Gotta love the internet age. When I was younger, people had to take the time to at least listen to the radio or watch television before they pretended to indulge in half-baked politics. Sometimes I swear that the Internet is the greatest of mankind’s inventions. Everybody in the world can communicate anything now! Then I end up swearing that it’s the worst invention in human history. Everybody in the world can communicate ANYTHING now.
Like I said, back in the day you had to at least get the official line of bullshit regarding the goings-on in the world around you if you were too lazy to read a real book on the subject. That or you could listen to the ravings of homeless people and Christians with signs protesting devil worshiping outside of heavy metal concerts on the streets of major cities. If you wanted to publicly participate, you had to…you know…actually do stuff.
But now that we’ve got the internet, political education begins and ends with social networking posts that are derived entirely from other social networking posts that were made by people who don’t appear to ever leave their home and presumably have no practical interest in the outside world and politics anyways. At some point, this human centipede-like process of education based on tweets, message board posts, and status updates became the cornerstone of modern discourse in nerd culture.
What does this have to do with video games? Well, have you been on a video game message board in the last few years? One where everybody is an expert on human rights and hell-bent on bending the entire world to their will without leaving their keyboard? Every major game is now a political battleground between feminists with a massive checklist of demands that must be met lest they buy the game anyways but complain about it lots and misogynistic tools who may not even know themselves if they are trolling or not since online douchebaggery has become such a reflex at this point.
When I was little and my mother would throw me out of the house into the countryside to get me away from my Atari 2600 or NES for a few hours, I used to pass time in a little wooded area behind our house. I would pretend I was saving the world from something only I could defeat with my skills learned from watching Kung Fu Theater matinees: evil ninjas.
I’d spin kick and punch the air in all directions like a teenager hardcore dancing, convinced in my imagination that if I stopped, the world would be overrun by these ninjas that nobody else could see. It was good times, but thankfully (hopefully) nobody was around to see this immature maniac spastically lashing out in all directions at nothing. The thing is, as gamers we don’t play outside anymore and as citizens of the internet everybody can see us now. And too damn many of us are still fighting metaphorical invisible ninjas online.
It seems like every major game release comes standard with ridiculous manufactured controversy from the lunatic fringe these days. Grand Theft Auto has always had its share of controversy, but usually from people who are political idiots for a living. The last entry saw a series that has always been the very picture of over-the-top satirical misanthropy in hot water for making fun of female characters. Yeah, GTA. The satirical games known for juvenile humor where almost every character is an irredeemable piece of shit. I know. Try to contain your shock at this revelation.
When one reviewer pointed out this game-changing observation, it kicked off an epic torrent of hate from series supporters that blew up the internet. How do you make a single flame war between idiots in a community that is pretty much a lake of fire at this point actual gaming news? Well, if the article was written by a transgender individual it helps. Being an indefensible prick to a cisgender person is business as usual, but it sucks extra being transsexual and only widespread internet commenting can balance those scales.
Early images of Bioshock Infinite led to a public outcry over Elizabeth’s evil cleavage. A busty girl in a low cut top, you say? To arms!
I can see your dirty pillows.
When her bust size was decreased (which suited the character better, for the record), another outcry over feminism taking over the world resulted. When Bioshock Infinite actually came out, it was labeled “White Guilt: The Game”; presumably by people who either didn’t play it or were angry that the plot mussed their hair when it whooshed right over their heads like Rodan over Tokyo. How do you win?
It’s not all sexism, racism, and homophobia. That’s not First World problem enough to maintain middle class white rage over. Hating people based on that stuff is for edgy teens and FOX News viewers. Let’s talk BioWare. One of the most beloved video game companies in existence. At least they were. Then Electronic Arts bought them.
The torrent of Mass Effect 3 hate speaks for itself. BioWare has sold their soul! They’re the Machine, man! Day One DLC! Worst. Company. Evah. And that was all before they even got to the ending. The game itself: pretty much the same as the last one everybody loved to pieces. But why let things like whether or not it’s extremely fun and brilliant for dozens of hours up until the last few minutes influence you opinion on a video game? It’s EA!
Here on Gamemoir, we have a smaller audience but a pretty high quality of clientele. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a comment or two on our articles, but zero threats of rape or questioning of sexual orientation or any of the other usual gamer talk. Maybe I’ll egg a few more comments out of somebody by arguing with them, but overall it’s pretty civil. Usually.
