Thursday, November 21, 2013

Anita Sarkeesian (spelling?), jordanowen, and The Concept of "Enjoyment"

OK, so I was just reminded of Anita's "Tropes vs Women in Video Games" and jordanowen's responses to it: specifically his response to the most recent additon, "Ms. Male Character".  Normally, I am with jordanowen in saying that Anita has effectively failed to prove her point, however, in this case I am on Anita's side.  This, however, is not quite what this post is about:

In this most recent installment, jordanowen took exception to Anita's statement to the effect that, even knowing that the games you enjoy have sexist content, you could still enjoy them.  Specifically, jordanowen opined that this was her attempting to guilt trip her viewers.  I disagree.

Once again, I must stress that I usually agree, to some degree, with his analysis of Anita's videos.  In fact, I plan on, once her series is actually complete, to post my own critique here, as I doubt I could make a video (or series of videos) that could do either her work or my analysis of it justice. However, I must say that, disregarding whether or not I agree with his analysis of the trope in question, I throroughly disagree with his opinion that one cannot "enjoy" something that has something you consider negaitve without feeling guilty.

Put simply, one must take the work as a whole, and not just a few isolated tropes within it, in order to truly form an opinion on it.  To do otherwise would be akin to judging Romance of the Three Kingdoms poorly simply because it comes from China, rather than because of its length and oft-labyrinthian plot, or trashing Atlas Shrugged simply because the philosophy Ayn Rand espouses through it, rather than the bad writing involving (but not limited to) a 50-page monologue and unsympathetic characters.

The tropes used in a work of fiction - be it a book, play, movie, or game - are only part of a varied, complex whole.  Wheter or not one enjoys such a work cannot, if one is to be truly involved in the medium, be dependent on one or two parts:  the work must be judged as a whole.  This is not to say that some pieces of the puzzle are not more important - if the controls for a game are bad, for example, it tends to prevent the player from seeing the rest of the story; however, it is not necessarily an impassible barrier.  The story may be quite enjoyable, the music may be sublime, and other factors may be present that makes the game, on the whole, a pleasant experience.

In the case of the negative tropes Anita's videos (attempt to, in some cases) address, they too are part of the whole.  To stick with the "Ms. Male Character" trope, the new Scribblenauts game does indeed have a bland, BARELY two-dimensional female clone of the main male character (and Anita does a good job of expanding on why it's a problem in this particular game), yet otherwise the game is, as far as I am aware, devoid of anything else that would hinder her (or any other feminists, for that matter) from enjoying the game:  the controls are supposedly well done, the story is engaging, the music upbeat, the (other) characters engaging, etc.  Aside from this one thing, Anita (presumably) and others have found this game to be enjoyable.  Who is jordanowen to say to her "You can't enjoy this game! It has this one element you don't like!"

Whether or not Anita's work for this is accurate, and whether or not jordanowen's other critiques of her work are accurate, this critique is most certainly NOT accurate.  Video game, like all fiction, are not monolithic entities; there are multiple parts that compose it.  Simply disliking one part of the work does not necessarily mean that we must therefore dislike the work as a whole:  to do so not only limits our options for our own amusement, but also our own experience of life itself.

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Honestly, I want you guys to comment at this point. I don't know fucking everything.