Sunday, 14 September 2014

Husting bustling: A response to Chris Tognotti

In response to this:

I quote where needed.
"Despite troubling indications of 4chan’s typically nefarious involvement — as Wired details, countless so-called “sockpuppet” accounts have been used to leverage journalistic ethics as a shield for misogyny — the hashtag is still alive and well, and nothing if not passionate."
While there are certainly a large number of trolls in various camps, to "leverage journalistic ethics as a shield for misogyny" is one loaded sentence. To speak of 4chan, even "/v/", as being the same is false; why they are "anon."

Do misogynists support young female devs? The same devs Zoe Quinn nearly destroyed?

Are all these people misogynists, too?

I'm not even going to touch the monster that is the ZQ.

Now, if you want an example of misogyny, or misandry, or just a general horrible person, who also happens to be a feminist, look no further than Leigh Alexander.

Oh yeah, and this nutbar.

Point is: there are trolls on either side. What matters is the legitimate criticism.
"But the anti-woman tenor within much of the gaming community isn’t some new phenomenon."
I understand you write for a website with a largely female audience, but there is no "Anti-woman tenor within the gaming community." There are certainly communities of people around one game, but no "gamer community" in general. There are trolls on both sides. Gamers in online competitive games smack talk; that's normal. It would make sense they'd do the same of someone calling them sexist, or other such things. I have only been able to talk to a few people on twitter supporting female-equality-whatever, without being dismissed entirely as a sexist, misogynist, or some other brand, without cause, so the conversations are largely unhelpful. One would wonder, if, there are any intelligent, reasonable feminists.
"Just ask Anita Sarkeesian, who’s been criticized, harassed and hated for nearly two years, over her video series deconstructing sexist tropes in video games."
As she should be. Yes, hated: after what she has done (disable comments, steal footage, not respond to criticism) and said (lied, biased, profiting off victim hood, etc.) Harassed is another issue, however.
"The thing that’s most striking about the opposition to Sarkeesian’s work is that while her opposition comes in very different forms, ranging from simple criticism, to faux-intellectual documentarians, to outright virulent abuse, it’s all pretty lightweight. There’s a striking inability or unwillingness to grapple honestly or seriously with her arguments, to take her interest in the topic at face value, or to listen and understand to what she’s even arguing in the first place."
So she has simple criticism brought against her, yet these people are unable to be honest, serious, take interest in her topic, or listen and understand? I can name...two dozen or so youtube videos that were honest, serious, et al.  So, are those simple criticisms also faux-intellectual documentaries? Have you spent the time to seriously listen and understand them?

Your first point "1.  Criticism of Sarkeesian Isn’t About Misogyny" strikes me as odd. But let's get into what you say.
"The backlash against Sarkeesian has seemingly been due to her gender, mixed with her willingness to speak straight-forwardly about sexist tropes in games. It’s stoked the anger directed at so-called “Social Justice Warriors,” a term some gamers snidely use to attack anyone with a progressive or feminist criticism of their culture or pastimes. "
While her straight-forward style is part of the criticism, it's due to her being a biased, agenda driven, liar, who gets her facts wrong, that's the issue. Her observations start off fine, but then deride into bias (misogyny!)  Her conclusions are completely unfounded and too far reaching.

I'm not even sure what business a "culture" critic has at looking at art. Leave that to art critics. Let alone understand what she's looking at -- that games are art -- and that you use art to deal and express with such issues, if the artist so chooses. Or, who she's calling misogynist, a boys club, a "patriarchy", or whatever (Shigeru Miyamoto for wanting to rescue a princess, even though he had next to 0 narrative for Super Mario Bros? Or his audience? His game dev group? Nintendo? Japan? All men everywhere? How is a game 30 years old relevant today?) And why speculate on who's the misogynist? Simply interview the creators of the games she looked at.  (What, $150k+ later, she couldn't call up some developers?)

Anita makes statements like "this is a sexist stereotype", repeatedly, then makes an aggregate. And we're left sitting there going "okay. So?" What does it mean? We, the gamer, know what it means, but she spins it in such a way that her conclusions are ridiculous. So what if there are women in gaming that are being damseled, or are hurt, or killed? If, as she says, tropes are neither good nor bad, but may have problematic issues, well, what's so problematic about women, or men, going through pain, suffering or other such unpleasantness happening to them, in games? The majority of all stories ever told are about death. The only thing that's problematic are her sensibilities and reaction to gaming.