In one author’s legendary debut post, she reviewed Europa Universalis IV with part tongue-in-cheek humor and part delightful loopy and antagonistic political rantings over eurocentrism that translated roughly to “flamemeflamemeflameme”. To date, that one post has received nearly 130 comments, almost all different posters, almost universally negative. I’m not sure if the ones that got deleted once the discourse turned anti-Semitic (don’t ask) count on the total, but I think the word “shitstorm” is appropriate either way.
I kind of miss the days where controversy meant rich old people declaring that Mass Effect was hardcore pornography and Grand Theft Auto was a murder simulator. We had a good laugh together at these uneducated dimwits fighting battles against nonexistent problems, didn’t we? It’s only been a few years, but in that time fighting the war against people who are wrong on the internet has somehow become more important than the entertainment culture we share and now we are the dimwits lashing out blindly at each other while accomplishing nothing aside from making ourselves look stupid.
Being pampered First World residents who can afford to spend all of our time playing video games and pretending to be all deep and stuff by typing about privilege on the internet until our fingers hurt while other people starve and freeze to death or dodge bullets and bombs in their neighborhoods doesn’t really show how socially aware we are so much as it highlights how unspeakably immune to irony we are to have nothing better to do with our time. And yes, I am doing it right now. You’re learning.
If making the world a better place was the goal, I suspect there are better ways to go about it than spreading politically-correct fascism or donating over $150,000 that could have been used to feed the hungry for the pleasure of watching a
cartoonishly indulgent Youtuber who never played video games before list stuff that happened in video games where female characters aren’t the most awesomest.
Who knew that all that time I thought I was playing Super Mario Brothers and Donkey Kong in my youth because the games were fun, it was actually all part of a brainwashing conspiracy to make me hate women? Well it didn’t work in the slightest, but Anita Sarkeesian appears to have made more inroads in that direction with a few videos than a thousand video games ever could for some people. Irony does not have to be our enemy, friends. A little self-awareness goes a long way.
In a world where somebody who rapes a 14-year old girl can get off with a misdemeanor child endangerment charge and the only way we find out is because a hacker collective spams the net with it, I’d say we have bigger fish to fry than video game characters’ fashion sense and internet trolls where misogynistic behavior is concerned.
Fiction is almost by definition a place where we can get away from real life for a while. We can be someone and somewhere else and experience things we can’t normally experience and do things virtually that we have no real interest in doing in real life like pay hookers for car sex and then running them over and taking the money back to kick off a citywide mayhem spree that ends with being blown up by tanks. In other words, it’s not real life. Not even comparable.
Fantasy entertainment is a place where we can indulge our id to its utmost without any consequence in a society that has become so super-ego driven and unaware of itself that it’s practically a satire. By choosing to ignore the real world and transplanting its problems into fantasy fiction, we are doing both a disservice and shitting where we eat.
Will the invisible ninjas we call political differences ever go away? Nope. Idiots gotta idiot and jerks gotta jerk. There is no controlling this. As long as humans have been able to communicate, they’ve been able to miscommunicate and the internet has made worldwide distribution of brain vomit as effortless and simple as the thought processes that spew it. There is no changing our fellow humans.
Remember the last time your political arguments were so convincing that the opposition bowed down and told you how right and smart and superior you were and would you please teach them to be so knowledgeable? Exactly. There is no mission to accomplish here; just a lot of delusions of the other side taking over the world if we don’t stop them using the letters on our keyboards and social media-driven education to right their grievous wrongs.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of this stuff is worth discussing. But there is a time, a place, and a balance. Spending all day looking for a gaming journalist who made a faux pas so you can gather the troops and bully them for using a word you have collectively decided you do not like or some other nonsense adds to the community about as much as an 11-year-old on Xbox Live screaming racial and sexual slurs.
If we can all just agree to be responsible for our own behavior, I think it’d make our little community a lot more livable. When we accept the fact that we can’t change other people and that many of those other people enjoy saying and doing things we may not like to say or do, we’ll understand the actual meaning of tolerance. Until then, feel free to try and beat Gamemoir’s flaming record telling me how dumb I am. 130 comments is your goal. Alternately, you could use this handy guide to gauge your own personal rage level.