One Opinion Only – The Anti-Discussion Culture

November 5, 2015

How do you start writing an article that goes against political correctness culture? You don´t start one to begin with, a likely answer would be these days.

As I´m eagerly reading a certain popular video game discussion forum, I have to admit that the point has been reached at which I´m not angry, frustrated or shocked anymore – I am disappointed. Disillusioned. Close to resignation. Yes, close to resignation, which is to say that this text will be my last attempt at exposing all which is wrong at the moment. Since I am but a single person, nothing you´re going to read here is meant to be taken as absolute, as objective. But that is a train of thought that´s not very popular with the crowd that I´m about to criticize, because discussion, actual discussion is apparently not as important as keeping an echo chamber (a phrase I only learnt about recently) of samey opinions running. Therefore a quick warning: This text won´t be a safe space, it won´t be political correct, and I guess some idiots (I´m calling them that because they´d be missing the point entirely) will accuse me of being a misogynist or pedophile. Either of which will be the case, because in this current climate, you´re either for or against something. There is no middle ground, only extremes. This is not what I think, this is what the current reality presents itself as. Despite these risks, I won´t hesitate to speak my mind and touch on subjects that often times are talked about so half-assedly that no matter how wrong something that was said is, is never corrected. Sometimes even willingly, because it would damage the on-going narrative. As somebody who´s found his way into online discussion forums during the worst days of the console war, back then when the PS2-GameCube-Xbox generation dawned upon us, I am devastated to watch as discussion, actual discussions go the way of the dinosaur in favor of reaffirming majority opinions. Man, writing this article makes me nostalgic about the times when I was that lonely Nintendo-fan, defending the greatness of Metroid Prime for kiddy GameCube against the oh-so mature Halo: Combat Evolved for Xbox (really, both were great games) – fun times, more fun than the present.

Since it´s hard to pick one topic that´s more important than the others, let´s simply start with the one that regularly occupies the front pages of many forums: Anita Sarkeesian. A short topic, actually. I could try to summarize the whole mess that current-day feminism, sexism, etc. is, but that isn´t necessary. If you´re reading this, you know who Anita is. You know about her videos, about her death threat claims, about evil GamerGaters and so on. Getting it over with: No, death threats suck, they´re not okay. Now on to the more important notes: Death threats posted on the internet are usually not real. Maybe there is some danger to a person like Anita who´s successfully turned herself into a celebrity, thus making herself more of a target for real crazy people. However, posting screenshots of mean tweets is not proof of people being dangerous, nor is it proof of people being misogynist. Anybody who´s been on the internet for a prolonged time and has partaken in certain communities has to have experienced the very same that many of these women claim to have experienced. Admittedly, a guy won´t be insulted with “bitch” or “cunt”. He will be insulted with “dick” or “motherfucker” instead. Sombody who´s fat will be called “fattie” or “pig”. Someone who´s black will see the typical “nigger” or variations of it. That is the internet – a place of, for now, freedom in its largest parts. When some people want to rile you up, insult you, they´ll attack what they perceive as your weakness. And taking a look at the current climate, it´s working. Every couple of weeks, Anita keeps releasing another video or blog posting detailing how mean people are to her, and each time it´s getting worse. I will say that I do not like Anita, I will also say that nobody deserves those reactions. But you are intentionally obtuse if you ignore the mechanisms of the internet! What exactly did you expect to happen after publishing an article about this currently happening online harrassment? You KNOW that it would only cause even worse reactions in the future. Somebody who writes you a tweet detailing how he´s masturbated “all over your profile pic” to mock you, will not turn for the better after being indirectly attacked. It really is the ancient saying “don´t feed the troll” that you choose to ignore. I fully support reporting people who send death threats to Anita, but even then: This is the internet. And no matter what happens, I like the internet for its freedom. And if you think you are entitled to change the internet by visiting the United Nations, I will do my best to be an obstacle in your crusade. How about instead of trying to change the environment, you try to do what most of us do in such situations: You “pwn” back. That is what this sort of trolling comes down to and what most gamers are well-versed in: Pwning, Owning, or simply put: trash talk. Nothing that people attack you with is gender-specific. It is the most typical, normal internet trash talk. You might want to intervene here and explain how changing such a, at face-value, hostile environment has some worth, but never, and this cannot be repeated enough, at the price of freedom. Even though I´m not big into competitive online-gaming, I wouldn´t want to worry about throwing the wrong insult at the wrong person, only to have to deal with serious consequences for “in-the-heat-of-the-moment trash-talk”. For those who are this sensitive, I recommend watching the animated TV-show “South Park” – if you understand this show´s point, it´ll positively affect your level of tolerance.

