The Repeater: The Industry

The Repeater
The Repeater is a feature in which important discussions are highlighted and linked from other authors to help the information get around to as many eyes and ears as possible. Relevant to video games? Maybe. Relevant to gamers? Definitely. Let these be your food for thought. (Image Source:

The Bloom and Doom Cycle of Gaming

Greg Costikyan at Gamasutra published a fiery article about the waxing and waning of industry innovation. He argues that there’s a cycle of greed which, every 10 years, suppresses innovation and burns game development to the ground only to have a new generation rise from it’s ashes. Even though the industry recovers, he believes it doesn’t have to be this way and I agree. The idea that just because developers have been able to recover and revitalize the industry after the ravages of capitalism nearly destroy it doesn’t mean that this cycle is beneficial or best. There are better ways to do this.

In the comments, readers were keen to add that while the cycle of destruction is true, there’s never been a better time for games development. These kinds of arguments are fine and often valid, but I think they get brought up for the wrong reason. Usually respondents are eager to say that “things aren’t that bad/aren’t as bad as they were” in order to conclude that things are therefore good and we should be grateful. This is the wrong reason because they’re angled to refute the truth, to leave it unacknowledged somehow. It can get really twisted when rationalized too much — and that’s typically how I see these discussions go down. Sure, we’re doing some things right and let’s keep doing them. But they are woefully short of what we really ought to do. If such points aren’t balanced with this in mind, they rapidly become an excuse to cruise with the status quo.

Sexism in the Industry

This is an extremely interesting study published at Gamasutra began over a year ago to learn more about sexism in the games industry. While I believe it’s on-going, author and researcher Jennifer Allaway shares some results and analysis. Not surprisingly, sexism does exist and is as destructive as we already are aware of. The comments section though, while overwhelmingly supportive, had it’s share of deniers and sexism-skeptics.

Ethics in Game Design

A while back i wrote an article questioning the role of the industry and it’s developers in designing ethical games. Last year I remember reading a couple of articles asking the same question. This time around, Andreas Ahlborn at Gamasutra poses the question. He thinks there’s clearly some responsibility on the part of the developers and asks them to question their design intentions and decisions. I couldn’t agree more and I plan to re-open that discussion with a new article about it in the near future.

Adriel Wallick of Gamasutra shares a story of Mountain Dew and sexism and how she and her fellow developers banded together to make a stand against it. This is a very inspiring read. Though the story shared is disappointing, it was very encouraging to see how the developers supported one another and decided to not participate in sexist schemes.

There’s something that gets to us all when we hear or are presented with information which contradicts who we believe we are. I’m referring to the knee jerk reactions in comment threads from developers in these articles, some of whom are eager to assert that nothing is wrong or who just don’t want to inspect their own skepticism. I know these reactions too well and I think a lot of us do — from experience at both ends. But we are responsible for what we do and accountable for the consequences. It doesn’t matter that we believe something else or that we believe it passionately. We hate to be judged by what we do and we like to wander into the realm of who we believe we are without considering those acts. For example, many men love to talk about the superiority as human beings, far above animals and even above certain “kinds” of humans — yet in the same breath they will blame rape and/or sexism on “natural” (animal), irresistible biological “impulses” (honestly, we have to pick one, it can’t be both). In the end, what we do is what defines us. Besides, if the consequences of our reactions do not reflect those beliefs, then what do they matter?

It’s not all doom and gloom as Adriel’s story proves. There’s just a lot of work to continue to do. I think 2014 will see radical changes in the games community.

Scree Tags: #ethicalgamedesign #economics #solidarity

9 thoughts on “The Repeater: The Industry

  1. The fact that we are having so many discussions about sexism and diversity in public spaces means a lot. It won’t be a quick change nor will it be an easy one, but I firmly believe it is coming!

    • Yeah I think GDC showed us that the talks over years have gotten the attention of a brave few who are really using their megaphone to speak out for change. That’s why I think 2014 will see the games industry really take a stand on this. It will consequently be the year that skeptics mount a fine defense of why the status quo is tots legit. We have to keep writing and being vigilant about it if we want to see these changes come 🙂

  2. I wrote about Sexism in the form of “hot chicks” in our games, specifically Dragon’s Crown. You can find in on my blog somewheres. I’m on some sort of weird middle ground in that I understand the harm of objectification, but I still want to see “hot chicks.” How do we tone it down, and make a community that is open-minded towards both crowds? I’m acknowledging the fact that hate/intolerance/sexism/what have you are harmful, but I don’t necessarily wish to live in a world where I cannot ogle something in the privacy of my own home. Political Correctness has its place, don’t get me wrong, but do I have to pretend that I don’t enjoy the sight of women? On the other hand sometimes being PC is taken to levels I despise (read: every major religion and overly conservative people). I understand the movement but am probably part of the problem myself.

