Tag Archives: gamergate

Videogames as Story-telling: Narratives and #Negrophobia

Since I was a young lad, I have always appreciated the art of storytelling – in all of its forms it comes in. Whether through oral traditions of pre-Modern societies, through strokes of a pen in novel form, through film, and yes- even through videogames.

The idea as videogames as story-telling would tend to confuse most people – how on Earth could the likes of Supermario Bros., Crash Bandicoot, or Sonic the Hedgehog be considered storytelling or even art!? Well, recently I happened across a video on youtube that discussed this very topic:

I recommend watching the video as it contains very interesting, critical perspectives further validating the idea that videogames are in fact a method of telling stories. As is said in this video, a stories are essentially humanity’s way of making sense of events that happen that are otherwise unrelated. We fashion these discrete instances into something more coherent- something to make sense of the world. Some might define this as poetry in a way as well. I had a professor who I had blogged about earlier this year who once stated ” a poet is anyone who makes sense of his or her experiences”. This idea of videogames as narratives becomes especially powerful because of their emphasis on interaction – rending them an especially interactive narrative.

So if it’s no secret that racist , misogynist tropes might be propagated through film and novels, or even individuals/institutions built on such problematic narratives, then could we truly expect anything truly different when it comes to videogames? Videogames represent , thus, another form of media to reinforce ideas, myths and mainstays to a general population. So, videogames as narratives combined with capitalistic enterprise portends the pressure from gamers on the gaming industry. If you have even a cursory understanding of  game journalism, you would be familiar with the fact that the relationship between the game-maker and game-player is a fragile, yet reciprocal relationship. The game-makers on one hand are wanting to create games with narratives as a form of their own artistic expression yet at the same time one that will sell – and in order to sell you must create a narrative that will resonate with those that are actually participating (literally) in them. I’m no psychologist but it’s certainly no secret that actually interacting with anything (kind of like doing homework) helps to reinforce behavior and/or beliefs in the mind of the individual.

Hopefully, by now the case is clear as to why something like say, the racial composition of the characters in a videogame, even as seemingly whimsical as Mario Kart 8( and yes, there was even an article about the average skin tone in MK8 being too light- FINALLY!) is so significant. …But at the same time, the fact that we don’t see black (men or women) in videogames as leading ( at least not the popular games) is telling of the demographic exhibiting the most consumer power. Angsty white teenage “geeky” boys are constantly portrayed in other forms of story-telling – books, television, movies- as the demographic participating in games. If there is a black nerd “blerd” or female nerd (who is hardly even portrayed as  black – b/c they’re too busy being” jezebels”, as racist tropes would have it), he or she is often “side-kicked” or rendered secondary to the main , typically white male. White men have the privileged of participating in their narratives – seeing themselves projected as more muscular, “masculine” and handsome, essentially as they imagine themselves to be… or perhaps more jovial, happier, and charismatic- whether they;re Snake( Metal Gear Solid), and Italian plumber (Mario), or even Sonic the Hedgehog, they participate in narratives ( as well as encourage gaming companies to maintain these boundaries) that regularly affirm them as “main” or “default”. And before we even get into “BUT SONIC’S A HEDGEHOG, HOW IS THAT RACIST!?!?!’ – there’s a little thing called anthropomorphism: the fictitious depiction of animals with human-like traits ( giving them a human-like form through the five main appendages, usually – head, left and right arms and left and right legs). And so when animals are made to look like humans, it’s obviously clear that their features ( and motifs reinforced through character themes, assigning cultural traits/style) are going to be racialized. This will be the topic of the next post …

I will end this with a story. It’s been a while since I’ve actually played Nintendo Wii ( it seems to have been forgotten about anyways, since the Wii U), but I had been a part of a skype group of gamers who mainly focused on Nintendo games and I decided to reconnect with them after a few months of not really interacting. I had brought up various instances of racism, sexism, etc. just in the news in general ( not even about games) and I was constantly berated and labeled a “social justice warrior” (SJW) – this seems to be the “trope” that angsty white “geek” teen gamer dudez will throw at you, should you start speaking up on behalf of a marginalized group. Furthermore, I was accused of “ALWAYS talking about social justice issues”  and “making people feel bad for having opinions” – mind you I’m the demon for talking about marginalized groups yet no one says anything about the rampant distasteful, hypersexual ( constantly talking about porn fantasies involving videogame characters) – but no, talking about race? that’s FAR more nauseating! How fowl! But I guess we can’t really be surprised when forcing them to see race forces them to reconsider their narrative – cognitive dissonance, no?

