Games are NOT Your Soapbox

Icon-GamingGaming is kind of in turmoil right now.

Between collusion and dishonesty in the gaming press, constant badgering and prodding by the both sides, and the mealy-mouthed haranguing of the anti-gamer crowd, this can certainly be called an upheaval.

One of the core issues at work, however, is the attempt by “social justice”-obsessed individuals to change the core aspects of gaming in order to use it as a soapbox for their issues.

Gaming is a meritocracy. In a meritocracy, one gains influence (and by way of that influence, power) by doing and doing well.

We are a community that rallies around a medium that is, at its core, based on winning. Whether that’s competing against the game, one another, or even ourselves, the scoreboard, however abstract, rules all. If I make first place in a Halo match, I’ve made first place in a Halo match. Simple as that. It means I’m better at the game than everyone else in the match. Male or female, black or white, gay or straight, trans or cis don’t matter. All that matters is how good I am versus how good they are.

As a result, gaming is one of the most inclusive communities out there. Your identity means nothing. You are your screenname and you are your spot on the leaderboard. For the most part, nobody cares how black I am, or how gay he is, or how trans she is.

I say “for the most part” because the pure fact is: In every population exists a subset of knuckleheads. We will never get rid of the knuckleheads. Just like among the general population, where most people are polite and decent, there exists a minority of sociopaths, the same applies in microcosm.

The majority of us gamers understand this. We know it’s not our fault these people are in gaming, and we know that we don’t have to associate ourselves with them in any way. In fact, many of us distance ourselves from them specifically because we wish not to be associated with them and because we don’t wish to engage with them.

With the advent of random online matchmaking, however, we played with the occasional knucklehead. They were usually ignored. It was fine like this, but suddenly, holier-than-thou gamers railing against “toxicity” started to tell us that we were obligated to speak out against these people, or else we might as well be complicit in their abuse. The sociopaths that the rational and attentive among us understand will never be eradicated have to be everyone’s problem.

The bottom-line is: These people are either adults who are responsible for their own actions, or children, who have parents to answer for them. I and the rest of the gaming community have no obligation to engage with the least elements of the gaming community.

Let’s get back to the meritocracy, though. In a meritocracy, one earns their way to the top. When I finish the Halo match in 1st, I earned that. When John Carmack gets famous for being a driving force behind Doom, he earned that.

In the fringes, however, there exist these cliques where merit doesn’t matter. They’re insular, almost incestuous sub-communities, gathered around certain indie games and certain form of games criticism. Where, in the meritocracy, people advance by doing, in these cliques, people advance by feeling. “So-and-so got harassed by 4chan or Wizardchan or whatever. We need to support so-and-so!”

These cliques can’t handle themselves in the meritocracy, but still want to be in gaming, so they sit at the sidelines, peddling their indie “art” games, yet resenting that the real nature of gaming doesn’t cater to them.

The ten articles in 24 hours about gamers being “dead” was the opening salvo in a cold war turned hot. Using the knuckleheads of the gamer community as a straw enemy to rally against, the gaming press, implicit in the agenda of the “social justice” cliques, portrayed us as racist, misogynist, homophobic bigots, fighting to keep gaming an “old boys’ club.”

“There aren’t enough women in gaming because gamers are all straight, white, cis male bigoted racist misogynists, trying to keep women and minorities out of games!”

None of which is true, however, using their clamour for diversity (that already exists) in gaming as a shield, they railed against the “gamers” for being exclusionary. In reality, it’s they who are exclusionary. They want to exclude from gaming anyone who isn’t on-board with their agenda.

Their combat objective is to change gaming into a community where feelings dictate who rises to the top. Those of us who take pride in gaming and like how this meritocracy has worked for the past 30+ years are livid about that.

It’s not simply that they want to make games about “social justice.” It’s that they want to change gaming into “social justice.”

Look at the language of the Devin Wilson article I responded to, for example:

“People passionately and regularly obsessing over brutalizing strangers’ avatars over the internet (in hopes of eventually doing it professionally) is scary and I deeply mistrust it.”

“Fun is a neurological trick. Plenty of categorically unhealthy things are ‘fun’.”

“let’s aspire to qualities like ‘edifying’, ‘healing’, ‘pro-social’, or even ‘enlightening’.”

“We don’t afford any credence to the idea that games are ‘just for fun’. Games are not neutral.”

“We need to regularly compare our games’ expressed values to our own real values.”

Brutalizing avatars over the internet is “scary.” Plenty of “unhealthy” things are fun. Games need to be “edifying,” and “pro-social.” Games aren’t “neutral” and we need to compare the “values” they express to our own.

These are videogames. They’re interactive amusements. If these people had their way, games like X3: Terran Conflict would be condemned for promoting “advanced capitalism.” The Armored Core and Ace Combat series would be thrown into piles to be burned for normalizing the use of mercenaries. MechWarrior Online would be taken down because, in the BattleTech universe, the Clans use eugenics to breed pilots.

