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Sexism in Gaming/Development. (Forums : Cosmos : Sexism in Gaming/Development.) Post Reply
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Dec 21 2013, 3:29pm Anchor

I have not read every post.

The moment one tries to develop a believable character one risks being branded as sexist/racist and what not. If you create a female character, there are certain aspects that make a female female. Same goes for a male character. Do I make characters to sell to the public at large or please the political correct?

Similar for the people working in the industry. Does one really believe here, a proficient programmer or modeler will fail to land a position based on gender?

Jan 4 2014, 5:36am Anchor

The fact is, these social justice idiots aren't really passionate about videogaming/developing, they just want to police any community that doesn't agree with them.  Other wise we'd be playing Super Fat-Acceptance Brothers and waddling through 8 castles to save Princess Peach Cobbler.  No super mushrooms or 1ups because fatties don't eat their vegetables!

Jan 4 2014, 8:03am Anchor

I'm currently developing a game and I'm a "casual feminist" (if that's even a thing). My sister is a feminist and I have discussions with her about topics such as sexism in games, films and pop culture as a whole. It's very interesting because lots of times I see people having opinions about sexism without really having understood the other side of the argument: the feminist. Most people have some sort of pre-determined picture of a feminist and rightfully so, because of the extremists. But it's important to be able to see and listen to other people even if it makes you uncomfy. It's also a good thing to educate yourself and if you do, you'd learn that the extremists is a very, very vocal minority and not the majority of feminists.

That out of the way, I had a point.. Hmm.
Yeah, tokenism! I wrote a small blog post about tokenism some time ago. Considering the weight on character appearance in this thread rather than the presentation of their characteristics and deeper qualities I figured it would be a good opportunity to share my view on tokenism in games, which is basically the false inclusion of a minority or opressed group in society.

"I hold the philosophy that the main role of the writer is to make the characters interesting, engaging, believable and overall relatable or at least understandable, but recently I’ve been thinking about the other end of the spectrum when it comes to writing characters: tokenism, tokenism is basically the false inclusion of a minority to make up for eg. opression, discimination and/or other types of exclusions.

While I was thinking about this, I realized how often writers, film makers and game developers include black people, gay people, women and religious people (other than christians heh) just to make a point, to make sure that they won’t be looked upon as discriminating or excluding other ethnicities, sexualities, genders or religions: the false inclusion.

It is a double edged sword, if you include people just for the sake of them being there to avoid the label of discriminating minorities, you lose depth, substance and coherence and the character falls flat. But if you exclude people of minorities, you get the label. Huh.

I think it’s very easy for people to say, “well just write a positive gay character, or a positive female character, or both. What’s the big deal, you’re a writer right?” Well, that’s where the issue reveals itself, I don’t write characters to make a point, or try to include character just for the sake of them being oppressed or part of a minority. That would mean limiting my creative freedom and ultimately leave me perplexed because the character is developed based on external forces and not from something I can grasp from within myself as a writer, and thus I end up writing a character that is shallow, flat and one dimensional, because the quality that defines the character is forced and in a sense requested rather than a natural property of the character.

I think the key to successfuly writing a character is to throw things like that out the window and ask yourself the question: “What will make my character interesting” and not “how do I write a female character” or “How do I write a gay character” because those properties are seconday, even third in row, the core of the character is who it is, strengths, weaknesses, interests, problems and struggles, dreams and ambitions, what (s)he is, is unimportant when it comes down to it and I don’t think it should matter as much as it does today.

If someone wants to write a character that is male, short hair in his 30-ish then ok, do that, but I want him to be interesting, give him qualities that makes me want to meet him in person, learn more about him and feel engage in his personal development throughout the story and narrative, the same goes for any other type of people, women, gays, blacks, religious, it shouldn’t matter as long as the character feels interesting and engages the player to want to learn more.

The way to achieve good character writing in games is to forget about the external voices about “you need to include this or that otherwise you might seem like a bigoted asshole”, you know what I think? I think that very mindset breeds bigotry, because it treats things like ethnicity, religion and sexuality as a tool instead of a natural property of the character, the tools should be her interests, struggles, problems and dreams, the very properties that set up the reasons why the characters acts the way she does, her being female is not a reason to act a certain way, neither is her skin color, they are just natural properties of the character and should be treated as such."

