There's no sexism in gaming

Why don’t you just enjoy the fantasy? Games are a special medium, completely separate from our wider culture and any attempt to put them in context is just insulting.

I am tired of all this "sexism in gaming" crap that has come up recently. Reasonable people know that fantasy has nothing to do with reality: believing otherwise infantilises us and treats us as if we cannot distinguish one from the other. People who are outraged about this latest ‘gaming drama’ need a severe reality check: those masculists simply seek out reasons to get upset all the time. The "disembodied bloody crotch in Speedos" outrage went too far, for a start.

A resin model of someone’s disembodied crotch isn’t hurting anyone. It’s simply something to put on one’s mantelpiece and enjoy. People sometimes ask me about mine when I am hosting dinner: and I say, ‘Oh yes, haha. I’m a gamer,’ and that’s the end of the conversation. One of my male friends left dinner early once because of it; his girlfriend apologised for him and said that he’d once been sexually assaulted and that he was just really sensitive about this sort of thing. We both shook our heads about it. “I’m so glad we have freedom of speech,” she said to me, ‘the Nazis wouldn’t have allowed this to be made. He’ll get over it - he’s just really emotional about that stuff."

The males who say they they are not represented by our videogame heroines are merely ignoring the fact that women have all the disposable income. Despite this, they whine and whine about how they would like to see Alex Vance actually do something in his scenes in the game, instead of fawn and flirt with our heroine Freewoman. Can’t they just enjoy the fantasy? It’s no reflection on real life: no women really shoot alien headcrabs in laboratory settings, and neither do males occupy secondary positions in most parts of our society and sit around to gratify our need to become pregnant. That would be absurd. Fantasy is not reality: we go to our games to get away from reality. Why don’t you just enjoy the fantasy? Games are a special medium, completely separate from our wider culture and any attempt to put them in context is just insulting.

Furthermore, reasonable people would see that asking to put male soldiers in the Call of Duty series is simply not do-able. Since the age of the Amazon, women have waged wars, because they have a higher pain threshold than males and have more stamina in every area of war. Who would take a male Battlefield seriously? Including men would simply cloud the matter; when crawling through tunnels, as is often necessary in war, our eyes would fall on the male backside - from then on women would be irreparably compromised.

 

I mean, who would take this guy seriously a soldier?

 

To anyone getting their boxers in a bunch over this, I say: buy the games with the male protagonists. There are at least four of them. They are attractive, virile boy characters with a lot going for them. Show us you mean business by buying those titles. Lawrence Croft is still an icon: that bulging crotch and tight ass, the washboard abs - what more could you want to identify with? He’s everything you aspire to. And those of you who complain we didn’t put any clothes on him - he became an icon because of that lack of clothes! And Lawrence Croft has trousers now, think about that. Women’s interest in a sexy, provocative young male is what gave Lawrence Croft his iconic status. Stop asking for special treatment by the games industry, we are making the best games in whatever way we see fit.

Anyway, you guys wouldn't even have videogames without women. Remember that. With Ada Lovelace at our head, we invented the technology that makes them possible. The majority of the games industry is populated by hardworking, talented women who have been producing the best interactive experiences for 20 years. Why shouldn’t we make videogames where we can look at sinewy, naked males who moan sexually when we toy with them? Why don’t you start your own games industry where you can make your male-led games about football and the colour blue? Perhaps then we will stop making jokes about how you can get back in the kitchen and take the bins out.

It's only men who can't get laid that complain about all this, let's face it. My boyfriend enjoys when I play games where the male character is sexy and capable. Do yourself a favour: stop being so uptight and humourless. Games are a special medium, don’t spoil them by trying to change the way they are made. Separate them from your masculist politics and sit back down on the couch. This ‘sexism’ in technology doesn’t exist.

Cara Ellison is a writer for Rock Paper Shotgun and other sites. She tweets: @carachan1

Lawrence Croft, as imagined by ulysses0302 on deviantart.
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The world has entered a new Cold War – what went wrong?

Peter Conradi’s Who Lost Russia? How the World Entered a New Cold War traces the accumulation of distrust between the West and Russia.

In March 1992 an alarmist “secret” memo written by Richard Nixon found its way on to the front page of the New York Times. “The hot-button issue of the 1950s was, ‘Who lost China?’ If Yeltsin goes down, the question ‘Who lost Russia?’ will be an infinitely more devastating issue in the 1990s,” the former US president wrote.

