Ubisoft, women and diversity in media

My latest for The Daily Beast is on Ubisoft’s (lack of) prioritising women in their upcoming games and the response, in general, from those wanting diversity in media. Specifically in the case of Assassin’s Creed: Unity I found this really disappointing, since this is a talented bunch of people – who not only themselves wanted women, but are great at encouraging diversity.

I’ve been sick and busy with work, so apologies for empty blog for awhile. I should be returning to at least my infrequent levels of blogging – I definitely have an upcoming fisk.

The “Should” Fallacy in Criticism

I wrote a piece about a common fallacy I see in criticism – particularly video game criticism. I argue that people like to talk about what a game “should” be; often, this isn’t a helpful criticism since it’s a refusal to accept what the game is.

I make my full case here at my regular haunt at GameZone.

In my first digital magazine

Yes, it’s a (local) gaming one; if you’re interested in gaming, good writing or my writing, I hope you’ll give it a read.

It’s free and lovingly made by fellow South African writers who love games. I love the fact that it’s a magazine, not a knee-jerk, “put up as fast possible” website – where speed of information matters more than quality conveying of that information.

Less dude focus, more creativity

I argued that if you care about progress (in general, but specifically in traditionally male-dominated areas), then we need to treat toxic anti-women sentiment as a serious hindrance to progress.

Now many might say that it’s just basic human decency to not be sexist; of course, supporting diversity is not merely about combating the worst vitriolic comments women and other groups receive; it’s not merely encouraging women to go into environments where they might be targets of sexist or misogynistic slurs.

Here, I tried to make it a selfish claim for those who otherwise don’t care or intentionally make marginalised groups feel unwelcome: If you want more great films, more great novels, more great comics, more great games, etc., then you need more great creators. And creators demographic aren’t only one skin colour or sex or whatever. Therefore, we should want more than just white dudes creating beautiful things.

I’m not disparaging talented male creators, but again: the argument is broader than that. Nor is my selfish-focused argument meant to undermine that decency should trump selfishness (assuming this is just selfishness). But should doesn’t translate easily into “is”.

In which I don’t join the hype of GTA V – despite loving it

Yes, it’s possible to enjoy and be critical of a thing you love. For my next trick, I will walk and breathe at the same time.

(I’m still struggling with how to respond to the major cultural phenomenon that Grand Theft Auto – as a franchise – has become: given its misogyny, it’s transphobic elements, and its violence. I am still thinking on these specific aspects – especially the horrible treatment of trans people – but I might have more to say on that later [perhaps].)

Being right is not enough

In conversation with Twitter friends, I asked about whether we should attempt to find a term that better portrays video games as not being strictly for children. I used the example of “graphic novels” to illustrate this point, since graphic novel “sounds” more mature, more adult, despite many of us still calling them comics, regardless.

Predictably, many said that ignorant people shouldn’t be catered to. We know that video games are a medium, not genre; similarly comic books aren’t all about superheroes. If people assume all video games are mindless shooting, sexist romps that turn children into psychopaths, why should we change our terminology to suit them? They’re wrong after all.

However, this isn’t in dispute – the point is do we mount a kind of political campaign to try change perspectives? [Read more...]

Nerds, (fake) geeks, sluts and other “words”

“Geek”, “nerd”, “fake geek”.

I just can’t understand these terms. I see them a lot, usually used harshly and usually at women.

I’ve not been able to find out what people (read: usually very angry dudes) mean when they use these terms. I’m not seeking a definition as they see it, only; I’m also looking for a reasonable and justified basis for which to use “slut” and “fake geek (girl)”. To me, these terms are either describing imaginary creatures or they’re useless.

That same apparent logic that targets “fake” geeks could be used by those who like athletics, sport, photography: What makes comics and video games all of a sudden domains where we’re required an entry exam?

But then I don’t even understand the use of the terms “geek” and “nerd”, let alone the awful descriptions “geeky” and “nerdy”. What do they mean?

When superheroes are the biggest things at the box office, when GTA V is making $800 Million after 24 hours, can we finally recognise that these cloisters of religious protection have long been abandoned (hint: you’ll not find a lot of religious believers on this network for example)? These monkish attitudes and religious observations about your favourite fictional figures was something we should’ve given up, I thought?

I hope we do so, since claiming “geek” this and “nerd” that seems prone to tribalism rather than inclusion. I’d rather just love something and be glad that someone either does to or wants to. If they hate it, that’s also fine. Why would I want a world filled with people who all think or agree with me on everything – especially matters of creativity? Creativity thrives on freedom and freedom comes alive from civil clashes waged in the war of disagreement.

Can we please send these terms – all of them – to the gallows?

UPDATE: Apologies for unnecessarily hostile, swearing and uncharitable comments below. I’m not sure why ire is necessary.

Why ‘The Last of Us’ still sticks with me

As you might know, I write on pop culture things, like TV series, films, comics and video games. I recently penned a little article trying to articulate precisely why the Playstation 3 exclusive, The Last of Us, had such a profound impact.

If you’ve also finished it, let me know your thoughts at my infrequently updated gaming blog.