Jan 4 2014, 9:33am Anchor

You're right about feminism promoting bigotry, ect. Just today I was told flat out that I have a small penis because what other reason would I have to disagree with Anita. I also agree with your points about tokenism, but as to feminists being the rare extremist, no. I can't agree because, while there do exist sex positive feminists who are mostly sane, I've yet to see a radical/anti sex feminist who wasn't just like the stereotype, which is unfortunate.

While your plan is a lovely ideal, it's also not realistic, and wouldn't please the feminists.

The main reason being that feminists have already said that's not acceptable. Female characters that show any kind of weakness, vunrability, or any other negative trait are shot down as demeaning to all women.

You said yourself, it's easy to say "write good characters with depth and personality", but in practice that's very difficult, and in some cases not even necessary.

Jan 4 2014, 9:58am Anchor

I'm not sure "feminism promoting bigotry" is the right phrase, because that is taring everyone with the same brush, I'd say the vocal minory give feminists a very bad reputation. The majority of feminists are not the crazy penis chopping nazis people make them out to be, just like not all religious people are crazy. It's important to draw that distinction when discussing feminism. It's also important to take into account the hundreds of braches of feminism there is today, it's far from black and white.

"While your plan is a lovely ideal, it's also not realistic, and wouldn't please the feminists."

I am a feminist, I talk to lots of feminists and not once have I gotten negative feedback on my writing philosophy. I also don't understand how it's not realistic? Could you please elaborate?

"The main reason being that feminists have already said that's not acceptable. Female characters that show any kind of weakness, vunrability, or any other negative trait are shot down as demeaning to all women."

That is not true, well yeah to some it is but like I said earlier it's about what kind of feminist you are talking about and listen to. Most feminists want a female character that is human, that's the keyword, it's not about being strong vs weak, it's having a character that is treated as a human being and not as either an object or an excuse. And most female characters in games are either an object or an excuse, I dislike that and I create characters to be human, not some sort of tool. I'm yet to hear a feminist disagree with that. 

Edited by: Eliasfrost

Jan 4 2014, 10:19pm Anchor

Ok, to clarify, radical feminist promote bigotry, are never happy with anything, ect. There are sex positive feminists who seem more sane and controlled, but outside of those 2 groups, wouldn't a more general terms apply?

Anyway, I'll apply such terms this post.

It's fair to say, when it comes to feminists having issues with female representation in media, this almost always comes from the radfem groups, with other groups generally being ok with stuff in most cases. Almost any character, no matter how well written, won't please the radfems because any kind of weakness or flaw is conslidered a slight against all women. Human characters, however you define them, generally aren't unstopable mary sue types, which is what radfems object to, but if a character is a mary sue, and thus flat as a pancake, the character will be condemned for not being a good character, or to sexy, or some other minor reason.

As for why your writing philosophy doesn't work, aside the issue I just mentioned, it's easier said than done, and not all games need it. For example, do you really need a deep, human story for every character in a fighting game? How about strategy games? First person shooters? A puzzle game? It's fair to say that you can't just fart out a story or character you describe in 5 minutes between eating and tweaking hitboxes. Ultimately, story is secondary, and while some games put story front and centre and a very good at it, you also don't need a deep, meaningful human drama at the heart of your score based zombie game.

Where I do agree is not writing stories with token characters, or in order to tick some PC box, or make a political statement where it doesn't fit. And I agree that promoting the idea of racial/gender/whatever quotas does more harm than good.

Hopefully that is cleared up.

Jan 4 2014, 10:40pm Anchor

Erin Pizzey, the founder of thee world's first women's shelter, can confirm feminism was always about promoting bigotry.  She found that many of the women in her shelter were just as violent (if not more) as their husbands, tried to start a men's shelter, and the feminists absolutely LOST THEIR SHIT to the point where she left the UK entirely.