And if she was actually a gamer -- Ms. Anita "I'm not a fan of video games/they're gross" Sarkeesian -- she'd understand (and hopefully play) the scenes in games to know what's going on. Of course, we'd expect a negative reaction from a vegetarian trying to critique a steak house, which, still makes her opinion biased, and useless.

And if she was actually a literary critic, someone who can see the composition of a story, her understanding of plots, plot devices, plot points, etc., along with visual media (so a background in movies or animation, for example), or performance art (theatre, dance, etc, SOMETHING), she should be easily able to answer what's going on.

It's as if she just went on, did a search for women, opened up the video game sections, and started bitching.

Does she understand the demographic for certain games? Surely, there are games for men, women, children, and both genders that have ESRB ratings. Since nearly all forms of art are escapist or wish fulfillment in some capacity, what is her problem with games? She may as well be critiquing any piece of art (she's a "culture critic" after all), and be a PETA member, and whine about the treatment of animals in movies, yet not knowing the basics of what is going on in said media, thus, her opinions would be just as accurate as our vegetarian in a steak house.

As for her character, and her partner Jonathan McIntosh, for also being a sex-negative feminist (and other feminists disagree with her), it's as if any depiction of sexuality of women in games is bad.
"Similarly, as a male writer voicing support for her, such gamers might attack me as a “White Knight.” A word of advice — when naming your opponents, try not to make them sound so unambiguously awesome."
You might want to google what a White Knight is.
"But even when you listen to people who strenuously insist they’re not harassers, sometimes their casual willingness to say disgusting things shines through. As a prime example, take YouTuber Jordan Owen, who along with cohort Davis Aurini are trying to crowdfund a documentary called “the Sarkeesian Effect.” Their trailer announcing the project is almost a laughable self-parody of what you’d imagine, and they stress that the resulting film will be “a serious work of investigative journalism.”"
Have you listened to Davis and Jordan's various videos on such topics? You'll find them quite intelligent (Jordan can go on for hours.) In no way did they ever "harass" Anita, although they have left twitter message (probably because that's the only place she responds to anything.) If you think you're up to the intellectual gauntlet, or want to do some journalism of your own, I recommend you reach to both those two gentleman to learn what's going on. They'd be more than happy to talk to you.

Personally, I like Davis' take on male protagonists, and white male video game protagonists. This might be more relevant to the discussion.

As for their first video, I agree, it seemed weak. I talked to Davis about that, and they made a new one.
Check it out:

"But then, when doing an interview with a prominent YouTuber and #GamerGate proponent named “MundaneMatt,” Owen let this little gem slip out. One of the reasons he initially was okay with Sarkeesian? Her looks, framed in the grossest terms possible."
That's called a joke. People are allowed to make jokes, sexual or otherwise, or say things in a silly way. Did you know? It doesn't make them misogynists.

Do you want to know what problems Jordan went through growing up, and the poor treatment of girls he witnessed? Check this out and you tell me whether you still think he's a misogynist.

As to your "2.  Sarkeesian “Cherry-Picks” Content to Make Her Points"
"If you peruse the wide world of anti-Sarkeesian videos available, you’ll find no more repeated claim than this one — Anita is “cherry-picking” moments from popular games to make it seem like they’re sexist, or cause sexism, when actually, they’re not!"
Then why does she call them sexist? Why show a whole bunch? What's the point? So what if it's a trope? Tropes are inert. You see, you, and her, need to explain what it means if there is such meaning to be found. Because just making an aggregate is just that. It proves nothing.
"More to the point, it’s about the developers, writers and designers who all lazily rely on them — easier to make a suggestively posed female body, after all, than to give that body a worthwhile, realistic heart and mind."
There's nothing lazy by game creators for depicting sexual imagery, or, in regards to the advertisement of Hitman with a dead prostitute, in marketing. It's very specific. Tropes are not "lazy". I would imagine the scene in Hitman that has strippers, should; you are, after all, in a strip club. There's nothing wrong with that. Now, if you're complaining that all stories have been told before, and nothing's original, that's a whole other issue; an issue Anita has not brought up, nor is she providing a creative-writing analysis and solution to. (She doesn't provide any solutions to her invented problems of perceived sexism.)
"Content don’t just manifest out of thin air. People make it, and they’re responsible for what they decide to present for public consumption — even moreso when they’re objectifying women in a medium already overflowing with this representations. Basically, if she’s “cherry-picking,” it’s because she’s standing in a damn cherry grove. I can’t stress this enough, having played games fairly routinely across a twenty-year period — if you can’t see sexism’s pervasiveness in games, you’re willfully or haplessly blind."
And this is where you, your analogy, and Anita, are wrong.

