Home > Gaming, Internet, Media > Stop Killing Gaming Part 3: Nobody Takes Gamers Seriously

Stop Killing Gaming Part 3: Nobody Takes Gamers Seriously

I’ve discussed a lot of parts of gaming.  I’ve talked about why I don’t think video games are art, why DLC (especially shitty DLC) is killing gaming, and why games like COD are destroying the medium.

You may notice that in many ways these are focused solely on the companies producing things that damage overall gaming.  I have, thus far, neglected to really accuse anybody but the companies for hurting gaming.  I guess I’ve been a little hard on gamers for buying into these things, but I don’t really blame them for buying what’s available.

Today I put an end to that by discussing the fact that nobody really takes gaming seriously.  I’ll be looking at video gamers themselves and video game media.

Gamers in the Public Eye

Something Awful, if you’re not familiar with it, is a (brilliant) humor website.  They frequently post the mistitled  (it’s hardly daily) “Awful Link of the Day”, a tradition that has existed for some time on the website.  Not too long ago they covered a particular ALOD that I was slightly put off by: GamerFood.

This proves so many of my points all at once.

Every ALOD gets a brief entry from one of the SA writers detailing what the link is about and why it’s so awful (although usually it’s pretty self-evident).  In the opening sentence of the GamerFood link Daryl “Fucking” Hall urges the reader to “[f]indme a more irritating ‘subculture’ than gamers, I dare you. [. . .] at least those dudes aren’t constantly griping about how their expensive toys aren’t considered art. Gamers seem insistent on constantly reminding the public that their toys are serious toys, deserving of respect”.

If that’s not a little disheartening to you, I’d imagine you don’t consider yourself a gamer.  If you are a gamer, then you’re probably reminded that, as is often the case with observational humor, the truth can sting just a little bit.

Gaming wasn’t always a part of the public eye.  It was, for some time, just considered the domain of nerds in their parents’ basements.  The very games I often deride—games like COD—are the games that have, to some extent, made it acceptable to be a gamer.

After all, the typical image of a gamer is some clueless nerd, and that nerd always has to be inept with women.  (Though I suppose that was implied by the use of the word “nerd”.)  Nonetheless, a lot of the people who play COD are the complete opposite of this subgroup, often fitting into a category most appropriately described as “total douchebags”.

What most people think of when they think gamer. I’m sorry to the poor guy who somehow ended up as the #1 result when you Google Image “video gamer”.

But even with this increased acceptance, gaming is something that people outside of the industry and the subculture rarely take seriously.

Cracked did an article that, oddly, managed to nail the issue almost perfectly.  In that article, David Wong (who is probably one of the only competent writers—besides DOB—on the Cracked staff) talks about all the issues that face gamers, even today.  I’d suggest reading it for no other reason than he talks about this issue in more detail than I will.  Also, it’s in list format for those of you who are put off by having to read things.

To summarize Wong’s points briefly: we’re still considered lonely virgins, the game manufacturers think we’re immature morons, games—after forty years—are still terrible at storytelling, the “technical novelty” (to use his words) still amazes us, and we’re extremely entitled.

Anyway, while he brings up good points, I think that the first two and the last one on that list are the most relevant to my points.

The World Thinks We’re Spoiled Teenagers

The world still thinks of video games as kids entertainment.  Should the world realize for even a moment that not all video gamers are teenagers, we get things like GamerFood.  You have to love the person who invented GamerFood.  I can only imagine that drinking an energy drink and making some Hot Pockets is too hard, so why not just make energy drinks in nut form?  Kill two birds with one stone.

Yeah, we totally deserve to be taken seriously.

Kind of witty, but still not the best way to speak your mind. Yet Google provides countless images and links with a similar means of expressing disapproval. Good job, guys!

Another point in case: I take the side of those who hated the ME3 ending, I have to admit that a lot of the outrage around it was poorly vocalized.  Rather than the masses of gamers talking about the reasons the ending sucked (lack of agency, that they are all the same, etc) we all basically whined nonstop.

The reasons we dislike the ending are legitimate, but all the rest of the world heard was “QQ QQ QQ QQQQQQQ” from us.  That is, assuming they thought in stupid gamer/internet slang.

