June 21, 2006

Game Criticism & Etc.

First, the Etc.: I've really fallen in love with the New Joe Fridays collumn at Newsarama. Every week they have a nice long chat with Marvel Comics EIC, Joe Quesada about all things Marvel now and in the future. He's got lots of interesting stuff to say this week about the big reveal from Civil War #2, so if you don't want to know about (spoiler! highlight to see) Spiderman unmasking himself in front of the press to show his support for the Super Hero Registration Act (end spoiler), you shouldn't go there until you've read the issue.

Game Criticism:

Chuck Klosterman doesn't think there is any real video game criticism out there and also thinks there are fundamental properties of video games that make criticism difficult if not impossible. When I first came across this story I immediately thought of The Escapist, which I think borders rather closely on real game criticism. Their latest issue, "Girl Power 2", is full of interesting stuff, particularly "Asexuality Actually", and I recommend the issue highly and not just for video game players. In the thread where people were discussing the Klosterman article, someone mentioned this site as having serious game criticism. Incidentally, though there were a few shining lights of intelligence in the thread discussing the Klosterman article, but, as is often the case, there was a critical mass of idiocy. The number of people that though criticism referred to saying bad things about a game was shocking.


Noumena said...

I want to comment on two sentences from near the end of the Walker piece ('Asexuality actually'), because they seem to contradict each other. The first is this:

focusing on the few games that do perpetuate stereotypes is the very device that alienates girls from gaming. It focuses the attention away from the real issue: a media that's writing to the boys, but writing about the girls

This, I think, is entirely accurate: while the content of most videogames is not particularly sexist, gaming culture is a world in which flesh-and-blood women are freakish anomalies. The obvious solution, then, is to change the culture; and while that's easier said than done, one first steps would seem to be trying to understand exactly how gaming culture is sexist. For example, pointing out ways people normalize guy gamers and abnormalize girl gamers.

But then, immediately after the last quotation, we have this:

However, my cry remains: Can we all stop saying that this is a medium predominantly aimed at men, and maybe see if this is a refrain that has simply been reinforcing itself for a good number of years?

So, apparently, instead of actively trying to understand how gamer culture is sexist, we make it un-sexist by simply pretending that it isn't. Philosophers have, over the ages, developed a technical term for this sort of non-solution: wishful thinking. The only way we can eliminate sexism from gamer culture is by actually eliminating sexism from gamer culture, and that does requiring recognizing ugly facts like that this is a medium predominantly aimed at men. Fortunately, it also requires recognizing much nicer facts, like that, despite this medium being predominantly aimed at men, it is also being enjoyed by large numbers of women.

While Walker makes a good point in the first quotation, his ultimate goal, sadly, seems to be the silencing of radical criticism. It is not just the critic of sexism in games, but also the critic of the far more systemic problem of sexism in gamer culture, who is told to just shut up and play.

I think the Ruberg article ('The truth about little girls') is much more philosophically interesting, and not coincidentally, much more radical:

For many male gamers, playing as a woman is justifiable because it entails watching a buxomly female behind. Playing a little girl ... well, things would be different. It would never be macho - not in a traditional sense. Not only would you be identifying with a girl, but a child at that.

Dan Brottman said...

Apparently Newsarama was named in Entertainment Weekly's top 25 entertainment websites.

I was reading through one of my friends reviews on there, where the message board for it went "Flame On!"

I find it funny reading about people calling each other comic-book elitists and those others defending themselves... makes me giggle.


He's also got a new "It Came From the Quarter Bin" :