Dear readers, I love video games and the hype around them more than I care to admit. While hype surrounding games in the form of previews and preorders has become a bit of a dark cloud of a conversation, hype surrounding eSports is thriving. This past weekend was the Evolution fighting game tournament, and it scratched an itch for hype that I’ve been having for a while. I watched a good portion of the finals this past Sunday, and I had some observations on what made the event so exciting and fun to watch.
Our society has a poor relationship with gender, which is bad for reality, but gets interesting in fiction. This dynamic is pushed to some possible conclusion in works such as The Handmaid’s Tale, Bitch Planet, or Stepford Wives. In these stories, the degrading treatment of women in the present day becomes far more explicit and sinister. We aren’t just looking at microaggressions and lower pay, but being forced into servitude or stripped of all agency. Stories like these are both good cautionary tales and thought experiments, and they can more easily highlight some of the harder-to-see marginalizations women face. But sometimes, an author wants to shock the audience by flipping the gendered treatment of the characters. In some stories, we get to see matriarchal societies and how they tend to operate, which is useful for examining our own biases. But whenever I see these, I wonder if this is how things would actually go.
A month or so ago, we saw some of the drafts for a Wonder Woman movie penned by Joss Whedon. To put it lightly, it caught some flak. Within the droves of criticism, some commenters pointed out that Diana would most likely not resort to insulting someone by telling them to “be man enough.” First off, she was previously unfamiliar with the concept of men in general. Second, as an Amazon her frame of what is strong would include only women. So if anything, she would say to “woman up,” but again, the gender thing wouldn’t come up the same way, because she doesn’t even know men existed. Third, would a society completely comprised of women still value strength as one of its key tenets and judge someone’s value on their bravery and toughness? For a warrior society, maybe, but not necessarily. Would their values be roughly the same as our more patriarchal society, just with a gender flip? I started thinking about it, and then I got to thinking about other times this theme caught my attention.
Content warning for sexism and assault below.
A couple weeks ago, I got to go to the Game Devs of Color Expo in New York City, and I have to say it was quite the experience. While I’m not a developer myself, gaming is my preferred sector of nerd culture. And for the unaware, I’m a person of color. Add these factors up and this was an event I needed to attend.
Luckily, and full disclosure, I was provided a press badge for entry.
The new Black Panther trailer has been released and I’m beyond hyped. February can’t get here soon enough! Coming off the heels of Wonder Woman’s success and a wave of support for inclusion of marginalized voices, Marvel finally released a trailer with a non-white male lead. I got to see the intersection of Black Twitter and Nerd Twitter come out in full force, so with all this excitement, I should probably explain why it looks so great.
Despite this year being packed full of great games already (just look at games like NieR: Automata and Breath of the Wild!), the Spring/Summer season never fails to hype even more games coming in. No doubt E3 has an impact on this, but even before games are shown there, companies are making announcements and releasing information on their upcoming projects. Being the maverick that they are, Nintendo has already teased many of their big upcoming projects. The title that caught my attention the most was the follow up to 2015’s Splatoon, a game I had an immense fondness for.
Video games are often compared to other art forms, typically movies. One question reflective of this comparison is the question “What is the Citizen Kane of video games?” In other words, what is a video game that some consider to be the best of all time, or one that was an innovative game changer? While I look forward to experiencing a game with that level of praise, I think it is going to be difficult for the medium to come to a consensus on what that game is, due to the short memory video game culture has.
The argument over whether video games are art or not is pretty much over: they are. Anyone who disagrees at this point is mostly trying to be contrarian. That said, we are still refining our skills and vocabulary for critiquing games, and more rapidly than ever. This very blog uses an intersectional feminist/social justice framing when we look at video games, and even that is evolving. However, there is a fairly strong canon of social justice literature and discussion that we can draw from to observe media. Video games are difficult in that they are still a young medium, and one thing we are still working on is genre.