Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer: My Opinion On Why We Should Be Wary Of Opinions In Gaming News

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Opinion pieces or editorials have become a huge part of journalism in recent years. With a lot journalism moving online, and the rise of social media, journalists and writers have been able to have more interaction with their readers than ever before. Journalism has gone beyond just reporting on current events or people of interest, it has moved to wanting to provoke discussion and promote ideas to it’s readership. In actuality this is nothing new, as much as we like to think journalists have a responsibility to deliver news with impartiality and integrity the influence of news media is a well known and documented occurrence.

Of course these days it’s expected that opinion and news be kept separate. However this is something that video game media seems to find very difficult. Long have gamers lamented the rise of the click-bait article in gaming journalism with game sites being seemingly unable to report on what’s happening in the game industry without injecting opinion, conjecture and sensationalism. The problems of the game media, a medium still in it’s infancy, are many and game journalists do not usually come to the medium through traditional journalism means. These journalists rarely have any qualification or education in journalism, they are often bloggers with a modicum of talent that got lucky.

One of the favourite things these journalists and pop culture critics like to do is to make opinion based videos or write opinion pieces about video games, particularly in the context of social issues. This in itself is no bad thing, discussion of video games in the wider context of society is of interest to a great many people and can be fascinating as an exercise in critical thinking if done well. In my experience (and opinion) gamers are very open to thinking critically and understanding relationships of cause and effect. I’d even go as far as to say it’s something that long term gaming actually improves, gamers become conditioned to logically view causality in relationships and to ask for evidence and verification. Gamer logic is a very real thing, we immediately acknowledge that choices have consequences and that events can have recognisable indicators, we joke and even make memes about it.

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But here’s the thing, in the land of the opinion piece it is the emotion and not the fact that is king. The idea of any opinion piece is to express a point of view, an emotional response, however increasingly they are also becoming a tool to ‘sell’ a point of view to an audience. Any good opinion piece will explore the opinion, it’s origins and context and any supporting evidence or examples it may have. A great opinion piece will examine differing points of view and may even give the appearance of a balanced perspective. However, it is always worth remembering with any opinion piece that the writer has already made up their minds. They’re not examining evidence in order to formulate a point of view, they already have one and want to lead you to understand it and maybe feel the same way. Why would they be writing the piece otherwise? Some may even go as far as to dress up that opinion as fact or critical analysis by peppering it with academic terminology and buzz words to make it sound more credible. Does it give an opinion more validity to add the bells and whistles? That’s really up to you, as the reader, to decide whether the writer has the knowledge, experience and integrity to give their opinion any validity.

For example, I LOVE Star Trek. Right now I could write an entire piece about how Star Trek can be used as a Buddhist propaganda tool.  I could talk about how the prevalent plot point in Star Trek being that the human race of the future had left behind Earth religions in exchange for the pursuit of enlightenment through scientific and cultural exploration and co-operation with other races. I could talk about how the absence of a ‘God’ and the focus on humanity working together to benefit the whole rather than pursuit of individual happiness or wealth is a clear representation of the Buddhist concept of karma and the four noble truths of Buddhism. I could write about how there’s clear evidence of karma and even reincarnation in that the same faces often appear in Star Trek, such as the characters of Colonel West in Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country and Odo in Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Both characters were played by the same actor, Rene Auberjonois.

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Another example would be the characters of Admiral Cartwright in Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country and Joseph Sisko in Star Trek Deep Space Nine, both played by Brock Peters.

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Both Colonel West and Admiral Cartwright were villains attempting to ruin a peace treaty between warring alien races, karma wise they both had a lot to answer for. The Buddhist karmic principles of people who have done wrong being reincarnated in order to lead better lives would fit. In conclusion Star Trek promotes a future in which Buddhist ideals of the importance of the whole rather than the one (the needs of the many…) the emphasis on mutual co-operation and exploration of other cultures rather than a blind faith in a divine entity and the fundamental Buddhist principles of karma and reincarnation.

And what does any of that mean? Absolutely nothing. In fact worse than nothing because it ignores the intentions of the creator of Star Trek, Gene Rodenberry, a dedicated secular humanist.

Any opinion, any review, any critique, any analysis of art only has value and importance if it is given them by those that read it. It is up to us as consumers to read an opinion, analyse any data provided, do our own research and verification into the subject and the writer’s credibility and make a decision about whether or not that opinion really means anything. This is equally true if we disagree with the opinion as it is if we agree, how many times have we seen opinion pieces that are written in response to other opinion pieces? By acknowledging the opinion and giving it attention, for good or bad, we give it meaning. We give it a larger audience, we give it POWER.

So how does this all fit into the context of video game journalism? Well in my opinion (getting kind of meta now) there seems to be a clear problem with the way that video game news is presented. Video game journalism sites seemingly cannot or will not stop the personal opinions and prejudices of the writers bleeding through into the news items.  If you look at many gaming news websites like Kotaku and Polygon there are often labels above articles as to whether they are a news item or an opinion piece but looking at some of the news items there seems to be clear intention of some writers to only provide news through the lens of their own perspective and an inability to present news without bias. While researching opinion pieces I stumbled across this, a guide on how to write an opinion piece, I then compared it with some of the items labelled as news on game journalism sites, such as this. The guide defines an opinion piece as ” a type of guest column, expressing an opinion rather than a news item. Op-eds tend to be lively and provocative and are written in a more conversational style than regular news items.” Looking at the news item example above it is written very conversationally and it seems very clear that the writer has some very definite opinions on the sale of video games that have been recovered from a land-fill.