The great thing about today’s videogame market, however, is that there is nothing stopping the “social justice” clique from making their “edifying,” “pro-social” games with fun not even being a thought bubble. But in a gaming community full of gamers, who will play these games, besides people already in with their clique? The reality of the market tells all: Most gamers want games that are fun and don’t really care about the “values” those games (supposedly) express, or about how “scary” some people find their enjoyment of eviscerating each other online.

That’s why they need to change gaming. Right now, gaming can’t be their soapbox, so they have to make it into their soapbox by pushing out all of the people who aren’t on-board with their agenda.

In today’s gaming scene, you’re free to make any games you want. Anything. That’s the greatest thing about a medium: Anything can occur within it. But do not try to turn this medium into a genre.

Do not try to make games into your soapbox.

6 Replies to “Games are NOT Your Soapbox”

  1. So if it’s the least of gamers (the “sociopaths”) on their soapbox, it’s not your problem, but it suddenly is when the “feelers” act in ways you disagree with?

    There are very obvious tendencies to cater to a specific set of gamers in the triple-A scene, to the point where “art” (read: indie and casual) games are seen as the only refuge for people who want to escape that ball and chain. Just ask actual triple-A game makers if they’re still able to make the game they want. Legend has it that they couldn’t even put Elizabeth on the front cover of Bioshock Infinite because marketing feared that the gaming “meritocracy” wouldn’t want to see a girl on the front. And triple-A gaming is what this part of the debate is really about, not the guys making the games to buck the trend.

    It’s just not as simple as you make it out to be, and dismissing the discussion as “social justice this” or “non-gamers that” is just as myopic and silly as the hypothetical people you’re talking about in this article. If games are to be inclusive, we must stop pretending it’s a meritocracy and MAKE it a meritocracy. Until then the Sarkeesians of the world will continue to draw headlines for their goofy ramblings, and the “gamers” of the world will continue to sound like they have a victim complex.

    1. So if it’s the least of gamers (the “sociopaths”) on their soapbox, it’s not your problem, but it suddenly is when the “feelers” act in ways you disagree with?

      Since when have the least elements of the gaming community had a soapbox? When was the last time you heard one of those profanity-spewing 12-year-olds from CoD preach to other gamers about how gaming needs to change? Seriously, trying to draw an equivalency between the knuckleheads in the gaming community and people like Leigh Alexander is a gross misrepresentation of both.

      There are very obvious tendencies to cater to a specific set of gamers in the triple-A scene, to the point where “art” (read: indie and casual) games are seen as the only refuge for people who want to escape that ball and chain. Just ask actual triple-A game makers if they’re still able to make the game they want. Legend has it that they couldn’t even put Elizabeth on the front cover of Bioshock Infinite because marketing feared that the gaming “meritocracy” wouldn’t want to see a girl on the front. And triple-A gaming is what this part of the debate is really about, not the guys making the games to buck the trend.

      Indie and casual “art” games are not the only refuge from the AAA market. There’s a plethora of games inbetween “AAA” and “Indie” that are largely ignored by the gaming press, who are too preoccupied covering the AAA market and certain indie games. There have been games “bucking the trend” for long before the indie “art” games scene took off.

      It’s just not as simple as you make it out to be, and dismissing the discussion as “social justice this” or “non-gamers that” is just as myopic and silly as the hypothetical people you’re talking about in this article. If games are to be inclusive, we must stop pretending it’s a meritocracy and MAKE it a meritocracy. Until then the Sarkeesians of the world will continue to draw headlines for their goofy ramblings, and the “gamers” of the world will continue to sound like they have a victim complex.

      What about gaming is “pretending” to be a meritocracy? The only part of gaming that isn’t a meritocracy is this indie dev/journalist clique. The medium’s foundation includes a scoreboard. The high score list and the leaderboard rule all, and it doesn’t matter who you are. Some people can’t deal with that, but also can’t deal with the fact that most of gaming is like that. They have an agenda to push, and they can’t do that if they stay in their clique, so they must change gaming.

  2. They’re just video games. Go pick an honest site to read from. Governments are doing whatever and here people are bitching about video games. Nice priorities.

    1. So you came to an anime/gaming website and are complaining that he’s talking about the intended subject matter? I’m pretty sure this isn’t supposed to be a replacement for Reuters.

    2. I’m not even sure how to address just how outlandish this gripe is. She’s Lost Control isn’t a political blog. She’s Lost Control is an otaku media site. These are things I’m passionate about and I use She’s Lost Control as a platform to write about them. I have opinions about the various things governments are doing, but She’s Lost Control isn’t a platform for that.

      Do you think SLC should be a platform for that? Do you want my political opinions all over my anime and gaming site?

      Or do you just think that, because I’m passionate about anime and gaming, and because I bother to run a site about those interests, that I’m just oblivious to the issues in the world around me?

      I mean, if you have a problem with the points I’m trying to make with this article, that’s one thing, but don’t hide it in this pretext about being politically-conscious.

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