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Let's own up to our politics in gaming culture

If you had to take a broad overview of the gaming landscape, you'd find pockets of rage and anger, you'd find elation and joy, tribulation and animosity. Childish antics have ripped up important discussions coming to fruition - ethics in games media, diversity, publishers' roles, etc. - and salted the ground where some had begun cultivating concerns. Mentioning actual concerns, such as diversity, results in people - blind to their prejudices, ignorant of wider perception they foster, but strong in their moral resolve - dragging out tired "counters" that only makes the situation worse. 

The "not all" fallacy

For example: Instead of acknowledging gaming has a race problem and we need public faces to not so consistently be white men, it helps no one to point to some developers or critics who are not white men. If you understand why saying "but some of my best friends are black" is insulting to those persons of colour talking about diversity issues, you'd understand why pointing to certain developers hinders, not helps, the discussion. This doesn't make you a racist or a bigot: at the very least it just means you're not helping prove your position and are dismissing concerns.

There's a very real, ever-present problem that women, in particular, face - but, by now, if you don't think the internet, gaming and male-dominated creative areas, have such a problem, there's little I or anyone else can do.

Personal experience isn't public experience: telling me you've never experienced harassment as a person of colour or woman doesn't erase what happens, everyday, to such folks. I've never been sent death threats for being an Arabic-named person of colour criticising a film about a white American soldier, but that doesn't erase such threats happening. 

We need to do better

Right now, it's hard to have discussions about social issues in games; and it's completely impossible to talk about ethics, despite being a very deep concern for me as someone who actually studied it. Articles antagonise or reaffirm what you know; people call for nuance where none exist, but use the pretext of nuance to imply ongoing harassment, intimidation, psychological abuse having nothing to do with the core of a wider issue and movement. 

Consider the claims of wanting to keep politics out of games. How anyone can say this when one of the most popular gaming franchises is a military shooter is beyond me.

Gamers only call something politics when it challenges the politics they themselves hold so deeply they don’t realize it’s already a political view. Games are meant to challenge dexterity and spatial awareness, not morality or politics: any games that do so are “pushing” politics or an agenda. These gamers never stop to think the politics they hold are themselves being “forced” on the rest of us for most of our lives. And we think games can do better and show more.

And this is a cycle:

Why is it not an “agenda” that the game industry’s view of white men is grim-faced, gun-holding, gravelly-voiced hetero dudes? That looks nothing like most of my friends. Why is it not an agenda?

Well, it fits. It’s comforting. It’s traditional.

Consider how including – merely including – gay people, black people, etc., is often considered “pushing” an agenda. There’s nothing wrong with pushing an agenda: for example, an agenda of “these people exist on the same world as you, please acknowledge them” seems like a good one. I’d argue “all white men are grim and heterosexual and monogamous” isn’t a very good agenda.

I think these conversations matter. I don't expect you to agree with everything I say, but I at least expect us to put all our cards on the table to have a proper discussion - not keep our decks close to our chest and make strange assertions of "just" wanting to play games. We can enjoy games and have meaningful, adult discussions, without worrying that somehow these discussions will result in games getting worse. In fact, these discussions are what make games better: look at better stories and characterisations, look at more studios recognising diverse characters and stories. Don't we all want better games?

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