Nixon’s point was well made. At that time, Boris Yeltsin, who had acted as the wrecking ball of the Soviet Union, was desperately struggling to hold the splintering new Russian Federation together. An empire, a political system, an ideology and a planned economy had all been shattered in a matter of weeks. Western diplomats in Moscow feared that millions of starving people might flood out of the former Soviet Union and that the country’s vast nuclear arsenal might be left unguarded. Yet the West seemed incapable of rising to the scale of the historic challenge, providing only meagre – and often misguided – support to Yeltsin. Between 1993 and 1999, US aid to Russia amounted to no more than $2.50 per person. The Marshall Plan II it was not.

Even so, and rather remarkably, Russia was not “lost” during the 1990s. Yeltsin succeeded in stumbling through the decade, creating at least some semblance of a democracy and a market economy. Truly it was a case of “Armageddon averted”, as the historian Stephen Kotkin put it.

It seems hard to remember now, but for many Russians 1991 was a moment of liberation for them as much as it was for those in the Soviet Union’s other 14 republics. The Westernising strand of Russian thought briefly flourished. “Democratic Russia should and will be just as natural an ally of the democratic nations of the West as the totalitarian Soviet Union was a natural opponent of the West,” the country’s first foreign minister, Andrei Kozyrev, proclaimed.

When Vladimir Putin emerged on the political scene in Moscow in 1999 he, too, made much of his Westernising outlook. When my editor and I went to interview him as prime minister, there was a portrait of Tsar Peter the Great, who had founded Putin’s home city of St Petersburg as Russia’s window on the West, hanging proudly on his office wall. President Putin, as he soon became, was strongly supportive of Washington following al-Qaeda’s attacks on the United States in 2001. “In the name of Russia, I want to say to the American people – we are with you,” he declared. Russian generals instructed their US counterparts in the lessons they had learned from their doomed intervention in Afghanistan.

Yet the sediment of distrust between the West and Russia accumulated steadily. The expansion of Nato to former countries of the Warsaw Pact, the bombing of Serbia, the invasion of Iraq and the West’s support for the “colour” revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine had all antagonised Moscow. But Putin’s increasing authoritarianism, hyperactive espionage and propaganda activities abroad drove the West away, as did his interventionism in Georgia and Ukraine.

Given the arc of Russian history, it was not surprising that the pendulum swung back so decisively towards the country’s Slavophiles. As a veteran foreign reporter for the Sunday Times and former Moscow correspondent, Peter Conradi is a cool-headed and even-handed guide to the past 25 years of Western-Russian relations. So much of what is written about Russia today is warped by polemics, displaying either an absurd naivety about the nature of Putin’s regime or a near-phobic hostility towards the country. It is refreshing to read so well-written and dispassionate an account – even if Conradi breaks little new ground.

The book concludes with the election of Donald Trump and the possibility of a new rapprochement between Washington and Moscow. Trump and Putin are indulging in a bizarre, if not grotesque, bromance. But as both men adhere to a zero-sum view of the world, it seems unlikely that their flirtation will lead to consummation.

For his part, Conradi does not hold out much hope for a fundamental realignment in Russia’s outlook. “Looking back another 25 years from now, it will doubtless be the Westward-looking Russia of the Yeltsin years that is seen as the aberration and the assertive, self-assured Putin era that is the norm,” he writes.

But the author gives the final word to the US diplomat George Kennan, a perpetual source of wisdom on all things Russian. “Of one thing we may be sure: no great and enduring change in the spirit and practice of Russia will ever come about primarily through foreign inspiration or advice,” Kennan wrote in 1951. “To be genuine, to be enduring, and to be worth the hopeful welcome of other peoples such a change would have to flow from the initiatives and efforts of the Russians themselves.”

Perhaps it is fanciful to believe that Russia has ever been “lost” to the West, because it has never been fully “won”.

John Thornhill is a former Moscow bureau chief for the Financial Times

Peter Conradi appears at the Cambridge Literary Festival, in association with the NS, on 23 April. cambridgeliteraryfestival.com

Who Lost Russia? How the World Entered a New Cold War by Peter Conradi is published by One World (384pp, £18.99​)

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times