So why is this a problem? The video game media is under a massive amount of scrutiny right now, it’s reader base is beginning to recognise the problems in video game news media sites and ask that those problems be rectified. However instead of listening to it’s audience and making the required changes the media is stubbornly burying it’s head in the sand and refusing to admit that any problems exist, even attacking their own audience for daring to question them. Video game media writers are not interested in learning how to deliver news without bias. Instead they consider their own opinions, their own feelings, to be more important than delivering game news with impartiality and integrity, even at the expense of gamers. If this is the way that video game media, those that are supposed to represent and advocate on behalf of gamers, treats it’s own demographic then is it any wonder that this attitude is starting to seep out into the wider news media? Why is it “fitting” for these gamers to have been robbed at gunpoint while queuing for a game? It seems to imply, in the least, that they deserved it for their choice of game.

In conclusion, opinion pieces have their place in gaming media but we as consumers should be wary of giving them too much credence. They are too often used not to examine a point of view but to market one. Look at evidence yourselves, examine, analyse, verify. It is no bad thing to question the opinions offered to us in these pieces, neither is it bad to have our own opinions questioned. Critical thinking and analysis is a wonderful thing but it should remain separate from actual gaming news stories, which should be delivered without prejudice or bias. However maybe you don’t agree, maybe you think I’m an idiot or perhaps even crazy for spending paragraphs rambling about Star Trek and Buddhism. But you know what? That’s ok, because it’s only my opinion ;o)

Thanks For Reading

Angela

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Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer. “Feminism/Video Game Community is dead!” NOT TODAY

What IS Feminism?

What IS Video Game Community?

For some time now I have been meaning to write down what it is that feminism, and gaming, means to me. With things being how they are at the moment now seemed as good a time as any. I came into feminism as part of the third wave about five years ago, I have played video games all my life but I only really became active in the video game community at around the same time, mostly on twitter. I listened and spoke to feminist speakers and read feminist literature, I shared my stories about street harassment and sexism. I also talked about gaming on twitter and made great friends doing so, I was an active participant in the No DRM campaign during the next (now current) console generation reveals. I became a part of the gaming community.

So first to feminism, yes I came in on the third wave but I have never understood the need to demonise men or exclude them from the conversation. In fact to me that always seemed to be self defeating, if the goal is equality isn’t working together with men necessary for that? Plus there are an awful lot of men that I rather like and who’s opinions I care about and respect. I have always believed the majority of men to be good people who just want to get on with life the best they can, same as the rest of us. I have also come to find the concept of privilege slightly baffling mainly because it seems dependent on things that are very much out of the control of the person with the perceived privilege, after all who is in control of what colour skin they have or what gender they were born as? As time has gone by I have begun to see feminism experience a huge backlash, with hashtags such as #WomenAgainstFeminism and some women abandoning feminism as they feel it no longer represents them. Some are naturally adverse to feminism because of it’s female-centric focus, believing that the focus on the female gender often comes at the expense of the male. Add into that TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) a small subset of feminists that believe that trans women are men that have fetishised female genitals and are trying to invade female-only safe spaces (such as bathrooms or changing rooms) and trick gay women into having sex with them. I have seen terminology traditionally associated with feminist scholars, such as ‘patriarchy’ ‘privilege’ and ‘the male gaze’, co-opted and corrupted by shady journalists, wannabe celebrities and shameless pop culture critics to sell their own twisted ideologies. They have claimed to give a voice to women but in reality it is only the ones who’s narrative supports their own, all women that dissent or disagree are excluded. In short, that is not feminism, that is cronyism.

So while there are things about modern feminism that I wholeheartedly reject I still am happy to give myself the feminist label, why? Mainly because for me feminism is very much a personal thing, I read the theories, I speak to people and examine differing perspectives, I even look at those who reject feminism and I cherry pick the ideas that I like and discard the ones I don’t. I do this while trying to keep my ideas fluid and open to new information and perspectives, after all, if you become too deeply entrenched in a particular idea it’s very hard to change it even if you want to. Above I asked the question “What IS feminism?” but perhaps a better question would be what is MY feminism? Yes the very core of feminism is supposed to mean equality but there are plenty that support equality that DO NOT support feminism. With all that in mind here are my core principles as a feminist.

