White Knight Video Game Journalism – Gamers vs Journalists
A lot of white knight video game journalists are wagging fingers at both the gamers and game developers, accusing them of misogyny, sexism, chauvinism, the patriarchy and other practices left, right and center. But how fair are the accusations made by these game journalists? Why is there a dissonance between the gaming press and their consumer base, the gamers and developers themselves? Why are game journalists so quick to rally behind radical Kickstarter social justice warriors and activists who make questionable over-generalizations and draw debatable conclusions? Why are the outspoken critics of the activists’ outrageous claims largely ignored by what we had all assumed was an objective and unbiased press? Or are these white knight journalists and gaming news outlets simply quick to point fingers in order to deflect the slings and arrows of rabid social justice trends? CineMax and B-Mask discuss the current trend of white-knight tactics employed by a number of online video game journalists, and the repercussions by both gamers and critics that have arisen from these seemingly noble crusades.
And yes, dear viewers, Anita Sarkeesian is included in the heated discussion.
CineMax: You know, I think that you should sort of start with this White Knight Video Game Journalism After Hours Podcast and level with the audience. Because as far as video game journalism goes the only thing that I have to say is an incessant stream of invectives. Honestly.
B-Mask: *laughs* But it’s a good steam of invectives. The truth is that recently it seems that there’s been an increasingly critical eye drawn towards not only the people who make video games, but gamers. It’s almost as though the journalism that was meant to exist for gamers suddenly has been turned on us. Most notably the obvious issue that has sparked a lot of this is talk of Anita Sarkeesian.
CineMax: *disgruntled sigh*
B-Mask: *laughs* I can just hear CineMax gearing up back there. Calm down, boy. The matador isn’t out yet. Basically there’s been an awful lot of white knight game journalism going on despite the fact that there is a lot of evidence that suggests that it’s(sexism and misogyny in video games) is not quite as honest as it says it is. That there’s actually sort of a scam, it hasn’t been very well researched, that the numbers just do not add up.
B-Mask: And video game journalists, instead of looking at this critically, and saying “we support feminism (sexual equality) but we’re curious as to what’s going on here” a lot of the gaming journalism is outright saying “Anita Sarkeesian is fighting a war against stupid fanboy video gamers”, who are of course the people-
CineMax: I’m sorry, I just had to pull a Kevin Spacey.
B-Mask: That was wonderful! That was Cheshire Cat Studios’ first musical number. *laughs* I’m reminded of “the Wrong Song” from Scrubs.
CineMax: Good ol’ Doctor Cox. But in regards to Anita Sarkeesian here’s an interesting thing: I saw this not too long ago, but Jordan, who is ex-“Busy Street” and ex-DHI (Dead Horse Interchange) he currently runs a vlog show called “Hass’s Office” and about a week ago he dedicated an episode to the issue of sexism in video games. Or rather, women in video games in general. And of course, whether he wanted to or not, he had to discuss Anita Sarkeesian, obviously. And, when discussing Anita Sarkeesian, he said something that, on one hand was rather self-explanatory, but on the other hand kind of took me by surprise because he was the only one to point this out. Without mincing words what he said was, basically, “Anita Sarkeesian was a feminist- I mean, Anita Sarkeesian IS a feminist, and she’s providing the feminist viewpoint”. The reason it took my by surprise was, first, “duhh… that’s obvious. Anita Sarkeesian self-identifies as a feminist, she runs a podcast show called Feminist Frequency, and yet the reason that it gave me pause was because it was Anita Sarkeesian’s point of view. It’s this one person presenting a subjective, a little bit biased, a little bit agenda-driven view on video games. Because what happened instead was that all of these video game journalists -Destructoid, Kotaku, Jim Sterling, Bob Chipman, the list goes on and on and on- instead of saying “Here’s this person (Anita Sarkeesian) presenting this interesting take on the issue of sexism in video games, and maybe we need to listen to what Anita Sarkeesian says. But do take this with a grain of salt because there’s an agenda behind it” (which would have been fair enough with me). Instead Anita Sarkeesian was basically canonized, she was extolled, and instead of offering a different outlook on the issue of sexism in video games, these people were basically saying “Please, please, please, PLEASE, people, I implore you! Heed to what this woman (Anita Sarkeesian) is saying!”
CineMax: Because Anita Sarkeesian is the messiah that has come to rectify the wrongs in the gaming industry, and finally SOMEONE is taking a stand against the misogyny, and the sexism, and the patriarchy! And the boys club that is video games!”
CineMax: “Heed to what Anita Sarkeesian is saying! For she has brought us the gospel, telling us the TRUTH! And everyone who is against her, everyone who dares to open their dirty, misogynistic, chauvinistic mouths is just a troll!. A HATER! A HATER I TELL YOU!”
B-Mask: *laughs* All they need now is to push Anita Sarkeesian over some water and frown when she doesn’t walk across it.
