Video Games Are Reflecting Our Bleak World View
As I recall in my youth, a girl from my neighborhood and I used to play The ‘Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past’ on the SNES, and she was more preoccupied on how to push the door underneath the castle than taking any flak about sexism in the Zelda series. Or any series for that matter. However, there is no denying that games have certainly changed a lot since the 1990’s.
Grand Theft Auto 5 is a great example. Never before in popular gaming (I used to game up to my early 20’s) has a young man played as such a realistic anti-social character. The themes in the game are violence, being cheated on by friends and family, and being in pursuit of the almighty dollar at the expense of all morality. Basically you play a degenerate male anti-hero who gets to take his hate out on everybody by running through the city and killing civilians, stealing cars, and causing total anarchy (the bad kind).
‘Zelda’ on the other hand was the total opposite. You play a true hero in every sense of the word. Everybody in the whole world loves the boomerang tossing, sword spinning, and horseback riding character of Link. Other games from our childhood were about benevolence and saving the world. Totally different themes from the ‘Call Of Duty’, ‘Halo’, ‘Resident Evil’, or ‘Grand Theft Auto’ of today. Even the “badass” games like ‘Contra’ didn’t have the graphical realism to portray true violence.
Everywhere you look now, from ‘The Walking Dead’, to ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Breaking Bad’, all popular media nowadays is catering to an essentially bleak look at society. I’m not saying it doesn’t represent truth… or partial truth… but it is a fundamentally different experience from when we were kids.
Of course it is attractive to young men. The modern young male is frustrated, isolated, underemployed, and confused. He gets to live out a bit of that frustration with these violent characters.
And then they discover the online community, which is also made of men just like him. Of course they’re going to start cussing each other out, forming groups, and competing. That is what men do. This is the only place in their lives they’re allowed to test each other without being punished and ostracized.
A small but highly vocal number of women in this “Gamergate” era want into this space all the sudden. But it’s still a fundamentally male space. They can’t take the heat. And they can’t handle the truth of the matter either. Which is that these really are the passions and behaviors of men when they want to let off some steam.
This is the space where women are all of the sudden are discovering the feelings and attitudes of young men. A highly populous demographic which has nothing to lose in a socio-economic landscape in seemingly terminal decline.