8 Ways that Video Games are Fine, But Hey, Improvement Doesn’t Hurt (A response to Liana Kerzner)

In a series of videos that Liana Kerzner has been doing about how Anita Sarkeesian indirectly has given her hope for video games, she lays out the various things about the medium that struck her, and how the change that everyone is demanding is already here.  I make no secret that I don’t agree with everything Liana has said, but I give her credit for being willing to talk to her audience and not insult them.  She actually respects people’s intelligence.  Imagine that!  Show me the day when the Puritan Feminist crowd is willing to do that.  After all, as Liana herself has pointed out, they have been some of her most vocal critics, while GGers like myself are the first to come to her defense.  Now, let’s talk about these 8 reasons, some of which I think are a little overstated, and some of which I very much agree with.  I mean no disrespect to Liana with this.  Rather, this is the free flow of ideas manifesting.  Take that for what you will.

1. Don’t Shame!  ANYONE!
Well, I’m already guilty of this, having taken the likes of PBS Game Show, Laci Green and Anita Sarkeesian to the ideological woodshed more than once.  What can I say – I have genuine problems with the likes of Brianna Wu and Anita Sarkeesian.  Their words and actions speak for themselves, and when we have people like Wu, who exploited the death of a woman not even remotely connected to GamerGate to sell her victimhood, in addition to trying to troll herself from her Steam page, then it needs to be pointed out that she is a terrible person.

Kerzner brings up that society tends to tell women that if they don’t look like movie stars, then there is something wrong with them.  That is an interesting argument to make, considering how Meghan Trainer got famous for making a song all about that skinny-shaming (admit it, you just read that in her god-awful singing voice, didn’t you?).  Nicki Minaj’s latest lyrical assault on taste has her adding a line “fuck those skinny bitches” in the middle.  Yes, because she is TOTALLY not a skinny bitch herself (except in the boobs and ass region), right?  Modern culture is a morphing force.  If we are going to talk about differing body types in mediums, we have to be smarter than – we need more average chicks, in addition to hotties.  There is still the elephant in the room that the bulk of AAA gamers are men.  I guarantee you that when women get into this field more, the market will evolve on its own.  As it has.  The free market is a powerful force.  Ask Brianna Wu how it’s working for her.

2. Artistic Freedom and Diversity are linked!
I couldn’t agree more with this one.  In fact, I just wrote an article for Gambitcon (linked here.  Read it!) talking about how companies need to be free to have their own expression, in order for great stories to be told.  However, once again, she brings up that we need to promote the sexuality of “average” women.

Liana, I like your stuff, but you are forgetting two things – 1. We’re doing that already.  Look at the Uncharted series.  Both of the women in those games are very typical.  They aren’t super-hot.  Attractive, but realistic.  Look at Lara Croft in the new Tomb Raider.  Hell, women like Sarkeesian came out and insulted that game because they dialed down her femininity!  Realistic women are already becoming a larger part of games.  You are a gamer.  How can you not see this?

3. REALLY include characters of all body types, sizes and colors – but keep them appropriate to the character you’re creating
Kevin Levine came up in a big way today when he did a talk where he said that writing a good diverse character is when you take a character and make them a good character first.  Their diversity should be a secondary concern.  The SJW crowd lost their collective shit.  I couldn’t agree more with Levine.  Unless we stop this need to make character this or that, things will never get better.  We are having great diversity, with great characters.  When I went after the racism in PBS Game Show, I showed how Sgt. Johnson from the Halo franchise was a good character, because of how he was written.  The fact that he’s black just adds to it, because he has so much cool factor.  It’s oozing out of him.  You want to talk about people who want to make it about ethnicity and body type first, talk to the SJW crowd.

4. Don’t fear controversy, but don’t deliberately create it, either
Yeah, we’re gonna have to disagree on this one.  I believe that artistic freedom is absolute, in any art medium.  It’s the reason that great controversial books like “Catcher in the Rye”, “Fahrenheit 451”, and “Animal Farm” exist.  Sometimes, we do need to create controversy  Sometimes, we do need to challenge people’s sensibilities.  Look at shows like South Park, and how they make great points about real issues, with unrelentingly cruel parody and satire.  That show pulls no punches and it makes no apologies.  Don’t you go saying that that is a dumb cartoon!  Don’t disrespect the effort and passion that Trey Parker and Matt Stone put into their work.

Video games can live with some deliberate controversy.  Look at what happened when the game Hatred premiered.  It got people talking!  We were talking about whether or not it went too far, and what is acceptable. These conversations wouldn’t happen if we didn’t make games that challenged people’s preconceptions.  That’s the perk this medium has.  We can make games that stir up some dark emotions, and it will get people talking and thinking.  That’s a good thing.  Artistic freedom should come above all else.

5. Maintain artistic integrity throughout your game
Back with you.  I loved how Rocksteady didn’t shy away when the ESRB decided to give them an M rating for Batman: Arkham Knight.  They are making the game that they wanted to make.  Don’t like that?  Too fucking bad.  You gotta deal with it.  That’s awesome!  It’s so nice to see a studio that’s willing to stand for artistic freedom.  Especially when you have studios like Oblivion actively working to self-censor, so as not to make any Puritan Feminists butthurt.

But again, you focus on the wrong thing here.  Like how a game can have one motif that it’s running with, but then focus a lot on an element that seems contradictory.  I brought this up in my review of Tomb Raider, where I pointed out that they make killing seem wrong, but then give you points for your kills, and how well you do each kill.  You have people screaming and crying if you shoot them but don’t kill them, yet you still get that score if you make the kill.  It’s mixed up.  But all of this still falls under artistic freedom.  Something that, in my not-at-all humble opinion, must come before all else.

