Words || Jade Van Dartel
With numerous jobs in my past, many in the delightfully awful Hospitality industry, I perceived myself to be prepared for any sort of customer that would come my way. Then came my most recent job at EB Games, and with it the sudden immersion into a new world where technology ruled, and many willingly went into its service. The customers that walked through the doors were highly varied; from mums lost and unenthusiastic as they looked for the elusive “Fort-Night” their child would not shut up about, to verified gamers that camped outside the doors for midnight launches of the next Big Game. All, however, took home a piece of technology that would consume dozens of hours of their life and shape their world views.
Prior to working at EB my gaming experience had been lacking, with a yawning gap between my childhood spent playing on the PS2, and my present life as a stressed, broke uni student. However, my new job was an almost forceful immersion into the gaming world, where I had to cram nearly a decade of history and technology into my brain in order to actually do my job. I often learnt more through my interactions with customers, but the interactions had with those who game as an active lifestyle was a harsh awakening to how much technology can take over one’s life: nights lost to excessive level-grinding, friction between couples, obsession over the newest DLC’s, and hundreds spent on getting the best loot available. The easy accessibility of video games is a yawning pit that many fall into, days lost, with a make-believe world replacing reality.
Video games are not inherently negative. For many, video games are a wonderful experience, used as a way to take a break from the tediousness of everyday life. Online gaming has been proven to be a valid means of interaction for those who struggle with social anxieties, or a way of forming long-distance friendships. To say video games are an evil technology that promotes violence in youth and isolation from society is a narrow-minded and cynical viewpoint that disregards the simple joys and friendly competition it has given to our youth.
However, if Black Mirror has taught me anything, it is that technology can be abused as a means of promoting toxic behaviour that comes out in the form of hate speech in online gaming, and even misogyny. The latter is easily acknowledged by the distinct lack of strong female characters in video games to stand as heroic symbols for young impressionable girls, and even for women like myself who tire of playing as hard, gritty men thirsting for vengeance or patriotism – I’m looking at you Call of Duty, The Division, Red Dead and every other shooter game ever conceived. The occurrence of women in any of these types of games in anything but the Fridging Trope (aka Kill Off the Supporting Female To Further Plot and Create Man-Pain) results in severe backlash from the male community.
The biggest example of the rampant misogyny and even racism within the gaming community is the backlash EA experienced when they released the trailer for Battlefield V. The image of a woman front-and-centre on a “historically-accurate experience of WWII” game sparked such visceral outrage on Twitter and Reddit, with such memorable quotes like, “Any chance the deluxe edition removes all the THOTs from the game?” and the widely inaccurate, “You know what screams WW2 to me? A black guy, a woman, and 2 white guys fighting the Germans on the same squad.” All you have to do is type in a few words into Google to realise that over 2.5 million African-Americans fought, but only after facing segregation and barring off any military roles higher than mess attendants and cooks prior to 1942. Also, over 480,000 women volunteered for women’s services, and whilst they were barred from the frontlines, they still stood alongside the men in the military hierarchy and shot down hundreds of enemy planes. All this easily accessible history is swept aside so men can bemoan the “political correctness” and “radical feminism” that threaten to topple their careful technological patriarchy.
Meeting these men in real life is always a surreal and uncomfortable experience. The venomous words and harsh criticisms they feel emboldened to say in the anonymity of online gaming is transformed into outright avoidance, or even intense grilling to ensure that I am a “real gamer,” not a FEMINAZI in disguise. The sheer concept that in order to prove my worth as a human being to these men relies solely on whether or not I had played a game about a cowboy is so intrinsically stupid that I have to laugh. Video games were made with the intention of providing immersive stories to play, yet this technology has been perverted by many as a means of spewing hate speech and getting away with it.
Hope is still given by gaming becoming a more diverse and inclusive experience for all, with plenty of entertainment companies making a stand against the hate speech the worst of their audience speaks. EA is blunt yet succinct in their response to men fuming over there being women in Battlefield V, “Accept it or don’t buy the game,” a creed that should be used to end the countless Twitter threads that barely hide their misogyny behind critiques on things like “historical inaccuracy.”
For now, I can only grit my teeth and politely disagree with the customers who claim men can be the only ones toting around guns, the only ones who can be on the front cover of video games – lest I lose my job. Soon, however, I believe the day will come when video games have become a more diverse and empowering technology for minorities. Soon, I can sell hundreds of games with powerful women on their covers, black people as the undisputed main character, and unlock endings where LGBT+ characters get to live happily ever after.