Letter From The Editor: Sarkeesian’s Lie and Social Justice in the Gaming World

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I recently watched a video (see below) of Anita Sarkeesian telling her class (or so I assume) that she doesn’t play video games because she doesn’t like killing people and there are, proverbially speaking, too many dicks on the dance floor. As usual, the denizens of the internet have flared up, some saying they knew all along and that she’s a fraud and others saying that the video is taken out of context or that it’s something to do with a patriarchal conspiracy. But really, who cares? It’s the fly on top of the shit sandwich, an insignificant annoyance on top of something terrible, and while we’re all bitching about that frustrating little insect, we ignore the steaming mound in between those white slices that’s stinking up the room.

In short: Anita’s arguments are bad, real bad, in the same way 2+2=5 is bad math. There’s a science to reason, to debate, to argument, and so far the Tropes vs Women series doesn’t follow it. Tropes vs Women as a title is a Straw Man fallacy, it misrepresents a position; namely, that tropes are necessarily against women. When Anita declared that “in the game of patriarchy, women aren’t the opposing team, they’re the ball’, it carried the exact same weight as this argument: ‘in the game of lizard people, humans aren’t the opposing team, they’re the ball’. When you approach a subject looking for problems and interpreting things in such a way that they necessarily become problems, that’s called Confirmation Bias.

What annoys me about this whole thing is that, besides her nay-sayers being so awful that she, by contrast, looks like she’s right by default, besides the fact that she’s disabled comments on her videos and hasn’t responded to the several counter-points made by other youtubers (please link me in the comments if she has), what is truly and utterly beyond me is that others who think gaming is sexist aren’t pissed off by how poorly she’s constructed her critique.

You may want a bridge built, but you’re not going to be happy with it if it’s made out of styrofoam that will break under the least amount of strain. And drop you into a volcano. That is filled with piranhas that live in lava.

The thing is, like any science, or any method of thinking, figuring it all out takes time, experience, and practice. Do you know all the fallacies? What they are? When they’re being used? Why they make arguments invalid? Do you know what makes a valid argument actually valid? What is the difference between an opinion and a truth-claim?

Watching the community struggle to take on big questions that have been researched and talked about in great lengths by minds not only greater than theirs but in far, far more focus has been…interesting. It’s kind of like watching kids talk about math knowing that, out there, Krauss is discussing what nothingness really is.

Gaming, gamers, and gaming commentators are (or at least should be) good at talking about games. If you want to talk about games and something else, you should be good at both of those things. Personally, I like how narrative functions in games, and I’m pretty sure that games are the perfect representation of how the monomyth functions as an ideal. I’ve had to read a lot to get to this point, whether it’s Pinker on the nature of human language or Derrida or Foucault or Terry Pratchett or Plato or the Iliad in order to get to a point where I can identify core functions and aspects of literature and talk about them in a way that relates to games.

Slowly but surely I am trying to earn the ‘right’, so to speak, to actually talk about these things and have my work examined critically for falsehoods or misinterpretations. I’ve always hated the phrase ‘right to an opinion’, because it’s incomprehensibly stupid. If it was illegal to have an opinion you could still form them, and nothing short of brain damage is going to take that capability away. An opinion is a responsibility, and if you want to spout it, you’d better damn well be able to back it up, and that takes work.

Gaming is a young industry with a young audience, and for the most part, I’d hazard a guess that it’s made up of people who want to know more about their favourite games and react to banal articles that are intrinsically divisive. We may expect more from the community, but when you consider we’re a species that wiped out all other intelligent humanoids, continually wages war, spreads disease and protects pedophiles from justice (looking at you, Catholic Church), they’re not doing so badly. Progress is achieved in baby steps, and if you want to be part of those baby steps you are going to have to work and research really, really fucking hard. This goes double for gaming, because I doubt our audiences really come to us seeking a meaningful understanding of reality or societal structure when they’re pouring through screenshots of GTA V.

As usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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