• Creator as Critic: Why Gaming Needs More Feminist Criticism

    by  • February 10, 2015 • Essays • 1 Comment

    Every time you want to “yeah but” a woman who is talking about women’s representation in RPGs, think about the risk she is taking.

    Every woman who is a creator knows that she’s in a male-dominated industry. Some women might be convinced otherwise, because our society is only just beginning to understand that sexism wasn’t magically over in 1975 or something.  Anti-feminism and proud reinforcement of the status quo can be useful attitudes to have, because men like to hear that sexism isn’t real and that everything is just fine, and sometimes it’s useful to just not see any of the oppression going along around you because it’s really fucking depressing, and it’s hard to create when you’re depressed.

    If a female designer wants to succeed, her best odds involve getting male support. Most men are turned off by feminism — or least, any feminism that directly involves criticism of something that might affect them.  Sure, feminism in the abstract is fine, but if you tell them that their favorite video game might have sexist elements, then, well, we all knows what happens.  If you’re a feminist in game design, you will need to downplay your ideas — “I’m not one of those feminists!” — and you will need to tell the men that they are great (which, to be safe, involves not pointing out any sexist influences in their work).   This means that feminist criticism of the scene (especially the indie scene, which is by no means immune to this) is pretty weak.  Most feminist critics are also creators, and nobody wants to sabotage their professional relationships.

    Female designers also don’t neccessarily want to open up their own works to criticism — an understandable impulse, especially since so much games criticism (and occasionally the yourfaveisproblematic style of feminist criticism) is so bitter and nasty.  If people start flame wars over damage on a miss, what are they going to do when more nuanced cultural criticism starts showing up?

    Well, we do know a bit about what happens.  Harassment is one of the things that happens.  Women have been harassed out of this hobby. They’ve been doxxed. They’ve been stalked.  Hell, women get harassed by powerful male figures in the industry for Liking the wrong comment on Facebook or +1’ing the wrong comment on Google Plus.  I know, because I’m one of them.

    But harassment isn’t the only problem.  General antipathy toward criticism and feminism can take subtler forms.  The indie scene is not particularly kind to women who are not well-connected to the dominant (and almost exclusively male) establishment figures. Women get shot down for asking mild-mannered questions like, “Are there going to be any women on this panel?” Prominent voices shut down criticism of games they like, sometimes with speech, sometimes with money.

    This utlimately results in most feminist criticism being vague, irrevelant, or utterly absent.

    So when you see a woman (especially a woman who is also a creator) applying feminist criticism to games, stop for a moment and listen to her. Appreciate the risk that she is taking merely by saying anything at all.  Don’t respond with your knee-jerk reaction as a fan or as a creator.

    Let her speak, and listen.



    Dymphna posts frequently on Google Plus as Dymphna C.

    One Response to Creator as Critic: Why Gaming Needs More Feminist Criticism

    1. avatar
      February 11, 2015 at 22:19

      Something we should all remember…and it’s good to have the reminder, Dymphna. Thanks.

      Thumb up Thumb down +1
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