Jan 5 2014, 5:02am Anchor

@Sabre:
Have you actively been looking around for feminist blogs and articles? If you haven't then I recommend that you do, most normal feminists don't shout about the problems but try to normalize better representation in women (and in modern wave feminism) equal rights for non-heterosexuals, and believe it or not, men. I'm a man and I spend more time talking about what's wrong with the system men have set up for themselves than I talk about women's issues (which, to be fair, are men's issues as well), I recommend looking up Jackson Katz, he has a lot of interesting things about men and their situation in relation to women and other men.

I understand your point and I agree that that specific group of feminists are making things worth somewhat, but that's only a fraction of all feminists and are not representative for everything feminists stand for, and if I may be frank with you, it's a bit ignorant to suggest they are, please don't take this the wrong way. And I agree that deep character is not necessary everywhere, but I don't think that it renders my philosophy unrealistic but rather non-universal, especially since I don't write fighting games but adventure games, where story and character is key, mind that a character can be deep without being serious.

@Bornloser: Could you please give me a source for that, it sounds interesting (not in a good way).

Thanks! 

Edited by: Eliasfrost

Jan 5 2014, 5:12am Anchor

@elias
Ok, start with this interview an if it doesn't answer your questions keep googling her name.

Jan 5 2014, 5:21am Anchor
bornloser wrote:@elias
Ok, start with this interview an if it doesn't answer your questions keep googling her name.

Interesting. But she is not a spokesperson for all feminists, remember that. I actively try to distance myself from the feminists that don't hold my and my peers view on things (but I'm not afraid to listen to them), just like religious people distance themselves from their extremists. Or any political branch.

Edited by: Eliasfrost

Jan 5 2014, 6:02am Anchor

And yet the so-called radicals always seem to be available every time their opponents try to have an intelligent discussion on a university campus.  Pulling fire alarms, droning everyone out, screaming made up words like "rape culture" etc

Jan 5 2014, 6:12am Anchor

I guess we have to agree to disagree then. Mind you that I don't oppose the existence of crazy people, I just don't think you should pay them any mind, but focus on the sane people.

Edited by: Eliasfrost

Jan 5 2014, 6:25am Anchor
Eliasfrost wrote:I guess we have to agree to disagree then. Mind you that I don't oppose the existence of crazy people, I just don't think you should pay them any mind, but focus on the sane people.

Not possible when the world conforms to the demands/lobbying efforts of crazy people.  I know from personally experience that mentally ill women are particularly dangerous because men are naturally protective of them.  Did you know Lorena Bobbit has her own DV org now?

Jan 5 2014, 5:20pm Anchor

Eliasfrost- One minor knitpick. What you describe doesn't sound like feminism, but humanism? I don't know the exact term. But I'd argue if that counts as feminism or not. Either way, not important, just thought I'd bring it up, as it seems you have picked a controversial label for your ideals. Kind of like calling a pro gay marriage movement "white supremacism". It doesn't effect your ideals, but it does muddy the waters when arguing them. Just saying.

As to your idea of writing better characters, the fact it's not a universal solution makes it worthless. I don't play adventure games, not my thing, but I was under the impression the stories and characters are generally better? I don't recall any adventure game where you play as token archetypes or stereotypes. The claims of tokenism, and more specifically sexism, are mostly aimed at games where story usually takes a back seat to action.

Jan 5 2014, 6:14pm Anchor
SabreXT wrote:Eliasfrost- One minor knitpick. What you describe doesn't sound like feminism, but humanism? I don't know the exact term. But I'd argue if that counts as feminism or not. Either way, not important, just thought I'd bring it up, as it seems you have picked a controversial label for your ideals. Kind of like calling a pro gay marriage movement "white supremacism". It doesn't effect your ideals, but it does muddy the waters when arguing them. Just saying.

As to your idea of writing better characters, the fact it's not a universal solution makes it worthless. I don't play adventure games, not my thing, but I was under the impression the stories and characters are generally better? I don't recall any adventure game where you play as token archetypes or stereotypes. The claims of tokenism, and more specifically sexism, are mostly aimed at games where story usually takes a back seat to action.


