As part of an ongoing discussion on Twitter and on The Border House with Mattie Brice about Kotaku‘s openness towards minority sexualities (or perhaps just minority issues in general), I asked her to write a piece we could put on the site explaining why she doesn’t feel welcome around here.
I definitely don’t agree with a lot of the presumptions she has about our editorial perspective but that’s why we’re having the discussion in the first place, isn’t it?
Tamagotchi. Remember those?
They became popular when I was in fourth grade. Sometimes my mother took me to a nearby Target to pick a toy — she told me it was for good grades, but I knew it was because I got bullied often at school. One of these times, I raced to find a Tamagotchi, as all of my friends were getting them. I liked the idea of something with me at all times, to take care of it and make me feel like something needed me.
And there it was, a whole wall of glittering purple eggs. I remember that exact, uncreative display panel to this day, and my mother stopping me. She told me to wait, that my aunt wanted to get that for my birthday when she visited. I protested, but the answer was the same: be patient, you’ll get it soon enough. We went a week later and all of them were gone, sold out from every toy store in our area. For some reason that memory is lodged in my brain. I brought it up to my mother recently, but she’s forgotten.
The stray times I visit Kotaku, it’s like I’m seeing an empty panel that the reward for my sitting, smiling, and internalising should be. I was supposed to find somewhere to escape to, maybe even a place that needed me a little. You told me to wait, and I did. Where’s my Tamagotchi?
There is only a wrong way to go about this. So let’s just get to why I’m here:
I’m part of the gaming community, but Kotaku doesn’t see me as a gamer. No, instead I’m a multi-racial transgender who-knows-sexual possibly-feminist woman gamer. A boogie monster. Someone who uses too many –isms and –ists in their daily tweets to actually enjoy anything. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone ask what it’s like to be me in this pocket of society.
You know that invisible ink in detective movies? If you could get an internet lighter, you’d find “This site is for heterosexual white American men gamers.” Kotaku will never include me until it’s figured out that “gamers” is skewed to one identity and asks me to deal with that. No. Me too.
Gamer culture isn’t Kotaku‘s fault. That skewing Japan as a land of weirdoes is humorous. That gamers like to look at galleries made up of T&A shots of women in cosplay. So what if someone like me doesn’t fit in with typical gamers? The editors are just providing what gamers want, how is that a bad thing? Are you using that lighter?
When I wasn’t bullied as a child, I was creating games. My favourite thing to do was to give my friends superpowers based on their personalities. When we played, they were empowered to be themselves. It was always fun because each one of us mattered. I mattered. Ever since, I knew I wanted to be involved with games, maybe even make them. I contemplate what I would say to kid-me now that I figured out what a gamer is. What kind of treatment I would receive if I ever got into the industry. Would it be more humane to convince my past self I didn’t actually matter?
I’ve turned away from Kotaku because it doesn’t like my answers. There’s a reason I can’t find you bountiful resources of sexually liberated cosplayers not posing for straight guys. [I had asked Mattie to help me find some sources of cosplay images more in line with what she would like to see on the site. — Joel] Why there’s a scant amount of criticism of manchild culture. How the LGBT community is still the elephant in the room. We haven’t thought of what a gamer community that assumes diversity instead of homophobic adolescent dudes looks like. There are plenty of stats of who the “average” gamer is, what the actual demographics are. However, the image in our mind hasn’t changed in decades.
There’s a taboo against saying that. Me too. It’s radical liberal talk, an attempt to kill everyone’s fun. The common denominator response is “Why won’t you just go somewhere else?” I usually do. This attitude polarises the community between large, mean-spirited marches of “the old guard” and a few impenetrable bastions of rigid but progressive niche philosophies. I’ve run to places like The Border House because “me too” isn’t deliberated upon, it’s the law. I turn away because Kotaku doesn’t ask me “Why are you leaving?”
I’ve stared at those two words and deleted them often enough that I forget what they mean. I can’t say those words here without preparing myself for the sling-fest, and some days I just can’t summon the strength. This is after I go through my life dealing with crap society presents me just because I exist. And you know what sucks? That many times, my words are shrugged off, or given the fatal “I’ll think about it.” That isn’t inclusivity. Being benign doesn’t help. Letting commenters spew toxic isn’t inviting. Looking to defend yourselves doesn’t solve anything when it’s so obvious there’s a problem. I’m not looking to shame you, I just want to set things right.
Must I be a martyr? Must you be a machine? Are our only choices to become symbols and lose our humanity? Do you understand what you’re asking of me when you tell me to be patient? Do you know how long I’ve been waiting?
The games I play now won’t let me be myself. No game dares to feature a transgender character that isn’t on the wrong end of a joke. Sometimes I pretend that my party members know, but are too scared to ask. God, I don’t even know if most actual people know what it means to be transgender. Or multi-racial. Or anything other than what they are. I don’t know if they know it’s OK to ask. Then maybe we could figure out what a gamer really is. Halfway isn’t enough, but I will accompany you on the journey.
I wish Kotaku would tell me “We don’t want you to go away.” You’ll have to scroll down a bit to see if that comes true.
Mattie Brice writes about diversity and narrative topics in video games. Along with her article work she hosts a podcast at The Border House and reviews games for Game Critics and the Moving Pixels column at Pop Matters. Sporadically blogs at Alternate Reality.