Dragon Age: Origins was one of the many games criticized by feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian in her recent “Tropes vs Women in Video Games” YouTube video series.
After BioWare developer John Epler took to Twitter to defend her criticism, one fan, “wakeupelena” took issue with what he wrote, stating, “john epler, you either haven’t watched the videos or played the video games “
It’s amusing, of course, for a BioWare developer to be accused of not having played a game he played a part in creating. Since then, John’s tweets went somewhat viral on Tumblr, where fans of the game discussed the merits of what he was saying.
What’s even more interesting is the fact that the lead writer of the Dragon Age series and the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition, David Gaider, used the situation as an opportunity to weigh in on games criticism. Here’s what he wrote:
Sorry to pick on this one comment and single you out—normally I don’t read the comments to posts, and for good reason, but here I am waiting for my plane with nothing better to do…and I come across a comment like this that just rankles me.
Because I can assure you that John has, in fact, watched the videos. And he has, in fact, played the games. All the games. John’s as hardcore a gamer as they come. He’s also a game developer, and a damned good one, and I’m quite confident he’ll be around in the industry for many years to come…so he’s hardly talking out of his ass when he says these things.
I’ve seen the @femfreq videos as well, and I’ve commented on them previously. When I did so, I got a deluge of exactly this type of response: “But she’s cherry-picking her evidence!” “Her views are biased!” “Everything about those videos is garbage, and she needs to be stopped!”
Okay. Let’s pretend for a moment that, for those of you who feel this way, you’re absolutely right. My question is this:
Why the fuck do you even care?
Is there such a profound shortage of shitty opinions on YouTube or elsewhere on the Internet that the appearance of this one constitutes a crime in the making? Have you asked yourself why it’s this particular opinion that drives you up the goddamned wall? What do you tell yourself, if and when you stop for that moment of introspection?
I was recently talking to a colleague who suggested a notion that’s stuck with me. It’s the idea that many of these people don’t think of feminism as a thing. Or, if it is a thing, it certainly has no bearing on them or on the game industry. It’s not real. A made-up problem.
Since it’s not a real issue, so is the idea of women being subject to any kind of systemic abuse or oppression. “Hey, I’m a gamer—I’ve been ridiculed and marginalized as well. Why does nobody care about my problems? Everyone has issues, so why do I suddenly have to be the bad guy? You guys are oppressing me!”
In the light of that kind of opinion, a woman talking about feminism or a queer person talking about sexuality isn’t them speaking from a place of disadvantage— they are, in fact, using an unfair advantage, one that not everyone has, to influence the game industry.
And, OH GOD, the industry is listening. 0.5% of game site articles are actually talking about this shit. It’s everywhere! Game developers are swallowing this stuff up. Not because it’s true, of course, but because that unfair advantage makes them feel guilty, and they’ll act on it to score points because Political Correctness! If we don’t stem the tide now, every game will soon become something between an After School Special and a United Benneton ad! I’ll have this shoved down my throat in every. single. game!
Yes. This is exactly the sort of thing that get’s said to me, such as on Twitter. Constantly.
Look, you don’t want to be lumped in with the bad guys? Then don’t be a bad guy. Don’t be the dick who makes everything about you.
And don’t, for the love of God, act like nobody in the game industry is capable of a single discerning thought…that unless someone comes along and stomps that shit down right now, we’ll all just mindlessly nod our heads and follow along.
As John said, the industry needs to be able to listen to critique—yes, of any kind, from all parts of its audience—and form our own opinions regarding what can or can’t be done about it. We’re grown ups. I think we can take it. I think we can and should look on the stuff we’ve done and will do, and if not change everything, at least stop and consider for a moment what kind of effect our games have on our audience—intentional or not.
That is the purpose of critique. To make you think. That’s it.