I’m going to PAX! Thanks Triforce Quartet! This is what you get for Sunday’s post.
It seems that every time someone points out that video games have a problem with diversity, vocal members of the community remember fondly of a golden age before all the controversy when men were men and video games were all about fun. Holders of this view see critics (sometimes called SJWs or Social Justice Warriors) as spoilers of gaming’s Eden-like garden. Everything was good and fun until SJWs forced the industry to focus on pressing issues of the day rather than making games. It’s a compelling argument for those who have found their once simple past time polluted with major social and political issues. Unfortunately, it’s grounded in ignorance. The issues we’re hearing about were always issues, we just didn’t hear about them.
The stereotypical gamer of the 80s and 90s was a bespectacled nerd whose knowledge of fictional lore was only matched by his inability to connect with others. Like many stereotypes, there was some truth to this as many social outcasts found their way to the gaming world and drowned their sorrows in magical realms where they could be the hero. What often gets ignored is that being a social outcast is not confined to white boys. Many youth from across the spectrum made their way to gaming only to discover that it had been made by and for a very limited audience. Some moved on to different pursuits and their potential contributions were lost. For others, the allure of the screen was enough to overcome the fact that they were poorly represented. They sought out the few games and heroes that they felt best reflected their reality. They hung on to the few cracks in the wall and accepted what they must because that’s all games were.
Surprise surprise, these people weren’t happy about it. The commentary we’re seeing now isn’t outsiders who want to ruin our fun, it’s committed gamers who grew up and decided to speak out against the games industry’s singular focus on one type of person. They aren’t seeking to destroy fun, but rather finally see developers who take them and their needs seriously and who use the medium to explore the realities of the lives of a more diverse set. These SJWs don’t hate games. They don’t want to stop Mario. They just wish that gaming’s leading lights (GTA, inFamous, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, etc) gave them some love (and no, side stories like AC: Liberation or inFamous: First Light don’t count). They want to see heroes like themselves, which really doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
When someone argues for returning to focusing on fun, what they’re actually asking for is keeping games limited to people like themselves. They, understandably, see the status quo as preferable because the status quo serves them, but it doesn’t serve everyone. Should anyone be surprised when the losers of a system seek to make it more equitable? SJWs aren’t deliberately raining on gaming’s parade, they’re asking to be a part of it. Not surprisingly, they also want gaming to grow up. Gamers used to get up in arms about whether games counted as art yet, now that a number of games explore that space, we want to pull back. Well, tough. Contra isn’t art. Nor is Mario. Art has a meaning that SJWs are infusing into old and new game worlds. It may not be a meaning you like, but that’s also an aspect of art.
It’s time to stop living in the past. The past only worked for a select few while others had to put up with something inferior. We now have the energy and resources to create an inclusive gaming culture that serves the needs of an increasingly diverse group of individuals and that inclusivity is worth far more than any attempt to recapture the days gone by.