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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Videogames, Inclusivity, and PAX

Posted by Alison Hallett on Thu, Sep 5, 2013 at 12:14 PM

Last week, I purchased the first videogame of my adult life—Gone Home, a computer game produced by local studio The Fullbright Company. And the reason I purchased it was because I saw myself in the game: It's set in a suburb of Portland in the '90s, like where I grew up; it's about a teenaged girl who loves Heavens to Betsy and Bratmobile, like I did. The fact that the game shares my cultural reference points, that is deliberately inclusive, worked on me. I bought a game!

I've long felt, in a vague and not particularly motivated way, felt that I should pay more attention to videogames. I like stories, and storytelling, but if you hand me an Xbox controller I usually just walk my character directly into a wall, get frustrated, and refuse to play anymore. More crucially, somewhere along the line, I absorbed the notion that gaming isn't really for me—that it is for dudes who like guns and boobs and punching. Intellectually I know that there are plenty of women who play and design games, who have a stake in the health of the industry, and that there are games of all sorts that are varied and engaging and smart. Practically, I tolerate the fact that every boyfriend I've ever had is super into videogames, without ever trying to play myself, and without ever thinking too deeply about the reasons why I don't.

On Wired today, Portland writer Rachel Edidin wrote a piece called "Why I'm Never Going Back to Penny Arcade Expo," about her frustration with the sexism, transphobia, and general nerd-bro cluelessness of Mike Krahulik, co-founder of the PAX gaming expo and artist for the popular web comic Penny Arcade. It's a good post. It's a thoughtful post. And in calling out the very attitudes that I, fairly and unfairly, associate with the gaming world, it's the sort of post that makes me think—like reading the description of Gone Home did—okay, there might be room for me here. If i can figure how how to work a goddamn Xbox controller.

(It's worth noting that the Fullbright Company declined to attend PAX this year, citing similar concerns. We've got an article on the Portland company in the pipes—stay tuned.)

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