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Good Morning, Orthodoxy is a series of articles examining a coordinated attack made by games journalists on August 28 and 29. In the fourth installment, we’re going to talk about inclusion.
Inclusion has been a danger word for me since I was in college. Back then, I was being educated to be an educator; inclusion was the topic on every one of my professors’ minds. The problem was phrased in such a manner that it was hard to be against the solution, “There are not enough girls getting into Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics disciplines in college.” We were fed a bunch of research showing exactly that. Then we were told that the problem was an exclusive culture in High School; the solution to which was inclusion. I spoke about inclusion briefly in GMO2, but the definition of inclusion bears repeating, so we’ll return to Shafik Asante’s 1997 article “What is Inclusion?”
It definitely becomes our responsibility as a society to remove all barriers which uphold exclusion since none of us have the authority to “invite” others “in”!
The act of inclusion means fighting against exclusion and all of the social diseases exclusion gives birth to – i.e. racism, sexism, handicapism, etc. Fighting for inclusion also involves assuring that all support systems are available to those who need such support.
Again, in theory it all looks good. The application, however, was anything but good. The first thing they told us was math word problems were gender biased. I have never understood the difference between Jimmy giving his oranges to Suzzie or Suzzie giving his apples to Jimmy, so I never really cared what order the names came in, so long as the students could come up with 5+2=7 or 5-2=3, depending on the question being asked. Then they told us math word problems were race biased. Then they said the same things about physics problems. Then they said we couldn’t ask physics problems that involve math, because math is gender and race biased. At this point, I had to object on principle: math, in and of itself, can’t possibly be biased in any way. Physics has been, is, and always will be tied to math. How can we possibly assess an understanding of concepts thoroughly without asking questions that rely on math? The answers I received were unsatisfying, and 8 months prior to graduation, I dropped out of the education program to pursue my content areas, physics and mathematics, and now I help put stuff in space.
So, maybe this is my bias against the negative experience I had a long time ago, but when the 2 Minutes Hate happened, and people started adding inclusion to the orthodoxy, I had a visceral negative reaction to it.
Leading off the orthodoxy train is Dan Golding:
Today, videogames are for everyone. I mean this in an almost destructive way. Videogames, to read the other side of the same statement, are not for you. You do not get to own videogames. No one gets to own videogames when they are for everyone. They add up to more than any one group.
On some level, the grim individuals who are self-centred and myopic enough to be upset at the prospect of having their medium taken away from them are absolutely right. They have astutely, and correctly identified what is going on here. Their toys are being taken away, and their treehouses are being boarded up. Videogames now live in the world and there is no going back.
I want Dan Golding to tell me the time when video games didn’t live in the world. When the Aladin’s Castles were banned to the Negative Zone while I was waiting in line 45 minutes to play wire frame Star Wars? Or was it when Nei was killed (heroically, I might add) at the end of Act 1 of Phantasy Star 2? Perhaps when Aeris was killed in FFVII? Oh, that’s right, games have always lived in the world. Gamers just don’t spend their money on crap.
Devin Wilson’s orthodoxy wild ride comes out with both guns a blazin’:
We get serious about inclusivity, which means understanding that “game” is a very loose category that—even when defined relatively strictly—encompasses an astonishing range of activities. This means that we should associate less strongly around such a vague term. Being interested in games doesn’t mean you need to play every game that comes out and have an opinion on it. It doesn’t mean that every game is for you. The games press creates an illusion that every big game needs to be played by everyone who likes games. Games as a medium (or—more accurately to my mind, lately—a plurality of media) are more diverse than all of film, radio, television, print, etc. Compare two random works of one of those other media forms. Then compare two random games (digital or non-digital). There’s no contest: the breadth of games is staggering, and we need to cool it on the preoccupation with having an encyclopedic expertise-of and exposure-to all games.
I used this quote before during GMO2 to describe the orthodoxy trying to redefine game, but this time this quote is here because it says “inclusivity”. It uses the transformation of game to mean everything as a means to justify inclusion. This quote also tries to claim that inclusion is okay because liking games doesn’t mean you have to play everything that comes out. That’s intuitively obvious, not only because there’s not enough disposable income to play every game that comes out when it comes out, but also because there’s not enough free time to play every game, either. To set up for tomorrow’s GMO, free time and disposable income are scarce resources, and I want to maximize the value I get from those resources. If any barely competent developer can make terrible non-games and rely on a corrupt games media for positive press and/or reviews, I can’t get value for my scarce resources. This is why I support #GamerGate.
