In today’s class, Professor Stabile mentioned that part of the issue of the toxicity of games is that games are not policed unless someone high in power decides to hold players and game makers accountable. It would also work if the majority of players decided to censor other gamers and game producers’ questionable behaviors until a new, more inclusive social behavioral norm was constructed.
Earlier in the term I wrote on the similarities between game toxicity and white segregationists’ anger against the US Civil Rights Movement and how both stemmed from fear of changing established hierarchies. Today’s topic made me flash back to the civil rights movement and in particular to the case ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) which was the foundation for the discriminatory practice of “separate but equal.” The Supreme Court ruled that legislation that enforced separation of races did not make one race inferior to the other and any construed inferiority resided only inside the heads of those who chose to believe it.
I bring this up because having an overtly masculine gaming environment that discriminates through use of stereotyped characters or through toxic gaming rhetoric only reinforces the idea that women and frankly anyone who is not a heterosexual white male are inferior. By building better games, games that make respecting fellow players a social norm, then discrimination may also decrease in the real world in addition to virtual ones.
We talked about barriers to building these “better games” such as a larger workload for game producers and discussed what would happen if games eliminated gender or expanded the categorization of gender. Ideals about gender from brawny men to busty women stem from social constructions so either these norms need to be broken down in reality or a game producer needs to be courageous enough to try it out and see what actually happens.
An opposite approach is by making people aware of the negative consequences of violent actions such as Newsgaming.com’s September 12th; however, these artistic projects only work in inducing short-term, inner negative feelings about bad behaviors rather then laying the groundwork for significant social change as most people avoid feeling bad for extended amounts of time. These thought provoking games may bring awareness, but better games can augment them by redirecting players expectations and behaviors to be more beneficial not just in a game, but in the real world too.
These better games do not have to be brand new. Already existing games can be made better by individual players (Donkey Kong dad for example: http://games.yahoo.com/blogs/plugged-in/dad-hacks-donkey-kong-daughter-play-girl-173252912.html) who work to eliminate the inferiority statuses of other players by challenging standard beliefs and concepts. It is completely possible that a better gaming culture can be cultivated, all it needs are players and producers who slowly chip away at outdated and unappreciated norms.