It's more of a way to try to reclaim the term, if the only picture people get when they hear feminist is a bra bruning crazy person, then it's a problem and the more normal people try to retake a word that was never intended to carry such extreme connotation. It's like muslim, it's more associated with islam extremists than actual normal muslims nowadays, or the aesir faith, which is being more and more associated with nazism (especially in scandinavia). But enough of that, I still refer to myself as a feminist and I'd like to keep it that way.

 It depends on what kind of adventure game you're playing but generally they are focused on character and story and naturally the weight is put into those areas. I don't know about the last sentence though, I don't think a story or lack thereof changes whether game has sexist elements or not, could be but I doubt it slightly.

Jan 9 2014, 6:00pm Anchor

Well, whenever a game/gaming as a whole is charged with sexism, or any other non-PC behaviour, who are the usual suspects? GTA, DoA, CoD, Dragons Crown, Mario, ect.

Games that, generally speaking, don't focus on story. Now I know GTA has been more story heavy for a while, and CoD4s single player has a great story imo. However. in those cases it's elements outside of the story itself that tend to blamed. In GTA5, it was that there wasn't a female lead character, and there was hookers in the game. In CoD, it's the focus on guns and lack of female characters.

This is why I don't think your ideas of reducing tokenism are useful. Let's say, for example, you have a dungeon crawl RPG. You write a rich backstory and all of that, but alot, if not most people ignore that and pick the character that matches their playstyle and get to grinding.

This is why I believe your idea of avoiding tokenism, while admirable, doesn't really work. If the game isn't about story, you can write an 80 page human drama for each character, but it doesn't matter as few are going to care.

The games it works for aren't the target of the accusations. It's like thinking up the perfect weight loss plan, but it only works for thin people.

I don't mean to advertise my own stuff, but it's a good example. I'm working on a Doom mod. The idea is that each episode and character has a different theme, so one is horror themed, one is adventure themed, ect. Because of how Doom is, at best I have 2-3 paragraph text dump at the start and end of each chapter.The goal is to make a fun shooter. While I don't think my characters are token, they do have large backstories and have been bouncing around my head for years, it's very easy to see them that way based on the game. As a creator, I want to jump into the action as soon as I can, as that's what I'm interested in for this project, and I suspect the players would feel the same way.

Jan 9 2014, 7:36pm Anchor

Fun game:  Play through any AAA game and see if you can remember the black guy's name afterwards.

Edited by: bornloser

Jan 24 2014, 5:34pm Anchor

mhh

Jan 24 2014, 11:18pm Anchor

One thing I haven't seen anyone talk about in the "sexism in gaming" argument is the fact that the women who really piss off gamers aren't just any women.  They're women who aren't actually interested in video games but want to impose their vision on the community anyway.  Jennifer Hepler pissed off the Mass Effect community by saying that her least favorite part of video games was playing them (and for giving the impression that she only writes for games because she can't hack it anywhere else-bad news for story-driven games).  Then there's Dina Abou Karam, the community manager for Mighty Number 9, who admits that she was "never a megaman player" but also claimed to be a designer and artist working on the project and therefore capable of pushing her feminism on people who just wanted a megaman clone (also, despite said feminism, she got her job by being somebody's girlfriend.)  Then you have Anita Sarkeesian, who turnder out to just be a conwoman that EA hired to bash the games its competitors published.  In other words, the same women who would have turned their noses up at this community (and its unattractive members) only 5-10 years ago are now demanding to police it.  And despite the alleged sexism in the community, it seems like most male gamers want to roll out the red carpet, just for the chance to talk to a woman.  As for the rape threats, that's probably just 4chan being 4chan, they're not going to make good on them.

Feb 1 2014, 8:44pm Anchor

Treating women with a handicap, such as letting them go first only because they're woman is sexism in its finest. I mean you should be kind to everyone, regardless their gender. 

But in terms of games, the fact that some elements of sexism are implemented in video games is not neccesarily a proof that the devs are chauvinists. They are simply depicting a certain situation in the game. The same can be applied to violence and every other non-moral behaviour.

Edited by: iKonrad

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