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Confessions of a Gamer by John Heal

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There is a pretty large list of things I get labelled as, and a gamer is one of those things.

After last weekend, I have something I really need to say:

Gaming is growing up and with it so must the community around it.

After watching a video describing a pretty damn repulsive mini game in the new Suda 51 title, I watched an unfolding shit storm of abuse and arguments thrown towards its creator, Matt Lees. I’m so tired of seeing this kind of reaction almost every time someone says something critical about a game, or tries to analyse them from a view point not everyone agrees with.

In my frustration, I began looking around for others who had had enough of this crap. This led me to Anita Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter and as a result, to some horrific behaviour from some parts of the gaming community.

Her basic idea was to create a web series which focuses on the representation and use of female characters in video games; you know, the kind of analysis which is done in pretty much all other forms of media. So to me, this is completely reasonable and actually a good thing. It’s a step forward that suggests people are willing to invest the time and effort on what years ago was shrugged off as just a hobby for kids.

Sadly, this is not how some people reacted. Certain corners of the gaming community (and the internet more generally) decided that this was ‘way out of line’, and the only ‘reasonable’ response, they determined, was a torrent of abuse which, if it had been directed my way,  I don’t know if I could have stood it. (For a fuller description I’d recommend watching Anita Sarkeesian’s TEDxWomen talk).

The range of abuse went from the unfunny sandwich ‘jokes’, to attempts to get her personal information and spread it on the internet… hell, someone even made a game where you beat her up by clicking.

How the FUCK does any of that seem like a right way to react to someone saying, ‘Hi, I want to do a thing and if you’re interested, you could maybe fund a little bit of it’?!

All of this was before the first video was even produced for the series.

None of these are acceptable ways to react.

I know it’s a small corner of the community, but it shames us all and we need to figure out a way to counteract this kind of shit. Using the reasoning, ‘it’s just kids in basements’ is not good enough. First, it’s incorrect and secondly, how is that even a valid reason?! If that’s what kids think is a good way to communicate with others then something is very. wrong.

After all this, Anita Sarkeesian kept on; she got over 5 times the funding she was looking for and has released the first two parts of episode 1. Her stuff is interesting and well researched, and I’m looking forward to the final part where we will get some counter examples to the ‘Damsel in Distress’ motif used in a tonne of games.

But after Sarkeesian’s initial releases, I did make one mistake: I clicked on a couple of response videos… Thankfully, the ones I saw were people speaking in reasonable tones and sounding interested, not a torrent of abuse, but they completely missed the point or insisted on bringing up  minor counter points which, if you watch the rest, Anita Sarkeesian brings up herself.

This all got me thinking about how our community reacts to ‘the outside’. We strive to have games respected, viewed as the art and wonder they can be, but when someone comes with criticism we get horribly overprotective and in some cases, venomously aggressive.

With wider acceptance we have to accept criticism of how subjects are dealt with in games. When we react like this all we are doing is harming others’ opinions of gaming and scaring people away who could have ended up as great game designers or pro players, and mostly importantly, possible friends for us to game with.

No one is trying to take our games away. New and different perspectives will lead to improved and more-varied characters; to better stories and designs in games.

I know this is a long while off, but I for one am pretty darn excited for those future games.

John is a PhD physicist by day and a beer enthusiast and gamer by night, either way he is always geeking out about something. His former bookselling days leave him unable to not arrange books. He is usually found in a pub with an ale in hand. Follow him on Twitter @retroboy89

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