Everything in a game is objectified. Plants, animals, doors, buildings, spaeships, etc. Women as well as men. They're meant to be attractive (like Anita's makeup.) They're meant to look cool (aside: look at eastern vs. western games and the predominance they put on style over game play.) Sometimes that's the only point. Sometimes, for a particular audience. If she was a gamer, she could explain the nature and situation of scenes (the strippers in Hitman, the woman being killed by a male in Read Dead Redemption, etc.) But she can't. She sees everything as misogynist. Women showcasing sexuality is misogynist. Women being depicted or not being as strong as men is sexist, women are too one-dimensional in X game, women aren't xyz, etc.

All of which can be said of the depiction of men in games.

There are games for men (AAA, RPGs). There are games for women (casual, hidden object.) And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, no matter how violent, misogynist, cute, illegal, horrific, scary, or beautiful such scenes in them are, or you think they are. There are even games where you can choose the male or female sex of the main character you play.

Don't even get me started on her third-person effect nonsense.

Then there's this wonderful statement by her on twitter

So if I disagree with her, I'm a sexist? Well, that's not biased at all.

And in regards to "3. Sarkeesian Isn’t Even a Gamer!"
"This one’s pretty silly, for a number of reasons. In the first place, she needn’t play games to identify plot tropes. She’s not writing reviews of these games, she’s examining specific elements of their plots, stories, and worlds to support an opinion about the prevalence of sexism in games. It’s not like reading a book — even watching a video of somebody else playing a game is all the proximity you need to analyze its themes. Being a “gamer” — a word which members of the community can be notoriously strident about excluding people from — is not a necessity."
This is kind of important.
1) Anita lied about being a gamer. She said "I'm not a fan of video games." "I don't want to go around shooting people and ripping off their heads. And it's just gross." This goes to her credibility. It also brings up whether her opinion is even valid. See our vegetarian-steakhouse example. Do you want movie critics to critique movies (even parts), or people who aren't even fans of movies, who has to then do research, apparently for years, and still screw it up?
2) You actually need to understand the game, and then the scene it takes place in, to not only identify the trope, but to understand what's going on. This is a type-token fallacy, where the instance of a type (token) becomes something more than what it was. Pulling things out of context is the beginnings of confusion. An aggregate proves nothing aside from number. If you're going to a do a correlation agreement, by all means. But simply mentioning it means nothing.

If you're not a gamer, then how the hell are you going to explain a trope to someone who also isn't a gamer? It'd be like me trying to explain quantum mechanics to 4 year old who doesn't yet know the Neil's Bohr model of the atom. Sure, violence is bad. In a means something much more.

Now, if Anita was a literary critic, and we're talking about pattern recognition now (not correlation, since, that would be much too mathematical for Anita to do a study on, even though stats is part of sociology), we'd have to see what that means. What it might mean. How other media has treated it, and why. Genre, themes, conflicts, narrative structure, etc. She doesn't do that. She just sees things she sees as problematic. Writing in video games in general has never been a priority, so it's hard to even see a game that's being misogynist, since games can't even properly get to that level.

I recall the first time Mortal Kombat came out in arcades, when arcades were in malls. The MK machine was the biggest, first kiosk at the front of the arcade. Every passerby would see the blood and gore explode across the screen. Old women, and children alike saw it as they walked by. (I believe this was in Rochester, New York, early 90s.) Some stood and watched. There were some gasps, but no one freaked out. It's a game.

