch YouTubers and/or Twitchers (Twitch streamers? Twitchies? Whatevs), an overwhelming proportion of them are white dudes, mostly straight. I’m working on a theory tentatively called the Theory of Dudes*, and it is as follows: Dudeness is multiplied exponentially by each dude added to the mix. There was a popular YouTuber I watched who was great on his own or with one or two of his friends, but when he added more, it went downhill. In addition, his personality went from casual and chill to sarcastic, antagonistic, and better-than-thou. Anyway, what killed it for me was when the boys were talking about which food staple they would get rid of (rice, bread, pasta, or potato). It was just one of those silly things, but one of the guys, the one I cannot stand because he is convinced he’s right about everything with so little to back him up, said, “Well, obviously, it can’t be bread or pasta. It has to be rice, right?” I rolled my eyes so hard, I sprained my eyeballs. It was such an insular, ignorant American opinion, I couldn’t take it any longer.** Just because HE didn’t like rice, he figured everyone else could do without it, too. Yes, it’s a silly example, but it was just the icing on the cake. I quit watching this YouTuber and all his friends for good.
I’ve watched quite a few female YouTubers, desperate to find one I like. Unfortunately, most of the ones who’ve made it big or semi-big try to out-dude the guys. One I watched kept calling everyone bitch (including herself) throughout the video, and I couldn’t watch more than a few minutes. The women seem to think they have to be cruder and louder than the guys, or they rely on their boobs. It’s really discouraging because I want to find a woman I like. Kay Plays (in the link) is one, but I wish there were others.
Even worse, most of games journalists are also white dudes. I’ve watched videos from IGN, Game Informer, Giant Bomb, and other magazines. Most of them are white dudes. They’re really good at what they do, and I enjoy several of the shows, but I can’t help noticing how white and male they are. And, I have to ignore or overlook some common things because they’re lads doing laddy things. So many guys; so little time. There’s a Korean American woman, Chloi Rad, with IGN whom I simply adore. She’s an avid Souls player with a low, husky voice, and she’s so chill in her videos. I could watch her for hours. Plus, she won the IGN who can kill the Taurus Demon the fastest challenge. Yaaaas, Queen! I’m on her side because she’s a sister, obviously, but I also love the fact that she’s low-key, doesn’t try to mug it up or glam it up (though she’s beautiful), and she knows her shit. She also loves to play as a melee character, but she doesn’t shit on casters.
I will watch anything she’s in, and that’s representation, folks. A strong, beautiful, take no shit, knowledgeable, intelligent Asian woman with low-key attitude. I want more of this and other diversity. I don’t think it’s too much to ask, but I’m not sure I’ll get it any time soon. The gaming world is an insular one, and the growing pains will be prolonged. It’s hard to break out of it when it’s all around you, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Again, I’m not putting any of it on the individuals because most of them seem like really good dudes. However, it’s the institution that is overwhelmingly white, male, and straight, and I don’t see THAT being overturned in the near future.
I have to mention Austin Walker at Waypoint. He’s conscientiously trying to bring diversity into games, and I respect him for that.
*Look, I’m still working on it. I suck at names.
**To be fair, one of the other guys, a Canadian pointed out that they were four white dudes in the Americas making the comments. Still.