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Death to the Male Power Fantasy

Again I find myself writing about this hot-button issue. I apologize to the people (all three of you) who have been long time followers of this blog for this sudden shift in focus. However I find myself commenting a lot on this topic in fora and comment sections. Indeed this is a reply I wrote on one such section but I felt there is some worth in sharing here… at least to be able to link to it from elsewhere.  

Every body wants to be Superman. Even the girls, presumably.
Every body wants to be Superman. Even the girls, presumably.

Undeniably, many triple A games are male power fantasies. They are designed to appeal to a youngish male demographic. They make the player feel heroic, special and powerful and this is done very deliberately. Each gender is catered for in different ways by different media because each gender, as a rule, is attracted to different things. Men are usually attracted to male power fantasies therefore they tend to love action movies. Women usually seek something that stimulates them emotionally so they veer towards romantic comedies or drama. So, if triple A videogames are mostly consumed by males what is wrong with focusing on what men find appealing? Moreover, if there is this huge untapped female audience for triple A games, wouldn’t the capitalistic nature of the industry dictate that publishers would strive to make games which also appeal to women? Isn’t it telling that they didn’t?

Yes, there is a lack of creativity in video games. We get games with a medieval fantasy setting with their brothels and the prostitutes and we get to fight organised crime with their strip clubs and sex workers. This sort of lack of creativity and reliance on things that are known to work is also found in the music industry and the movie industry. Why? Because if it sold once, it will sell again. Sometimes the sex is gratuitous, in your face and unnecessary. Sometimes its muted, subtle and required to create the scene.

And here lies the question which most are not agreeing on. Is it wrong? Does it have any negative effect on our society? Has this been quantified?

Truth is, only a relatively small number of women, compared to the total, are offended by it. This feminist movement is creating the impression that they represent all women when in actual fact they do not. Most women take it for what it is – entertainment. Most females do not go and see a movie where a female character exists only to be ogled on and come out angry that females are being objectified. It feels like we are creating a situation were something that did not offend us before is becoming offensive, not because it intrinsically does, but rather because if we accept it we are sent into a guilt trip. We must be misogynist. We are part of the problem. We are disrespecting our fellow female gamers. Even I am finding myself giving too much importance to trivial details in games which lessen my enjoyment of the game. I am currently playing Tomb Raider – excellent game. But there is this voice inside of me nagging at the fact that all the enemies are ruthless males who readily became bloodthirsty animals because they got stranded on this island. I would not have given a second thought to something trivial like that up till a few months ago. I used to take the experience for the entertainment it is meant to be. Does the game have feminist overtones that all men are predisposed to succumb to their feral instincts while women are immune to that? I do not care. I do not need to care. Just let me play the game! And this is happening with movies as well. Watched Maleficent. Loved it. Reading about it back home I find feminists applauding the writer for the very strong feminist tones of the script. Oh please, just let me enjoy the movie!

It is mind boggling how almost everyone decried Jack Thompson and others like him who offered that shooting virtual guns will make you more likely to shoot actual guns but then these same people totally agree with the notion that being exposed to virtual objectification will make you objectify women in real life. Is this belief based on any research or is everyone just assuming that? Movies and games have been objectifying women to varying degrees since their creation but in truth society has slowly become more inclusive, more equal and empowering to women. Women never had it this good in spite of all the supposed harmful themes in popular culture. There is still room for improvement but do we need to start burning games in a large bonfire and claim that they are evil incarnate because some female characters show excessive cleavage or they include a sleazy brothel scene?

But look at all the misogyny in the community. The death threats! Yes, the community needs to mature. Fora, message boards and social networking sites should make it very clear that sexist and hateful comments/posts and attitudes are not tolerated. Unfortunately part of it can be attributed to the nature of the beast. Young, immature, passionate individuals veiled in the comfort of anonymity – surely bad things are expected out of that concoction. But its hardly directed exclusively at women. A male developer got death threats because of changes to a sniper rifle in a Call of Duty game. Phil Fish has been mercilessly attacked. Male YouTubers with unpopular opinions not related to sexism get death threats on a regular basis. Moreover the majority of the criticism directed at her has been legit criticism. The death threats, the name calling, the sexist and bigoted comments, the incitement to hate – they ostensibly constitute a small part of the reaction to Anita’s work. Of course Anita, prominent journalists, and now even people who develop games (the people who, supposedly are most accountable for the current crop of sexist games), are focusing solely on these haters and creating the impression that this backlash is disproportionately bigger than it actually is. Worse than that they often lampoon individuals with legit criticism. Anyone who criticizes her arguments, whether constructively or destructively, is put in the same group – the dissenters. The misogynist dissenters. The stupid misogynist dissenters who have no right to have an opinion because they are sexist.  We have come to a point were the inappropriate backlash that Anita is facing validates her, as a critic, more than her actual arguments. It is impossible for anyone to discuss Anita’s work without framing it in the context of what she has to endure.

There is no doubt that a number of male gamers are still learning to unquestionably accept females in the fold. Females are still regularly ostracized – which is highly regrettable. Females with an interest in gaming and its culture should be accepted with open hands and treated, unreservedly, as peers. I sincerely doubt that this video series is making that process any simpler.

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