Text in English to follow.

Det här blogginlägget skriver jag på engelska av två skäl. Jag vill att bransch och spelare i stort kan läsa det och jag litar inte till 100% på Google Translate.

Due to a recent discussion in one of Swedens larger newspapers, the issue of gamers and the game industry’s attitudes has once again been examined. In this case it’s gamers and the games business attitude toward women and other minorities within the gaming culture. In response to the many questions raised in connection to this, such as “if minorities and women find it so awful to play games, why play at all?”. I think most of us know the answer to that question. Because it is fun, most of the time anyway. More than that, it’s rewarding, relaxing, challenging and totally awesome. It should also be a safe zone. Much like entertainment should be a safe zone. The main problem is however not within the games themselves (although the games are also problematic), since it’s easier to choose a game the player feels safe with, but in the online culture. When talking in and about games, it’s fairly common to run into people using racial slurs, homophobic language and sexual objecification and violence as part of the discourse. And this is seen as “normal” in most cases.

Now, before you start in on me with the “censorship”-speak, I’d like to point out a few things. According to the Swedish freedom of speech laws, some of the insults, threats of violence, threats of sexual violence and disrespect for an ethnic group or minority, would be against the law, especially considering that the insults, threats of violence, threats of sexual violence and disrespect are spread across the internet, which gives them a potential to reach a lot farther than their printed counterparts. The responsibility for this type of language lies ultimately with the writer, but in some cases, the forum, site or online magazine can be held responsible. I’ll get back to that part in a bit. When it comes to sexual harassment, in Sweden, sexual harassment consists of for example sexual innuendo or language, pornographic images, unwelcome sexual advances, looks and gestures, touching or groping, unwelcome sexual suggestions or demands of sexual services.

It can also be offensive language regarding for instande looks, clothing or private life, and offensive comments having to do with women or men as a group, or being treated as invisible, ridiculed, excluded or opposed due to what gender the person belongs to.

With that part clarified – I want you to understand that what I’m talking about are the cases that would be breaking the Swedish law – oh and by the way, it’s not only the Swedish law we’re talking about here, many other countries also have legislation against this kind of behavior – and while this behavior probably wouldn’t be brought to court, it’s important enough to know that there are laws against it. I’ll move on.

If you’re new to gaming culture, having someone send you pornographic images to your inbox or message stream is unexpected, and in some cases unwelcome or off-putting. If you don’t know how the receiver will react, don’t send the images.

If you’re new to gaming culture, being called fag, whore, slut and so on, and being PWND (owned), threatened with rape, death, and torture is well… it’s pretty daunting. Don’t call people you don’t know fag, whore, slut or threaten them with rape, death or torture, simply because you probably wouldn’t do that face to face with someone you didn’t know.

If you’re new to gaming culture having the word and act of rape connected to victory and winning just might send the wrong impression; say that the gamer in question is violent, and enjoys to rape people, of any gender. Don’t ever use the word rape as a metaphor for winning. Rape is a serious crime, and can be devastating to the man or woman who is raped. It’s disrespectful to connect the word to victory. When someone is raped, it’s a defeat both to the one raped and the person perpetrating that rape.

This is a part of what people, gamers, are defending when they’re defending the online gaming culture. This is the precious environment “we want”, at all costs, to keep. Because that’s the only way I can interpret some of the comments I’ve read over the days this discussion has been going on.

Or perhaps it’s the all male, all heterosexual culture that appeals, which means that all those guys that say that they want the culture to include minorities are simply not that invested into changing it and actually doing something about it. YOU can change the culture you’re participating in. YOU can say “enough” and ask your friends to stop behaving in an offensive, discriminating way. You can still enjoy winning, still enjoy the game, without the harassment, sexual innuendo, sending of pornographic images and racial slurs. Right?

The gamers, however, are only one part of the gaming culture. The companies making games, both publishers and developers, are also a part of this culture, and they do influence our way of viewing minorities in games. Unfortunately, women are still viewed as a part of that minority.

Women, latin-americans, africans, afro-americans, asians and other – in games – (ethnic) minorities are rarely presented as playable characters, or at all. When they do exist, they’re stereotyped to fit an idea of what they are, designed to portrait white men as the pinnacle of creation, the ideal. Women are reduced to unrealistic images of sexual gratification, often no more than pretty objects. And if – God forbid – they actually have a mind of their own, the industry seems determined to fit them into the “sex object” slot. Look at Samus Aran. Why is it so important to alienate minorities within the gaming culture by telling one-dimensional stories about them, to let them know “you can join in, but only as an inferior character, only as a contrast to the hero”?

Stereotypes, of the idealized man, the objectified woman and the stereotyped non-caucasian, is what the industry is desperate to hold on to when it refuses to renew the way men and women are portrayed in games. The games propagate a view of (white) men as (sometimes) the only inhabitants in the game world. Games also propagate the view that (white) men are the only valid actors and agents for change in the game world.

This is what gaming companies, both publishers and developers, are defending when they’re defending the contents of their games. This is “what sells” according to them. This is what we’re prepared to fight to keep.

Or perhaps it’s the all male, all heterosexual culture that appeals, which means that all those developers who say they want to be more inclusive simply don’t feel like it.

The responsibility is also shared by journalists, bloggers and forum managers, guild masters and chat moderators who don’t react when women and minorities are threatened in in-game chats or comments, or when racial slurs, sexism and homophobia are allowed to flourish, not only in game chats or online but also in the games themselves. This may seem to encourage censorship, but who else is going to take responsibility?

It may seem restrictive, but telling someone to lay off the rape jokes really isn’t that bad, or to tell someone to stop harassing a gamer he/ she doesn’t like. The lack of concern from the in-game moderators when people name themselves “rapethatbitch” or “fagkiller” implicitly supports a culture of harassment and violations. When women are used as objects of sexual desire to sell a game or a gaming magazine, that is helping the culture of misogyny along. As long as that culture exists, I have strong doubts that we’ll progress very much. The gamers are fed by the games and the blogs and magazines. These, in turn, take their cue from the vocal gamers.

Those of us who don’t agree to the terms of the current gaming culture have to speak up.

If you really want inclusiveness, if you really mean that minorities in the gaming culture are welcome, you have to take a stand.

By not accepting racial, homophobic or sexual harassment.
By creating and maintaining an online environment that is not threatening, but open and welcoming.
By allowing, creating and buying games that contain a wider variety of human beings.

Tomorrow has to start somewhere. Let’s make it right here, right now.


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