B-Mask: You’re absolutely correct, it’s crazy that it’s been so biased. But people don’t pick up on that. The argument that I’ve seen bandied around against that from her supporters is that “What do you mean there’s no discourse? You’re commenting on a video where there is discourse. You’re providing discourse by making that comment.” And what I want to say to them is “no, you don’t understand. it’s not that the argument doesn’t exist and there aren’t people responding to Anita Sarkeesian-”
CineMax: The argument DOES exist.
B-Mask: Yes, it DOES exist, but you wouldn’t know it if you weren’t paying attention because it’s not promoted anywhere. ANITA SARKEESIAN is promoted everywhere. Anita Sarkeesian is the one promoted in the magazine and news articles, and in the videos, and in the TEDxTalks (and by the way not the real TEDTalks, for those of you who still think that it was TED who brought her on…). And the people who are disagreeing with her aren’t getting ANY notice for it. There’s no balance in this debate on sexism in gaming. And that’s what baffles me the most, that I haven’t seen a single piece of paid-journalism that has bothered to look at the Instig8iveJournalism argument, or the thunderf00t argument, or hell even the argument of the ‘balance guy’ that I showed you, which was ToolTime. Or even ExtraCreditz have done a reasonably balanced look at it in the past. These people just don’t get any recognition in the mainstream media and online game journalism. And that’s the issue; it’s not that the argument doesn’t exist, it’s that Anita Sarkeesian and her social justice warrior supporters have made it LOOK like it doesn’t exist.
CineMax: Precisely. And what incenses me the most -and I think this was a response video to thunderf00t’s critique against Anita Sarkeesian’s “Tropes versus Women” Episode 1 or 2 or 3 or whatever. But what I remember vividly was that this person, who was woman by the way, even though she kind of, sort of agreed with thunderf00t’s deconstruction of Anita Sarkeesian’s flawed argument, at the end she still kind of advocated that Anita Sarkeesian is the only voice that women have at the moment regarding sexism in video games. Which I believe is total bullshit by the way.
B-Mask: That IS bullshit, and that’s insulting bullshit as well because I’ve seen plenty of women who have said far more interesting things regarding sexism in video games. I know women who-
B-Mask: And it’s this other thing that Anita Sarkeesian represents ALL women in the medium of gaming.
CineMax: YES! Thanks for bringing that up.
B-Mask: I was telling you, and Twitter, the other day that I did some numbers… You see I work in an animation course and we work with some pretty big names in animation. And we have our films shown to Pixar and Disney, and a lot of people in the industry. Aardman Animation (Chicken Run, Wallace and Gromit, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!) in particular. Because obviously they’re in Britain and they’re closest… Anyways, we had both boys and girls pitch their films to us. These films, as I’ve said, will get seen in the industry, they’ll get to film festivals, etc…
B-Mask: And the numbers that I have are… There were thirteen films that eventually got through. In the first stretch, eight of the fourteen female animators chose to create male protagonists; one of them created a dog. So that’s more than half of them that chose NOT to create a female protagonist. of the fifteen boys who pitched, one created something genderless, two created couples, two created girls, and nine created male leads. So there was no overall majority with the boys (over girls), really. And I’d also like to add that a lot of those characters, unlike a lot of the characters in the girls’ pitches, met with rather sticky ends. They didn’t always heroically get out of the situations, they were often made fun of. So in the final stretch thirteen films made it through, four directors were female, nine were male. And before you go shouting “misogyny”, there was a fifty-fifty split in the voters. 50% were boys, 50% were girls. And as I said in the Twitter post, meritocracy was the winner here, because people weren’t voting for gender, people were voting for IDEAS. And people were creating for IDEAS. Because we are not fucking robots. Whether or not there’s a deeper psychological reason for why anybody did what they did is another matter that is not something that we can fight against or rail against other than just “diversification” in general, which has been happening naturally for the last decade or so. To shout “misogyny!” like these people were somehow mind-controlled is, I think, incredibly insulting to the industry. And that’s exactly what Anita Sarkeesian has been doing. People will do what people do, and by pointing out the misogyny you’re actually hurting the situation, especially after all of the butt-hurt that she’s created from all of the fanboys who are completely opposed to the idea now that she’s made it so prevalent a problem for them.
CineMax: Precisely, and I don’t believe that any of these ladies were forced to create a male lead.
B-Mask: Absolutely not.
CineMax: And here’s the thing, if we’re going to say that artists should have total freedom in creating what they want, then you have to accept the possibility that ‘you know what? these women may want to create male protagonists’. And the other way around. Maybe males will want to create female protagonists? Because otherwise we have this “freedom of speech, freedom of expression; I want freedom of speech… as long as it suits me.” And its the same thing here: “We need more female writers, we need more female characters” but if said female writers don’t create female characters to fit their biased and sexist perspective, then somehow they’re not “true feminists” or not “true females” like Anita Sarkeesian proposes in a few of her “Tropes versus Women” videos. And therefore it doesn’t count. And how can anyone swallow that argument hook, line and sinker is beyond me.
