Responses to the response to the response to the response
it’s a recurring trend i’ve seen that sexist men, when confronted with their sexism, will hide behind an appeal to freedom of speech. it is YOU, not i, who are the oppressor, trying to silence me, to keep thoughts from being transmitted, to prevent discussion from continuing. the truth is that there’s nothing about adam ruch’s patronizing tone, his casual sexism, his condescension – “I have written before about very closely related issues, but it was in an academic conference paper in which I use words like ‘agon’ and ‘autotellic’ so is probably not something many people have actually read, so I will probably have to go back to basics here,” he writes – his gamerly need to fly to the intellectual defense of a franchise he’s fetishized at the merest hint of criticism, nothing that i couldn’t find shouted from many directions on any other games writing site on the internet.
we don’t need to make space for this kind of writing, the mainstream has already given it plenty. what is rare are spaces where a writer like kim moss is safe to pen a criticism of the way we think about and quantify relationships in games – even games like mass effect! – without being shouted into silence by angry male voices. pieces like ruch’s, with its bluster, its “listen here, young lady,” its “i wrote an academic paper about this but i can dumb it down for you,” are in effect nothing more than silencing tactics themselves, an attempt by male authority to have the last word. the internet will always provide a space for this voice. it doesn’t have to be nightmare mode
Focusing on the ontology for novels vs. games is SUCH a red herring, given how little the ontic facts of a book’s characters’ actions being predetermined actually matters. Literally no one reads books that way. Within the fiction, characters have agency, even if their choices are fixed on the page (Bakhtin).
The problem here is that you’re drawing a comparison no one would ever, in practice, make.
Kim’s gripe, if I understand her correctly, is that while Ashley is presented as choosing her relationship with the player, in actual fact her choices are always delimited by the player’s intentional choices. Real life does not work this way. Good novels, within the fiction, do not work this way. It is, however, as Kim points out, exactly the way PUAs view their relationships with women, like they are in the driver’s seat the whole time. Women in the game actually really are what misogynists only believe women to be.
You don’t seem to address this. It has nothing to do with the algorithm being gameable on any level (just gameable on that specific level), and certainly nothing to do with the fact that characters’s actions in novels are ontologically fixed. It seems like the major problem you have with Kim’s article is just that it isn’t in your academic tradition, and that your tools are no good here.
I think this article elaborates on a few interesting ideas buy ultimately misses the point of Kim’s article. It also fails to address the very obvious problem in most romancing mechanics a la Mass Effect, that is, the fact that the romantic story is written as objective-based. While it’s true that it’s up to the player to interpret the series of events, what’s there is there. What’s there is a set of encounters determined by player stats and choices that culminates in sexual intercourse. There is no continuation past climax. If that isn’t the exact narrative of a Nice Guy ™’s and a PUA’s approach to relationships… seriously, that is the exact narrative of a Nice Guy ™’s and a PUA’s approach to relationships. Bioware’s writers could have written the encounters in other ways and added weight to the conclusion and by not doing so they left a very clear message regarding relationships and sex whether or not intended (which is obviously completely irrelevant to the discussion). I disagree that mechanics cannot be used effectively to alter the narrative, but I don’t even need to start justifying that when it’s clear the immediate problem is using the writing to alter the narrative.
It would be one thing to say, hey, that was an interesting argument, let’s build on that
upset by the simplification of Hamlet. I may not study games but I have studied Shakespeare…and Romeo and Juliet! As though the actors and direction, the lived experience of the people embodying the characters don’t change the play!
This is pretty disgusting. It’s hard to respond to the actual arguments being made because they are buried under so many layers of disrespect and prejudice. The baseline assumption of that anyone critiquing this type of sexism in a game must just not understand games and need someone with a degree to come in and explain it. This tone of superiority is drenched throughout the article as any perspectives the author disagrees with are dismissed without even being fully understood.Add to that the use of ‘he’ to refer to a generic player, the use of ‘he’ to refer to a generic Shepard, and it betrays an underlying bias being represented here. Then the argument that a character who is attracted to either a male player or a female player must be two different versions of the character? Yeah, because no person in real life is ever attracted to both males and females. WTF? Is it worth even engaging with someone who makes such assumptions as these? Well, I’ll give it a try.
First off, the original article draws out some very specific common sexist behavior which is replicated by the game (ex: listen to a potential partner and agree with them no matter what they say – even if you terribly disagree – and you will get sex). Avoiding these common tropes would greatly reduce the problem, even if the game still relied on a game-able set of criteria for sex.
Second, “If Moss, or other players of Mass Effect interpret the experience of listening to Ashley talk about her family and daddy issues as nothing more than a necessary grind in order to access the sex scene, that is their prerogative.” Yes, the common retort that those who point out sexism are the real culprits because being naively unaware of it must mean that people are not effected by it. This ignores the way in which media can encourage or discourage certain interpretations. Additionally, when the game creates the real outcome that many people will adopt this perspective, it is not just a problem for such people. It is a problem for anyone they date, anyone they flirt with, their friends, their family members, and even potentially someone who just says ‘hi’ at the grocery store. Blame may not lie at any one source, but we start where we can to address problems like these.
Finally, the author claims that such dynamics are inevitable in video games and therefore this criticism should be ignored. However, it’s apparent that misogyny in this kind of a situation is a problem he’s only recently tackled. Declaring defeat while others have been lodging such critiques – and making progress – in a wide variety of mediums for several decades if not centuries is incredibly foolhardy. Feminist media criticism is real, and just because your degree didn’t prepare you for it, doesn’t mean that you can dismiss these concerns so easily. You might not see or understand potential solutions, you might even make some valid points about the difficulty of implementation, but that’s why we have these conversations. And right now you are not adding to the discussion or refining the ideas being discussed – you are attempting to shut it down.
And the thing is that I like the idea of a site being in conversation with itself, because there is little of that- conversation. We often are too busy making grand statements that aren’t meant to be in direct dialogue with anything. It’d be nice to have some literal discourse.
(if anyone would prefer not to be cited or cited differently, please let me know) – porp