I should clarify that David Wong’s idea—and by extension my discussion in this post—of entitlement is in terms of the fact that gamers are pirates and will always consider the price tags on games too high for the effort put in.  He does not suggest entitlement in the sense that I discussed it previously.

That is to say, where I think that the (well written) complaints about the ME3 ending are just pointing out that we were misled about the game, entitlement in this case refers to the fact that gamers always want more out of games and they want it for free.

Here are some other examples of how gamers are spoiled kids; examples that you could swear were cases of little kids throwing temper tantrums.  Oh, and youtube has no dearth of videos about spoiled gamers being pissed off.  No doubt some are fake, but then art imitates reality.

Honestly, it’s not all that surprising that nobody takes gamers seriously, because we don’t seem to take ourselves seriously.  Whenever something bad happens in video gaming, we respond like spoiled children and the world, realizing this, just treats us accordingly.

Reinforcing The Stereotype of the Nerdy Virgin Gamer

And, most of all, David Wong’s point about gamers being immature pricks in the eyes of the companies is hilarious.  He posts a number of pictures of various tits and asses from video games.

“I was going to become a supermodel, but then I realized by amazing body would be better used as cannon fodder against aliens.”

Let there be no mistake: video games objectify women in ways that would make Hugh Hefner and Larry Flint blush.  Every video game female in history has been ridiculously attractive.  Unless she’s evil. If a future society could judge ours based solely upon video games, I’m guessing that they’d be incredibly offended and consider us a society of misogynists.

You might try to argue that the game companies just turn female characters in games into anatomical bastardizations of the human body just to try to sell things on cheap sexuality.  Hell, the fighting game franchise Dead or Alive put out a goddamn Beach Volleyball game.  They sold a game entirely based upon the premise that there are virtual women with bouncy breasts.

And make no mistake that just like any other form of media, selling things is at the heart of this objectification of women.   For those of you women (if there are any) reading this post, please don’t mistake this part of the article as me pretending I have never bought into the shit video games pull on me.  I play a female character at almost every opportunity because I feel like it’s way cooler when she destroys everyone around her. I’m just as complicit as everybody else in this.

But I also only realized recently how bad this particular phenomenon was.

As I pointed out when I talked about entitlement, the video game companies are just companies, and they wouldn’t do something if it didn’t sell.  Ever wonder why every female character in every video game is hot, has huge breasts and a shapely ass?  Where are the curvy women?  Where are the women who aren’t supermodels?

At least Miranda has the excuse that her dad designer her body that way, for whatever creepy implications we might get from that. But how is that ridiculous bodysuit even feasible in combat?

They got left behind when video game companies realized that—even more than movies—people buying their games only want to see attractive women.  They want that because they are adolescents (or adults stuck in their adolescence, in the case of most COD players).  They put big breasts and tight asses in games because that is what sells to us, the gamers.

Don’t get me wrong, men in these games are invariably attractive too, so we have the same thing going on in video games as in movies.  Every guy is some musclebound, crew-cut adonis and every woman is a supermodel.  I get that movies, TV, magazines and everything else in our world do that.  So you might be wondering why I’m picking on video games in particular.

The answer is that video games can control this.  Hollywood has this unique problem where they need to find people who can act.  Tatum Channing may seem life proof otherwise, but your Joe Windrider off the street isn’t going to have the acting chops to make it in Hollywood.  Even then, there are plenty of average-looking actors out there, but Hollywood still has a smaller pool to draw from than usual.  In the end, mostly by Hollywood’s own doing, the people who aren’t attractive and who cannot act are going to get filtered out, so by time you get the head shots to the casting director’s desk, he’s got a homogenized pool of actors from which to draw.

Video games don’t have this convenient excuse.  Video game designers can create anybody they want, and so there is no reason that almost every woman should have a ridiculous body and be attractive.  No reason other than we, as people, are shallow.  But then, that’s a deeper social issue that I’m not going to discuss.

My point is just that even if we assumed that nobody wanted to see unattractive people in video games, they do NOT all have to have exaggerated breasts and asses.  Video game designers have a choice, but they know that gamers will be put off if their video games don’t double as masturbatory aids.

The Gaming Media Is a Joke…

When I think “cosplay” I think “take me seriously”.