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On that matter, one very important addition: It is easy to accuse all of those who gave negative feedback to her videos as misogynists. In my humble opinion, though, many of those simply don´t like Anita Sarkeesian, the person. They have nothing against women at large. Having seen some of the videos of hers and how she often times spreads wrong things about the games she talks about, and seeing how her supporters then try to wave it all away with a mere “you missed her point!“, is creating an atmosphere of elitism, arrogance and false-superiority. Just because the end result appears to be of good cause, that doesn´t justify her methods. Therefore, it is okay to dislike Anita Sarkeesian. It does not make you misogynist. Though, attempting to hard-link Anita Sarkeesian with feminism´s success is most certainly a big problem. So … let´s not do that.

The next topic that needs to be rectified is the censorship of sexual content in Nintendo games as well as the proposed ban of lolicon-content in drawings. It is absolutely impossible to have a reasonable debate about either of these without being called a pedophile or being insulted in other demeaning ways. A lot of people are absolutely incapable of accepting differing view points, let alone realizing that they´re in the wrong. The way these people will attack you for going against them is nothing but vile. I´ve long since realized that people that make use of words like “creepy”, “titillating” or “pandering” have no sincere interest in a discussion – they post their comments to insult and bait others into getting punished by the forum´s moderators. And it is easy to get away with it, because, yes, who would be against the sexualization of children, right? Wrong.
As a society, we ought to progress as time passes. We should open up, we should hear out people with unpopular thoughts, we should improve ourselves. So what about those evil, evil pedophiles? Many would say “kill them all” and then praise each other as the reasonable ones. Others demand chemical castration and other similarily gruesome therapies. All the while wanting them to reveal themselves to society, ignoring that that´d be societal suicide, if not actual suicide. I´ve long pondered about if I should write about it or not, but the truth is: I know that I´m not a pedophile, and writing something in favor of that group, not even really defending them, just explaining some things, will not make me one, either. Sorry to give you no room for attack here, but I´d rather spend some time with Becky Quick than with some undeveloped brat. Anyways, the current drama relates to Project Zero 5 and Xenoblade Chronicles X, both games for the Wii U console.

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In Project Zero 5, players of the original Japanese version were rewarded with more skin-revealing bonus-costumes to dress the female protagonists with. Those costumes have been censored in the western release of the game. Instead, they were replace with alternate costumes inspired by Princess Zelda (The Legend of Zelda) and Zero Suit Samus (Metroid). The reason for this change is still unclear. Apparently, one of the girls is 17 years old in the Japanese version. However, as far as I know, that age has been changed to 18 or 19 in the US- and PAL-edition of the game. Although it doesn´t matter much: Project Zero 5 is sold as an 18+ game only, meaning it´s not meant to be played by children and teenagers. As prude as Americans might be, this game was never a danger to their pure offspring. To be honest, for as long as I gave it a thought, I kept arriving at the conclusion: PZ5 is the first ever game to be directly (and negatively so) influenced by Anita Sarkeesian´s agenda. The game isn´t a danger to young children being exposed to sexy designs. It doesn´t feature underage characters who mustn´t wear sexy clothing. The only thing that remains, thus, is that somehow the western branch of Nintendo deemed it a must to not sexualize female characters, because of the current hyper-feministic climate. Having played the game for the first time recently myself, I can only say that this is absurd. Even without the original costumes, the core design of all the female characters in this game is … sexy. Short skirts, naked shoulders, cute/hot faces … and then you have the new, supposedly less-objectifying costumes, which basically turn the heroine into a nude, blue-colored something. Oh dear.

