I Like ‘Em Fiesty

Part 2 of Tropes vs. Women in Gaming

I hope you understand the ridiculousness of the title of this post.

Anita Sarkeesian, the target of such a massive outburst of ignorant male aggression of which there is no comparison, has part 2 of her video on sexism in gaming.  Sexism isn’t the right word as it really doesn’t do the series justice.  Tropes doesn’t work either, since they are simply used to denote a cliché.  No, there’s a word for this but I think it’s one of those words that’s applied retroactively, once people look back and go “holy shit, we did that?“.

Do I agree with her individual points?  No, not really.   There are some serious flaws in many of the detailed arguments but holistically, when viewed as a serial issue, the problem does become glaring.  She addresses that weakness, which makes it more relevant I find.

Spinks has a good thread on this topic.  She has mentioned in the past that she sees herself as a feminist, and it’s a particular viewset we gamers lack in general.  There’s a reason so few women enter the field, so few actually game.  The games themselves are certainly at issue but it is the universe of gaming that is really polluted.

How many times have we seen abuse in games and done nothing?  How many women simply will not use voice chat due to the immediate “stalker” reaction?  It’s really hard for gaming to be taken seriously when we’re by far the most immature art form on the planet (and yes, I think rap videos are better than XBOX live).

Everyone has a daughter, a sister, a mother or a friend.  No one would ever want them to be treated the way that the gamer population treats women.  If we want society to respect gaming, we seriously need to start looking at respecting ourselves.

[edit: fixed link]

Clickity Clique

A clique is a group of insular people with not much concern with the outside.  A stereotypical clique is one that shuns anything outside of that group.  Everyone has either been in one or seen one in their life.  School is made up of cliques.  This is based on a primal need to belong and the instinct to fear something different.  I didn’t enjoy high school all that much.  Cliques were certainly a part of it but they were a bigger problem for me in primary school.  Our high school had a dress code, which gave a fair bit less power to the cliques – but there was certainly one particular group who rose to the top.  From what I’ve read about those members since then, none have actually gotten anywhere in life.  “4 touchdowns in a single game” syndrome I guess

When I was a teen, working in a grocery store, we had our own little clique or sorts.  We had a lot of fun and I’m sure people looked at us with a “what a weird bunch of folk”.  Insular I would say but not so much shunning of outsiders as to be honest, we were a bunch of outsiders ourselves.  You don’t work and associated yourself with co-workers in a grocery store if you’re cool right?  It was good times. It was social growth.

As an adult, I am certainly subject to cliques.  I have a group of friends, all extremely bright, and that intimidates most people trying to fit in.  If you have an ounce of self-doubt, I can assure you that you will feel it grow exponentially.  My wife loves to remind me of the first time she met the group as a whole during a party.  It was getting a bit late, we had a few drinks and we decided to play a drinking game, but a quiz-type based on numbers.  Most games would be something like “name 7 colors” or “name 5 sports with balls”.  Not this game.  The first question out of the gate was “name 7 countries that assisted in the invasion of Iraq”.  The odd thing was that there wasn’t much drinking done during that game.  We haven’t played it since.

The round-about point I’m trying to make here is that at a very basic level, cliques serve a useful social purpose.  They breed familiarity and comfort, allow like-minded people a place to share ideas and provide a foundational support structure for social endeavors.  It’s like an extended family if you will.  There is a tipping point however, where familiarity leads to isolation and near xenophobia.  Different is shunned rather than explored.  A lack of trust with the outside world starts to permeate every discussion, seeming to create conspiracy theories everywhere.

It’s easy to point out that type of clique from the outside but near impossible to do so from the inside.  From that perspective, everything seems like an attack and a relatively low sense of self-worth, combined with a need for acceptance can make even the most cheerful of people aggressive.  That’s the key if you think about it – people within the clique need a better sense of internal self-worth.  If they need someone else to tell them they are good and that’s the only positive stimulus, why in the world would they drop it?  Maybe Stuart Smalley had it right all along.

Social Psychology

Taking a break from your regularly scheduled (and often missed) gaming blurbs, I wanted to expand a bit on the concepts of psychology and how it works with social interactions.  Granted, you could spend your entire life talking about just one part of the topic and I can do little justice in my tiny blog, but consider this an experiment in wall pasting.

Preamble.  I am a people watcher.  Introverted overachiever, never really had to work hard to get through in life, not much I’ve ever had a whole lot in common with the, ahem, common person up until I reached the adult workforce.  I mentioned this in a previous post a while back but I don’t really remember being a child and worry free, nor was there ever an “aha!” moment of adulthood.  It just sort of was always there.  The adult workforce is very similar to school, in terms of skill sets.  The difference is experience and wisdom.  I’ve been lucky enough to meet the right people at the right time to move ahead at a rather quick pace.  I get to work with incredibly smart people on a daily basis.  I like the challenge.

So if you’ve read that you’ve likely come to some very basic conclusions about me.  If you read between the lines, you’ve likely applied certain psychological templates to me as well.  This is good.

For most people, when they meet someone new, they come to some quick judgment if they “like or don’t like” the other.  Most attribute this to a gut feeling.  Quite right!  This gut feeling is a personal metric system we use to gauge relationships, and the likely return on investment.  Or more plainly, we ask ourselves “is this person worth my time?”.  While we’re teens, we are learning to set a baseline for this metric and it will continue to be tweaked until the day we drop.  By the time you’re in the 20s, you’ll have a pretty solid baseline for all future relations.  Here’s the tricky part, the health of that baseline is impacted by psychology.

Your personal experience is the largest factor.  A single child is looking for something different than a child of 5 just as a broken home is going to provide a different mindset than one that is not.  Maybe your baseline is simply “will this person give me attention” or “will this person provide good discussion”.  If you’re a person of eternal optimism, then you’re likely not going to get a healthy relationship with a pessimist.

While everyone goes through a period of triage in their social circle, it’s important to realize that you can build new criteria over time.  This is more or less a testing phase, where you find a particular item you might not be interested in but give it a shot to see what comes of it.  With practice, you get better at handling that type of personality and you can try it more and more often.  You diversify your social abilities so that you have a different toolset for people that have type A personalities and those that have type B.  Along the way, in order to get better at this diversification, you learn more about those personalities and their driving forces.  “Why does that person need to please everyone?”, “why are they an adrenaline junkie?”, “why are they always smiling?”

I said earlier that I liked watching people.  Without meeting someone, I tend to find the common traits of character that they provide.  So for example the other day I saw a lady walking down the street.  Power skirt, 5 inch heels, ankle bracelet, no wedding band, blouse and jacket, straight shoulder length hair and a few other features.  So while I might not be 100% correct, based on my experience and location (world customs differ, naturally), I could deduce that she worked with people, was a middle-aged divorcee with at least 2 kids in their teens, a heavy smoker, a francophone, in need of attention and likely to respond positively to a flirtatious conversation.

To continue on the thought, it’s not that I like or dislike the person at this point; it simply gives me a reference point as to how I could start a conversation.  I’m not going to start with a story about a sports team but a chat about a night at the bar is probably going to work.  I do it so often now that I don’t even think about it.  It makes meeting new people a whole lot of fun since I don’t ever feel like I have nothing to say.

There really isn’t much of a closing statement here just that the concept of social interaction is factored by thousands of small and big factors and that our brains are able to take all of that data and within a few seconds, determine if we like or don’t like someone.  While we call it a “gut” reaction, it’s really one of the most complex decisions you’ll ever make without realizing you’re making it.

One day I’ll talk about how this social model works in cyberspace, where you lose 90% of the social cues due to not having a visual.