Why you should never read comments, new year’s edition

I find the ongoing issue of representation in video games very interesting. Firstly, because both I and my wife love video games – although we have very different play styles and our tastes don’t always overlap. Secondly, because its one of those cases where the entire industry seems to have been set up on a premise that just seems unfounded.

 

And yet, here we are in 2014, busy debating the vile treatment that gets handed out to female video game developers, fans and critics. Look at the comments (although seriously, don’t) and you see the same crap come up year in and year out. You can almost set your watch by how quickly any article covering these topics will be plastered in screeds by dudebros explaining how, like, we should all just chill and be less sensitive. Or how having dudes with big pecs totally makes having every single female character look like they were designed by Rob Liefeld okay.

It all blurs together eventually. Games, movies, media, workplaces, society and the world all just seem to have this sickness when it comes to discussing the idea of gender. So, in the interests of maybe advancing the cure (even if only by a tiny, tiny fraction), here is an argument that maybe you haven’t seen before yet:

 

Forget about arguments concerning morality, or equality, or diversity, or undoing the wrongs of the past. I want you to think about society and production. Let’s assume, shall we, that talent is equally scattered amongst everyone. Every kid – black, white, boy, girl, gay or straight – has an equal chance of being talented at something (writing, just to be non-controversial). Only once that talent has been nurtured, has been given an opportunity to grow, can it truly be used to it’s full potential.

I want you to imagine the best piece of writing, the best book you can think of from this last year. How many talented folks, all writing away, had to be doing their thing for one of them to produce this? And didn’t the same group of people also produce five other great books, and 50 decent ones? Now I want you to imagine that, over night, we could double the amount of people. Doesn’t it follow that there will suddenly be two amazing books for you to read, ten great books and a hundred decent ones for when you get bored? It’s simple maths, after all.

 

Now I want you to imagine the same scenario, but with everything. Maths, science, art, music, comedy, sports, movies – everything. This is what equality is. This is why you want as many people as possible doing things they’re talented at – because to do anything less is to deny everyone – including yourself – the best that we could possibly be producing. It would be worth it, in fact, to give even undeveloped talents a shot at the prime time just to widen the future pool of geniuses that could come in and produce amazing things for us in the future.

 

But what if, instead, we halved that number? When you argue against equality in video games; when you say that sexism is okay because it’s always been okay, or that we shouldn’t be pushing to include more women because we’ve already got what we want – what you are doing is denying yourself the opportunity to double the amount of great games you could play.

When you argue that women (or people of colour, or gay people) shouldn’t be in a particular profession – and make no mistake, that’s exactly what you are arguing for when you fight against things like gender equality in the workplace –  what you are arguing is that they cannot exhibit and achieve the same levels of talent as other folks. I would want to be damn sure that I had solid, irrefutable, biological evidence of that before making such a huge claim.

 

So when you argue the right to continue to have your endless seas of brown macho-shooters and tit-centric female characters, be advised you’re actually doing is fighting against your own self interest. You could just be the reason why you missed out on the best game of your life.

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