"Oh, you like video games? You must be some overweight, pasty white straight guy who hates women and is incapable of forming a complete sentence without dropping an F-bomb. Now sit still while I enlighten you about the plight of women/gays/[minority of the week] until you thoroughly understand what a disgusting human being you are. Asshole!"
I'm black and I'm gay (too bad I'm not a woman, or I'd have the minority trifecta), and I'm far from the only queer or person of color who likes games. There are also plenty of women who enjoy video games as well. Are there issues that come with belonging to one of these groups? Yes there are, but what community doesn't have bigoted idiots in their ranks? Show me any group that is unanimously, 100% inclusive. Such a thing does not exist, because human beings are not unanimously, 100% inclusive. There is no place where you won't find bigotry in one form or another. No group is completely free of it.
The mark of an inclusive group isn't whether there is no bigotry to be found, but whether said bigotry is the exception or the rule. Gaming, for the most part, is one of the most color blind and inclusive communities there is, because any gamer with sense doesn't give a shit who you are or where you came from. What truly matters to them is, "can you play?"
Which is not to say that racism, sexism, and homophobia aren't a problem. Anyone who spends time on Xbox Live can attest that there are assholes who use the voice channels as a means to spew their ignorance. There are also trolls who may or may not be bigots themselves, but are quick to dish out racial slurs because they want to piss you off and that's one of the quickest and easiest ways to do it.
Every group has its fringe elements. When, for example, we see footage of feminists spouting extremist views, others are quick to say that they don't represent all feminists and urge people not to judge the entire group based on the few bad apples. This is a reasonable request. However, these same people will point to the trolls on gaming forums or on Xbox Live and act as if these people represent all gamers. Is anyone else seeing a double standard?
While we're on the subject of feminism, I'm sick of reading articles about how my hobby is somehow all about persecuting women. I'm tired of "critics" who feel it is their mission to tell me how everything is sexist, and that I'm a misogynist for enjoying games. If one woman is harmed in a video game it's horribly sexist; never mind the hundreds of men that were shot, stabbed, burned, mutilated, blown up, or tortured as well. If a woman has an exposed midriff it's exploitative, because women are clearly saints who would NEVER lust after men or desire to see a shirtless stud smiling suggestively at the camera.
Were video games primarily a female pastime, there would be shirtless dudes aplenty, as well as a vast majority of females in leading roles. A male character who serves as more than just support for or as a love interest to the female hero would be few and far between. It would be exactly as video games are now, but in reverse.
How do I know this? Because there ARE female-dominated media and, surprise surprise, that's precisely how they function. Anita Sarkeesian once parodied the prevalence of male protagonists in video games with a song titled "Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor." What are we to say about all the vaginas that play leading roles in romance fiction, or in the urban fantasy genre? Shirtless men in sensual poses flood the covers of romance fiction, enticing their female readers with their come-hither looks. The Twilight series of novels, which sparked a cultural phenomenon among women, was basically about a female protagonist (Bella) being serviced and admired by men (hot men, of course). Let's not even get into Fifty Shades of Grey, the popular erotic novel that got its start as Twilight fan fiction.
The gay fiction genre has seen a huge surge of female writers, to the point where female authors of gay romantic fiction are the dominant majority. These stories of gay men are written primarily by straight women for a straight female audience. Here we have objectified men engaging in sexual fantasy for the excitement and pleasure of the female readers. Descriptions of toned arms, washboard abs, and large penises are a common sight in these works of fiction. There are some competently written stories to be found, but in my experience the characters in these stories rarely have any virtues beyond their physical appearance; at least none that are expounded upon with any real enthusiasm. What traces of personality these characters have more often serve merely as spice to add to their perceived sex appeal, rather than as fully developed character traits.
Granted my personal reading list doesn't constitute a significant sample size. Given that I tend to pull my reading list from what's most popular on the Amazon Kindle marketplace, it can at least be observed that the type of stories I described are the ones that are purchased most often. Again, pictures of men in various stages of undress are a common sight on the covers of these books.
This isn't just limited to romance. An article published by TOR, entitled Urban Fantasy and the Elusive Male Protagonist highlights how the female hero population explodes when it's mostly women who are reading the stories. In this genre, the leading role is most often held by a woman, with men serving primarily as supporting characters or as antagonists to be defeated by our brave female hero.
How about women's talk shows? Take Wendy Williams, as just a single example, who did Hot Guy Week, and who has a page on her show's website called "Guy Candy," in which she asked for "hot guys" to send photos of themselves to the show so they can be considered for the possibility of appearing in a future episode.
Can you imagine if men had a talk show? Sure, there are talk shows hosted by men, but none which are similar in style and content to the View, for example. If men had such a show at all it would instantly be accused of being sexist. If such a show placed an open call for "hot chicks" for a segment under the name of "eye candy," they'd be called misogynistic pigs. Such a show would be seen as an assault against women and be derided as a breeding ground for hate and bigotry. But, of course, that's only if men do it.
My point is that woman are sexual creatures, just as men are sexual creatures. Sexual desire is an intrinsic part of being human regardless of your gender. That is why sex appeal is such a successful selling point on both sides of the fence. It naturally follows that if one gender holds a majority role in an entertainment medium, there will be more content created to appeal to that demographic. It's not sexist that there are more males heroes in video games any more than it is sexist that there are more female heroes in urban fantasy novels.