I’m not going to just pick on gamers’ behavior in general.  The gaming media is just as complicit in this as anybody else.  The thing is, gaming media exists for two reasons: to talk about gaming and to do so in a manner that attracts readers.

I guess that’s why Kotaku has a goddamn cosplay subsection of their site.  It also explains why the vast majority of cosplay articles involve women, and often they are of the scantily clad variety.  It explains why somehow Jessica Chobot got put into Mass Effect 3 in one of the most ridiculous outfits any reporter has worn in history.  Sex sells, and this is apparently especially true for gamers.

But beyond that, one of the reasons that video game media is so damaging is because there is no reason to take it seriously.  Just like we have no reason to take gamers seriously, gaming media is tailored to gamers and written by gamers.  Thus, it is basically full of fluff that is of no consequence.

Once, as a kid, I remember reading in a video game magazine a full article about Lara Croft.  It was not about the Tomb Raider games, it was about Lara Croft.  It contained an interview.  Video game media is, at its heart, the damn swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated in every article.  It appeals to the lowest common denominator within all of us.

But there is another reason nobody can really take video game media seriously: it is one gigantic conflict of interest.  IGN had one of the major video personalities in Mass Effect 3 and yet reviewed it anyway.  Their review page for ME3 had an advertisement for ME3 on the very same page.  Recently when I went to the website to check on it, their entire website was one gigantic advertisement for Battleship.

Nothing wrong with this…nothing wrong AT ALL.  By the way, that’s the IGN front page.  I know, you’d think I accidentally went to battleship.com.

Game magazines—especially the official ones—are often under huge pressure from the manufacturer to make the console look good or else get funding pulled.  Game websites are typically based upon ad revenue—advertisements for the very products they are trying to sell.

If you were to read a movie review in the newspaper and noticed a full-page ad for the same movie on the opposite page, you might wonder at the integrity there.  Yet few give a second thought to that very conflict of interest when it comes to gaming outlets.

To sum this up: the gaming media takes itself super seriously, yet the seriousness with which they speak about topics is often undermined by the topic itself.  In addition to that, almost all gaming media outlets face some conflict of interest, usually because they’re based upon ad revenue.

…But the Gaming Media Is Also Too Serious

Yet in a mind-boggling contradiction, the gaming media simultaneously takes itself far too seriously.  I want the world to look at gamers in a fonder light, but I do not consider video games to be a totally serious subject.

I once got into an argument with a couple of the guys over at The Verdict about whether to side with the Stormcloaks or Imperials in Skyrim.  (The correct answer, by the way, is Imperials.  Ulfric Stormcloak is a bigot and a tyrant in the making.)  But while we were basically yelling at each other, we walked away laughing because it was a video game argument.  It just didn’t matter in the long run.

Kotaku Home Page

What’s wrong with this picture? If your answer is: “there are four articles complaining about video game baseball” you win.

Video game media sits around yelling about video games, but they never stop to realize how ridiculous their ferocity really is.

Kotaku (sorry if you like Kotaku, but honestly that site is trash), while I was doing research for this post, had a main page article (picture included in this article) titled “NBA Live Moves with a Purpose to Make You a Better Baller”.  Then it included three links to other articles about sports games, including “Will We Have Any Baseball Video Games on Xbox 360 Next Year?”

I feel for the baseball fans who want to play baseball on the 360, but is that seriously important?  I mean, can’t you just play last year’s game?  I know the new rosters are included, but that’s about the only difference and I think you’ll live if your team isn’t perfectly in sync with the current team.

Do not think that I am dismissing anybody who takes gaming seriously.  I consider myself a gamer, and I care about games.  I am writing about games.  But I think that at the end of the day I am able to walk away—even when I’ve written about a game and seem to have gotten upset, as in the case of Kai Leng being goddamn stupid—and know that it doesn’t really matter in the long term.

Reviews and previews of video games fall into the “too serious” category.  Reviewing anything is going to be subjective, but reviewing video games is almost more so.  I think any gamer can agree that we all know when a game is really bad.  But look at the metacritic user reviews for any of the major (and well reviewed by media outlets) games to come out this year so far. You’ll find that gamers can never seem to agree with each other as to what a good game is.

