In Which Women Are People, and Something Something Gaming
Throughout the last couple weeks, I’ve been silent on the whole GamerGate thing while at the same time feeling obligated to comment on it here, because hey, geek site run by geek women, many of us gamers in many forms. We’ve been quiet this whole summer for several reasons, some personal and some purely circumstantial.
The last few weeks have seen a lot of rage, from protests in Ferguson to Ray Rice to the veritable explosion of commentary on gaming and the vitriolic toxin-blasts within gamer culture. Oh, and the whole 4Chan “we love personal privacy unless BOOBS” thing.
It’s really, really exhausting.
I’ve started probably four posts on subjects in this radius of topics and gave up halfway through each one because it’s just so tiring to say the same thing over and over again.
People with more mental bandwidth than I to expend on these things have already written a metric shit ton of pieces about it. I won’t rehash it all here, but I did have three points that I needed to make and am simultaneously really, really tired of having to make. The third one is the one that should probably be blasted through PA systems around the world until humanity finally gets it through our collectively thick skull.
There have always been women gamers.
Let’s just get this shit straight right now, mmmkay? Women gamers have always existed. I’ve been gaming since I was about 6 and would play Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt with two of my oldest friends. Later it was Super Mario World and Legend of the Seven Stars and Spyro and motherfucking Donkey Kong and Diablo and anything I could get my paws on/afford. I’ve always known other girls and women who played games. Sure, that’s anecdotal, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
For a long, long time in a galaxy way too close to home, there’s been this assumption and stereotype that gamer was synonymous with male, and, let’s face it, basement dwelling male at that. But They Who Enjoy Games have NEVER been a monolithic demographic in any way, and saying so is just blatantly false and pointlessly myopic.
And as of this year, adult women actually make up the plurality demographic (36%, which you can compare to teen men at 17% and also note that women buy an even 50% of games), and that’s NOT anecdotal. Here, have a source. Oh, and adult women have been playing games on average for 13 years, so in case anyone’s about to squawk something about Candy Crush or Farmville, go ahead and just keep that comment in your pants, because none of that existed yet in the pre-iPhone universe known as the early 2000s. Women have been gaming on computers, on Xbox, on Playstation, on Nintendo, in dungeons with dragons, and wherever back to cave days where games probably consisted of hitting rocks with sticks.
Here, in the wide yonder of the 21st century, people are flailing and frothing about how uncomfortable it makes them to admit that there isn’t a secret society combination of being white with a penis and boobs on the brain that magically invokes the relevance required to be represented uninsultingly in a video game.
Actually, when spelled out that way it makes this whole thing look as clearly pathetic as it is.
So. Women and other minorities have been playing games that didn’t acknowledge us for a long time. Freaking out about games starting to be more inclusive is like insisting on driving your car Flintstones style. Get with the program. Evolve a little.
Escapism doesn’t have a target demographic.
A lot of the mewling I’ve seen about anyone daring to suggest that maybe women shouldn’t just be relegated to being victims or bouncing boobies in games has been along the lines of “BUT ESCAPISM!”
Newsflash. Escapism doesn’t have “ONLY FOR STRAIGHT WHITE DUDES” scribbled across it in red paint. Escapism doesn’t have a target demographic. And as I mentioned before, other people besides straight white dudes like to play video games. Escapism isn’t very escape-y when the only images you see of people like you in games are creepy dead-but-still-sexily posed bodies of women or people of color being the bad guys or whatever the hell it is this week. Or the domestic violence/rape-y crap. That sucks. Especially for abuse and rape survivors, male or female.
And when people fire back with “BUT REALISM!” Just…NO.
If you want to dig into that mentality, what does it say about people who insist that worlds where women are nothing but sex objects and victims are the higher reality art should emulate? At best, that they’re okay with the worst parts of human existence. At worst, that they glorify it. That’s just a teensy bit disgusting. Try harder. Make better art.
I’ve said it about novels, and I’ll say it about games: if you can’t imagine a world without the toxic, repugnant -isms of the world we live in yet insist on dragons, limitless ammo and health packs that fix broken bones, zombies, aliens, or WHATEVER, then you’re not going for realism. You’re just really, really lazy, and frankly, unimaginative. To continually create fantasy worlds (yes, even military shooters are fantasy worlds) which fall along the exact same failing lines as our society is laziness. Are we that arrogant as a species to think that if we found sentient life on another planet that they’d have the exact same flaws as we do? Or that in a second world fantasy that women would just be “whores”*? Never mind the fact that much like my “there have always been women gamers” comment, women have always fought.
As I’ve said before, there’s plenty of room on this blue dot for all of us. There’s no one suggesting that the sky is falling to reveal a dearth of white stubbled male protags in video games. As noted in Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the literal worst case scenario here is having to click male or female on the next Halo or Call of Duty or Gears of War (that link is worth reading in full). And maybe some less background boobage. Which if you have a problem with, please to remember that there are any number of lovely humans out there who are quite happy to show their real, non-CGI bodies to the internet ON PURPOSE and consensually and for the titillation of whoever the hell wants to view them. (Tumblr, content lock off. Not that difficult. See also: multibillion dollar porn industry.) NOT seeing them in videogames as much is not going to ruin the world.
Women are people.
This is the final thing, and it’s really kind of sickening that it has to be reiterated ad nauseum because a significant percentage of the population doesn’t seem to understand it. Janay Rice is a person who has complex thoughts and emotions. Telling her to “just leave” her husband discounts all of those complex thoughts and emotions and is also really insensitive to the difficulties of “just leaving” an abuser, especially when your child has half their DNA.
Women are human beings. We are born, we interact with our parents and society and life and shape ourselves into adults. We have thoughts, aspirations, hopes, dreams, and don’t actually fart rainbows (sorry, not sorry). We eat and go to the bathroom and sometimes barf. We read books and write books, build things and paint things. We raise children and we raise plants and we raise walls from timbers. We dig outhouses and carry water. We cook things and burn other things and sometimes combine the two. We can lift heavy objects and open jars. We might shrug at a broken nail or get annoyed by it. We wear makeup or don’t. We wear skirts or pants or both or neither. We have bodies of all types that bring us joy, frustration, pride, happiness, pleasure, and pain.
We exist. Culture doesn’t have to be made with us in mind for us to consume it. And indeed, women are not a monolithic demographic either, as evidenced by the fact that women can love everything from hunting to lipstick to guns to games to science to haircuts to zombies to fart humor to nail polish to dresses to Carharts to vintage cars to LEGO to history to languages to dragons to trees to fashion to flowers to steak to cats to dogs to dinosaurs and sometimes all of those things at once because women, like other people-creatures, ARE NOT LIMITED TO BEING SIMPLY ONE THING AT A TIME.
I’ll give you a second to recover from that mind-blowing assertion.
Are we back yet?
Games are for everyone. Get over it and go play something.
Comments are off because of reasons obvious to anyone who has been following any of this stuff.
*Sex workers are human beings too. They are more than a label and deserve to be treated with the same dignity as anyone else. Also, it’s a pretty grim depiction of them when their primary role is to get dead. Ugh.
And where the fuck is our Black Widow movie?