Welcome To The New Age: 2013′s Biggest Disappointments
Progress Fails To Progress
In 2012, we optimistically suggested that this subculture had reached a real turning point with the issue of sexism in the gaming community. What felt like a tidal wave of outrage over several high-profile instances of industry and community sexist behavior culminated in the brief #1reasonwhy movement, in which women working in the video gaming industry went public with their own experiences of sexism.
At last, so we thought at the time, putting a human face on the problem may finally result in real change. Not just for women, but for perceived minority groups of all kinds who have traditionally felt marginalized by an industry and culture that is, without exaggeration, perhaps the broiest America has ever produced.
Lol, no. Instead of a turning point, 2012 was a cul de sac. At the end of 2013, we’re back pretty much where we started.
It’s true we made it nearly six months without anything as egregious as 2012′s notorious Street Fighter tournament outbursts, but Microsoft got the ball rolling again at E3 with a poorly conceived rape joke dropped during its abysmal annual press conference. That rather tepid offensiveness was quickly overshadowed by the company’s tone-deaf arrogance in response to criticisms of Xbox One’s (since-removed) anti-consumer features, but it remains a black mark that needn’t have happened.
Right around the same time, the Penny Arcade team managed to spark controversy for what feels like the millionth instance, first thanks a bizarre transphobic Twitter rant by Mike Krahulik, followed soon after by the announcement of a panel at PAX Australia that, as initially conceived, was focused on tremendous unexamined butthurtness aimed at people who criticize racist or sexist behavior.
After severe criticism, the panel description was changed to something less needlessly combative, but two months later, the Penny Arcade guys would put a particularly ignoble cap on things at PAX Prime, where they resurrected the “dickwolves” controversy for no goddamned reason.
But while the Penny Arcade guys would eventually make an effort to improve — and, let’s be honest, add an unintentional punchline to the situation — with the creation of the “diversity lounge,” announced last week, so much of the gamerverse remains obstinately unwilling to follow suit. (Cough Grand Theft Auto V cough.) And at no time was this made quite as clear as in the last couple of weeks.
Nothing sums up how far back we went in 2013 quite like the magically idiotic freakout over the hiring of Dina Abou Karam as community manager for Mighty No. 9, the Kickstarter-funded spiritual successor to Mega Man from developer Comcept. What should have been a ho-hum hiring announcement ended up sparking a river of angry brodude tears, and all because Comcept didn’t get the memo that the precious feelings of angry jerks are the most important element in creating a great game.
The problem is that Karam happens to have been outspoken in her views about some of the bigger recent controversies over sexism in video games. Granted, she did so as a civilian, but that didn’t stop a surprising amount of people from asserting she’s going to turn Mighty No. 9 into a forum for her political views because reasons. Of course, her political views will almost certainly play some role in how she does her job — she is, after all, going to be the lead moderator for Mighty No. 9 forums. “No shit, Sherlock,” seems like the only appropriate response, but no, instead we got the standard “bitches need to shut up” checklist.
Look, I’m not here to argue whether Karam should or shouldn’t have her job. Maybe there are legitimate reasons she shouldn’t. But if your arguments hinge on “What happens if I’m not safe to slur someone based on who they are?”, you’re not advancing the legitimate argument. On the bright side, though, a small majority of people would eventually chime in on the Mighty No. 9 forums to push back against this absurd freakout. That’s great, but the episode remains yet another shameful example of how stupid the gaming community can be when even the fringes of broey exclusivity are threatened.
Someday we’ll look back on the butthurtness epidemic among a certain subset of male gamers in this era with the same kind of embarrassed wince we currently reserve for the older relative everyone else has to apologize for at holiday dinners2. But right now, this shit is getting old and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.
“Wait, idiot,” we can hear you shouting, “those games weren’t as bad as you claim/are the best thing we’ve seen in years!” “And XboxPlaystationOne4 really is a drastic leap forward in superkewlnextgenness!” “While we’re at it, MISANDRY!” That’s a good point, person who is completely wrong, but you’re completely wrong.
Okokok, we admit 2013 wasn’t all bad. It’s true that even some of the games we singled out here managed to impress us from time to time. And as noted, the indie scene absolutely flourished, ably showing the triple-A guys how it should be done. And we’ll never stop pointing out that now is the perfect time to make the switch to PC gaming. But really, these bright spots are like organic basil and homemade butter on a poo and carrion sandwich. Welcome to the new age: It’s almost exactly the same as the old one.
So what about you, readers? Did we miss anything? Let us know in comments what your biggest disappointments were. And don’t forget to throw on a dubstep backing track while you do it.
1) It means “Social Justice Warrior”. You know, because giving a crap about social justice is worse than being opposed to it because logic.
2) So have fun at Thanksgiving, gramps.