6. The ‘Why’ of your game is more important than the ‘What’ or ‘Who’
I couldn’t disagree more.  That is just one element, of an entire picture that must all come together.  Why is important, but what and who are just as important.  For example, Why would someone tie up Batman and inject him with poisonous blood?  Oh, right, it’s the Joker.  And he’s been doing crazy shit like this for years.  Sure, he is looking for a cure and wants to get Batman to give him a hand, but he still would have done stuff like this anyway.  Because he’s the Joker.

If we’re going to rationalize motivations for a character and have that be the most central part of a game, then that limits the kind of story-telling in the medium.  For example – why do the March Hare and the Mad Hatter have an unbirthday party?  I don’t know.  And neither do you!  Nobody does.  That’s part of the intrigue.  Stories like “Dante’s Inferno” are given power because they are able to look simply at what something is and have you try and hash out why and who and all the rest.  It’s a study in what you see.  Video games can do that too.  Good characters have good motivations.  Games like Journey completely circumvent why altogether and simply focus on what and where.  A good story is bigger than these things.

7. Sex isn’t just for single, dysfunctional, or miserable people
I agree.  Totally.  Here’s the thing – how many video game protagonists are well-adjusted married guys who live happy lives with their wives?  Does that sound like a common element, to you?  No?  Didn’t think so.  You say that there’s not enough “healthy, respectful sexuality” shown in games, but how many healthy, totally on-the-level characters are in games?  Since video games are pretty much wish-fulfillment anyway, they make characters who are extraordinary and unique.  Have a unique character who has a unique life and guess what his romance is going to be – unique.  Why are you being so nit-picky over small things and ignoring larger ones?

8. Establish the character, build the character model, then let her grow
Um…yeah, this is just weird.  You say that female game characters are routinely having their character traits ignored in favor of how they look first.  Do I have to make a list every time of great female characters in games who are complex?  Or hell, good characters who aren’t especially complicated, but are still fun all the same?  Do I have to keep doing this?  Why?!  It’s getting so old to talk about how we have characters like Jack in Mass Effect 2 and Heather Mason in Silent Hill 3, who are excellent characters, and drop-dead gorgeous.  Both of them are complicated and have their flaws.  Both of them grow over the course of the narratives they are in.  This list is miles fucking long!

I know that it sounds like I am burning you here, but I’m really not.  I liked what you had to say.  I am glad that I can respectfully disagree with you and hopefully have people who see it as me just offering another persepective.  And, on the off-chance that you read this, I mean no ill will.  I watch your content, and for the most part, I enjoy it.  I have yet to see a video one where there isn’t something that I partly disagree with, but I still see it through the lens of – this is worth talking about.  That’s what matters.  So I put this to you – think about what I’ve said?  I have given your thoughts time to ruminate.

Wish you all the best.

Until next time, a quote,

“There is an ancient Vulcan proverb – only Nixon could go to China.”  -Captain Spock, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Peace out,

Maverick

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28 thoughts on “8 Ways that Video Games are Fine, But Hey, Improvement Doesn’t Hurt (A response to Liana Kerzner)

    • A video games journalist who happens to be a feminist and isn’t a total Puritan. I know, the idea of such a mythical creature. Crazy.

      • Because they have opinions worth talking about. And the broader discussion of games helps the medium grow. Plus, the free market of ideas is the cornerstone of a free society.

      • Don’t know. Don’t really care, either. It’s like caring who you are or what you had for breakfast today. It just doesn’t matter.

      • You say things and “Don’t know.” why 5 minutes later? Do you have Alzheimer?

      • Technically, since I answered the question about answering things, I answered two things. I’m on a roll today!

      • Because I didn’t care that I called you names. I don’t even remember doing that, and I have the comments in front of me! You are making assumptions that I care enough about what you had to say to remember you even saying it. I get enough comments that I will forget this entire discourse by the end of the day. It’s just not that interesting.

      • Normally, I don’t even reply to comments. I just do when I get a chance to be an asshole. It’s kind of my schtick. So yeah, there it is.

      • So you have to “care” about stuff to remember it? That’s not how humans work

      • Of course it is. Because you are the supreme authority on what makes a person human. Of course. Silly me for thinking otherwise. I’ll just defer to you on what makes people people. You clearly know best. With what credentials, again…?

      • Nice dodge. And this is how I talk. This is my normal speech pattern. Should I throw in some Internet lingo? Maybe an OMG or two? I think I’m done here. This discourse is going nowhere, and it isn’t as funny as it was when it started. Unfortunate.

      • You’re pretty much talking to yourself by now.
        “Nice dodge”? You wanted me to answer to you saying I’m a supreme authority?

      • Wow. I think I’m going to let the Internet handle what I meant with my statement that you are a supreme authority.

  1. I loved Anita’s videos, but I think it’s because I viewed them more as a literary critique rather than a moral one.

    No artistic medium has any moral obligation to cater to you, or make you feel good. An artist doesn’t have to write attractive but overweight women to please your feelings. If you’re looking for pieces of art to confirm your beliefs and your worldviews, then art isn’t for you.

    The same thing applies to Anita’s critique. She showed a trend of how women are portrayed in order to reconsider how you will portray them in your own stories. It helped me a lot, not to make other women feel good but to write better stories.

    I still think GamerGate is a reaction movement by a fanbase that needs to face that their medium is stagnant and needs to press the Refresh button. SJW’s won’t solve it, obviously. Like you said, they care more about race than anyone else. We need developers who think outside of the box. We need more Scott Cawthons and Borderlands, and less “Look how grim’n’dark this is! It’s almost as deep as Game of Thrones”. No. Those novels also suck.

    A lot of people also forget that storytelling in video games doesn’t work like in novels or in movies. It’s a different medium. I tackled that subject in a few posts.

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