Now, if you're implying it's "more than a game", I'd agree. But I'd have to ask: what, then? Is that MK arcade kiosk a violence generator? As per the Jack Thompson escapade, I'd have to say no. And if video games don't cause violence, nor misogyny, or any other societal ill, what then, is the problem? Your sensibilities are hurt?

Isn't that one of the many points of art? And you want to change that?
"Moreover, complaining that Sarkeesian isn’t a “real gamer” to delegitimize her analysis is essentially arguing that accountability and criticism can only come from the inside. This is a dangerous perspective — given the intense insularity of some gaming communities, and the rather overt hostility to feminist critiques of culture and media that exists in them, these aren’t views that are likely to just organically spring up on their own. People have to step forward and give voice to them, and for her trouble, Sarkeesian’s been getting harassment and threats on a positively insane scale."
While anyone can be a critic, it is the knowledgeable, objective, informed, experienced and otherwise love of the target one is criticizing, where we find worthwhile criticism.

As for accountability? Yeah, her lies and agenda are clear as day.

Gamers aren't against criticism, or feminist criticism for that matter. We're super-serious about it. We'd be happy to openly talk and debate others who share our passion, and others willing to learn. But the feminists are the ones that aren't responding, or don't want to learn. Like Anita: they are beyond reproach. Any quick search of youtube will find dozens of critiques, very well edited ones, that dismantle Anita's ramblings.

As for harassment and threats, we all get them, even me. Such things are easily ignored. And I do actually respond to criticism, even to the overly emotional fellows.
4.  Her Kickstarter Backers Paid Her Too Much, and Got Ripped Off
I don't know if that's the case, and I don't care. Kickstarter is just glorified donations with a threshold.

As for a backer's perspective? Here it is.
"This must really boil the blood of her haters, because it didn’t have to be like this — they could’ve accepted her videos as the good-natured, reasoned works of criticism they are, and kept on moving. But instead, they decided to rake her over the coals, and in doing so, they’ve proved her point in a way no YouTube series ever could."
We would've loved to accepted an objective, honest approach to looking at various stereotypes, patterns or plot devices in game stories and assessed how they could be made better. That would've been interesting. You'd need a literary critic, or someone who has shown certain patterns are good, bad, or whatever, and come to a point, to show what this means about gaming, humanity, whatever.

What we got was a biased series of taken out of context aggregates of tropes (which are neither good nor bad), which misses the point of the trope, example of the trope, scene, setting, genre, sometimes the plot, and game genre they're placed. They miss the point of what the games' intent was: all because she's a sex-negative feminist, and she has to feel entitled that she can't identify, or must react negatively, to a scene where women are involved. She can't accept any depiction of female sexuality, and apparently, male sexuality or male objectification (or the massive level of deaths male characters take, sometimes by the character) doesn't bother her a bit.

The only point she's proven is this: if you say, and do, stupid shit, you're going to get harassed. If you tell people -- who have a hobby -- that if you don't agree with X, then you're sexist, you're going to get a backlash. Which is exactly how feminists respond when you talk to them (as my near daily twitter experiences have been.)

She has no evidence to support that video games cause misogyny. That this has any impact on people. She has completely glossed over media in general, or the meaning of art, or the intention and function of video games. She herself has become the damsel she was complaining about, instead of being a strong, independent woman.

Of course if you look at the history of feminism, you'd see they're all communists, or as one feminist told me, "all true feminists are communists." This is whole other topic.

I can go about how she "wants to dismantle the boys club", as if that's even legal or necessary to "be part of geek culture" or whatever nonsense. (As if MRA's want to dismantle women's magazines or some other equal nonsense.) But in my eyes, she's largely harmless. Games are still going to be made for gamers, and executives and dev teams are going to make them however they want. Her consulting with EA or whomever won't do shit to those teams who are busy within their software life cycles. (I work in software dev, and if you're not producing, you're just fulfilling a legal role == filler.)

If she wants to "change gamer culture" (whatever that is), she simply has to make games for women, or whatever she thinks are games for women. Then, she'd have to be open to criticism on a game and story level, by actual game and literary critics. From her past behavior, I can't see that happening on both accounts.


  1. Your analysis was well done and very much appreciated.

  2. Wow, i hadn't followed any of this until tonight, damn, you just can't escape crazy people anywhere :S