He Gets It

Matt Wilson has this to say about the exclusion of women in gaming:

In general terms, the biggest assumption that happens, even if it’s an unconscious one, is that the predominant group is the norm, the default.

The result of that assumption is a set of behaviors that exclude everyone who isn’t considered part of that norm. In the case of gaming, it’s a predominantly white male group, so you end up with the assumption that the ‘normal’ gamer is also male. If that assumption manifests in game texts, rules and communities, then they can all make women feel unwelcome, even though gaming might be an activity they’d really like to participate in.

Now, ideally, what ought to happen is for women to be able to say, “hey, that makes me feel unwelcome,” and get a response that boils down to, “oh, sorry, we’ll stop that, because we want you to feel welcome.” It really ought to be that simple. Except it hardly ever happens. Instead, what happens is stuff like this:

1. Denial and Minimalizing. Men will respond with comments like, “oh, come on, it’s not unwelcoming, you’re wrong,” or “is it really that bad? I don’t think so.” See, as the predominant group, men get to assume the right to interpret the experience of women and deny the validity of what they say. Then they get to impose their own views upon them, like “really, my game text that you think makes you feel uncomfortable is about this other thing.” If you can deny the problem, then you don’t have to take any responsibility.

Wow. I am disappointed that I am so easily impressed when a guy seems to “get” these issues (because I wish more people understood). Time and again I’ve read and heard the kinds of responses he lists in points 1 – 7. It’s frustrating and exasperating when you try to explain how you feel, and the majority of the general gaming populace brush those concerns off. I know people don’t want to marginalise or oppress. As Wilson says, no one sets out to do that. The problem is that people hold so tightly to their assumptions, they get very defensive, and they take it personally, that they don’t even know that their behaviours serve to exclude the very people they want to include.

As far as I know, Wilson doesn’t appear to be talking about videogames specifically, however his points are still valid. Both parts are well worth reading.

[Part 1]

[Part 2]

[Via The Beat]

  5 comments for “He Gets It

  1. Sarah
    18 April 2006 at 00:12

    I notice some of the commenters to part 2 didn’t read part 1. Hell, some of the commenters to part 1 didn’t read part 1.

  2. 18 April 2006 at 07:02

    Good reading, I particulalry like the ending of part I. I’ll give it another read when I get a chance.

  3. 18 April 2006 at 07:28

    I hate to be a pessimist, but I see these same basic complaints brought up on feminist blogs for other media, and they never seem to penetrate through to the mainstream–perhaps because the faults he lists are self-inoculating, so that they immunize sexist communities against feminism.

    It’s a very good effort, but I don’t have a lot of faith in the community being willing to change.

  4. Patrick
    18 April 2006 at 17:26

    I think if we make games that deal with social dynamics we’ll get a broader audience intuitively, not just women by non-gamers in general. What I’d like to see in the wake of that are more interesting and balanced (like, literally) female characters, and characters in general obviously. Take Tomb Raider for instance, if Lara had a life outside of running and jumping maybe we’d see her complexities, her vulnerabilities and isolation, and her breasts wouldn’t factor so centrally to her character at that point.

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