There is a great article today over on one of my favorite non-gaming blogs, This Ain’t Livin, about whether or not pop culture has social responsibility. While the post itself isn’t about gaming, there are definitely some intriguing thoughts within that validate what we’re doing here.
One of the more common negative responses to what The Border House is all about is that we’re overreacting, that we’re deeply analyzing video games which are supposed to simply be whimsical entertainment. That we’re “too sensitive”, that we’re wasting time doing critical analysis on games. That video games don’t have an obligation to be socially responsible because they’re just art, or just entertainment. Meloukhia responds to this with:
The ‘no obligation to be socially responsible’ argument is extremely boring and tired, and it’s usually utilized when people don’t actually want to engage with the content and substance of the discussion at all. They can avoid any responsibility as viewers and fans to consider the critique, simply by declaring the entire critique invalid and not of interest. It’s one of the tell-tale signs I look for in responses to criticisms, because of the embedded ideas presented in it.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve linked on Twitter a wonderfully written article from one of our authors only to hear back that we’re wasting our time because the developers won’t read our content anyway. That we could be spending our time being real activists instead of just writing. That we’re taking games too seriously. That there are “bigger fish to fry”. That The Border House is too negative about games, and we should talk more about games we like.
The other thing that people seem to miss when they’re busy dismissing criticisms of their favourite pop culture is that most critics engage with work because they are care about it, possibly think it is interesting, and may even really enjoy it. There are, of course, a few exceptions—I am quite open about hatewatching Glee for example. But those cases are pretty rare. It’s easy to take pot shots at pop culture you don’t like. It’s harder to delve into works you really love to probe them and ask whether they are working not just as works of art, but also as works of messaging. It is one of the greatest acts of fanlove, to challenge the work you adore.
Every one of the authors here is a part of The Border House because we love games. It’s our deep passion for games that makes us want to be critical of them. When we write about racial issues in Dragon Age, people state that we should be throwing BioWare a bone because they’re the most progressive mainstream game developer. The problem is, we talk about Dragon Age and Mass Effect because we love those games so much. We recognize that they did plenty right, and we also are capable of still critically analyzing them. Meloukhia uses the example of Joss Whedon fans getting upset when feminists critique his work, because he does make so many strong female characters. That doesn’t excuse him from critique, instead it makes feminists focus even more on his work. The same goes for BioWare who are more inclusive than other developers but still struggle in some areas when it comes to representation of women and race.