    Anyway, I love the fact that people are writing about topics that make you think. Stupidity has been lauded for far too long in this country.

    • I think if we question these things more and find out about the terms of the discussion, the extremes would be less likely to come to mind. A good example of an extreme is your belief that you wont be able to “ogle” a woman if sexualization goes away. Thats not what ending sexualization would change. Ending sexualization is about positive representation and humanizing women. That men don’t know the difference between sexy and sexualization is a HUGE reason we dont see whats wrong. Its the reason men might think they can’t “ogle” a woman should sexualization disappear.

      I dont know your particular situation, but you’re at least comfortable talking about sexualization and you seem to at least see that its harmful. But I’m not getting the impression you see these differences between sexy and sexualization. I could be wrong, so please correct me if I am, I certainly dont want to make assumptions about you. But theres much more to fantasizing about women than objectification.

      I think many guys think what you said here, so out of fear they retreat to extremes (the more extreme the argument, the greater his fear of that particular change). Men don’t know what it would be like to see women as more than objects — thats why we commonly draw a connection between ending sexualization and being forbidden to ogle — and we’re afraid of it. Men are taught that to gaze (or ogle) at a woman is to reduce her to sexual essentials (objectification). The consequence in fantasy art is we get a lot of emphasis on breasts, hips and hinds — to ogle those parts. So male sexuality is reduced to objectification. If sexualization of this sort disappeared, many men would not know how to be sexual any more or how to “desire” a woman (fixating is not desire, its pathological). This is the greatest fear of these men. Now I’m just trying to explain why men might believe they can’t enjoy sexual imagery of women if objectification goes away. Does this make sense to you?

      Thanks for joining the conversation. Keep it coming 🙂

  3. The trouble with my comment is that I was trying to get several points in at the same time and maybe failed to get them all across appropriately (I’m a bit of a stoner, I apologize). I understand that making women into objects (what you are calling sexualization) is harmful to women in general. I also know that making fantasy art sexy isn’t the root of the problem, nor really the problem itself, it’s more in the societal attitudes towards women. I’m picking up what you’re laying down; I’m more open minded than most men. I am on board with the equalization of people. That means I’m against bashing gays/women/other races. At the same time I can be a chauvinist with the best of them. There is something about human nature that gives us this duality, the ability to be a hypocrite if you will, where I can see the harm caused yet still enjoy some of the product that is causing the harm. This can be seen in other areas as well, where I don’t like the fact that there’s cruelty to animals on farms and in factories, but I continue to eat meat.

    I think that my generation, along with parts of the one prior and the one coming after (I’m not quite sure where you fit in), have been dealing with societal change on a broad spectrum. When my father was born and in ensuing years, civil rights movements were happening. More recently it’s been the rights of the LGBT community. Now we’re trying to correct all of the wrongs of our forefathers, and I’m on board with most of it, but again, there is a limit to such things. There comes a time when the people being offended must also come to an agreement that perhaps they should realize that in some cases they are going overboard. In some, they are completely justified. The problem is there’s no real standard for the issues in which we are discussing, so finding that middle ground where everyone gets a bit of what they want and gives up a bit as well is difficult to find.

    • Alright, I see where you’re coming from. But I have to ask: what are you holding onto? You seem to be trying to keep some part of the bargain, as though surrendering some of the spoils of sexism while holding onto some other parts. I get this from your statement that you must be allowed to keep something and those oppressed by those things must be willing to give you something out of the bargain. This indicates to me that you feel this is zero sum (why?). That you’re losing things and getting nothing out of it. Is this the case?

      Explain what these “overboard” things are and then explain the “completely justified” things the LGBT community wants. That will make what youre saying less vague to me. I can’t imagine what it is those oppressed must give us in order to have justice and equality (what do they possibly have to bargain with, coming to the table at a disadvantage as it is?).

