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Fair Game: A Belated Introduction

Column By Lisa Jonte on February 08, 2013

For this, my second column, it was suggested that I might want to introduce myself; not a bad idea, even if some might feel that, thanks to my first column, that ship has already sailed (right off the edge of the Earth.) Damn the torpedoes and all that.

I’ve been a gamer since the age of eleven, with the purchase of a shiny, entrancing “home” game called, Pong. Since then it’s been a lifetime of hunting for games, playing games and watching gaming as a whole evolve and grow. Consoles, text-based games, hand-held, PC, game parlor (those quarters really added up) tabletop, action, RPG, FPS, side-scroller, puzzle, you name it, I’ve loved them all.

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What you can expect from me and this column:

I will never try to change your mind. Seriously. I haven’t the power to make anyone think a particular way and I wouldn’t want it. What I will do is present my position on a particular topic and the facts as I know them. What you do with that information is up to you.

I will never deny you your opinion. You have the right to think as you think and believe as you believe. I won’t run to the mods if you disagree or even call me names, but let them do their jobs as they see fit.

I will read everything. All the comments, every word.

If I think a comment is stupid, there’s a chance I will mock it. But I won’t mock you for making it.

At the end of every column, I will try to address some specific points, questions or disagreements from the previous one. Some will be general, some will be specific. I can’t get to everyone, but prevailing themes will be addressed.

I will not invade the comment thread. I get to have my say in this column, the comment thread is where you get to have yours. You won’t see me showing up there to show off or shout you down. (I will however, post comments in other threads.)

I will do my research before I write anything. Facts are good, even if we don’t all draw the same conclusions from them.

If I screw up, I will own it. No, really.

I will be honest. You may not like what I have to say or how I say it, but I will never make things up to bolster my point or pander to a particular group or idea.

I will be human. As such, at some point or another I will be tempted to go back on every one of the above statements. If I do you are all free to call me out on it.

To everyone who posted in last week’s column:

Thank you. Yes, I really mean that, even if we don’t agree and even if you think I’m a raging moron and I think some of those comments were stupid. Agree or disagree, stupid or profound, it is only through communication that we see and know each other. It is only through seeing and knowing each other that we progress.

To those concerned about my lack of journalistic credibility:

I am not a journalist. I am a columnist. What I wrote was not a news report but a retrospective. Had I been a journalist, I’d have left it at that (just the facts, ma’am.) As a columnist, however, it’s part of the job to voice my own perspectives and opinions about said events.  If you expect a bland recitation of events with no personal perspective, don’t read my column, as it will surely disappoint.

To those who said, “I game to escape reality.”

So do I. But above and beyond the usual job stress, money stress, family stress, the reality I’m looking to escape is one where, “Women worldwide ages 15 through 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined.”

So, when real world women are threatened with real world violence for having an opinion about gaming, that’s no escape at all. Tangentially, this leads us to…

To those who said, “I don’t have a problem with…”

While this isn’t really what the column was about, I did mention jiggle physics and it’s a factor in the overall discussion, therefore deserves comment.

Look, I’m not denying anyone’s right to ogle anything they please in-game. But I do believe  that what we see affects how we think, and if what we see is predominantly geared toward the tastes of one particular group (in this case, straight men) then that is what we will unconsciously start accepting as The Way It Is. (A common saying in both gaming and comics character design is, “Create men you’d like to be and women you’d like to date.” If that’s not an assumption of a straight male audience, I don’t know what is.)

Think of it this way, I recently read an account of a guy who, having become a father, stopped finding dead baby jokes funny. Is he just being an over-sensitive whiner? Or do those jokes now resonate with him in an unpleasant, real life way?

I don’t think anyone advocates the total removal of sex or sexy from games, but a broader definition/representation of both is not an unreasonable request; not a replacement for, so much as a same-game alternative to, all those bouncing boobies.

To those expressed dismay at my apparent lack of solutions:

What, you think I can solve a problem this big and knotty all by my lonesome? With one column? Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I wield no such power.  Joking aside, I do have some ideas about where we can start. Discussion is one and we’re certainly doing that right now.

Another might be a variation on the successful, sexual assault awareness campaign run by Edmonton Canada: Don’t Be That Guy.

Why it‘s been successful is because, while women are frequently bombarded with hints, tips and suggestions for ensuring/protecting their own safety, men are rarely made aware of what is acceptable and what crosses the line. Sure, maybe a man can joke about raping another man, and maybe that second man is cool with it, likely never having had to worry about that as a potential reality. However, potential (and actual) rape is the reality for many women every day, so those “jokes” become something far more sinister.

Ultimately, it’s our perspectives that shape our choices and it’s our choices that define us. What are your thoughts?

And now, some specific responses:

Kadepsyson said:

“It's an important topic, and by just covering women, the author seems to be taking sides rather than covering the whole issue of sexism in gaming. … Note that these are my personal feelings about the article, and it has nothing to do with the author as a person.  I want this issue brought to attention, but done so with greater care.”

Thank you for that. I wrote about the instances that not only loomed large in the online areas I personally frequent, but that spread to non-gaming, non-geek media. Still limited, I agree, but one must focus, otherwise, the word count I am expected to adhere to would have gone out the window, I would be writing still (and no one but desperate insomniacs would ever read it.)

I agree that the issue of sexism (indeed, all bigotry) needs greater attention and care in discussion. If you have specific instances from a male POV that you’d like me to see and potentially even write about, PM me some links.

Coman said:

“would like to see some figures. I am sure more women are being herressed [sic] then man, but is it really this big?”

The answer to that is, it depends. The term “gaming community” is broad and clumsy. I struggled with using it in the column, but I felt I had to err on the side of brevity. There are many gaming communities within the larger community and each one seems to have its own particular mode. Basically, it’s better in some, worse in others.

As to the figures you ask for, I went through my many research links and here’s a start:

Gender and Sexism in Online Gaming Communities - Connected Learning Research Network

Misogyny in games: Stats and sexism - Gamasutra

Sexism In Gaming: 5 Reasons It’s A Thing - GameFront (No hard stats here, but a well reasoned overview)

 Broomy said,

“The article is a total waste of time, and I dont mean that in a disparging [sic] way.”

Just curious, how would you have said it if you had meant to be disparaging? Kidding! I’m totally kidding! And yes, I get your point.

My opinions though were with regard to the situations listed in the timeline. Getting hassled based on gender (race or orientation) in-game sucks canal water; I’ve been there and I absolutely employ all available options to remove myself from those situations. Alas, when those situations spill over into real life (rape threats, death threats, website sabotage, phone calls at home, etc.) it becomes another animal entirely. There is no ignore button for life and you can’t ban people from the Internet.

As to overanalyzing, it’s what I do. I have an insatiable need to know the “why” of things.

Once again, thanks to all who participated. I look forward  to more lively debate about this and many other subjects to come. I have now far exceeded that editorially expected word count.

Until next time, may your escort missions be few and your drops plentiful.

Lisa Jonte / Mother, writer, artist, editor. One time (print and web) comics creator, and former editor of the fem-centric GirlAMatic.com; now a secretive and hermit-like prose writer, (and not so secretive nor hermit-like blogger.) A gamer since way back, (no, seriously, waaaay back) her collection of gaming paraphernalia is older than most game store clerks.

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