Posts Tagged ‘The Terminator’

Dismissive

Yes, I also believe that the government should give people cookies. Even in the public schools. Gluten-free cookies, even.

Games are sexist. Roleplaying games are sexist. Video games are sexist. Massively multiplayer online games are sexist. Not all of them, not always, but way too many and way too often.

Before we can talk about this, we need to establish something. You’re not a bad person. I mean that. You, personally. You’re not a bad person, and the fact that I’m angry about this does not mean that I think that you are. This is not one of those times when you need to defend yourself.

That’s the problem, though: every time we start to talk about how to make games less sexist, we end up with an argument about whether we should be having the discussion, or whether the issue’s even relevant.

So, in the interests of being able to constructively discuss gender problems and gaming in the future, I’m going to address some of those arguments here in the past. My friend the straw man will provide some arguments in bold, and I’ll respond by setting fire to him.

“Women don’t play games.”

Women do play games. They play games in different types and numbers than men. This doesn’t mean that female gamers aren’t out here. They are… and the sadly hilarious thing is, they’ve been here the whole time. Sit outside the treehouse with a “No Girls Allowed” sign and all you’re doing is ignoring that there are ladies inside painting Tyrranids.

“But they’re a minority.”

That’s what happens when you start splitting a set into subsets. Some are generally bigger than others. That doesn’t mean some subsets don’t exist. There are fewer 3s in a deck of cards than other cards. That doesn’t mean I should be designing my game without 3s in it.

“People can’t agree on what’s sexist, so there’s no point in trying not to be sexist.”

You know what else people can’t agree on? Computing platforms. Somehow, they manage to throw Comdex and make new, more awesome computers every year anyway. Android 3.0 is still going to be really cool even though a lot of people won’t like it as well as iOS 5. We can make things better even if we can’t agree on perfect.

“Feminism is over.”

So’s Nextwave. ‘SPLODE!

“We should be focused on gameplay and story, not gender.”

We’re capable of thinking of more than one thing at once.

“Or, rather, we should be focused on a quality product, rather than one aimed at pleasing a particular demographic.”

Sometimes, people create things without caring what other people think. Most times are not that time. The audience isn’t any more dead than the author.

Who Waits Forever, Anyway?

More people than care to admit to, and Queen goddamn knew it. I think that’s called irony.1 But there really is a thing that fills our dreams then slips away from us. We call it “the past,” but at one time we were very invested in it as the present and the near-future.2

Nostalgia gets thrown around a lot as an accusation in the gaming community, and there’s no wonder some people are very defensive about it. If someone consistently called me an “employee” as a pejorative, I’d no doubt get defensive about it, regardless of how cheerfully employed I am.

The conventional view, I guess, is that if you’re nostalgic about things, then they really weren’t that good and you’re only fooling yourself now. Shame on you for thinking you were happy.

I think that view’s stupid. There’s a limit to how far nostalgia can go, of course, and the problem with trying to go back is that you’ll find you want to bring people with you and they never remember it quite the same way.

Affection for the past is nevertheless a wonderful and important thing. Our past experiences make us who we are, and if we only ever remembered the shitty ones, we’d only ever be the sum of our unpleasant past.

I don’t think that acknowledging nostalgia for things like old video games or old roleplaying games means that those games weren’t any good. I was surprised, recently, at how good the environmental narrative in Maniac Mansion actually is.3 And I’ll take a stand for the lowly mongbat as one of gaming’s funniest monsters any day you care to name.

Yet, I’m also nostalgic for these things. It’s important not only that they were good, but that I remember them as good. I think, as a gaming community, we should really embrace that.

To quote John Higgins, from the introduction to Elegia: “…nostalgia is a potent and powerful force within the Retro Revival of pencil-and-paper role-playing games.” Yes, it is. We should acknowledge that, and we should harness it. Imagine the hell out of it, sure, but remember what you used to imagine, too.

Playing with old toys isn’t just about remembering the past, but we shouldn’t pretend that remembering the past does, itself, have value. I’m never going to hear “Maria” for the first time again, either. Still a great song, and still precious for its link to the past.

And I’m going to blast the shit out of it until my roommate wakes up.

____

  1. I think. I’m still technically on irony probation thanks to purchasing Jagged Little Pill in August of 1995.
  2. Yes, my understanding of nostalgia is entirely based on Highlander. You think that’s bad? I learned about true love from The Terminator.
  3. If there’s anyone who can get off my lawn, it’s the Day of the Tentacle kids, but I have a hard time caring about even that.