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So, Why Shouldn’t Gaming Be Fun?

I promised myself I wouldn’t write another long-winded editorial concerning the ongoing “Gamer Gate” controversy, but not only is it hard to avoid, it’s also a maddening cacophony of ridiculousness and self- importance. So maddening, that after reading the “games aren’t suppose to be fun” comments from the gaming press, I promptly fell out of my chair and choked on my coffee.

At first I figured this was just one lone crazy person ranting in hopes that someone would mouse over on his ads and give him five cents per click, but after seeing so many of the “Sarkeesian folks” parrot this same sentiment, I’m realizing that this is probably what they *really* think.

Now I want you to think back to not just why you game, but what got you into gaming. Though I have no idea why all of you bothered to pick up your first controller and press start for the first time, I know why I did.

For me, it began with my stepfather. After my father had passed away when I was five, my stepdad, who was his best friend, began dating my mom. To keep me occupied while they were away on dates, my dad left me his Atari 2600 and a his Frogger cartridge. After a few minutes teaching me how to play, this man (soon to be dad) handed the joystick to me and told me to give it a try. Naturally, it wasn’t long before I was hooked.

All of the problems I had at that time, especially with my father having just passed away, began to vanish and I was lost in the game. Maybe to some this may be seen as an avoidance behavior, but I firmly believe that were it not for Frogger and my stepfather’s Atari 2600, I would have grown up to be a criminal who dealt with his anguish in far more unhealthy ways.

Gaming, for me, was always my escape. It didn’t turn me into a Hikikomori nor did it prevent me from forming social connections or getting a job…as a matter of fact, gaming helped me become a better adjusted teenager thanks to the other geeks I met in high-school who were gaming themselves.

Late night SNES parties playing TMNT tournament fighters and Tecmo Bowl were a weekly occurrence in my clique at school, and our exploits within these games was the main topic of conversation during every lunch period. It was an escape for all of us, sure, but it was also a way of bonding. A way of bringing people together and learning to co-operate. A way for people of different races, religions and even genders, to get along and share a common experience. Even if it was a game or two of Mario Kart on a rainy Sunday, it was like heaven to us. It brought us joy.

It was fun.

Problem is, I’m learning now from those on the other side of this debate that we aren’t suppose to have fun. Apparently, the idea that you play games for mere fun isn’t just holding the hobby back, but it’s also preventing it from being the precious weapon for cultural change that so many of these folks believe it should be.

I know, it sounds a bit crazy doesn’t it? Let’s break down this absolutely unbelievable statement bit by bit, shall we?

First of all, I assume they mean games like Senran Kagura and Hyperdimension Neptunia are holding it back, since I don’t think they have a problem with base games such as Mario Kart and Zelda. If that’s indeed the case, I’d like to know exactly how those titles are holding anything back.

After all, didn’t Gone Home get great coverage ? (Editor’s note: we gave it a 10/10) Hasn’t “Analogue: A Hate Story” garnered rave reviews? Hasn’t “To The Moon” won awards for its sensitive storytelling and thought provoking premise? Have any of these games, or any other “Art house” title suffered at all from Senran Kagura existing? Do these two types of games ever really touch or overlap at all?

The short answer is obviously no, they haven’t. Yet, to hear the Sarkeesian crowd talk, you’d think the developers of Senran Kagura are knocking over their flower pots and molesting their children, because to them, these games are somehow preventing gaming from attaining legitimacy as a force for social change.

Not a single person responsible for Senran Kagura, Hyperdimension Neptunia or Dragon’s Crown is in any way, shape or form preventing art house titles from making a statement. No one from XSEED or NISA is standing outside of the Fullbright Company’s front door building brick walls to prevent them from entering the building. George Kamitani isn’t, if you can believe this, lurking behind a cabinet ready to club everyone in the head who tries to make a socially responsible game. Hard to fathom, I know, but if you trust me on just one thing, trust me on this.

Of course, I know what they really mean. The Sarkeesians out there think that merely by allowing these games to exist, they are giving gaming (as a whole) a bad name. They believe that having lolis in shimapan prancing around the screen and amazons with gigantic breasts flopping about is giving gaming a reputation for being both lowbrow and solely focused on male titillation.

…and in that regard, I get it. I really do.

The problem here is that while your average Sarkeesian type gamer may be infuriated by, say, Senran Kagura or Akiba’s Trip, the reality is that those games can still exist and not devalue or discredit your own LGBT- friendly, politically correct story-based titles.

The real issue here, the one they don’t want to admit, is that they are far too sensitive. As has been the trend in America during the past decade or so, people have grown so coddled and so comfortable that they feel anything they don’t like deserves to be erased or censored. A fair amount of people, from what I’ve seen as a 38 year old living in this country, seem to be unable to allow for contrary opinions. They simply never developed the ability to turn their heads or close their eyes and let opposing beliefs exist anywhere near them. You see this all the time in political debates that turn into screaming matches or religious debates that, well…turn into shootings and suicide bombings.

Woops, I used terrorism in a gaming analogy. Seems to be a lot of that going around right now…

All joking aside, that’s really what this is about. It’s about one side being so overly sensitive and close-minded that anything they personally disagree with on any level is, to them, no longer worthy enough to exist.

Does the multi-billion dollar porn industry cause serious movies like “The Help” or “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom” to lose their impact? Does the existence of a supposedly vulgar and low-brow film like Transformers prevent more meaningful fare like The Monuments Men to get greenlighted? Did Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles make 12 Years a Slave look bad? Obviously not, since both were successful and received a fair amount of acclaim from their respective “camps”.

Why, then, is it somehow different with video games?

