Nick D. takes a look at the increased attacks against so-called SJWs in the video game industry and how it is overall problematic.
Non-straight, white male representation in video games has exploded over the last decade. Women are increasingly part of the conversation in video game design, leading to fewer instances of the entire gender being relegated to mcguffin territory. As well, LGBT individuals have gone from being the butt of jokes, to headlining the most popular rising e-sport scene in the world. To many, these changes are for the better, creating more diversity in storytelling and style, as well as in simple demographics. To others, however, this is seen as an attack. A new devil has emerged from these angry gamers in the social justice warrior, or SJW, a term mocking people seeking to promote diversity, gender equality, or who advocate for political correctness. SJWs are increasingly being used by people to justify one-sided arguments to rail against inclusion in video games. This trend, it appears, is on the upswing, and today we are going to look at this rampant use of SJWs to justify arguments.
- Please note that I will be referring to message board posts from the popular gaming resource site GameFAQs, as it has both a high volume of traffic and is also a hotbed for the arguments we’ll be looking at today. It’s also important to note that this article is examining the use of SJWs as a boogeyman to justify arguments. The very real problem of misogyny in the industry that has led to numerous threats on the lives of women working on video games, or homophobia won’t be explicitly covered, though the problems are related.
Sexuality is all-pervasive in the video game industry. Both women and men are put in skimpy costumes and employ ridiculous poses to titilate, while often cleaving through enemies. Although both genders are often sexualized, it is far more common for the female characters to be the targets of such a depiction. Sexualization is not inherently bad, and the pros and cons of sexualization could be the subject of its own article. I highlight this issue because a backlash against over-sexualization in video games from a variety of sources, has led to a battle cry against SJWs.
Street Fighter V is an incredibly over-sexualized game. Butts and breasts are focused on to a huge degree in opening and closing animations. One such animation, however, was censored from the game. When performing her critical art, the character R. Mika slaps her own thonged butt at the start. Originally, the camera focused on her rear, but Capcom later edited this move, so the camera focused higher, thus not capturing the slap itself.
Fans cried out about censorship. The official word was that the developers thought it might make people uncomfortable and they did not want to shrink their potential user base over this. The censorship led to multiple arguments about SJWs. This thread explores a common theme of such posts – the use of one kind of censorship to imply double standards for men, as well as criticizing feminists and SJWs for ruining people’s fun. The double standard issue also appears in this thread. The argument being that SJWs are crying out for female censorship, while being all right with male over-sexualization. Though there is backlash in these threads, as there is in everything I will link today, the presence of these hardline SJWs is noticeably absent.
This is the crux of the problem. Censorship occurred in Street Fighter V because of over-sexualization, and then a villain was invented so people could argue against them, though this villain never showed up.
Moving over to Overwatch, a similar problem occurred in its earlier days. The game’s mascot, Tracer, originally had a win pose where she jutted her butt out and looked over her shoulder. Blizzard removed this pose, seemingly due to feedback from a community member about the sexualized pose not fitting the peppy hero. Like with Street Fighter V, this inspired a backlash against the censorship, with many fans citing SJWs and feminists to blame. This thread highlights a major problem with the SJW blame – that they, as a vocal minority, have great power in the industry.
In reality, fan input is important for developers, and games are constantly changed on that basis. Final Fantasy XV was hugely modified based on the feedback from fans on the demo, and its main game is getting reworked again due to complaints, particularly surrounding its 13th chapter. Mass Effect 3‘s ending was redone after fans railed against it for being a poor way to end the trilogy. In both the Street Fighter V and Overwatch examples, it appears that fan feedback did influence developers to change their mind. However, this has less to do with SJW power, than the power that fans have in general. In addition, despite these changes to sexually-tied images, flaunting sexuality continues to thrive in both Street Fighter V and Overwatch with characters like Laura, Juri, and Widowmaker. Thus any great SJW agenda is difficult to suss out.
Sexualization, however, is not the only time gamers cry out over SJW influence. Indeed, the most troubling examples of SJWs as the boogeymen come from games that focus on diversity, or non-male characters. In Guerilla’s Horizon: Zero Dawn, gamers take the role of a tribal girl named Aloy in a post-apocalyptic future. Her tribe is matriarchal, with women having more esteem in society than men. This did not sit well with some gamers. Horizon was accused of pushing an SJW agenda and being propaganda. This thread once again refers to the double standard talked about above. This poll is tied for whether the game has SJW influences. And this thread accuses the developers of pandering to a SJW agenda.
The idea of Horizon pushing an SJW agenda seems to stem from two places: 1. the main character is a women; and 2. the society she is part of (one tribe out of the many in the game) is matriarchal, and thus Aloy’s reactions are based on her view of society. This is hard to swallow as propaganda as matriarchal societies are pretty bread-and-butter science fiction/fantasy, with the Amazons being a notable early example from Greek mythology. The game does little to indoctrinate people outside of simply having this setting.
Nevertheless, SJWs were once again labelled as the source of the problem, and people began to rail against them, though none showed up to the threads. I say this not to ignore the fact that ultra-leftist people do in fact exist, but rather that these threads would operate exactly the same in their total absence from the world. SJWs are primarily used as a construct of extreme beliefs that people can argue against, making their own hardline beliefs seem more reasonable by comparison. From the many threads on Horizon fans’ issues with SJWs, it is clear that many people are simply uncomfortable with the female focus in the game.
The lack of comfort is also present in the current Mass Effect: Andromeda debacle. The same criticisms that Horizon garnered are coming strong with Bioware’s latest game, as with Dragon Age: Inquisition before it. Bioware is a company known for promoting diversity in its games, particularly with their inclusion of LGBT characters and romances. Once again, the so-called SJW agenda is attacked in this thread. This thread quickly devolves into accusations of racism against white people. And this one attacks pandering to SJWs.
The connecting factor among all of these issues is the use of SJW as a term without substance. There is no agreed definition of SJW, thus it is easy to paint the term in the most extreme light, despite no evidence that people are making such arguments. The use of SJWs as a boogeyman is also problematic. It has led to a significant rise in the attacks on diversity in video games. Overwatch, for example, recently announced its third new character. Like the previous two, this character was female, leading one person to accuse SJWs of piloting the decision. The idea being that SJWs don’t want diversity, but only want more women and minorities despite male characters still outnumbering female characters in the game.
SJWs are not the boogeymen that the gaming industry needs. They feed into a conspiracy theory mindset of a group of shadowy figures with the power to unilaterally change games. They push an us vs. them mentality, where there are sensible people and those with the most extreme viewpoints possible. And they rarely exist in any thread concerning them, meaning that what the SJW is arguing or what the SJW agenda is constantly changes to best suit the angry gamer that feels slighted somehow. This is not a productive way to make an argument. In the threads with real people arguing, there can at least be some back and forth. When your opponent stems mostly from your own head, it’s hard to ever be exposed to a different way of thinking.