Over recent weeks Angie @ Backlog Crusader has been discussing “Gaming Culture” and she’s inspired and encouraged me to write a few words putting my thoughts forward on the subject.
For the record, I’ve been writing about videogames for over 14 years, maybe longer as all but the stuff I’ve been uploading to here on a Tuesday has disappeared from the internet, the sites I worked on, the communities I was a part of and the websites I affiliated with, the oldest stuff I can find is some logo concepts I scanned into DeviantArt back in 2005! So I’ve been what is now called a “content creator” for nearly as long as I’ve been a parent, been part of videogame forums for even longer (as far back as the original release of Phantasy Star Online at least) and playing games for even longer as that as you may have noticed from my #ThrowBackThursday articles.
I’ve seen Gaming changed alot over that time, both for the good and for the bad (or should that be the other way around?). The videogame community has some beautiful moments, little things like a group of people who normally play together clubbing together to replace one of their “squads” controller’s because its faulty and they’re struggling to make ends meet are the things that, to me, stand out most and show the unification of that playing videogames can bring.
Attitude’s towards gaming have changed a whole lot too since I was at school. Sure, in Primary and Junior school it was seen as normal to play videogames, it was absolutely normal for us to go to another friends house during school holidays and play some Micro Machines but as I headed into Secondary school and certainly by the time I was in Year Nine and then going into my GCSE years, I would regularly sit and read Official PlayStation Magazine, sketch characters from Metal Gear Solid etc on my school books and chat about what I was playing within my small circle of friends but then I’d also be met with (and apologies for the level of crudeness here, but y’know, teenage boys and all that) “you wank over Lara Croft” and stuff like that, I didn’t but if I denied then they’d find another way to take the piss. Now, obviously, I gather teenagers who are into specific games still get comments aimed at them by those that play Fortnite, Call of Duty or FIFA, hell that still happens amongst mature gamers, but I think as a past time for anybody gaming is more acceptable as a hobby than it ever was.
That doesn’t mean everything is sunshine and roses however. There’s a horrible toxicity within gaming and its gotten worse alongside the divide in peoples views on global and local politics. As the gap between the Left and the Right has grown larger we’ve also seen gamers from different origins turn on each other. Gamergate became a mess of toxic masculinity hiding behind criticsm of games journalism but in fact was a force that seemed to refuse to move with the times and accept that actually, girls and women can and do enjoy videogames too, and fucking hell, they can create them too and despite what these type of people would like you to believe, women have been creating and contributing to videogames as a product and as a culture for decades; Dona Bailey, for example, worked alongside Edd Long to create the game I was playing when a puff of smoke came out of my hand-me-down Atari: Centipede, Amy Hennig wrote and directed the Legacy of Kain series and Yoko Shimomura composed all bar three tracks for Street Fighter II, but because a certain demographic of gamer have difficulty accepting that gaming is anything but a male pursuit, female members of the community have been abused, harassed and generally received vile treatment from a group that have suffered with being ostracised themselves and, as such, should know far better than to be have in such a manner.
I’m not going to go into why they do this (because it continues to this day, only yesterday a Twitch streamer I follow on Twitter was commenting that a friend of hers had lost followers when it had been “revealed” that she had a boyfriend, not that it was something she kept from them, but even so, she was deemed to have no worth because she was “off the market” so to speak, as I’ve said earlier in this, the behaviour of some is absolutely vile), because it’s an approach I genuinely struggle to comprehend. I was ostracised in my teen years, my friends were all outcasts, I didn’t have a girlfriend until I was 18 and even then I was dumped after I chose to go with a friend to the Gamecube midnight launch as he’d pre-ordered but didn’t want to go into the city centre alone. My current partner, whom I’ve been with since shortly after that incident and have three children with (all girls I might add) has played games since before I met her, we didn’t get together over them but our relationship has always had shared and solo gaming experiences within it. Back on the XBox we used to pad and mic swap to play Rainbow Six 3 Black Arrow with the same group of people every Friday and Saturday night once we’d gotten our daughter to bed (we only had one child back then!) rather than getting a babysitter and going out to the pub. I suppose I was lucky, the communities I was part of during my early years online were full of female gamers and I’ve grown into the man I am with the companionship of someone who shares my hobby to some degree (she hogged the PS4 this weekend to play through the first Kingdom Hearts).
I think this is genuinely problem that the community needs to tackle head on, I mean its always been bad, my other half doesn’t play competitive games online anymore to avoid the comments, my eldest daughter (who is 15) doesn’t use voice comms when she plays online if there’s somebody she doesn’t know in her party as she’s been warned about the sort of behaviour that some portray. I myself rarely use a mic and tend to mute randoms if I even so much as hear somebody talking as I find trash talk unsavoury, but to some its normal and to be expected, I have a friend who is a few years younger than me who I’ve had to tell to watch what he says when he’s been round to my house and we’ve been playing games online because even though he doesn’t have a mic on, the abuse and language that would come from his mouth is not the sort of thing I want my children exposed to under my watch, I can’t protect them fully and I’m not naive enough to think that when my 15 year old isn’t around me she doesn’t swear, but when at home, its not language I want her to hear my friends using.
So, generally, I think gaming as a culture has come along way to being accepted, but there’s still a long long way to go. The misogyny needs to stop, right now, not eventually. The gate keeping needs to go, I’m not more or less of a gamer than any other because of what I choose or don’t choose to play or because I’ve been playing for more/less time than another person. The elitist, jocular behavior needs to die, it puts people off of getting into the past time and accepting the culture and generally speaking, the fucking toxic masculinity that is so entrenched within us needs to do one.
I used to call myself a Gamer, my old twitter handle had a description of “Father, Gamer, Nerd” and my current one I frequently use the hashtags #GamersUnite and #GamerDad among others, but I actually no longer feel like a Gamer, I once again feel ostracised and to make it worse, its by the very people I always thought I belonged to. They’ve not turned on me, but we’ve both changed and whilst I have my faults (with the past few years resulting in me really needing to reflect upon those) and I wouldn’t say I was the “better person” as that’s just being a hypocrite, I feel I’ve grown away from the label. I play games, I write about games, I talk about games, I’m not a Gamer.