(Note: links in this post to the site in question redirect through donotlink.com)
If you’re a productive and generally well-adjusted human being you’ve likely never heard of the Gaming Journalism Website reaxxion.com. And if you’re not a productive and generally well-adjusted human being you’ve likely still never heard of it, because it’s an obscure pile of shit made by a raging misogynist to jump on the Gamergate bandwagon.
Sometimes I like to swing by the site and have a chuckle at their stupid articles. Today I decided to
critically examine make fun of one such article that was particularly laughable.
The post in question professes to advise its readers on how to spot games made by SJWs- the gamergate-fabricated boogeymen who are supposedly ruining games (and also comics and sci-fi novels). Basically, the idea is that there’s a sinister incursion by politically-motivated ideologues into not just the gaming press but the industry itself. These people (who, it’s usually claimed, have no actual appreciation for or enjoyment of games) are attempting to warp video games into a medium of liberal propaganda, usurping the traditional white male-focused narratives and gameplay systems that have dominated the industry for a long time.
But how to spot SJW-corrupted games? Let’s find out!
Video games used to be such a great way to unwind and forget about the outside world. You could simply kick back and enjoy a session of Super Mario without thinking how stomping Koopas is akin to oppressing minorities on your way to rescuing Princess Peach, who is merely a sexual object for your gratification.
I like how the post opens by directly admitting that its author doesn’t like to think about things too much.
The problem began when SJWs started using video games as a conduit for delivering their propaganda to impressionable young minds.
One of the core axioms of Gamergate is the idea that games are being “politicized” with liberal viewpoints. This idea rests on the assumption that games that don’t hold these viewpoints are inherently apolitical, which is of course false- what’s actually happening is that games have catered for so long to the opinions of proponents of the status quo that they no longer notice it’s happening, only realizing an agenda is being pushed when it’s one they disagree with.
Which on a basic level is fine. People are certainly free to both criticize and refuse to play games that present viewpoints they don’t like. What they don’t have a right to do is demand that the playing field be artificially stripped of any opposition to their own ideological preferences under the guise of fairness and objectivity.
When #GamerGate first broke, legions of brave anonymous detectives started unraveling the SJW conspiracy in the gaming press
What this actually means is that legions of angry jackasses starting spinning all of their currently-existing grievances into wild conspiracy theories.
More importantly, we got a glimpse into the inner workings of AAA video game companies and discovered the massive SJW presence in all of them.
Note that despite talking about the AAA industry (the realm of big-budget, mainstream games) the post itself features three (out of four) screenshots from small indie games. There is a reason for this, which we’ll get to later.
1. Simplistic gameplay mechanics
None of these sections mention any specific games by name, but each of them are paired with a screenshot. Our screenshot for this one? Gone Home, which has become a favoured target for Gamergate and the proto-Gamergaters that existed before the movement got started.
Great video games have layered and responsive gameplay mechanics that can be mastered and give the player a sense of progress, achievement and being in the game world itself
Even ignoring the political intent behind it, my main problem with this post is that its author doesn’t seem to know what the fuck he’s talking about, nor is he able to establish anything resembling a coherent point.
Why do layered and responsive gameplay mechanics give the player a sense of “being in the game world itself”? Isn’t that something art direction and atmosphere achieve better? Come to think of it, why are we talking about layered and responsive mechanics? Gone Home’s mechanics are in no way unresponsive (but them, I don’t think the author of this piece has actually played Gone Home, for reasons that will become obvious in a moment).
It’s abundantly clear that many Gamergaters are obsessed with the idea of games as a challenge above all other considerations (and it will become more clear later), but challenge and complexity are not synonymous. Many very challenging games have mechanics and systems so simple that young children can easily grasp them. In fact, “easy to play, hard to master” has for a long time been seen as a positive goal in game design, often praised by critics and players alike when it can be attained.