      If men want to get rid of sexism and sexualization, they have to give up the things they gain from it unconditionally.

      • What I was getting at is that people (all people of all different groups) sometimes tend to take things to heart when it’s not directed at them or even meant to offend. People are so damn sensitive, and take offense to everything. To a degree, whoever creates something offensive needs to take responsibility to not be offensive, but on the same token if you are willing to play a game and appreciate it as an art form perhaps we don’t need to complain about this or that form of discrimination when it clearly wasn’t the aim.

        I see what you’re trying to get at, I really do. But despite being a white male I feel like I’ve been shit on more often than the people you are trying to defend, so maybe that skews me on the side of apathy. I can agree with bits and pieces, but I’m not going on any crusades.

        That was more or less my original point with my post on Dragon’s Crown, that people should grow up. Sure, the designers could have made the characters more true to life and less racy, but on the same token we would have played that awesome game no matter what the characters looked like. I’m not arguing for sexy in my games… I could care less about it. I was just saying that I appreciate the female form and as an art form I think most games nail it, but it’s not as if I’m dating size 2 model chicks either. So perhaps that is where I come across as sounding like I fear losing something.

        Hopefully some of that made sense and cleared my position a little. I’m not a complete asshole, I promise. I’d rather air these things out anyway. No shame in my game 😉

      • Hey I think it’s great that you’re willing to talk about it. None of us is perfect and all of us have our boundaries that only we can negotiate. Change is also slow when your life doesn’t depend on it. But I also think that because we’re not perfect, we have to constantly work on ourselves or else we become moderate, wishy-washy, undependable, disloyal (in that order) until we find ourselves defending the very thing we started out opposing. We can have these conversations anytime. Hopefully I can leave you some food for thought on this. You said:

        “But despite being a white male I feel like I’ve been shit on more often than the people you are trying to defend, so maybe that skews me on the side of apathy.”

        First, I’m not defending anyone; non-white people, women, the disabled and any other group who are outcasts in society don’t require a defense from the likes of me 🙂 But I definitely support their fight, 100%, unequivocally, unconditionally. The other part of your sentence shows that you’re reaching out from the center — and the center is YOU even though you’re not the target of this discrimination (sexism, etc). Think about it: how are you the center of someone else’s experience? Instead of centering yourself imagine this every time you’re tempted to say “but”:

        Everyday someone grabs your butt or breasts or takes up-skirt photos of your private parts and the courts uphold their right to do so because your body is deemed public. Imagine your boss likes you and fires you for it, and the courtrooms agree that your attractiveness violates the sanctity of his marriage. Imagine you’re a 3 year old girl who is raped by her father, and the courts say that prison is too harsh for him and gives him therapy instead. Imagine you’re a black woman whose husband is threatening to kill you and so you fire a warning shot into a wall, and get life in prison; even though a week ago that same man nearly beat you to death and you were afraid for your life. Imagine that in that same state, you’re a young black man who is murdered and your killer walks away because the courts agree he had a right to shoot you, even though he stalked you, scared you, and approached you with a gun — all because you had on a hoodie, are black, and had some skittles in your hand. Imagine you are anyone of these victims. Then realize that all of these cases ARE REAL and happened in the past 3 years, and in everyone of them the offender was white and/or male.

        Do you still think you’re being shit on more than these other groups? Just marinate on that. Whenever you feel there’s a “but”, a condition on your commitment to equality, remember that YOU have the privilege of apathy; you won’t be shot, killed, or raped tomorrow. You don’t have a husband who can beat you at will and have the courts agree; you don’t have a child who might be shot to death by police because his complexion makes them uncomfortable. You and I are white. We get to be apathetic. Our lives don’t depend on our commitment to equality because we’ll receive it even when we don’t deserve it. Keep this in mind when you say “but” and “compromise”.

        Anyway, I greatly appreciate the discussion. I think this is one of those things we should pause for a few thoughtful days and come back to after serious consideration. In any case, i think having more men in our community simply engage as you have and show a willingness to commit is wonderful. We should keep at it.

        (A quick note: try to be specific when you say that some “groups” go “overboard” and get out of hand; this sounds like vague, unsubstantiated claims to bolster your point, even if that’s not the case. Give specific examples of overboard and groups and what you think they are doing that makes you draw the line. That makes for a more guided discussion.)

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