As I mentioned in the round-up about the Hitman trailer, there are a whole lot of things wrong with this blog post by Tycho Brahe at Penny Arcade, but the thing I want to focus on for this post is the argument that people should be making their own art instead of doing criticism. It’s something that has come up a lot in the past, whenever someone criticizes a game for whatever reason, but especially when the criticism has to do with oppression.
The first issue is the obvious: yes, almost anyone can make a game. There are a lot of tools and resources out there so that basically anyone with access to a computer can make a simple game, given enough time. But the idea that a game made by one or a few people on no budget will have anywhere near the influence of a AAA game with millions of dollars behind it on marketing alone is simply ridiculous.
The suggestion also ignores the fact that there are people in the game industry, who work on games big and small, who are also critical of our sexist culture in general and the way it manifests in video game subculture in particular. Some of our own writers here at The Border House also make games, and people in the industry participate in and engage with the critical conversation all the time (for example, in the comments on this terrible Kill Screen article (trigger warning)). When people are both making games and engaging in criticism, telling them to go make their own stuff is really just telling them to shut up.
The “if you don’t like it, make your own!” argument is nothing more than a silencing tactic.
What makes the Penny Arcade post especially head-desk-inducing is that Tycho links Anna Anthropy’s excellent book as part of his argument. The book encourages people to make games, yes, but it absolutely does not tell people to shut up and not criticize problematic aspects of video game culture.
The thing about changing culture, about combating the sexism and other bigotries within it, is that there is no one approach that is most effective or that should be used to the exclusion of all others. We need to use all approaches and tackle all angles in order to change the culture. This is why I don’t argue with people any more about tactics. If someone tries to tell me that I should be, for example, making games instead of writing blog posts (as if I’m not also making games!), that tells me that I should ignore them, because they have no idea how effective writing about sexism actually is. An article brings attention to an issue and can make many people more aware. A lot of articles over time will reach that many more people, the knowledge will sink in, and the culture will slowly change. I have personally seen change happen over the course of my four-plus years writing about games. There are more people than ever drawing attention to sexism, rape culture, and other problems in video games and video game culture. There are also many people in the game industry being the change they want to see, whether it’s by influencing game development to be less bigoted and more diverse, or by changing the perception of what the industry is like and who it’s for with their very presence.
We need both of these approaches because they’re working. Anyone who tells you otherwise either doesn’t know what they’re talking about or doesn’t actually want change to happen.