Yet feminists would have us believe that if a medium that is consumed primarily by men has a larger number of male heroes compared to female heroes, it's sexist. Apparently, appealing to a female audience with female heroes and male eye candy is just fine, but appealing to a male audience with male heroes and female eye candy is misogyny.
Keep in mind that this is coming from a gay male. I have no interest in looking at girls with bared midriffs, but I'm not crying about it either. It can be argued that I, as a gay man, have far more reason to be pissed than any woman in regards to a lack of representation in video games. Here's something to think about:
Off the top of your head, list at least three strong female protagonists in video games.
If you're a gamer you've likely answered that question even before you've finished reading this sentence. Lara Croft, Samus Aran, and Jill Valentine immediately spring to my mind. Let's not forget other strong female characters such as Tifa Lockheart, Heather Mason, Chell, Bayonetta, Liara T'Soni, Lightning, Sarah Kerrigan, Jade, Alyx Vance, Aveline Vallen, and many others.
Now I want you to name three gay male protagonists. That is, any men who play leading roles in their game and happen to be gay. Go on, I'm waiting.
Okay, let's loosen the criteria a bit. He doesn't even have to be a protagonist. Any gay male character will do, so long as they're not portrayed as two-dimensional stereotypes or as comic relief. Anyone?
A bunch of you said Commander Shepherd, right? I would count that if it weren't for the fact that he was not allowed to be played as a gay man until the third game in his trilogy, and that inclusion was met with some controversy and outright anger from immature gamers who were threatened by the presence of gay people in their games. When, I ask, have you ever seen a controversy like this one, where gamers protested by bombing the game's ratings on metacritic, simply because the protagonist was female? That has never happened, to my knowledge.
How about a character that wasn't written by Bioware? Or a character that is specifically written as gay, rather than having it tacked on later in the series? Hmmm. The best I can come up with is Kanji Tatsumui from Persona 4, but it's debatable if he's actually gay. Some think he might be gay and others believe he's straight. It's never made explicitly clear in the game, though I get the impression that Kanji is probably straight, if a bit confused about his masculinity due to his love of arts and crafts.
Women can pick from many female characters to look up to, some of whom are the heroes of long running series that are loved by millions. Gay man, or even lesbian women, have no such character to represent them. The most we can hope for is the occasional dialogue option in an RPG, a comic relief sidekick, or an offensive stereotype.
Given all this, shouldn't I be writing article after article about how homophobic games are, or how there needs to be more gay inclusion in games? Hell no! Why? Because it doesn't matter in the slightest. I'm here to play games, not inject my identity politics into the gaming community and shove my PC rhetoric down everyone's throats.
This does not mean I don't want to see more gay people in games, but I also know that I won't get what I want by crying about how "oppressed" I am. Television and film are a primarily heterosexual space, but as those mediums matured and more people who are gay or gay friendly got involved, we saw an increase in gay characters as a result. Where before you couldn't even dream of seeing gay people on screen, we now have shows like Queer as Folk, the L word, Glee, and Modern Family, in which gay people play active rolls. Will and Grace introduced a generation to gay people in leading roles, and Brokeback Mountain became a part of pop culture. Captain Jack Harkness became a beloved character in Doctor Who and went on to be the leading man in his own spinoff series, Torchwood.
We're already beginning to see this in gaming. Bioware is at the forefront of gay inclusiveness in games, allowing players to have a leading roll as a gay, lesbian, or bisexual hero in their popular roleplaying games. Video games are still a young medium, so it will take time before we have whole gaming series led by gay protagonists, but that change will come as more gay and gay friendly people become involved in the development of video games, and gamers continue to express their support with their words and their dollars.
I don't care about gay inclusiveness in games because I don't have to. Inclusiveness is a natural byproduct of the free market. The way to enact change in a free market is not to tear down, but to build.
The funny thing is, women are fighting a battle that they've already won years ago. There are already plenty of women in games whose characters are given just as must depth as their male peers. What these people have a problem with is the way that females are stereotyped, calling this a grave injustice while ignoring the fact that EVERYONE is stereotyped, men included. Video games are no more guilty of this than film, television, and books are.
Perhaps the biggest mistake these people make is placing the blame on video games as a whole, as if the entire medium is an intelligent organism that is actively denying them. If someone doesn't like a TV show they'll blame the writers, or the director, or the studio. They would know that TV is just a technology, a content delivery system, and it's not the fault of the medium as a whole, and they certainly wouldn't stereotype every single person who watches television because of it. They would not say that all people who watch television are homophobic because there aren't enough gay people in leading roles on prime time shows, for example.
Yet this is the exact attitude that social justice warriors have with video games. Somehow it's the fault of video games as a whole that they're unhappy, and they judge every person who plays video games as guilty by association. This leads to their ridiculous claim that gamers, who are comprised of 1.2 billion people worldwide from all backgrounds, colors, and creeds are somehow all white heterosexual males who hate women. I suppose that includes all the gamers in China, Japan, Mexico, Thailand, and so on.
Since this post has gone on long enough, I will conclude by saying one thing directly to the social justice warriors who are determined to take a universal entertainment medium and make it all about their petty identity politics: BACK OFF!