Changing Culture for Better Gamers

You might have noticed my Reblog the other day regarding the post Better Gamers for a Better community  and I agree with the sentiment wholeheartedly. In part, as gamers and part of the culture it is up to us to stand up for any injustices we might see or actions we don’t agree with. Be the change you want to see.. or some such new age nonsense. But, unfortunately it isn’t that easy.

Sometimes you’ve just had enough of the endless vitriol and stupidity and honestly I feel as though in my free time with gaming it is a time when I want to relax. Sure I don’t mind putting on the feminazi hat and cloak of +4 Bitch and lambast a few idiots but most of the time I don’t feel like dealing with the social issues of the gaming industry and I think that’s how most people feel. It’s our own time and one in which we would like to spend in the way we want and having fun. I don’t ask people to do any less than I would do, which is to say occasionally make their counter points against such misogynist arguments in a calm but critical way (well how I wish I could anyway).

As Doone also stated in the comments there is a component of fear there. The fear of retribution or worse, that the abuse will become focused on you instead… Which so often happens. Gaming when you’re constantly being attacked, and attacked with some rather horrendous stuff really ruins everything about that game, the community adn can kill gaming interest in general. Sometimes it is something you can’t escape either and that will follow you along between matches, games and onto other media channels. It is this fear, fear of confrontation and about ruining your time, your gaming enjoyment that keeps people from speaking out and honestly I don’t blame people for wanting to avoid that. I will thank the people from the bottom of my heart that do stand up, even in the face of such stupidity as being called a white knight, or “politically correct” for wanting to create a more inclusive space but not expect it.

Mostly, I just tend to avoid the games and communities were such things are an issue now. I don’t bother with the Moba genre based on experience from one and hearsay from the others. I don’t get as involved with shooters any more and when I do it’s usually without a mic and most everyone muted. It’s just not worth the aggravation. I know I put on the brave face here, I do love to troll and cause mischief but there is a huge difference between that and the outright hostility that is often part of these communities. I shouldn’t have to become some emotionless, unfeeling zombie in order to stomach the level of hatred in these communities, that’s not something I want to be nor should I have to be. Sometimes I do go out there with my big girl panties on, bravely facing the world and furthering the cause, increasing the level of visibility but mostly I’m just happy to be left alone in my multi-player fun.

It would be nice to have more people out there to stand with, and against the forces that come against us. Being a larger group standing against such things would make the bullying lose much of its power and this is slowly changing. Yes, we constantly say gamers should grow the fuck up and that is part of the equation, there still is a lot of abuse around in many communities, especially when you get into the more competitive areas but it is slowly improving in many areas.  Mostly though, I don’t think it is entirely up to gamers to elicit such drastic change on the gaming culture, I think the industry first has to grow up to foster this change

There is little diversity within the field and I would have to say this is a complete cop-out. Taking the safest possible route to appease certain investors by having a white male protagonist when I don’t think it’s the draw it used to be or ever was. The gaming industry and the people who play games are a lot more diverse than that and as such, I think it’s doing a disservice to gamers by not treating us with more faith. I would like to think that it is being a good game that sells titles, yes there are some rather obnoxious outliers to this, and marketing can and does have a huge effect but when equalising these factors I would think it is the better game that becomes more financially successful regardless of a protagonists ethnicity, orientation or gender.

A rather popular panel in this years GDC was by Bioware Developer Manveer Heir who made an impassioned plea for encouraging diversity in the industry with the choices and design decisions that are made. He debunked a few of the prominent arguments that often get spouted and enlisted his fellow developers to change with a few suggestions. It sounded like a great presentation, one that I would wish to see if GDC wasn’t such a tight ass with its panel footage. I hear a lot about this within the gaming media, from certain one off events but I really want to see far more of this.

This is where I believe change needs to begin within the industry, it’s all good for players to put themselves in harm but when it’s not being supported by design of characters and mechanics as well as the marketing then it’s that won’t enlist that much change. They say media is a mirror of the culture it is developed in and while this is true to an extent I think it is overly simplistic to say. Any media is so much more than this and an interactive medium, one in which you have an unparalleled connection with the characters actions and choice involved is a domain that can change popular opinion and thought in a rather drastic fashion.

“It impacts how people treat each other in real life, and I really think that this matters. And no, it’s not just video games that cause this. But we do our part, right?”

Now that is not to say every game has to be some sort of in-depth look into particular cultures or shoving certain themes down the viewers throat, that serves nobody. It’s just to say that maybe, variations in characters should be more prominent and the story themselves should be presented in an interesting and humanistic way to support it. Just as with other characters being a girl, gay, a native american, or a mentally challenged tomato can and is part of the background. The way the character interacts with the world, their dialogue with others, the design and mechanics and there are other far more nuanced ways to show this.

