Thursday, August 6, 2015

Censorship and #GamerGate

I've noticed something recently, a kind of strange, twilight-zone-esque phenomenon. Namely, a weird-ass confusion of what censorship means. It happens everywhere, but I'd like to focus on it within the context of the GamerGate movement today. Why, you ask? Well, because I think it's particularly egregious within those circles.

Look, GamerGaters. I know this might be a hard pill to swallow, mostly because it isn't red, but bear with me for a moment. Disagreement isn't the same thing as censorship. I don't know if your misinterpretation of the concept of censorship is intentionally dishonest, or if you're just stupid. Honestly, I feel like both of these eventualities are entirely plausible.

Essentially, you argue that by advocating for better, more even-handed representations of female characters in games, that means that violence against women will be outlawed in the context of games. Quite frankly, this makes no goddamned sense. Feminists calling out shitty behavior does not mean that the behavior will cease. Feminists challenge society to make their behavior better by appealing to their sense of reason. The change they're advocating for is not that games like GTA are banned, or even that sexist portrayals of women are lessened. Feminists want a counterbalance, which ensures that both sides are equally represented. That isn't censorship. If there are people who want to outlaw such portrayals of women, then that is censorship, and it is bad. As it stands, feminism seeks to establish more positive portrayals of women in the medium. This creates a more open space in which a greater quantity of ideas can be explored. This seems to be the exact opposite of censorship, doesn't it?

And, at the end of the day, it is up to game creators to decide whether or not to take the advice of feminists on this issue. They are not obligated to change the way they portray women in their games. It would be nice, sure, but all we can ask is that these people listen to our points. We are not forcing you to do anything, we're just presenting you with options.

Your argument seems to be predicated on the fact that power in the gaming industry is somehow finite, and that by including more balanced portrayals of women in games, that somehow means that there will no longer be games like Grand Theft Auto. This is not the case. Nor is it the case that violence against women in games causes violence against women in real life. Rather that depictions of violence against women in games like GTA reflect societal norms. Violence against women exists in the real world, that is a fact. And when you commit in GTA, you are not punished for it. This serves to normalize the practice, rather than cause it.

Just something to think about.

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