Since my Modern Life is Rubbish post about my own relationship with computers a couple of new words have entered my vocabulary. Unfortunately those words have been GamerTag and Doxxing.
And I apologise for saying it, but what the actual fuck?
I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember. I’m not a particular fan of online multiplayer, although I have pumped some hours into Battlefield, Space Marine, Medal of Honour and more recently Destiny. I am also primarily a console gamer. Through choice.
There seem to be more and more subdivisions of ‘gamer’ now. Casual or Hardcore, Console or PC, Offline or Online, Big Screen or Handheld, Child/Teen or Adult, Entertainment or Art – but the most ridiculous of these has always been (and is becoming ever more so) Male or Female.
I’m the first to admit I’m not a big feminist thinker, but I have always believed that I didn’t need to be. I thought that particular fight had already been won. I work for a female boss, in an equal pay workplace with roughly a 50:50 male/female split where people are employed (or let go) on their individual merits rather than their skirt length or cup size (for the women) or how many pints they can drink or whether they’re in the ‘old boys club’ (for the men).
I’m a bit uneasy about the current action by up to 19,000 Asda workers over their allegedly sexist practice of paying their mainly male warehouse and distribution staff more than their mainly female shop staff. The jobs simply aren’t the same and apparently people can request a transfer between roles if they are able to do the job. That doesn’t seem sexist, but I only know what I’ve heard on mainstream news media… It sounds a bit like complaining that lorry drivers are paid more than school dinner ladies. Or comparing apples to oranges. If women shop workers are being paid less or being held back in favour of male shop workers, then yeah – sexist.
Anyway, back to the original point. The argument about big games developers having relationships (in any sense of the word) with reviewers, retailers, journalists and so on isn’t an argument about sex, or even gaming. It’s how big business of any sort works. I’m not saying it should be, but it is. And with the level of investment and potential income for a successful product you can’t honestly expect that to change any time soon.
What brought the whole affair to my attention was an article following Felicia Day’s ‘Crossing the Street’ blog, her attack (and attack is a strong word. If she was attacking anyone it was herself for not having felt strong enough to raise the issue publicly before) on GamerTag’s tactics and the current division in the gaming community. The doxxing response was as swift as it was inevitable and is completely unacceptable.
Call it doxxing, call it trolling, say you’re doing it in the name of freedom of speech and some sort of ethical code all you want, but it’s bullying. Pure and simple playground bullying.
I don’t know if things are as bad here in the UK. But having said that it doesn’t really matter because A – I’m a bloke, and B – ‘U.K.’ Is not really something that exists online. If I saw someone wearing a T-Shirt for a game I liked, I’d probably give them a nod and a smile, maybe a comment. I know this because it’s a fairly regular occurrence (as my mum will testify following a recent Far Cry 2 conversation during a shopping trip that started over a T-Shirt). Sex doesn’t come into it. It’s a shared connection.
There are levels of misogyny in the gaming world that are frankly awful. Whether it’s developers spewing out another two-dimensional, scantily clad character, the advertising that then pushes a game on the merits of that character or the gamers themselves (particularly online) who can be downright obnoxious at times. I’ve just handed over some money for Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent’s Tomb Raider novel, The Ten Thousand Immortals. The recent Tomb Raider reboot was (in my opinion – and bear in mind I’ve already said I’m not exactly the feminist thinker of the century) a strong representation of a female character (a whole series of female characters actually) in a computer game. The young Ms Croft was at times naive, intelligent, cunning, afraid, courageous and beaten. I suppose I am a little sexist in that I would have looked at the protagonist’s trials and tribulations differently had they been a man. Watching a young woman go through the events of that game is uncomfortable to say the least.
And Lara Croft is a good way to illustrate how far the industry has come since her first Playstation outings.
The original marketing is now both ridiculous and mildly insulting – especially considering the character only really exists because the initial pitch for the game with a male protagonist didn’t look original or interesting enough (which is ironic in itself now considering the success of the Uncharted franchise).
I’m not a ‘hardcore’ gamer. I have friends who are in the industry and have various gamers, developers and journalists on the feeds of various social network sites – male and female. It absolutely should not matter what sort of games people play, for how many hours a day, at any ability, of any sex or sexuality. My 60 year old mum owns a Nintendo Wii, my wife has a peculiar addiction to mobile games and my 12 year old step-daughter plays Minecraft socially. You think I want any of them receiving abuse for being female or the wrong sort of gamer (whatever the hell that means)?
That feeling of connection when you see someone wearing an N7 T-Shirt should be something all gamers in on the reference should be able to relish and enjoy. No one should be made to feel inferior for any reason whatsoever. Up until a few days ago I used to think that the Sony vs Microsoft vs PC argument was the most irritating thing about being a gamer, but that’s probably because I haven’t experienced what the female section of the community has.
It’s truly disappointing and it makes me angry and concerned about a form of entertainment and expression that I have grown to love.