What about our fans? Are they privileged? Let me tell you about Anders. He was one of two male love interests in Dragon Age II, and the only one of the two that would actually make his intentions known to the player without the player expressing interest first. If you were nice to him, he would make a pass at you, and you could turn him down, and that would be the end of it. And some fans REALLY did not like that.
Some of them asked for a gay toggle; because in a game where there’s mature themes, slavery, death, and none of which we offer toggles for, encountering a gay character? OOH, beyond the pale. They didn’t want to be exposed to homosexuality.
And this one fan on our forums posted that he felt too much attention had been spent on women and gays and not enough on straight male gamers. For all of whom he personally spoke, of course. ‘It’s ridiculous that I even have to use a term like Straight Male Gamers, when in the past I would only have to say fans.’ The purpose of the romances in Dragon Age II was to give each type of fan an equal content. Two romances whether you’re male or female, straight or gay.
How upsetting for this particular Straight Male Gamer to realize he wasn’t being catered to. This was not equality to him, but an imbalance; an imbalance of the natural order. He did not want equality, he’s not interested in equality. To him, from his perspective, equality means he’s getting less. Less options? Actually, no, the number of options we had in that game was actually the same number of options that he would have received earlier. What was his issue was the idea that there was attention being spent on other groups, which SHOULD have rightly gone to him.
Do ALL straight male gamers feel exactly the same as he does? Absolutely not. In the thread where this came up in fact, there was quite a few guys who came in and identified themselves as straight male gamers and said ‘I actually don’t have an issue with that, as long as I receive an experience I enjoy, I think other people should be able to enjoy that too.’ But if you think that Straight Male Gamer Dude is an outlier among our fanbase, you were not paying attention.
This is Anita Sarkeesian, she’s the author of the Feminist Frequency, a blog which examines tropes in the depiction of women in popular culture. You’ve probably all heard about this, it’s a matter of public record, she announced a Kickstarter to start a web series to look at the tropes in video games and she was subjected to a campaign of vicious abuse and harassment by male gamers. Why? Well, because she represents to these guys the loss of their coveted place in the gaming audience. Never mind that well all know Goddamn well that they’re still at the top of the totem pole. What they see themselves losing is sole proprietorship over their domain. That’s what it is.
Everything that is changing about the gaming industry to accommodate these players, to them, is diluting the purity of gaming which has belonged solely to them. That’s what this is all about. And here’s the thing, I’m pretty certain that our industry fears the scrutiny of those guys way more than the scrutiny of everyone else. Because those are the guys that scream at the top of their lungs, they spend their time on every internet forum, they spend their time making Metacritic reviews. Infuriate them, and you become a target. It’s so much easier to say “Well, that’s what our fans are like. There’s nothing we can do.” And that’s bullshit.
They didn’t set the tone, did they? We set the tone. What we put out there, what we permit, whether it’s on our forums, whether it’s on Xbox Live, the things that we permit we are in effect condoning. What happened to Anita, we the industry, are partly responsible for. We’re in part to blame. And if the idea of moral responsibility doesn’t phase you, consider the idea that the time will probably soon come that this will also amount to legal responsibility.
MY FAVORITE VIDEO GAME WRITER, EVERYBODY. BASK IN HIS GLORIOUS NOT GIVING A FUCK ABOUT FUCKBOY GAMERNESS.