1. MEN ARE NOT THE ENEMY

I am a feminist, not a misandrist. I do not hate or even dislike men. In fact I don’t really see how equality can be attained WITHOUT men. Some of the language used in modern feminism can be very adversarial with all it’s talk of ‘male privilege’ and ‘male allies’. Some choose to shame men for having perceived ‘privilege’ in an attempt to invalidate male perspective and silence men from the discussion. I believe this is WRONG. Some feminists choose to blame men for all the ills of the world but we are all one species, human. It is the human race that made this world, if there are things about that world that are unfair then that is on all of us to put it right. The blaming and shaming of men in modern feminism is counter productive because it only creates resentment from men and from OTHER WOMEN as well. The ‘teach men not to rape’ narrative, while laudable in it’s idea of educating all teenagers what constitutes healthy relationships and sexual consent, is unhelpful in that it makes the dangerous assumption that only men are capable of behaving in a predatory way. It does not assume that all men rape but it does assume that ONLY men rape. As far as gender equality is concerned, I recognise that while some aspects of law and society are skewed in favour of men, such as political representation and equal pay,there are also aspects that are skewed in favour of women, such as parental responsibility and family courts. Labeling men that support third wave ideology as ‘allies’ also does not sit well with me, because what is the opposite of an ally? An enemy. I don’t see men as my enemy, they are my husband, my dad, my brother, even my son. Only by including and working with men can we make things more fair for everyone. Only by actually engaging with men, not treating them as inferiors, can we  ALL gain an understanding of what changes need to be made and why.

2. I RESPECT CHOICE

I have a very mixed group of followers on Twitter, even some anti-feminists and #WomenAgainstFeminism You know why? Because I respect that everybody has the choice not to feel the same way that I do. How do we make an opinion? We create it based on information we have assimilated from research or other people and from our own experiences. Therefore, since everyone’s experience and the perceptions formed by those are unique, everyone’s idea of what constitutes ‘equality’ will be different. I understand that everyone believes their perceptions to be valuable. No one likes to be silenced or to be told their opinion means nothing, I certainly don’t. But here’s the thing, rejecting feminism does not mean rejecting equality. I see some feminists bullying other women for rejecting feminist ideology, they tell them they don’t understand or that they have internalised misogyny or even that they  owe a debt to feminism and should be grateful. I cannot get behind this, my perspective is not more important than anyone else’s. I am pro-choice and I respect women’s rights to have control over their body. I am sex positive and respect every woman’s right to celebrate and enjoy their own body and sexuality. To disagree respectfully is not an attack, it is not harassment, it is not abuse. Everyone has the right to disagree with me and to assume they do so only because they can’t think for themselves is disingenuous. A friend of mine told me recently that feminists, egalitarians and male rights advocates must all exist in order to maintain a balance, and that the trick is whether or not we can all live together. I think there might be some truth in that, you are welcome to disagree.

3. I AM NOT SPECIAL

Being a woman does not make me special, it does not mean that I am not responsible for choices I make, it does not mean I deserve special treatment. Being a woman, or a feminist, does not make me better than anybody else. I am responsible only for my own actions and it is up to me to deal with the consequences of those actions. I am not weak and I do not need anybody else to speak for me. If something is not to my personal taste that does not mean it is evil or should not exist. I make rude jokes, I laugh, I fart. I reject the feminism that says I am supposed to be afraid all the time, of men, of patriarchy, of being offended, of being hurt. Have bad things happened to me because I am a woman? Yes. Who is to blame for that? The people that committed those acts and no one else. I believe in feminism that promotes empowerment, not fear. I am a woman, THAT DOES NOT MEAN I AM A VICTIM.

How does any of this connect to video game culture? Well in the last few years the video game community has also taken some heat, certainly recently with the #GamerGate consumer revolt (of which I am a supporter) Gamers have been labelled as entitled for daring to question what is being offered to them or disagree with the practices of the industry and it’s media. Video game community has also been co-opted and twisted, often by the same shady journalists, celebs and pop culture critics as feminism. The gamer identity has been under a sustained assault from those that would bully and silence gamers, using the shield of the modern, twisted, sex-negative feminism to do it. I have played video games my entire life, I would come home from having a bad time at school and play Mario, I would come home from High School and play the original Tomb Raider on PC (and get so angry spending hours wandering around trying to find the secret area containing the lever that opened up the next part) I went to arcades with my (now) husband when we were dating and played House Of The Dead, Vampire Night and Southpark pinball. I play games now on my PS3 and PC. In the last few years I have met and interacted with the most amazingly rich, diverse, welcoming group of people that exists in the online community of gamers. Yes they’re a passionate bunch and very likely to tell you when they don’t agree with something. Yes a lot of them can argue about seemingly the daftest of things. Yes we can get pretty crazy about particular games or brands that we like. The thing is though? We all share a deep love of the games. People may make assumptions about us, people may mock us, sadly sometimes people even fear us, but we are a community. A group of people connected by a shared love, a shared hobby that has been a part of our lives.

So it’s time to take them back.

I say now is the time to reclaim the ideas of feminism and video game community. Now is the time to wrestle them back from those who would use them to promote twisted ideologies while lining their own pockets, from those that would use them to bully and silence those who refuse to toe the party line and fit into their little cliques. Retake feminism for empowerment, equality, common sense and reason and video game community for diversity, inclusivity,  imagination and FUN. Now is the time to fight for what we love. Everyone of us has a voice, USE IT! Do not look for heroes, BE THE HEROES. Feminism and Video Game Community, they’re not as different as you think.

Thank you for reading

Angela