I don’t doubt that gamergaters sincerely value difficult, complex games and want to see more of them produced. But in this context I also see that desire as a form of gatekeeping. Many insular fandoms push the idea that in order to be a “true” fan one must have attained some arbitrary level of dedication or knowledge, and since Gamergaters believe their opponents don’t actually play games, difficulty is the perfect line to draw in the sand.
SJW games eschew mechanics entirely and turn you into a ghost that can’t walk, run, jump or change the environment in any way.
This is the part of the post that made me want to slam my forehead against my keyboard. It’s criticizing games that don’t let you interact with the environment, and as an example it’s using…. Gone Home, a game that is literally all about interacting with an environment. It’s the game’s sole mechanic.
Oh and outside of games like Tetris that don’t feature human characters and strategy titles with no direct control over characters, I’m having trouble thinking of any game, “SJW” or otherwise, that doesn’t allow you to walk. Possibly the author of this post is confusing games with slideshows.
2. An obsession with visuals
This one is pretty fucking hypocritical given that both reaxxion and Gamergate as a whole tend to fall in love with games that obsess over graphical fidelity while castigating indie titles that can’t or won’t put an emphasis on visuals, but never mind.
Our screenshot this time around is from Dear Esther, which immediately baffles me because Dear Esther is not in any way an “SJW game”. Or maybe it is! You see, since Gamergate is actually a clumsy amalgamation of several completely disconnected gamer bugbears, its members often have trouble defining what their actual grievances are or sticking to one particular topic. Sometimes “SJW” refers to progressives and the games they make or supposedly influence, sometimes it simply refers to indie games that gamergaters don’t approve of, and sometimes it’s a combination of both. It’s a mostly-meaningless catch-all phrase that encompasses anything gamergaters decide they don’t like.
3. No failure states
“But what is a game, really?”
This is a question that comes up whenever gamergaters decide something isn’t a game, which is often. It’s also completely fucking stupid.
Out screenshot this time around is Mountain, a minimalistic art game where you fulfill your dream of being a mountain (it’s weird).
Great video games will reward you for doing good and punish you for your mistakes.
So, here’s my problem with the “all real games have failure states” thing: by that logic a shit ton of games throughout history aren’t “real” games. Point and click adventure games, Simcity, plenty of games don’t allow the player to die and will never explicitly tell you that you’ve failed and have to start over. This is just an arbitrary criteria gamergaters can use to dismiss games they don’t like.
Those who invest enough time and effort into mastering their mechanics get bragging rights and prestige for being the very best.
Does this guy seriously want to limit the medium like this? Games should just provide challenge and nothing more?
Look, I like a good challenge as much as the next player. I love the Souls series, I like to play FPS games and other genres focused on gameplay. But I also like playing games that are narrative-focused, and games that just want to let me explore, and easy games and everything in between. Declaring that there’s only one “real” kind of game and that everything else is unacceptable or suspect will do nothing but creatively stifle what games can be.
And keep in mind, it’s not like these people are the brave torch-bearers for challenge standing firm amid a rising tide of non-challenging, story-focused games. The vast majority of games are focused almost solely on combat and providing the player with challenging content to play through.
There has been a noticeable shift toward simplifying and paring games down, but this has nothing to do with “SJWs”- it’s a consequence of inflating game budgets making developers afraid of alienating potential customers by making games too difficult or complex (for the record, I think this is fundamentally misguided).
However, SJW video games always promote the “everyone is a winner” mentality and require no effort to play or “beat.”
I’ve played pretty much every single “SJW” game (I consider it a mark of quality if it makes assholes mad) and I have no idea what this guy is talking about. He’s engaging with the games on the wrong terms, viewing a focus on factors other than challenge as a failure to provide meaningful challenge. This is like criticizing The Remains Of The Day for not having enough gunfights.
4. Shoehorned-in social topics
Our screenshot this time around is from Bioshock. I’m not sure if the guy who wrote this has a problem with the political themes in Bioshock or if he thinks the particular scene being featured (it’s from Andrew Ryan’s “is a man not entitled to the sweat on his brow” speech) illustrates his point.
