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Gamer Pride: Defending The Gamer

Posted on Thursday, December 12 @ 11:24:30 Eastern by ryanbates


The New Statesman's online site recently published a piece with the Upworthy-eque title of “If you love games, you should refuse to be called a gamer.” Simon Parkin's lambasting of gamers as a whole does not appear as a blog, or opinion, but under the “Culture” tab, as if to represent a factual piece. The only fact that really dominates, however, is that Mr. Parkin needs to take his holier-than-thou rhetoric and proverbial hipster glasses and follow Captain Shepard’s mantra—he should go.
 
Mr. Parkin begins with sensible pieces of evidence to back up his bombastic claim that the “idea of the gaming community needs to die.” The painfully-bad VGX (formerly the Spike VGA awards) pandered to the straight white male lowest common denominator that makes the fan base of Spike, joking that Wario had not undergone sex-reassignment surgery. During the Microsoft press briefing at the 2013 E3 trade show, a somewhat rape-y line was delivered during the Killer Instinct demo. “Relax, just let it happen” set the room abuzz, adding onto the PR nightmare Microsoft was suffering at the time, causing us to wonder if the statement was scripted or vaulted in the heat of competition and failing to be anything positive in either situation.


 
Having established precedent that gamers may not be as inclusive as they should be, Mr. Parkin then pitches the blame of the gaming community's issues on... the gaming community. By the time I slogged through roughly 90% of the self-loathing diatribe, finally Mr. Parkin comes up with the wildly-original and completely-unheard-of concept of “maybe if the community gets educated...”
 
Uh... excuse the hell out of me?
 
Allow me to start by doing something that Mr. Parkin fails to do, which is present myself. Mr. Parkin, on his New Statesman profile page, presents neither information about himself, nor a picture. He could be a FtM pansexual person of color, for all I know, or he may be a straight white male proving a point. While this may not be of importance in moving closer toward a solution, the whole of Mr. Parkin's piece equates to poking a fire with a stick to see if there are flames.


 
I, however, do not hide behind Internet anonymity. I am a gay white cis-male. Yes, I do have two of the three characteristics that makes the largest portion of the gaming community, and yes, I could hide the gay portion in gaming if I wished. But I do not wish that. I wish for inclusiveness for all races, all genders, and all sexualities. I, more so than others, know my community isn't all that inclusive. Listen, I've been to this rodeo before; prior to writing in game journalism, I was in the boxing press. Try being a gay man in that field.
 
I know that the gaming community isn't always inclusive; I know there is more than plenty of work to be done. But just like in my childhood, where I was the only one who had the right to bitch about my family, unless you identify yourself as a gamer, do not dare try to pretend to know what is right for my community. Because while we discuss anonymity versus identity, I also stand up as a “gamer”/”gaymer.” Mr. Parkin does not, and only serves to come across as an elitist shamemonger.
 
The author uses a wide swatch to paint gamers as an uneducated bunch. Mr. Parkin, I likely know more gamers than you have ever met through various social groups, websites, and real-life communities and organizations, and I can do nothing less then vehemently disagree with you. Gamers, on the whole, are educatedmore than educated even. I worked hard and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and many of my friends and acquaintances have curricula vitae that make my college career look like kindergarten. And while not all gamers have the paper certificate to prove it, many have street and worldly smarts far more valuable than anything academia can offer.

Whether or not a set of letters can be attached to one's resume, many gamers are, in fact, more enlightened than the mainstream wishes to give them credit for. Mr. Parkin's imagery is just as pandering as saying “Americans are stupid because the Tea Party wants to block everything the President does.” No, Tea Partiers are stupid because the Tea Party wants to block everything the President does. I may be strongly progressive, but even I can see that Republicans aren't all bad, despite a small segment of their population giving them a very bad image in this era. Likewise, for every one douchebag in the gaming community, there are scores of more gamers who aren't raving maniac racist homophobes.


 
I would argue the exact opposite of what this article posts—gamers are becoming more and more aware of the issues within the gaming community, and feel more often and more heavily with the people that inadvertently (or unfortunately, deliberately) find themselves thrust out of the safe confines of that same gaming community. I'm in the trenches. I see the change happening. Indeed, enlightenment moves slowly, but doesn't it in all such situations? The author references Mattie Brice, who by all means is a strong figure and sheds light on so many subjects regarding the non-SWM gaming community; that same author, however, spends most of the article lambasting gamers as a whole. How is this anything less than counterproductive? Mattie Brice has notoriety and spotlight, but the life and death of the gaming community does not lie on Brice's shoulders exclusively. The burden has been shouldered by average gamers like you and I.

Journalists have picked up the mantle, such as the editor-in-chief of Kotaku openly standing up for gamers of all types. Brave gamers like Jenny Haniver have stood up and held the mirror to the community, demanding that they look at what their fellow gamers are doing. And gutsy companies like Riot Games fight the establishment to ensure that representation not only surfaces in the gaming community, but flourishes.
 
I was at that E3 conference referenced during the Killer Instinct “just let it happen” incident. Let me point out two things that the author either innocently or willfully left out:
  1. The woman really didn't know how to play KI, so when she said “I don't like this,” it's because she had her ass handed to her on a platter. She didn't really know how to play, and she went up against one of the devs. Unfair match-up in front of a large audience, I might say the same thing, no matter what was said before, during, or after.
  2. When the dev said “just let it happen,” whispers started going up all over the forum. Was that...? We asked. That was... y'know... kinda rape-y. If there was no awareness of this sort of thing, it wouldn't have been until Sarkeesian got a hold of it and stuck it up on the wall. (And God bless her soul, but occasionally her statements are as overkill on her end as those who might defend rape-y statements like “just let it happen.”)
The author also comments that everyone will be gamers in the near future; that also fails to be completely accurate. I love movies, but I don't classify myself as a “film geek.” Just because you have an iPhone and play Candy Crush Saga now and then doesn't make you a gamer. Gamers are passionate about all games, even ones they don't play. We play because we see them as art, as Mr. Parkin demonstrates, but we also play for the escape. We play for the competition. We play for victory, for achievements, for 100% runs. We play for depth of plot, and sometimes we play for shallowness of plot because we like blowing up zombies. And before you judge that last statement, remember we live in the same society that you do, the one that gave us Jerry Springer, Duck Dynasty, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and no less than four reality shows forcing Kardashians upon us.
 
Does the industry have a lot of work to do? Hell to the yes. There are no LGBTQ protagonists of significance; the subject is barely being breached. Events like GaymerX and other gaymer conventions are finally starting to shine a light on that and say, “You know what, this isn't good; our stories should be told too.” Female protagonists are one to every, what, ten, fifteen, twenty male protagonists? It's almost laughable at some point. We have a lot to work on, but what we should not stand for are people like Mr. Parkin saying that the problem with the gaming community lies in gamers. Because what you see in the gaming community, of which I am proud to be a part of, reflects what you currently see in American societyin a group, the stupidest ones are the loudest. The power of knowledge and education must be what we use to overcome the power of stupid.
 
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