This weekend, we (Andrew and Lucas) will be taking part in I Am A Gamer, a Vancouver-based international game jam dedicated to creating games with strong female protagonists.
As soon as we heard about the jam, we knew we would have to be involved. As you probably know, we have an extremely passionate team at Silverstring. We're passionate about storytelling and design, transmedia and music, architecture and philosophy, and we’ve devoted our lives to the exploration of those subjects. But given the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the fight (and it definitely is a fight) against the inequalities and systems of oppression we see in our media and our culture all the time, we can’t help but act.
Sure we use the skills and resources we have -- story design, game design -- so we’re not exactly abandoning the fields to go off to war, but that’s what makes the idea of this game jam so great. It’s a way for those in our industry to step up and say “this kind of sexism doesn’t represent my views.” It’s another chance, like the #1reasontobe campaign, for us to see just how many powerful allies we have. We are extremely grateful to Kimberly Voll and Andy Moore (and everyone else) for putting this jam together.
We are going because this matters, because we care, and because we want to help make a difference. The feminist issues surrounding the gaming industry and beyond it, along with queer issues, and racial issues, and other inequalities people face are major areas of focus for us.
For those who don’t know, feminism in the gaming industry is a huge topic of interest right now. Perhaps typified by the massive amount of harassment to the point of online lynchmobbing that assaulted media critic Anita Sarkeesian when she tried to Kickstart a series of videos called Tropes Against Women in Video Games (which are definitely worth watching), but also in other, less publicized, harassment of industry women like Jennifer Hepler, who had the gall to say that she wished she could skip gameplay segments because she played games for the interactive story. Or maybe the most troubling example of this is the nearly infinite supply of sexist, reductive messages sent to women gamers putting them into one (or more) of three categories: fat, ugly or slutty. And if you still need convincing, check out this shocking timeline of “isolated incidents” made by Grace of the aforementioned Fat, Ugly or Slutty.com.
These attacks come from a segment of the video game audience that is often considered to be the “average gamer,” though this is a ridiculous, false and pointless reduction. The conventional logic goes that these 20-35 year old men, who live in their parent’s basement and are socially awkward, feel threatened by women and react badly. The truth, as is often the case, is more nebulous and troubling.
These people aren’t living in their parent’s basement and aren’t socially awkward. They are husbands, boyfriends, and brothers. Sisters, wives and girlfriends (misogyny isn’t the exclusive realm of men). Some of them are executives at AAA game companies. These are people you probably know, nice guys, who come home, get on their favourite fps or mmo, and then unleash all their hate, frustration and fear at women and other groups that are deemed acceptable to hate because they represent social changes that feel out of control, or maybe they just had a bad day and this is what society has taught them is an acceptable response.
These are the people who think that they shouldn’t be forced to have gay people hit on them in games (despite gay players being forced to have straight characters hit on them always), that they shouldn’t be forced to play as female characters (despite women being forced to play as male characters always), that they shouldn’t be forced to play as a Iranian character, (despite Iranian gamers being forced to play as a white character, always). Why should they have to bend to the will of "minorities" when they are already being forced to give up so much of their “icecream” already? It isn’t fair. They just want to play a videogame and relax.
These people are feeling threatened, and the traditional reaction is to tell them “it’s not so bad, we can all get along,” which is certainly true, but you know what? They should be feeling threatened, because their way of life is changing. And that’s a good thing. Feminism isn’t a dirty word, and people shouldn’t be able to reduce feminists to nasty stereotypes and get away with it. Men shouldn’t be able to comment on a female colleague’s breasts in a professional setting. Women shouldn’t grow up feeling that the weight of their opinions is less than the importance of their weight. And to change those things, we’re going to have to change the status quo. We’re going to have to redistribute some privilege, and that means that the misogynistic, heteronormative, patriarchal dragon in the corner is going to have to get its fat ass off of the treasure. And if it doesn’t, then we’ll have to move it ourselves.
You can call us radical if you want. Maybe we are, though fighting for equality doesn’t feel all that radical in the 21st century. You can tell us we’re just here to pick up chicks, as if the idea of meeting a sexy, empowered feminist woman (or man) by actually caring and supporting their cause is a bad way to meet a partner (though we’re both in committed relationships, thank you very much). You can call us angry, and maybe we - hmmm. Ok, actually we are angry. And if you don’t knock off your misogynist, homophobic, transphobic bullshit we will put down our books and go make awesome videogames featuring the kind of empowered women and queer characters we’ve always wanted to play as. So there.
We’ll see y’all at the jam!- ❤ Lucas and Andrew