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Meanwhile, it was revealed a couple days ago that at least one of Lin´s (character from the game) costumes from Xenoblade Chronicles X was changed to be less skin-conspicuous. Lin is a 13-year old girl in the open world-JRPG from developer MonolithSoft. Her original costume shows her in a very revealing bikini, leaving about naught to your imagination. So it was changed to cover up more of her breast-area. The reason why such a costume ever existed for a 13-year old character is simply that every character in Xenoblade Chronicles X can equip every amor. So while it´s less showy on an adult woman, it gets noticed more easily when worn by a young girl. Now, despite desiring the original version of a game being good enough of a reason to be against this censorship (and censorship it is, no matter by whom it is enforced), there´s an infinitely better point to make against this change, against this outrage, including the proposed UN-lolicon-ban: These are not real people.

It is such a simple statement, and just as true and powerful all the while. 13 years old, 17 years old, 19 years old, 1000 years old or 5 years old – it does not matter. It should not matter. These are virtual, fictional characters, products of somebody´s imagination. Real world law should apply to real people only, because those are people that need to be protected. Fictional characters do not need to be protected. That is why billions of fictional people are murdered every day, every hour, every second. We murder them on TV while watching CSI or Gotham; we murder them in books while reading something on the toilet; we murder them online while playing Call of Duty or Counterstrike. This is okay because they aren´t real people. Therefore murdering, killing and, increasingly, even torturing them is okay, is accepted. Yet, when it comes to sex, suddenly none of that seems to apply. And so the weirdest rulesets are put in action, resulting in awkward number changes. Kasumi from Dead or Alive was once 14 in the original Japanese game, her age was changed to 18 in the US-version. But … changing her age to 18 in the west doesn´t change the fact that her creator created her as a 14-year old. Deluding yourself she´s suddenly 18-years old is nothing but phoney behavior of the highest degree. No matter the number in the west, you´re still ogling a (hot) 14-year old girl. But that isn´t even the best argument against the unjustified ban/censorship of underage virtual characters: Having become a meme by now, it still can´t easily be waved aside: What about characters that look underage in appearance, but have an arbitrary number of age attached to them? The lolicon-girl that is actually a 1000-year old dragon? And should a widespread ban of such material ever happen, nothing prevents creators from keeping the drawings the same, just changing the numbers to 18 and above. Nothing will have been changed, except for our world to have become slightly more absurd. To put a cherry on top of it, we´ve already run into ludicrous situations like in Australia, where an adult pornography actress got into trouble, because she looked too young. In Australia, sexual content is banned depending on looks. The irony of the resulting misogyny is through the roof – no boobs, no adult woman. Aha.

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Now, the reasonable solution would be to accept that fictional characters are not to be treated as real people. A game where a 5-year old girl is gang-raped is unlikely to ever enter the NPD monthly top10 sales charts. As sick, gross or outrageous an idea might be, it should never be allowed to punish someone´s thoughts. When no real people are hurt in the course of production of content, that content should be legal to create and be published. If the world is so pure that certain vile content won´t see any popularity, it will vanish without anybody enforcing arbitrary bans. And if that certain vile content finds an audience, that´s okay, too. Nobody will ever be forced to consume this kind of content, but those who find joy by consumption will be able to relieve some stress. Which brings me back to the topic of pedophilia. Simply put: Somebody who finds a 17- or even 13-year old girl attractive is not a pedophile (since that´s the age context we were talking about above). People with such sexual orientation are attracted to pre-pubescent children. Trying to explain that important difference is all too often ignored by pc-culture, because going for the moral imperative is easier than to engage in actual disucssion. It instantly shuts down any discussion. And it is indeed frustrating to watch self-proclaimed “reasonable, tolerant people” call out people as pedophiles when they find teenage characters attractive. It´s even worse when they equate pedophiles as child abusers. It´s likely a tiny minority of all existing pedophiles that really turns into despicable criminals. The majority of them lives a peaceful, rather normal life, because why should they reveal themselves to other people? They know that it´d be suicide to do so, thanks to a society that is anything but tolerant and accepting.

