Firstly; I like art to be expressed the way the creator intended. I do think that we have the right to criticize the art, but not to a point where we are branding art as acceptable or unacceptable. A game with a sexy female character, or a straight white male character are both fine, and I don’t think these titles need to change, but they can certainly be critiqued. I think most sane people agree on this!
Secondly, I think the purpose of the critique isn’t really that most people want the current content to be changed – although the message can seem that way at times – but that they want to lay down some information which can be taken and used in new games and experiences which are being developed or considered. This is how progress works.
Finally, it goes without saying, but; these opinions are mine.
Okay, so… feminism is something people aggressively support, or aggressively oppose outside of those who are indifferent. There are certainly plenty of reasons why this is the case... or at least, I can understand the reasons. Am I feminist? I don’t know, I don’t think I identify myself in that way, and I think I disagree with past waves of feminism enough, that I’m somewhat wary of what some believe feminism encapsulates. But regardless, feminism or some of its core principles leads into some of the current critique into game.
There are a number of current topics which relate to gender, and are argued from a feminist perspective; female representation, sexualisation and objectification, misogyny. There are also the issues related to race and stereotypes, some would say this fits under feminism too, as one of the themes it sets to challenge, but I think there’s plenty of information to prove that some forms of feminism doesn’t really care too much about race, transgenders and sexuality… but this is a different discussion.
But anyway, let’s take from this, that diverse themes are not as present in games as they could be, or perhaps should be. And that a number of people are not represented in a medium which they have invested in, whether through time or monetary investment. Regardless of the motivation, or the label under which they attempt to tackle these issues, the issues are still there. There’s a whole lot of content for a straight white guy, not a lot for anyone else. That is the general, very simplistic way of putting it.
Now, to reiterate again: this does not mean the CURRENT content must change. It doesn’t mean that a creator doesn’t have control of their art. It just means we can have more diversity in the future, possibly.
This is all pretty obvious stuff at this point. Even the most anti-feminist or anti-humanist can reasonably believe that there would be more diversity by integrating ideas which are fueled through challenging the current norm. This is, for the most part, widely accepted to be a good thing. I don’t think anyone who loves to play really wants to play the same games forever, right?
So now we get to what I want to try and do, and it’s a little different. And this is why this current situation is bad for white men. I’m sure that some would read "bad for white men" and bubble into and uncontrollable rage. But we should always examine the issue from multiple perspectives, and this is one of them. And it’s also a valid one too!
So first off, one point which is often made, is that a mixture of themes within content is good for anyone because it just leads to a far richer experience to be had. It opens the player to more perspectives and scenarios they otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to delve into. But this is a "good" thing, this is good for white men. So how about the bad, what is that?
Note: just because "bad for white men" exists, doesn’t mean that it’s a greater issue which needs to be tackled over the issues which affect other demographics. It’s simply another issue added to the pile, and one which can be resolved with change.
Let’s begin with the "Power Fantasy". This is often incorrectly assumed to be an example of male objectification. It isn’t this purely, and some women will also like how some of these male characters appear, and with "like" I mean, in a sexual way. This is fine! It is also often incorrectly assumed, that it is what white men wish to be, a body of power, a destroyer of worlds and saver of maidens.
The "Power Fantasy" is often used to say "this is what white men want" so its depiction, is more satisfying for white men than it is for women gamers and gamers of all other demographics. But this is one of the points which is "bad for white men". But not in the often made point "I don't want to be grossly over muscled, so it isn't true"...
The idea that this is what we strive to be, and are happy with, is a gender role. And for those that don’t know; gender roles are bad things. A Power Fantasy, as enjoyable as it can be, actually brings with it a lot of negatives. We are told, that this is what men want to be, and that creates the social standard that this is what men should aspire to. Men are told that they should want to be strong, want to be powerful, and want to show their brute force by way of violence. This is a man thing, this is what you like as a man, right?
No, this is a gender role. Being cast as a character who is purely masculine is completely foreign to all men, but we have been nurtured to believe that it’s the norm. Our power fantasy, one thing we strive for, removes all elements that make someone human. Men cannot show pain in their fantasy, or compassion. And "power" when related to a man, must mean destruction, violence and physical ability. Children may experience this, and like everything else around them, help to pigeon hole them into a gender role. You’re a boy, grab your gun or sword and get ready to smash stuff, that’s what you want, right?
This gender role is just as harmful as female gender roles which promote traditional "feminine" characteristics. It removes the person, the individual, and says "guys this way, girls this way".
Outside of the more obvious Power Fantasy, we have male characters who revel in violence, mostly ooze confidence, and lead heroically. A white male hero never has doubt, because that would not be a trait of a male. Growing up as a white boy, I will say I had plenty of doubt, and it would have be nice for people to tell me that it’s okay. But as we see, all of these heroes crafted are flawless, and can create the idea that this is how the white male should be. That to have anything different from how we are represented is wrong, and to feel something that isn’t typically masculine or less that perfect isn’t what’s expected.
This is the white man’s gender role, the stereotype. You cannot be flawed, or be something other than a leader, charismatic and powerful. Masculine and headstrong. These, although some can be considered as good role models, are unrealistic, and can create unknown pressure to be naturally something you are not. And this is even worse for someone younger, who is still trying to find out who they really are.
Strong role models are great, but that isn’t what a lot of these characters are. More often than not, they say a man shouldn’t cry, shouldn’t have doubt, because to do so, wouldn’t be a white man.
So, for those who still struggle to understand why issues with gender, race, sexuality, stereotypes, social standing and so on, aren’t really issues in games because of how YOU are represented for the most part, realize that you are also being misrepresented. Consider that your virtual role models are enforcing the same gender roles and stereotypes, it’s just that all other groups have already stood up and taken notice. It’s now time for some white men to do the same.