Gamers Have a Right to Not Be Offended
Recently in the Mists of Pandaria Beta, there was an NPC which sparked some outrage amongst some players. Ji Firepaw made some allegedly sexist remarks. But its not just with World of Warcraft there are other games where there have been remarks of a certain nature which has sparked folks to cry out and say, things aren’t equal, things are against women, against gay people, against a certain race. I remember when Bioware allowed same sex relationships in Mass Effect, people flipped out. Now I agree that some situations the creative artists behind gaming content (not necessarily the ones I listed above) have taken a situation a bit far. However are some of these other areas just being taken too far and are people just being hypersensitive?
Ji Firepaw’s questionable dialogue went something like this, “Hello, friend! You’re some kind of gorgeous, aren’t you? I bet you can’t keep the men off of you! Join me! You and I are going to be good friends!” To men, he instead says “Hello, friend! You’ve got a strong look to you! I bet you’re all the rage with the ladies! Join me! You and I are going to be good friends!” Now what if Ji was a female NPC? Does that change the context of the statement? What if to men, Ji said “You’ve got a handsome look to you” instead of what he did say? Would that have quieted some of the outrage?
There is even an article on Kotaku regarding homophobic sentiments in Battlefield 3. Using terms like “Getting my Sh*t pushed in” and “Getting f*cked in the ass”. Is this really the signs of an anti-gay video game company or developer? What if the characters in Battlefield 3 were women and saying this, would that make it less offensive or less homophobic? Or are people simply looking to make controversy out of something?
Bioware has allowed same sex relationships and even sex in their Mass Effect franchise. Of course there was some outrage over the lesbian love scenes that could happen in Mass Effect 1 and 2, now with Mass Effect 3 there can be a man on man encounter, and once again the immaturity of some members of the gaming community have shined a spotlight not only on this “feature” but also the lack of progressive thinking of some gamers as written by Forbes.
The thing is many video games are telling a story. In books, comics, movies and TV you will find characters who do not portray the utopian society of everyone treats everyone with 100% perfect respect and you don’t see the same outrage about people getting offended. More people seem OK with this type of sexist, racist or homophobic character in a book or movie, but why not in a video game? Game of Thrones, arguably one of the most popular television series and series of books is filled with characters who belittle women, show man on man and woman on woman sex. Yet the show is touted as fantastic. Sure excellent writing and acting help develop the characters and allow the viewers to view characters as creeps, jerks or even heroes. The TV show House, depicts a doctor who is a complete asshole, he hires hookers and talks down to women a lot, and its award winning and you don’t hear the outcry.
Why is it all of a sudden we cross into video games that we can no longer have NPCs (non player characters) with different personalities towards certain types of other characters. Hell put in a man hating female character, put gay characters into the games. Why not, its the world we live in, sure some folks don’t want reality in their games, but not everyone is offended by these things. As a gamer, I have the right to not be offended by things, just as others have the right to be offended. I want to see character development, I want different personalities in my games. I want to dive into the history of a character and determine if they are a creep or misunderstood.
So is the outrage poor execution in video games from a writing and development standpoint that causes more outrage than other forms of media? Honestly I am not sure, but I just have seen from personal observation people flipping out over these topics in video games more than other forms of media, and I can’t help but think are they sometimes making mountains out of mole hills.
Ultimately as the consumer you have the choice to buy that book, movie or comic, just as you have the same right to participate in a game. I feel that the spirit of the type of character that Blizzard was developing with Ji had some good building blocks, but was executed poorly, he could have been an ally you just loved to hate because he was an asshole. But instead of playing with the dialogue for both male and female characters, they completely stripped out the dialogue with what seems like boiler plate discussion now.
I am concerned about the future of games where even the most minor of infraction towards a person’s color, sexual orientation or race could spark outrage from some members of the community, without them looking at what type of character the writers are trying to create and develop. I personally don’t want all the same personalities, I want a deep rich world with different types of NPCs that I interact with. However I fear with some people being outraged by anything, many video game creators may not even get the chance to build those characters like many creators of TV, Movies and books get to do today. In fact they may not even want to deal with the hassle.
I am sure many of you won’t agree with me, but its how I feel. Some of you may think oh he is desensitized or I am some chauvinist pig. But the truth is I am EXTREMELY tolerant of a lot of things, and I want to see good story telling, I want different types of characters, I want different personalities. I want my video games to feel like an immersive experience. I want something different, I want characters I hate, I want others I love. As long as things aren’t taken to a level that is truly wrong but in the spirit of good storytelling I say let the creators be creative. When a company itself comes out against a certain group publicly, sure get offended boycott their products.
However as a gamer, I have my right to not be offended, and those that do get offended I hope can recognize that not everyone needs to be offended.