Three things have happened in the last few days to remind me just how incredibly bitter some people become at the suggestion that we need to include a wider range of voices in gaming.
The first was the amazingly powerful Tumblr post by contributor Latining. Yes, I said “amazingly powerful.” Because that’s what it is. But of course the instant knee-jerk response was to hashtag-not-all-gamers the crap out of it. I felt compelled in one case to do something I really try not to do – respond to people I don’t know on a friend’s post in Facebook. I did so because this dude said (direct quote):
I’ve been playing since the Modern-day RPG was invented, c 1974. I’ve *NEVER* seen, or heard, of anything like this before. That could be a personal bubble thing, or, as it turned out to be with the Tories and D-Day Heroes Sodomise [sic] and Murder young boys thing, a Pack of Fucking Lies. If I had to bet, I know where I’ld [sic] place my money, and I think I’ld [sic] probably win.
So yeah. I’ll just pause a moment and let the women, queer folk, and people of color in the room soak that one in. Not only is this person so convinced that his experience as a member of the dominant culture is the ONLY experience that he’s willing to bet on it, but he’s comparing any claims to the contrary to some bizarrely obscure propaganda campaign I’ve never heard about from WW2.
And the thing is, this was one of the mildest comments I saw in all the negativity directed at this post whenever it showed up in a public forum. Quite a bit of it followed the same basic argument, though – disbelief because the experiences seemed too extreme to those who are not used to these stories. And no matter how many women assured the commenters that yes, this has happened and continues to happen to pretty much all of them, these angry men just refused to acknowledge their lived experience. (That’s the very definition of mansplaining, for those of you following along with bingo cards.)
The second event that got me thinking about this was a Twitter argument I got involved in after someone attacked Tanya dePass of I Need Diverse Games out of the blue when she was simply introducing herself to some new followers. I try to use Twitter mostly for announcements (and the occasional discussion about Rebels), but this accusation was so incredibly egregious, I just had to jump in. His first tweet to her was, “Let artists be artists,” and when she asked him to explain what he meant, he said, “You’re trying to police a form of art. Let them create the art they want to create.”
At this point, several of us jumped on him and pointed out in a multitude of ways the difference between positively reinforcing more diverse representation and trying to shut down works that are not diverse. (To be clear, INDG does the first, not the second.) Again, this dude angrily refused to see the difference and insisted that the very act of criticizing non-diverse games somehow limits the expression of those creators. Moreover, that the very act of advocating for diversity is itself a critique of non-diverse games.
I will link to Tanya’s response to this overall assertion because it says everything that needs to be said.
Finally, the most recent ridiculous blowup is regarding the Baldur’s Gate expansion, Siege of Dragonspear. This blowup is largely because a *gasp* female writer had the audacity to include a *double-gasp* trans character as a minor NPC in this game. Take a look at Katherine Cross’s Gamasutra article for links and explanation.
I am less directly involved in this one, but the conversations around it have included the all-too-familiar patterns that show up around discussions of video game diversity: inflammatory and hateful shouting from a few vocal trolls, followed by some articles (such as Katherine’s) defending the creator being attacked, followed by accusations that such articles are actually the CAUSE of the problems that exist within the gaming community.
That last part is really what bugs me the most, because it’s a) tone policing and b) manipulative. It allows a second wave of trolls to come into any discussion and pretend that they’re the ones that are being reasonable, when in fact they are supporting an unreasonable argument. And since the unreasonable arguments they’re supporting are the real cause of the “problems in gaming,” this approach is simply an excuse to not listening to any opposing viewpoints.
So why do they do it? Why does diversity so threaten and enrage these people? Looking at the conversations I was directly involved in, I have to draw this conclusion: it’s because they honestly (though mistakenly) believe that diversity is zero-sum, that increased representation for characters and creators who are not-them means reduced representation for them.
This is, of course, ridiculous. And I know that because I am a cis-het white male game designer, and I have never had anyone come up to me and tell me to stop it. In fact, the only people who have complained in any way about what I write are other cis-het white males, largely because I choose to build diversity into my games and they would prefer to have their own worldviews reinforced.
But I’m not gonna do that. I’m going to continue to support voices like the three writers I linked and the games they advocate. I’m going to continue to write game worlds that assume diversity and question historical erasure. And I’m going to stick to the conclusion I came to following that Twitter conversation:
Opposition to diversity is not a value, and I do not have to respect it.