Recent events within the gaming industry have not been pretty. This so-called “#GamerGate” is happening around us and is turning the industry on its head. I have read a number of articles from other publications on the implications, stating that it is suddenly a bad time to be a gamer. Even better, the “time of the gamer is dead” according to many.
I wholeheartedly disagree.
Gaming, much like any hobby, is going to be full of people from all lifestyles. The staff of this website alone is a prime example – we come from all over the world, each with our own past experiences and thoughts on what gaming is and what makes it worth our time. No two people who play video games will be alike, nor will their preferences on what they actually play. My idea of a fun game will not necessarily be your cup of tea, and vice versa. It is unfortunate that amidst a console war and franchise war, we still forget that everyone will like what they like regardless of outside influences. I can come out and say that I prefer my Xbox consoles to my PlayStation consoles, but it does not truly matter as long as I enjoy gaming on either one. It should not affect someone else’s day to know this information and if anything, it should open up a line of discussion on the merits of the different companies and their consoles.
One major pain point of the recent #GamerGate is the issue of underrepresented minorities. This unfortunate problem is not unique to gaming. It is not a good thing, mind you, but it is not unique to the video game industry in itself. This same cry is made about movies, comics, music, and more. Another piece to the argument is how the current depictions are racist, sexist, vile, etc. The stereotypes and tropes within gaming are caricatures of real life, and some companies use them to show the inequalities we see every day. Unfortunately there may be no winners in that situation, but they’re used to tell a story and sell video games. Quentin Tarantino’s wildly successful Django Unchained did much the same, as does Rockstar with their Grand Theft Auto series. However, there are still groups within gaming that are wholly underrepresented. I would be very interested to see games that explore these issues and discussions.
However, everyone must remember that the developers and publishers are in the business to make money. This means they will not cater to every whim of our truly divided public. Creating games takes time and capital and they expect a payout in return. This is why games likeBattlefield, Call of Duty, and Madden are so prevalent – they make the developers and publishers the money they need to continue. Indie studios, the ones more likely to create games about minorities or unique cultural experiences, are able to branch out and create some of the most interesting and thought provoking games on the subjects. When the game fails commercially, however, that studio disappears and we are left with only one or two solid games and a pining for more. I would love for this not to be the case, but it is a fact of the industry.
The other piece to the issue at hand is journalistic integrity. I will be frank here about my thoughts on the matter: I do not care what company you work for. I am more interested in delivering the information people need in order to make a judgment call on buying a game. If I do not enjoy a game, I will say it. If I do enjoy it, I will say that also. My opinion on a game may be similar or differ from the masses, but I am giving my thoughts on it based on my experiences. There will never be incentives for me or anyone else on this site to do anything but, and that is how it will continue to be for everyone at SelectButton.
Let’s get down to the basics though. Essentially, I want to say that I am still proud to consider myself a gamer. Yes, I understand there is a darker side to the industry and there are cases of misogyny and sexism. Its important those issues become known so we can address them and move on together. But I refuse to think that just because I am a gamer I suddenly fall into a category of hate and misandry, of sexism and racism. First off, that is not who I am nor is it a person I want to be. That is not what the staff of SelectButton is about either. We are just avid gamers. We face our own daily problems like everyone, but we return to gaming for the fun experiences it offers. There is no other form of entertainment available where I can sit down in Colorado and start killing enemy soldiers with my friends in New York during Battlefield. There is no other medium that can cause me to stop and consider the implications of my actions during scenes in The Last of Us. And there is certainly no other medium that forces me to consider who is worth saving like in Mass Effect.
Gaming can be a powerful experience. It is more than just blood, guns, and sex. It’s an amalgam of everyone involved, from the mass of 11-year olds swearing at us on Call of Duty to the deeply involved niche group playing Flight Simulator with real people acting as the flight controllers. #GamerGate is a black eye for all of us, not just a select group of core gamers. However, we must rise to occasion and show that we understand the problem and that we are willing to work on overcoming it as a unified group.