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Lastly, I wanna talk about accusing games and gamers of being “pervy”, “pandering” or offering too much “fan-service”. Here´s the thing: Pervertness is good! Fan-service is for the fans, therefore good, too! This has always been one of the most ridiculous complaints to me: Complaining about hot girls, about boobs, about ass, about sexyness, about sex, about any sort of sexual content. If some women feel threatend by sexualization of women in games, they now have many alternatives where that won´t be a problem. Life is Strange, Horizon: Zero Dawn and Mirror´s Edge are just a few examples. And it´s only getting better for them. But those games that DO offer hot female characters and put them in naughty, pervy scenes? Fantastic! Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 with PlayStation VR-support cannot come soon enough! “Summer Lesson” looks fantastic! And some of the designs in “Monster Girl Quest” were really nice. Gamers need to be less scared and insecure of sexual content – it is extremely silly, that we still cannot have pornographic games on PlayStation 4, Wii U or Xbox One because of prude attitudes. It is sad to see gamers that like sexual content getting shamed because of it. Sex is something great, sexual fetishes in all their niches are great, too, to certain segments of people. And while seemingly everybody is afraid of a 13-year old in a Bikini, murdering virtual people by the thousands is a-ok. Let me tell you: It is not.

Quite the opposite: Sexualization makes sense. Violence doesn´t. This might be hard to understand for American gamers, but it appears as if it is some kind of “give up-scenario”. With so many guns around, a ban of guns appears impossible. And just like that real world-problem, it is the same in those virtual realities: Games featuring guns and heavy violence exist in such abundance that complaining about them feels futile. But sex is still banned, so people get the feeling they can realistically keep it that way – unfortunately, that looks to be correct for the moment, despite the lack of reason and sense. So next time you see news about a game that reveals a scantily clad female character, how about you do one of the two: Have fun – or ignore it. But don´t try to change an environment many enjoy, only because you yourself do not. And if it´s so bad that you cannot find rest: Go discuss it with people. Listen, think, then reply. Ideally, you will come to understand and accept those differing opinions. Or change it via calm, respectful debate. The world won´t become a better one by ganging up on minority opinions until they´re gone. That would be fascism. But I don´t want that to be the last word of my text, so one last advice: Whenever you decide to do something, to say something, think about what its ultimate net gain for the world would be. Would it make the world better or would it make the world worse? Living by that has proven to be rather satisfying, I might say. Happy discussion!

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Are you sexist? Probably.

October 2, 2010

So for several days now a discussion about sexism in video gaming has been going on. Specifically talking, people accuse Fumito Ueda, creator of ICO and Shadow of the Colossus, of being sexist. For all that´s worth, the discussion is beyond being absurd and I´ll totally defend that game designer. And god knows, I am no fan of Ueda, I really dislike Shadow of the Colossus, and I´m not that hyped about the upcoming The Last Guardian, either. But there´s a limit to how stupidly accusing people can be, and that limit was reached.

Evil mastermind: Fumito Ueda

The quote that ignited the “controversy” stems from two interviews. One is new and about The Last Guardian, the other one is from 2004 where Ueda talks about SotC. This is what 1up published on their website: “Early in development, the main character in The Last Guardian was female, but the team ended up going with a boy. The reason: they thought it would be more realistic that he would have enough grip strength to be able to climb around, and because they wouldn’t have to worry about camera angles with a girl who wears a skirt.” And some years ago, Ueda told this to Gamasutra: “ICO’s composer was (female composer) Michiru Ohshima, and I didn’t want to create the same image for this game. Aside from that, ICO was a game that both male and female players could enjoy equally. But I think this is a game that male players will enjoy more. So I chose a male composer.

