Yes, Please, Criticize Video Games

Why is it that gamers, generally speaking, seem incapable of grasping the larger implications of the medium they profess to love and- more importantly- wish to deny that games can be so much more than mindless entertainment? Kotaku has linked to a video discussing the fallacy of the ‘keep your politics out of my games‘ argument and, unsurprisingly, many of the comments fall into the same fallacy that the video itself argues against. Commenters on the internet are pretty fantastic in their ability to induce cognitive dissonance, I’ve discovered. But there’s one comment in particular that exemplifies this attitude for a world free of ‘political’ games (as if such a thing were possible):

 I both want games to present me with serious themes, and not stir up controversy. I play games to escape the controversy of the real world, not to be reminded of it by half of the game journalists in existence every time something happens that gets someone’s dander up (rightly or wrongly). Leave that stuff out of my outlet to escape the frustrations of the rest of the world, thank you very much.

The self centered cognitive dissonance here is stunning.

 I both want games to present me with serious themes, and not stir up controversy.

I don’t know how you propose to have serious themes in anything and not stir up controversy at some point. (Also, can I just point out that ‘stir up controversy’ seems to be code for ‘anything progressive, like feminism, racism, homophobia, etc’?) Anything that is worth being considered a serious expression of the human condition, be it racism or the loss of a child, will piss someone off. People will discuss whether the death of the child was needlessly cruel, or meaningful to the plot, people will discuss if wearing a native headdress is pointlessly racist (most likely) or says something about the culture of our times. You don’t get to have serious themes, however you define ‘serious’, and not have controversy about them, people will want to discuss how the themes were portrayed, if they were effective, and if they could have done better with them. This is okay. Controversy is okay. But you can’t escape it if you want serious themes.

(A quick aside: controversy isn’t a dirty word. This isn’t FOX News where controversy is code for ‘something the liberals think you should be upset about, but is really actually quite silly!’ okay? If I say ‘I like pie’ on my blog and someone else says ‘I dislike pie’ on their blog in direct response to mine? That’s controversy. It doesn’t mean anything more than a public disagreement.)

I play games to escape the controversy of the real world, not to be reminded of it by half of the game journalists in existence every time something happens that gets someone’s dander up (rightly or wrongly).

You know what? That is a perfectly valid reason to play video games! Setting aside the fact that you can’t ever really escape the real world, what with games being made by people who exist in the real world and whose experiences and values will in some way be carried into the things they make, it’s totally fine to want an escape from all the ridiculous shit going on in our world right now. I get that. It’s why I play games (sometimes) too. But by the same token you don’t get to define what people play, why they play it, or how they get to talk about it. To put my righteous anger pants on for a moment: who the fuck are you to say what games should and shouldn’t be? There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to be involved in the more political spectrum of gaming (though I’d argue it makes you a less interesting person) but speaking out against it is a level of bullshit reserved for people too self-centered to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around their desires. I’d like for everyone to give me candy and oral sex everyday, but I’m not going to live my life by that expectation because I’m understand that the world exists independent of my desires. This commenter apparently doesn’t get that.

Leave that stuff out of my outlet to escape the frustrations of the rest of the world, thank you very much.

Basically a reiteration of the last sentence. To which I say: “No. Fuck you.” If you want mindless fluff games they exist. And they will continue to exist. There’s nothing wrong with playing or liking them, but their existence and the existence of transformative, ‘controversial’, emotionally challenging and political games are not mutually exclusive. Making a fluff game doesn’t mean a game exploring racism can’t exist (and vice-versa!) and all of your desire to the contrary doesn’t mean shit.

Games don’t belong to just you anymore, random white dude on the internet, they belong to everyone now, and you know what? Some of us are tired of the same old shit from video games. We want expressive, deep, political, controversial games. If you’re on board with that? Great! If not? People will still make games for you. Stop trying to keep them from making games for us.

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About kylock

Man, biographies are really hard to write because sometimes you just don't know what to write about and then you ramble on pointlessly for a while about your hobbies (video games, reading, programming) and end up boring your readers because they expect something witty and insightful (there are only two ways to save money, neither of which involves hookers) and then readership falls off and you cry yourself to sleep.
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One Response to Yes, Please, Criticize Video Games

  1. lucyfalls says:

    “Also, can I just point out that ‘stir up controversy’ seems to be code for ‘anything progressive, like feminism, racism, homophobia, etc’?” So true! Great article.

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