I’ve written quite a bit before about my thoughts on gamer culture and sexism. I think there are some real issues with how participants in the culture approach the issue, both on the development and on the consumer side. So, when I saw a link to this video, I got very excited. It’s David Gaider, a senior writer at Bioware, giving an hour long talk at the 2013 Game Developer’s Conference about the issues of sex and sexism in video games.
Some highlights include his discussion of the evolution of how romance subplots were implemented beginning with Baldur’s Gate II running all the way up to Dragon Age II, a succinct explanation of privilege, and a very informative anecdote about an incident with his writing team on Dragon Age: Origins.
If you have an hour to spare and you’re interested in this stuff, then check the video out.
Moving on to some lighter fare, I came across this video where a pundit for Fox News essentially argues Franklin Graham to a standstill on the effect of video games on culture. It’s kind of bizarre because Fox News usually leads the charge on anti-video game fervor, but in this case John Stossel, the pundit, goes to great lengths to dismantle Graham’s argument that video games promote a culture of violence and should therefore be taxed the same way tobacco and alcohol are. Stossel’s reference to the difference in murder rates between America and Japan was wonderful, because it so clearly points to the fact that there are a lot of factors that contribute to a violent society, and it’s ridiculous to point to one relatively new entertainment medium as the source.
I also have to give Stossel props for referencing the great comic book panic of the 1950s when Fredric Wertham caused an uproar with his book Seduction of the Innocent (here‘s an article that discusses some of the problems surrounding Wertham’s book and why it was eventually discredited). Wertham is a figure who’s almost universally scorned for the damage he did to the early comics industry, although I have some sympathy for him because by all accounts he was a major advocate for children growing up in poor communities. He genuinely cared about the people he was trying to serve, but he pushed way too hard against a medium that couldn’t possibly take all the blame for social ills.
At best, Wertham was just a misguided activist who really wanted to do better by the population he served. I can’t say that about most popular figures today who scream in the same way about the harm that video games do to the youth. Most of them strike me as ideologically driven, desiring to advance an agenda rather than expressing a legitimate concern about the very real problem of violence in America. Typically they claim that this industry is having a negative effect on children.
As Gaider points out in the video I linked above (you did go watch it, didn’t you? It’s fantastic), the non-gaming population has a skewed idea of what gamers look like. The latest demographic data from the ESA shows that the average age of gamers is 30. I’ve been playing games since I was like five, and technically I’m still on the young side for the gaming population. More telling, the breakdown in age ranges shows that only about a third of gamers are under 18, while a third are over 35. People of all ages play games. It’s unproductive to maintain the stereotype that gamers are all teenage boys. The industry knows that its audience is primarily adult, and that means that when developers make games, they are going to include themes that appeal to adults. Should children be playing games with mature themes? Depends on the kid. I’d prefer to leave that judgment up to a child’s parents, who should seriously educate themselves about what their kids are doing.
So, that’s the nifty stuff. I thought it was all pretty cool because it tied together a couple of my favorite hobbies in unexpected ways. I just hope that one day, when the next big media thing comes along I’m not one of those stuffy old guys who are angry about it ruining society because I don’t understand it.