The other part I think needs to change is the communication from developers and the level of control in the community aspects. I’ve had enough with this laissez-faire attitude of developers and such with how they control their forums and game chat channels, or even the recklessness with what they say in interviews and social media channels. In game especially is where things should change as clearly the types of things that are being said should clearly not be allowed, they are exclusionary to a large population and create a rather dangerous image of gamers in the public. It is no-ones right to say such things and they are not supported by law or any other government statute. Changing the type of dialogue is an important part in changing a certain behaviour or culture and it is up to the companies themselves to moderate this though whatever means they deem acceptable.

Some companies have started seeing the benefit of this but I don’t believe they go far enough just yet. Riot has been at the front of change, spurned on by their own toxic community and they are doing some great work but most of what I see there is focussed on the worst rather than the daily conversation of their community. It’s a hard thing to change, this culture is ingrained within many gamers and they will fight to maintain it. This is why in the end it comes down to changing the systems that support the culture rather than battling it from within. I don’t believe I’ll stop fighting for it, or that my level of involvement will lessen. I’ll still be apart where I can but it needs support from the industry itself, from moderators, developers, marketers, artists and everyone else involved to elicit any meaningful change within a reasonable time frame.

#Sexism #Gaming #Culture

5 thoughts on “Changing Culture for Better Gamers

  1. Assholes, misogyny, heteronormativity, etc. seem to exist in all facets of the Internet, and I sometimes wonder if there’s a better way to approach the issue. Individual grassroots efforts are likely to be the most effective means for random joe-schmoe and jane-schmane to effect change in their own fiefdom, so for us gamers we end up focusing our efforts in-game, but it seems to be a larger cultural issue than just gaming in specific.

    But I agree with you whole-heartedly that it’s not just the domain of the player to effect change in gaming culture. The ball is firmly in court of the companies developing and selling games and services. Something as simple as an effective group-kick system empowers those random folks to elicit change within their own environments, and I’m looking forward to see what other tools get generated.

    However, that all relies on the idea that developers see something wrong with the status quo. A friend of mine was at the GDC panel where Manveer Heir made his speech, and it was heartening to see him post on Facebook how he could be better in his own game development, and note where he failed in the past. Hopefully more developers take note, but seeing people within the industry start to stand up and take note is awesome. We just need to keep the pressure to support those efforts where they exist, and malign or not purchase products where those efforts are at least being actively resisted, if not ignored.

    It’s a tough problem, and an exhausting one at that, but progress doesn’t occur overnight, and mark my words, progress is being made. We’re starting to see the fruits of that, and I believe we’ll see more to come!

    • It definitely is a larger cultural issue and there needs to be changes in many different areas to elicit change. It’s slow, but it is happening. The internet and anonymity is an issue to, it seems to foster such behaviour or more likely provide a safer space to spread such thoughts. I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea how to change that.

      it’s not just group kick, there are a lot more systems that could be tried. I believe, even in development circles thoughts on the current zeitgeist are changing, more so than outside in fact. A lot of developers and even journalists see the issues and want the industry do better. They need to press harder though and face down a lot of the corporate types that are making the decisions or, at least mitigate these decisions where they can.

      I have hope as well and am excited to see what becomes of the industry

  2. I’ve seen devs respond to such that they don’t really have a great responsibility to to develop safer communities. I think youre right about the laissez faire mindset, but on top of that I’ve seen devs lay all of the responsibility on the players. Usually they’ll say something like players have to decide if the game is for them, or that devs cant control how players interact, yadda yadda. Also agree with Talarian that its a wider cultural issue. The hard part is getting gamers to recognize our role in this as legitimate and important. The prevailing attitude seems to be that because things are bad in other multimedia communities, the gaming community shouldnt get singled-out or we shouldn’t have to change/do our part.

    I think things have improved in some ways. Other times I think things haven’t actually improved at all, but taken on different, currently undetectable forms.

    • I’ve seen devs comment like that as well and it just makes me made that the person with more of an ability to change the industry as well as have an impact on the conversation around there game an din the community can’t be bothered. It really irks me when those that can enlist change don’t. When they say those things I just automatically assume they’re the usual type and steer clear of the game, exactly want they wanted I guess but it seems stupid on their part to restrict the market.

      Yes some of it has gotten but like you said, it has changed it’s shape and form quite a bit. I actually don’t think that is a bad thing and is, mostly the first step to change. Yes they might have more subtle ways but then that’s not the overt way they used to, that change alone shapes dialogue in the community. Then you see such things slowly become more silent, still around within peoples thought but rarely spoken. Then, this changes in the general culture too who begin to actively make fun of such older ideas. It’s been the path of a lot of change.

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