Just read the start of that review. You’d think you’re reading a a book review from School Library Journal, not an IGN article. (Also, absorb the hilarity of a paid advertisement for the game they’re reviewing on the same page.)

Part of that is because gaming genres are subjective, and also that they’re blending.  It used to be if you wanted a strategy game, you got that.  RPGs were straight-up RPGs.  And yet now we see genres blending and changing in odd ways.  I’m not a huge fan of traditional RPGs, but gamse like Knights of the Old Republic or Mass Effect 1 are incredibly enjoyable for me.

Beyond all of this, though, you have to consider that reviewers often consider things like graphics, story, sound and gameplay and then compile an overall score.  Personally, if the graphics are a tad behind but the game is otherwise spectacular I have no problem with it.  Yet you frequently see games get lower scores because they were in development for so long that their graphics aren’t as great.

In the end, the websites and magazines providing these articles act like there is somehow an objective way to review games and ride that premise out.  This falls into the “taking things too seriously” because in the end its a game.  If you enjoyed it but the graphics weren’t fantastic, should that really matter?

What Should Game Media Do to Fix This?

Like in all my other posts, I’ll conclude with some suggestions to help fix this and, more than that, some hope that things will change.

Kotaku seems to be ahead of the curve, having already (subtly) admitted they’re a joke.

I’ll start by suggesting that the video game media needs to get its act together and start writing on topics of substance.  (I’d like to think I fall into that category.)  If you’re going to speak authoritatively and seriously about gaming, you need to say something unique about it.

The current topics of these media outlets run the gamut from reviews to full previews of new games.  We often see articles about the technical advances of the medium.  What you rarely see are people thinking of the larger implications of trends within gaming.

If gaming is ever to be universally considered an art form, then we need to start treating it that way.  Rather than talking about what the hottest new brush techniques are, we should be talking about the meaning and impact of games.  I’d like to think that I am contributing to this, as I never just look at a game and talk about it, but rather talk about what it means in some larger societal context.

This is, to me, the key to changing the face of game media.

If that fails and we still insist on covering the same fluff topics, then perhaps the media outlets just need to change their tone and realize they’re talking about video games, not the presidential election.  Lighten the tone up some.

How Do We Fix Perceptions of Gamers?

Suggesting how gamers as a whole can change perceptions is a lot harder.  There are already social concepts of gamers that we may not be able to break easily, if at all.

Mountain Dew Game Fuel: when your drink isn’t extreme enough for skateboarding, just put an orc on it and sell it to gamers.

But I do think that we, as gamers, need to start somewhere.  When a company decides to release something like GamerFood, I think that we—as gamers—need to stand up and tell them how insulting that really is.

And guys, these things really are insulting. It’s insulting to assume that all gamers are so lazy or easily distracted by games that they would rather eat some foul-tasting mixture of Red Bull and mixed nuts than get up and microwave some damn pizza rolls.

When a website features an article about the hottest video game women, we need to stand up and—like actual human beings who have met women—point out how insulting that truly is.

And it’s insulting that women, who already have to live up to the ridiculous standards set by Hollywood and magazines like Cosmo, have to feel that same pressure coming from video games.

It’s also insulting to us, the gamers.  We may think it’s cool that the breast physics are modeled better than a dead bad guy’s rag doll. Just consider that when a developer sexualizes a video game character they are basically implying that we, the gamers, are the lonely virgins in their mom’s basements.  And we eat that shit up, all too happy to give them our money and prove them right.

We’ve Earned This.

We’ve all heard a friend tell a tasteless, racist joke based upon some stupid stereotype that isn’t even close to true.  I’m sure we’ve all heard the defense that “stereotypes are based in fact”, as though saying that somehow makes that person look less ignorant.  That excuse is the lamest reason to judge an entire group.

And yet in the case of gamers, I look at us as a whole and think that we really have made caricatures of ourselves in every way possible. We seem all too content to whine—with mouths full of GamerFood—that nobody takes our powerful computers and super awesome games seriously. We do this while insisting that the protagonist of our game have DD breasts and an ass that requires more computing power to render than the Apollo 11 moon landing.

I think it’s time to look at ourselves, think really hard, and act the way we want people to perceive us.

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