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?Yes, they’re wrong to view games as mindless, as a genre, but some of us are interested in more than this: We want people to recognise these mediums for the brilliant avenues they are for beautiful stories and potential for wonder. I want this for two reasons.

1. Perspectives matter greatly. The more people enjoy a particular medium, the more money it gets – because interest leads to demand, which leads to funding, etc. etc. Thus, we won’t have beloved companies or creators unable to support their work because it’s not a “niche” area. Popularity doesn’t indicate quality, of course, but it does indicate survival. Of course, nothing is perfectly secure, but these areas would certainly be more secure.

2. More talented people, more diversity, more and better examples of the medium. The reason some of us get vocal about sexism, racism, homophobia in these areas is tied primarily to basic moral decency; but also to creating better art. How many Mary Shelleys has the comic book world missed out on due to its sexism, on various levels?

“Sexism isn’t just in comic books and games, it’s also…” yes, yes, but come on. We’re talking about this area, right now. If you care about making your beloved source of joy better, you want more quality creators. Quality creators aren’t of one sex or race or nationality: by having environments which favours one particular kind of person – or does much to make a particular sex, race, etc., feel unwelcome – we’re losing out. You’re doing your art a disservice.

So when we say we care about others’ perspectives, we’re talking on this kind of scale. It’s not enough to have a few care, it matters because parents could discourage future Alan Moores and Kelly Sue DeConnicks. I dont want such a future. I want more beautiful things coming out from these magnificent mediums.

Again: It’s true that viewing games as only shooting and violence is like viewing all books as Twilight, but that doesn’t mean we can’t at the moment take a political stance to try leverage that view toward better perspectives. No one is saying we lower ourselves, we undermine the thing we love: we do this because we love comic books and games and TV and whatever.

We do this because it’s not enough that we’re right: what matters (sometimes more) is conveying to the world what being right means. In this case, viewing comic books as more than superheroes, video games as more than just shooters. We can do that without stomping our feet and merely demanding others view it as we do. That simply isn’t enough.

This doesn’t negate there could be good reason to stay firm – demand people call it what we do. But perhaps that strategy can be employed later, or at different times, at different people. However, my problem is with those who think that taking a kind of political stance – call our favourite medium something else for the sake of something greater than our being right – means we degrade the medium. This simply isn’t the case and is in fact contrary to why some of us are considering it.


  1. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    I don’t think a name change is needed. I think the shift in perspective is already well underway. And it wasn’t one single monolithic change that caused it. Kids who played video games have grown up to be adult gamers, a variety of system and control schemes have pulled new demographics into gaming (there’s a lot of hate for the Wii from gaming purists, but it did so much to get previously uninterested groups into gaming. Wii bowling was huge at my grandma’s nursing home). Kickstarter is giving money to people with a passion for good story and game design, indie games are giving people compelling narratives and engrossing worlds without a 30+ hour $60 investment. And big businesses like EA (much more hate there), have advertising budgets that make everyone aware of the latest in gaming, and like it or not, someone has to be playing all those sports games. Gaming is the so-called “niche” group that somehow everyone belongs to.

    There will always be groups claiming that games cause violence and depravity and every other social ill, but there are still groups claiming the same thing about TV and the rap music. They will be pushed further and further into the fringe.

    Yeah, we still have a loooooooong way to go on equality and inclusivity, and I’m not sure what that will take. I will gladly defer to the expertise of people like Anita Sarkeesian there.