Geeky Men, Gamer Misogyny, and Gender

In recent months, I updated my videogame system to a PS3; yes I know its not the latest and greatest but its recent enough for me. Earlier this summer I spent a few hours working and improving on my skills at playing Injustice: Gods Among Us in the hopes of someday playing online versus other games when wintertime comes. I’m learning who are my favorite characters, and they happen to be Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, Deathstroke, and behind those three, Green Arrow and DoomsDay apparently. So when and if I may the decision to play Injustice online, I have the privilege of being male, and there I am most likely not to be bothered or harassed when interacting with other gamers. 

To the horror of many, this is just not the case for women who are into gaming. When I was in undergrad before there was even a Playstation Network, I was placed in a dormitory with a fraternity that played Playstation One a lot. It was there I heard my first jokes about rape.  If a frat dude was victorious over one of his brothers or a member of another fraternity at a game of NCAA Football 2002 , it was pretty much guaranteed that there would be explicit references to sexual assault when it came to bragging rights. Further along my undergraduate career, the games Halo and Halo 2 were very popular. Being able to talk over the microphone with other players allowed for opponents to drop the n***** word a lot, and of course, there was the widespread practice of Halo teabagging. In spite of their “nice guy” reputation, gamer geek culture is still fraught with the same sexism that they like to point out in professional sports. 

I have written in the past about the harassment that Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency faces before.  Recently, the situation has gotten far more serious with Sarkeesian and her family receiving death and rape threats. Gaming developer Zoe Quinn has faced so much harassment that she has been left no choice but to move in with friends. What’s the outrage all about? An angry ex-significant other wanting to get revenge while gamers claim its about the loss of “objectivity” in journalism. Frantz Fanon, I’ll let you take this one. (he argued in Wretched of the Earth that the concept of ‘objective media’ will always be wielded as a weapon against the oppressed. Like, always).  I still have yet to see Fanon disproven on that one. EDITOR’S POLITICAL NOTE: WHY IS THERE EVEN CONCERNTROLLING OVER REVIEWS OF VIDEOGAMES IN THE FIRST PLACE? WHEN I REVIEW A PUBLISHED REVIEWS OF ANYTHING–BOOKS, MOVIES, VIDEOGAMES, I HAVE COME TO EXPECT SOME BIAS TO BEGIN WITH. 

Really, these controversies aren’t about journalistic integrity or about the videogame industry itself being under any real threat.  This is about gamer geek dudebros losing their power as consumers, and they are reacting in a disgusting manner. I have quoted him a number of times, and I will keep quoting him, but Frederick Douglass was right on the money when he said “Absolute power concedes nothing.” Not one iota. When it comes to dollar signs, human greed+ rape culture in videogames, the combination is a poisonous mix. But actually, I don’t want to really stop here, and just talk about how terrible everything is. I want to reflect briefly on the probable causes for these sexist practices, to drive women’s voices away from the gaming industry. I want to start with this comment made by one of my friends on facebook:

“Geek boys have been told all their lives that their geeky ness makes them “special” and separate from the meat heads who torment them. The male geek persona is at the heart of the *nice guy* culture and is extra fragile-think Isla Vista killer who considered himself the “ultimate gentleman” and couldn’t understand why women wouldn’t even make eye contact with him. Male geeks are just as violently misogynistic as jocks. Obviously.”- M.Sanchez, Facebook 

Athletes are portrayed as hopelessly chauvinistic and hypermasculine. As geeks, we try to define ourselves against this stereotype. We are taught that we can be the nice guy that women will want to depend on if they aren’t “won” over by the jocks. Nerds, dorks, Blerds, we all fail epically when we deceive ourselves that we aren’t in anyway prone to misogyny like those manly men athletes over there. Male geek culture, like the Trio from season 6 of Joss Whedon’s+ Buffy the Vampire Slayer, suffers from the Nice Guy Syndrome. That is, we learn how to and behave as if we are nice, but at the same time, we want something in return. The Nerd who suffers from the Nice Guy syndrome may see himself as “a good listener,” or “a progressive male feminist” but at the same time will refuse to respect women’s boundaries and choices because of his sense of entitlement, ownership over women’s bodies. Maybe it’s time for Gamer DudeBros to get self-critical, and reject the idea that they are “innocent” when it comes to sexism. Rather than the old cliche, “nice guys finish last,” perhaps it would better to start saying, “guys who suffer from Nice Guy Syndrome finish last.”