B-Mask: No I agree totally. This brings me back to that io9 article that I had read recently. This is a really big stinker with me. I’m really pissed about this. Basically, and this the beginning with me when I first started noticing the white knighting of journalism that’s existed at the moment… I often visit io9, not because I agree with their Liberal bias, as far as I’m concerned, but because-
CineMax: You’re a masochist?
B-Mask: Oh I am indeed. Rob Bricken is there from Topless Robot, which is the main reason I went there. And the other reason is because they genuinely do post some really good stuff and they keep you up to date on what’s happening. And even if it is a Liberal bias, don’t let anybody tell you what you should and shouldn’t read, you should read as broadly as you can on any bias, on any constructive and anything destructive, so that you can make decisions for yourself and you can work out what you agree with and don’t agree with. That’s the power of the free press. However, they did an article promoting a grant -I don’t believe it was a massive grant or anything, I think this was a smaller grant- that was promoting the diversification of employment. That’s fine, I have no problem getting minorities or people considered to be minorities into the system of animation or any other entertainment industry.
CineMax: Right, more people equals more input, equals more perspective, equals more diversity…
B-Mask: Exactly. But I completely disagree with the notion that they set forth in the memo that they created for the grant, which said: “We want to diversify people because we feel that a bunch of rich, straight, white male people are sitting on their ivory towers and coming up with completely stale and stagnant shows. And we need to diversify those shows because they’re not diversified enough.” Yes, because “The Legend of Korra” apparently doesn’t exist. The Legend of Korra, a show which praises the Eastern culture, which does extensive research into bringing the Eastern culture and the Western culture together, and has a female lead character is written and created by two straight white men. Or maybe they’re not straight, that’s their business. Bottom line, it doesn’t matter what you are, you can be white, black, Asian, purple, pink, I don’t care. WHAT MATTERS IS YOUR IDEAS. It matters who you are as a person and as a creator. It doesn’t matter what your background is or what you look like. And I really hate the counter argument and over-simplification that “we need to diversify because we have too many rich, straight, white males wine-drinkers”. I think that’s such over-generalizing bullshit.
CineMax: Exactly I mean, not to draw a reverse racism card or anything, but why is it that when a new group of people wants to join an already established industry to bring more variety or to bring new ideas to the table -which, don’t get me wrong, is a worthy cause indeed- how come they never simply say ‘look we’re as equally as passionate about this medium as you are and we believe that our contributions could improve it even further, so how about we work together to make the industry even better?’ But no, is always about tearing down the boys club or knocking straight, white males off of their ivory towers or pedestals. Hell, first Anita Sarkeesian does it, and now there’s these bigots doing it. And do they ever stop to consider that perhaps these evil, nefarious, narrow-minded white straight males that you despise so much were the ones who originally created and established the industry that you like so much? I’m not saying that white straight males should have total control over any industry, no, we need more diversity and fresh blood and new ideas, but to come to the game at such a late stage and lambast the original founding fathers of the medium is disrespectful and ignorant.
B-Mask: Yeah, it’s not like anybody’s saying ‘don’t support the other side, what about us’. What they’re saying is ‘don’t be such a hypocrite’. If you want us to be more understanding and accepting in an industry, that’s what we want to do. And people are so good at forgetting providence, that it’s the idea that it was a bunch of white straight dudes -or maybe they weren’t straight, who knows and who cares?- who created the 12 Principals of Animation, and who created a lot of stuff that inspired others to create even more stuff. The fact that we place such a superficial bent on where people come from or what they look like rather than their ideas and their merits, which again is the enemy of meritocracy by not doing that, it absolutely baffles me and makes me angry. And in fact it prevents a lot of people from getting into the industry because a lot of companies, and this is a fact, companies believe that minorities will eventually cause them trouble. Some of them feel that ‘if we don’t hire that person, it could save us a lot of hassle later on’. Case in point: Adria Richards, is that her name?
CineMax: The dongle lady? Yeah, Adria Richards.
B-Mask: Adria Richards, who got two guys fired and they realized that instead of being a crusade and supporting her, that actually it made her more expendable because she was a liability and she lost them a bunch of people they needed. So they’re digging their own grave. There is a way to fight this sort of social injustice, but this isn’t the right way of doing it. So I feel that Anita Sarkeesian and video game journalists are putting a very superficial emphasis on the issues, and it really bugs me. And of course because it’s a morality thing it’s very difficult to try to get people who have a moral gravitas, people who gravitate to everything that seems like the righteous path to take, it’s very difficult to try to argue critically with those people because they don’t want to engage with discourse or a different world view because they think with their hearts and not with their heads. Though they probably won’t admit to it.
CineMax: Right, they don’t care about logic, they don’t care about reason, they don’t care about objectivity.
B-Mask: And then they argue that we’re saying ‘think about the white guys’. No, we’re not saying that either, we’re saying to consider merit and reason.
CineMax: I could not care LESS about whether a protagonist of a game, movie or animation is white, black, Asian, or any other race because at the end of the day what I care about are well written stories, complex and likable characters, and maybe some depth if they’re really good at storytelling.