Which brings me to another immature belief these folks have: That it’s either their way, or the highway.

See, I’m all for inclusion. Gaming isn’t all about boob shots and machine guns. The great thing about gaming is that there isn’t just “one type” of gamer. You have folks like me who love deep CRPGs, you have others who love puzzle games, some like more casual fare like Tetris or Candy Crush, and you have the hardcore competitive types who go for DOTA2 or Call of Duty. There are dozens of different types of players out there and all of them live under one very large tent called “gamer”.

The problem with these Sarkeesian types is that they believe that the games they find offensive shouldn’t exist and those who enjoy them should be shunned. The section of that “gamer tent” that includes your Japanese game fans enjoying NISA games with flat-chested lolis in them shouldn’t exist, in their eyes anyway. No, those gamers should be expunged and the games they play should be censored or altogether removed due to them making their own section of the tent (The Art House section) look bad. There is no middle ground, no co-existing and no cooperation, since they are unable to merely accept that not everyone wants to play games for the same exact reason they do.

And that’s where this argument stalemates.

I’m sure many of you are like me in that you don’t mind letting Depression Quest, Gone Home and games such as that exist next to our own so-called “fun-only” games. I have no problem with LGBT-friendly titles sit next to my own games on a literal or digital store shelf. I feel that gaming should be open to everyone and that everybody should have their needs fulfilled. After all, the more diverse our hobby, the stronger it becomes. This isn’t rocket science. More types of games = more money, and more money = a healthier industry. It’s just that simple.

So to get back to the point of this editorial, should games no longer be played for fun and exist solely as vehicles for social change? Should all games merely be politically correct stories that teach the world how to act appropriately and to cure us of bigotry and violence?

Not if you’re still charging $59.99.

Like I stated earlier, I have no problem with such games existing, but saying that there is *no* middle ground and that “pulp” or “low brow” games cannot exist because they somehow hurt these socially conscious games is not just immature, but it’s downright dangerous to the hobby as well. Removing such a large swath of game types, most of which are phenomenally hot sellers, would cripple this industry in a way not seen since the 1983 crash.

Not to Godwin myself, but saying that all games that aren’t “your” games should be censored or removed entirely sounds a lot like what the Nazis did with their book burnings in the lead-up to World War 2. The way Hitler’s regime re-printed schoolbooks to say Jesus was a white German man and that all other races were mongrels…that kind of mass and all-consuming censorship and control of an entire medium is extremely dangerous to have.

Even as a fan of “low brow” fun games, I wouldn’t even ask for all of the socially conscious “Gone Home” style games to disappear. It’s this diversity that makes gaming the awesome hobby it is. Like movies, you can find something you enjoy no matter what your beliefs are. I don’t know about you, but I like it this way and don’t feel it needs to be changed.

Yet, that’s all they keep clamoring for. Change. Nearly every website out there falls all over itself in promoting these socially aware games and decrying the popularity of our “pulp” titles, and yet they still want change.

They wonder where the anger comes from, and if you want to know the truth, that’s where it originates. This sense of entitlement and arrogance that the Sarkeesian gamers show and their insistence on having complete and total dominance of the hobby is what enrages everyone. No one group should ever rise up and call for the removal of an entire genre, especially when that genre makes up the vast majority of that particular medium’s revenue. You’d think they would have taken an Econ course in college and learned these basic facts before getting that communications degree.

For the last five or so years, this arrogance has pervaded the gaming sphere, and I think what you’re seeing now is a lot of pent-up pressure being released because of it. Whether it’s the Kucheras, the Totilos or the Sarkeesians, they have all exuded such arrogance for so long and have been so uncontested by the gaming public that it has made them full of themselves and unable to reason with. For them, it’s all or nothing. You either stop releasing “Pure fun” games and start playing only socially conscious walking simulators or you are a misogynistic loser who is hurting the hobby.

Which brings me to my last point…

Not to play the elitist card here, but how long and how “hard” have these folks been gaming anyway? Not that it matters, since I’m not going to judge a gamer based on the size of his or her backlog, but I do have to wonder. Exactly how much of a gamer are these folks? We already know Sarkeesian lied about being a gamer and ripped her footage off of other people’s videos…so how far down does that rabbit hole go? Are all of these folks just casual gamers who played a few hours of Tetris and think they now have the experience to dictate what happens to the entire multi-billion dollar industry they barely even support? How can you expect us to take your opinions seriously when you haven’t paid into the hobby you seem to want to dominate?

Gaming is meant to be fun, or else it wouldn’t have ballooned to such a large industry to begin with. Can you imagine if every movie after the rise of McCarthyism in the 1950s had been screened to look for “communist influences” and all films thought to embody them were destroyed? Anything that wasn’t some jingoistic pro-American movie would have been tossed in the proverbial wastebin and the film industry would have just been another vehicle for someone’s personal beliefs and unfair agendas. Yet, that’s exactly what these people are saying must happen to our gaming hobby.

So I say to them: What’s wrong with having fun? Does everything I do in my free time have to be specifically tailored to educate me about social issues? Am I not allowed to simply shut down my brain after a 50 hour work week and immerse myself in silly little dungeon hacks that have cute girls as the NPC partners? Am I not allowed to enjoy the type of entertainment that I find pleasurable? Why can you be allowed to enjoy your style of game, but I’m not allowed to enjoy mine? Doesn’t that seem a bit childish and immature to you?

To me it does.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of, and should not be attributed to, Niche Gamer as an organization.

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Carl Batchelor

About

Carl is both a JRPG fan and a CRPG'er who especially loves European PC games. Even with more than three decades of gaming under his belt, he feels the best of the hobby is yet to come.