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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Editorial: Does Politics Have A Place in Video Game Journalism?


Editorial: Does Politics Have A Place in Video Game Journalism?


Yes. 

You really don't need to read the rest of this editorial now.
The suggestion that it doesn't has been flying around various places as a rather flimsy justification for the wholesale harassment of women from the so-called #gamergate movement. If you've not heard of it, long story short is that it the hashtag was coined by actor and notorious right-wing loonmuffin Adam Baldwin, whose other Twitter exploits include posing an entirely hypothetical question about whether an actor who had maybe been in a cult favourite sci-fi show would be able to sleep with his son if gay marriage was legalised. Its central point, however, quickly became to harass game developer Zoe Quinn and journalist Anita Sarkeesian. 

Zoe Quinn's alleged crimes are cheating on her ex-boyfriend to get positive reviews - the source for this being her ex-boyfriend, who is totally a reliable source, why would you even suggest otherwise. There's no corroborating evidence, save that some people didn't like the game. Anita Sarkeesian, meanwhile, had apparently simply committed the crime of pointing out misogyny in video games. 

But obviously, #gamergate isn't about hating women, right? I mean, that's why the two biggest targets are women, based in one case on flimsy accusations about her sex life and in another case on doing her job. It's so much not about hating women, in fact, that developer Brianna Wu was also driven out of her home by threats. 

My days of not taking Adam Baldwin seriously are definitely
coming to a middle.

So, it's a little baffling when the mewling children of #gamergate throw out their rather feeble protestations that it's not about gender, it's about corruption, and how politics shouldn't be a part of video game journalism. Partly because it is about gender, and partly because of course politics should be a part of video game journalism, for one simple reason:

Video games do not exist in a vacuum. 

To claim that video game journalism and politics are two entirely separate things, and never the twain shall meet, is absurd, and I don't honestly believe that anyone thinks that - because, after all, politics affect video games. Nobody could claim that the storm of modern war shooters haven't capitalised on the Iraq War, and haven't tried to exploit a sense of violent anger amongst Americans still stinging after 9/11 - and that's politics. Last week, I did a review of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep in which I discussed copyright law and political and legal moves made to honour the wishes of a deceased knight - and that's politics as well. Similarly, the way racism, homophobia, transphobia, our treatment of mental illnesses, and misogyny are reflected in video games both overtly and unintentionally is politics, and conversations about those things are ones we need to have. 

When fanboys start screaming and throwing things because of entirely optional same sex romances in a Dragon Age game, that sense of entitlement and homophobia is definitely something we need to talk about. When God of War has entirely unnecessary minigames about having sex with women, that's something we should probably talk about. When a large group of fanboys take to driving three women out of their homes with threats and then insist it's not about gender, that is definitely something we need to talk about. 

No amount of whining that video game journalism should be solely and exclusively about games, as if they exist wholly independently of any outside context, will change that, even if the #gamergate crowd does find any mention of politics intensely threatening. 

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