Sunday, March 15, 2015

Equal Opportunity in Gaming

I mentioned in my last post that my political opinions have been a source of conflict between myself and "LGBT-friendly" guilds. I've even been blocked by @GaymerX, even though the only tweet I've sent them is the following:

Many other people on twitter are making the same complaint. 

This is happening because certain ideas are not allowed to be criticized within this community. Feminism is mandatory. So-called social justice is mandatory. Any disagreement means unwelcome. Now, what is meant by feminism and social justice varies depending on who one asks.

Feminism, most simply defined, is "the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men." If this was the whole story, then I would be a feminist. Instead, I have found the word "feminism" to require a qualifier to distinguish between distinct groups. However, I have not found any qualifier that sufficiently fuses feminism with my personal beliefs about equality. The most difficult part of my attempt to do so has been that the word "equality" also needs a qualifier.

Social justice also needs a qualifier. For some, social justice means feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless and giving all people access to education, no matter their economic level. To these people, equality means that no one is left out in the cold. For others social justice means policing gendered language and checking privilege. To these people, I believe equality means sameness.

So equality means different things, depending on whom one asks. I have always supported the equal opportunity of all people, economically, socially, politically, and especially in education. Equal opportunity in gaming is a part of this. For example, AbleGamers is a charity that donates gaming equipment to gamers that otherwise would not be able to play, due to physical limitations. They also promote the inclusion of multiple control schemes, like color blind friendly user interfaces, that allow more disabled gamers to play. Anyone can be a gamer, and that is beautiful.

What I do not support is a forced equal outcome. For some, the test of equal opportunity is an equal outcome, defined by equal numbers of participation by men and women, and at least a demographically representative participation by minorities. I do not support this. When people are given the equal opportunity to choose different things in life, be it running for office, education in the STEM fields, or even video games, unequal representation is possible. Different people like different things. This is the radical and wholly unacceptable idea that I believe which has me getting run out of LGBT spaces.

I don't say all this because I believe gaming is or should be a "boys club". It may have been, some decades ago, but research by the ESA shows that in 2014, 48% of gamers were female, up from 40% in 2010. I wonder if this trend will continue, to the point that the majority of gamers will be female, or if the rise in female representation will level off at or around 50%, or if it will instead decline. Each of these is possible, for various reasons, but it's that last possibility that I am most concerned with.

Now, despite my personal hangups with the word "feminist", I have found that a feminist is one of the few people in the media that has been even handed and fact-based in reporting on the GamerGate controversy. She is Christina Hoff Sommers, a.k.a. The Factual Feminist, Based Mom:

Some people have claimed that Sommers is a conservative, because she appears on the website of a conservative think tank. She's actually a registered Democrat, and has published on many platforms, conservative, moderate and liberal. (source) Even if she was conservative, this would have no bearing on the validity of what she has to say. Some people have even claimed that Sommers is not a real feminist. Well, again, who defines feminism? No one has the monopoly on it's definition, so to make this claim is asinine.

From the intro to the third video:

 "A major humanitarian group has just come out with a lesson plan for high school students on sexism in video games. Now, it's full of propaganda, it vilifies gaming and gamers, and is likely to discourage young women from playing!"

This is why I am concerned that female participation in video games may decline. Whether the charge that games and gamers are misogynist is true or not, the fear that they are is real. I don't agree, of course, with Felicia Day's characterization of GamerGate, but what she says here is troubling:

"But for the first time maybe in my life, on that Saturday afternoon, I walked towards that pair of gamers and I didn’t smile. I didn’t say hello. In fact, I crossed the street so I wouldn’t walk by them. Because after all the years of gamer love and inclusiveness, something had changed in me. A small voice of doubt in my brain now suspected that those guys and I might not be comrades after all. That they might not greet me with reflected friendliness, but contempt."

I've had some moments of hesitation myself. There were days that I didn't want to log into WoW because I didn't feel like dodging the "issue". I didn't want to risk being called crazy and dogpiled by guildmates.

The overwhelming majority of gamers are good people. We are male and female, young and old, all shades of skin, hair and eye color, all sexual orientations, and all gamers. But some gamers have been made to feel unwelcome. Megaphones have been given to trolls, and those trolls are stoking up the fear.

A possible consequence of this propoganda is that female participation in gaming may decline. One immediate consequence is that people like myself have been made unwelcome in spaces that are supposedly created for us. This is not equal opportunity.

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