Devin has more to say:
We all grow up (starting this very instant), and we bring games along with us. This doesn’t mean making “grittier” or “darker” games. Rather, we make and play games that we have no reason to be ashamed of, and—most importantly—we’re honest about what may very well be shameful about games.
This item is the epiphany moment for the orthodoxy and the 2 Minutes Hate. The people writing the orthodoxy self-loathe to an epic degree. About 6 months ago, I had my entire social media history laid out in front of me and value judged: every tweet, every Facebook post, and each line item in Linkedin—all of it. It was a harrowing experience, but it also reminded me of a bit of personal ethics I hadn’t thought of in a while: If you can’t stand up and defend the thing you are about to say, then don’t say it. I’m happy to say that in my entire social media history, I only violated that ethic once in a way I felt at the time was justified. Similarly, there are no games in any of my libraries that I am ashamed of playing: None of the GTAs, none of the Dooms, none of the Diablos, not Naughty Bear, not Rumble Roses, not Isaac, not Tie Fighter, not Civ, not Everyday Shooter, Dead Island, Deadlight, DEFCON, AvP, or Hotline Miami. None of the 162 games in my Steam library make me feel shame. The only game that ever made me feel the least bit uncomfortable was Manhunt. The response to those uncomfortable feelings is so stunning, I’m sure the people writing the orthodoxy never thought of it. I stopped playing. There’s nothing shameful about games. Maybe Devin Wilson feels ashamed to play videogames, but my self-determination makes me immune to projections of shame from people lacking the courage to engage me face to face about the things that are supposedly shameful about games.
Now we can move on to the Hanoi Hannah of the Orthodoxy, Leigh Alexander:
It’s clear that most of the people who drove those revenues in the past have grown up — either out of games, or into more fertile spaces, where small and diverse titles can flourish, where communities can quickly spring up around creativity, self-expression and mutual support, rather than consumerism. There are new audiences and new creators alike there. Traditional “gaming” is sloughing off, culturally and economically, like the carapace of a bug.
The irony of this statement is if was true, there would be no need to impose inclusion on gaming. Luckily, we have facts and data once again.
I don’t have the best grasp of recent world history, but wasn’t there a world-wide event that happened in 2008 that took most of the world 5 years to recover from? It’s on the tip of my tongue. Oh yeah, the collective economies of virtually the entire world took a dump. Unemployment rates over 10% in America wouldn’t have anything to do with videogame market revenues in America tailing off for 5 years; clearly, the dip in market revenues is due to people’s tastes moving away from AAA titles to indie garbage non-games made in Twine with complex social justice narratives that get favorable reviews from people they’ve lived with or dated. Orthodoxy says one thing; facts and data say the opposite.
If only we were done with Leigh:
Developers and writers alike want games about more things, and games by more people. We want — and we are getting, and will keep getting — tragicomedy, vignette, musicals, dream worlds, family tales, ethnographies, abstract art. We will get this, because we’re creating culture now. We are refusing to let anyone feel prohibited from participating.
Finally we get to the orthodoxy explaining why we need inclusion in gaming. Everyone could already participate, assuming they could create something that was able to compete in the marketplace. Customers speak with their wallets; customers demand value. Even more so when economic times are hard, and disposable income is at a premium. The orthodoxy needs inclusion because markets and market forces are exclusive; merit is exclusive; and quality is exclusive, especially if we use a word like ‘fun’ to describe what a game is. If you own a PR company and you’re “above” getting into the fray in the market as it currently stands, then you’d be desperate to write an orthodoxy where anything is a game and quality is optional. Then you can do PR for something in the morning, write a glowing review about it on Gamasutra in the afternoon, and character assassinate anyone who dares criticize as a misogynist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic in the evening. It makes one wonder if any of these people care about videogames at all.
Finally, I have to put this in, because I told one of the hand full of people whose opinion of me matters to me that I would. Simply put, there is the possibility that the people I’ve quoted in this piece mean what I would call “representation” when they say “inclusion”. I don’t think they are, personally, because I really think the end goal of the orthodoxy is tons of barely competent people making trash non-games with social justice indoctrination embedded in them relying on corrupt games media for positive coverage. That said, I would be remiss to not acknowledge I had such a horrible experience with inclusion in my past that I might be seeing what I want to see.
Tune back in tomorrow for GMO5, where we are going to look at consumerism. Update: Good Morning, Orthodoxy! #5