Going by the first quote, the first part of it shouldn´t be offending at all. Boys are stronger than girls. It´s absurd to call that sexist, since it´s a generally accepted view within society. And simply going by my personal past, it is true. It´s possible that the differences in strength at the age of 10 and around that are less pronounced than at an adult age, but differences exist nonetheless. Of course, maybe those people that get worked up over that part only knew big, ugly bully-girls. That´s hardly more than anecdotal evidence, though. Then there´s the second part of that quote, the one about skirts. It implies that in Fumito Ueda´s opinion, girls and skirts are inevitably connected with each other. Now, there are several points that could be made, but one simple one would be that if you make your ingame-character a girl, you have to show that in some way. If you don´t show off the gender in any way it is redundant for one, and sexist, too, for assuming that the appearance of a little boy is the “neutral image” of a person. With a kid of age 10 the options for making clear that it is a girl a limited. I doubt the people already complaining would go totally nuts if Ueda gave visually pronounced tits to a 10-year old girl. Such young girls also wouldn´t wear make-up or feature long eye slashes. Long hair also wouldn´t cut it. So the easiest way to show that your character was a girl would be to give her a skirt, a piece of clothing that is generally taken as female-exclusive clothing. And that´s a no-go according to Ueda. However, what´s also a reason against a female kid is that it would absolutely point some focus towards that single fact. Like it or not, but for video games that have no intention to involve some kind of gender importance, having a boy being the main character is more neutral than having girl. If it was a girl in The Last Guardian, people´s feeling would be all like “oh, that´s so sweet” and “come on, big bird rat, protect that cute little girl“. The way it is, however, people couldn´t care less about the character´s gender and instead simply care about the adventure in front of them. Full stop.

The second quote from 2004 actually is not sexist at all, and I´m having a hard time trying to imagine how one could be offended by that sentence. Actually, it just shows how much Ueda takes into consideration various things when creating a game. Some people might argue that there´s no difference between male and female artists, but it´s just as legit to argue the opposite. And if Ueda thinks that a game is more likely to be enjoyed by boys and he needs are more masculine soundtrack for that purpose, it´s his and only his right to choose a male composer for the job. You can disagree, sure, but calling it sexist only makes you look very stupid.

In the end, being sexist doesn´t necessarily make you a bad person, since there exist, at least, two different kinds of sexism. One would be the misogynistic kind, the kind men that dislike or hate women for one reason or another. They believe they´re better persons simply due to their “superior” gender. But then there´s the other kind of sexism, which is: romantic people. You know, the kind of men that open doors for girls, tell them “ladies first” or do silly, dangerous stuff because they like a girl. These men are kind of conservative in their world view, but they don´t harm women with that perspective. For what is worth, I think Ueda falls into that second group of sexists. To be honest, I´m like that myself. I prefer being romantic, not neutralizing all aspects of life. I´m also one of those guys that put the girl they like on a pedestal, which many “smart” guys believe is the wrong way to get a girl friend. But calling someone a bad person because he connects girls and skirts is silly. Just as silly as calling Metroid: Other M a sexist game. It´s funny how artificially outraged people become about sexism in video games at the moment.  Other M portrayed Samus Aran not as a woman, but a human being. It never connoted any weaknesses with her gender. The one moment where Samus Aran shows fear should be clear for any knowledgeable Metroid-fan. But I mean…I even read some people calling The Legend of Zelda-series sexist, so maybe we should just stop talking about it, because apparently everything is sexist today. Fumito Ueda, Metroid, Zelda, me, and most likely you, too.