2015/09/12 - Let's Ruin Video Games?
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So, obviously I've been a steadfast supporter of video games which are made for and by LGBTA(etc) people, particularly since I fall into at least two of those categories; on Tumblr, I frequently tag things with "let's ruin video games" (see also the "What's Ruining Video Games?" section of Ruin Jam 2014) because it explains exactly what I'm talking about and doesn't have assholes trolling the tag (the way i.e. the "feminism" tag does) for the express purpose of jumping down the throats of supporters.
That being said, though ...
Sometimes I feel kinda weird, like I’m kind of, I don’t know, betraying something because I like the more conventional kind of action video games? The whole Triumph Over Your Foes thing is pretty much the epitome of patriarchal values, but ... I can play Devil May Cry or Saints Row with no problem, without more than a little bit of rolling my eyes at the fact that the cutscene where Gloria first appears is practically an exotic dance, or that the Morningstar are the only group in Steelport that has women as regular members and the men dress in suits while the women dress like dominatrices (in a sharp contrast to Saints Row 2 where all four gangs and the police had a roughly equal number of men and women except in the leadership). Whereas "games made for and by LGBTA+ people" ... they just don't hold my attention enough. ... This paragraph is kind of a mess, structurally, but it contains all the stuff I wanted to say, so whatever.
I think part of this is because my family was always "we'll support you no matter what you do" and I was always mild-mannered enough that I almost never got into actual conflicts with people except for the occasional weird Aspergers shit, and I sort of never went out of my way to interact with people IRL to begin with, and I never self-questioned enough to realize I was bisexual until I was halfway through college or that I was trans until the past couple of years, so I never really managed to associate conventional (i.e. heteronormative, cisnormative, patriarchal) ideas and presentations with something overwhelmingly negative.
Even if that wasn't the case, though, there's my depression and anxiety. I've seen lots of reviews describing this or that game-made-for-and-by-LGBTA+-people games as "real", often in the same proverbial breath that they describe intense negative emotion, or intense emotion which called to mind their own negative life experiences. I can't follow half my friends on Tumblr because they're constantly reblogging Serious Business™ which almost never requires our immediate attention and which none of us can do anything about except "signal boost", and they pretty much never have any consistent text which Tumblr Savior blocks. I have not and probably will not play Hate Plus or We Know The Devil because just seeing peoples' reviews gave me a sort of vicarious anxiety. I get depressed and anxious enough for no reason, let alone Important Real World Stuff™ (I'm already steeling myself for the inevitable transphobia that comes my way once I actually start to transition), and I feel like I have no room in my life for fictional examples.
So basically I'm not in it for the "art", I'm not in it for "connecting with other People Like Me", I'm practically just just using games for anesthesia. Artsy visual novels about LGBT teens being "real," or stories where a woman feels like the only real agency she has is to commit suicide, or a Twine game about depression — or, really, anything else where I'm not working towards a singular goal, or where I don't feel like my actions are advancing the plot1 ... like, I just don't feel like that fits with me. And I feel weird about this for all of the above reasons, because I understand that it's important to have more than just, y'know, bro-shooters.
Compounding that is my ambition to make games. Am I part of the problem by making a conventional CRPG, or a game which is basically the same as a Zelda game, or something else that's mechanically a standard action-game? Examining my ideas objectively, the answer is yes, insofar as they all involve heroines who don't exist solely to titillate the presumed-to-be-straight-male player, which is already disruptive to the Straight White Guy Narrative in its own way.
But when I'm not playing Saints Row or whatever, I'm ... semi-increasingly not sure what to do, and "just keep doing what I'm doing, I'm doing fine/enough" doesn't seem like the right answer, and I can't really articulate why.
1That is, the actions of me, the player. In a postmodern messing-with-player-and-character game like Metal Gear Solid 2, for example, the plot tended to happen regardless of what Raiden was actually doing or whether he understood anything that was going on. But it still followed the whole "player performs gameplay-actions or goes to a particular place, then a cutscene occurs, repeat" formula.