Here’s a question you can ask gamergaters that they’ll never be able to answer: shoehorning in social topics is bad, so how would you include them without shoehorning them in?
(Related question: how do you include minority characters with engaging in tokenism?)
Oh, they’ll flail around a bit and bluster, but the truth is they don’t have a problem with social issues being put into games in the wrong way; they have a problem with social issues in games full stop.
Great video games create fully fleshed-out worlds that are consistent, logical
We can’t have women and black people in our gritty medieval action game, a bloo bloo!
but you are never required to take a side.
This is not actually true.
You don’t have to have an opinion on child slavery to pummel Eulogy Jones into the dirt and have fun doing it.
Well, no, but if you make a game featuring child slavery and it seems like you don’t have an opinion on child slavery, I’m going to start wondering if it’s because your opinion on child slavery is something other than the only morally acceptable one and you don’t want anyone to find out.
However, SJW video games will pin your character down in front of a screen and force-feed you propaganda.
So do plenty of non-SJW games. Call of Duty? Presents very obvious viewpoints on the military, war and lots of other stuff. Maybe the developers didn’t intend to convey those viewpoints, but that doesn’t change the fact that they did.
If you’ve been playing games recently you may have noticed that there hasn’t been a sudden surge in games shoving liberal propaganda down the player’s throat. There have been no games in which characters go on rambling speeches about the evils of racism or have their protagonists triumphantly pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing gay marriage and free health care.
This is because gamergate’s definition of propaganda is absurdly broad. If a game lets you shoot zombies for thirty hours and then has two girls kiss for half a second, that’s propaganda. If a game has a gay character or black characters or a trans character and the developers have the gall to talk about how they wanted to increase diversity, that’s propaganda. If a game dares to have an opinion of its plot more complex than “I guess both sides are just as bad as each other”, that’s propaganda.
Paying for an AAA video game only to get lectured about social issues is downright insulting,
Once again AAA games get brought up, and once again I ask why three of the four screenshots in this post are from tiny indie games.
but for SJWs, if you have enough money to buy their lousy video game, you deserve to be suckered into giving it to them.
Gamergaters will often assert that games they don’t like are scams, and the people who make these games are immoral con artists. The logic goes like this, it’s very simple: some people make things that not everyone personally approves of or likes. They charge money for these products.
Therefore, it’s all a scam!
Looking over Reaxxion’s recent posts, I was struck by how they seem to be effortlessly branching out into complaining about “SJWs” in comics and sci-fi novels, no doubt in reaction to the recent diversifying attempts in DC and Marvel’s titles and the Hugo awards “Sad Puppies” controversy. This seems to be largely par for the course among many Gamergate pundits lately.
Now, you might wonder why a movement supposedly dedicated to ethics in games journalism would care about these issues. The fact that they’ve branched out so radically is a consequence of how the movement has been largely hijacked by right-wing interests who don’t give the slightest shit about videogames but do have a vested interest in maintaining a cultural status quo that’s been challenged in recent years and want a standing army at their beck and call to shut down anyone who disagrees with them.
Gamergaters makes the perfect online hit-squad. They’re permanently seething with anger, but their rage is nebulous enough that it can be plausibly directed at nearly anyone. They’re affiliated enough that they can be reliably directed to take action, but because they have no leadership or hierarchy the people who take advantage of them can throw up their hands and waive responsibility when they act like disgusting assholes. I’ve seen people I follow or talk to online- people who have little or no connection with games- have their pre-existing harassment multiplied after someone decided to sic Gamergate on them. The reasons don’t matter; once the spectre of the SJW is invoked, Gamergaters come charging.
The only upside to this is that the movement might suffer a kind of death by dilution, as its already-unfocused goals become more and more disorganized. Eventually it will be revealed for what it really was all along: a gigantic tantrum against progressive attitudes in media and a desperate attempt to push back the march of progress.