The Problem With Kickstarter Documentaries

When things are like they’re supposed to be you never hear about them.

GTFO: A Film About Women In Gaming has raised $23,381 from 853 backers on Kickstarter. The film is a documentary that will shine light on sexism in games. It will be out March of 2014 and will feature interviews with various people in the gaming community from developers to gamers as well as “experts.”

With the Tropes vs. Women Kickstarter being a huge success, it is safe to say we’ll see plenty of documentaries about the social injustices in the gaming community. And that’s a good thing.

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Last week the gaming community threw a fit when Katie Couric’s documentary about violence and video games hit the air. It was one sided and the only interview footage and stories told supported her agenda, video games make people violent and lazy. One story was about a gamer who shot his father and killed his mother after they took away his copy of Halo 3. The second story was about an NFL draft pick who gave up his career after becoming depressed and would only play video games.

The (justifiable) outrage from gamers is that there’s no mention of the millions of other gamers who live life by society’s standards. People who play video games and don’t kill people or won’t give up high paying jobs to stay home and play games weren’t mentioned. The general consensus was this wasn’t a news piece but propaganda where the only intention was to tell a specific narrative.

The absence of balance in a story presents a very specific visual for people who aren’t a part of the subject. If you’re watching a documentary where the point is “fast food is bad” it’s okay because as a human being you know other options exist like fruits or vegetables  You have knowledge of the subject before you go in and can make your own comparisons based on your knowledge of food in general.

The problem with the Couric  story is the majority of people watching don’t know much, if anything about video games, so they’ll draw the assumption that video games make people violent and give up their goals. They’d have no reason to think otherwise. That’s the story being told by a respected journalist on broadcast television done by a professional news crew. Seems legit.

This is going to be an issue with these Kickstarter/Internet documentaries as they pop up. They’re going to do what they’re supposed to do and that’s raise issues that are in the gaming community.  Sexism and discrimination is a part of gaming, there’s no denying that, but the people presenting this information aren’t always the most qualified to speak on behalf of an entire community. The way Katie Couric’s piece didn’t go into the fact that the two subjects of her story were diagnosed with depression, these videos may not provide an accurate depiction of the  problems shown and that’s harmful to our hobby.

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In Anita Sarkeesian’s ‘Tropes vs. Women’ video, she makes a lot of great points and illustrates her agenda with video evidence. Some gamers took issue with the video saying she ignored anything that didn’t support her video’s claim, that women are typically used as plot devices. It is true in some cases, but not true in every case. Gamers know that and can watch it in context but if you don’t play games and watched that video, what would you think of the gaming medium?

If you pick up a copy of the New York Times, and see an article about the Wii U or upcoming PS4, you’ll see the writer tries to give all of the information required for a reader to understand the piece. An article won’t focus on the next gen Xbox without mentioning the 360 because not everyone reading will know what we know about consoles. This is the difference between journalism and opinions. There’s nothing wrong with having an opinion, but when it’s presented as fact or unbiased news it can be harmful. This is where gaming journalism can hurt gaming.

With the Internet, it is so easy to be considered an expert. A wordpress blog and a banner can turn you into a news site and Adobe premier and a DSLR can make you a film maker. So when we’re making documentaries on sexism in video games or racism in video games we’re instantly experts to anyone not in the gaming community, because how would they know?

The news media and lawmakers want to make video games  a scapegoat. I’m seeing more documentaries being funded about how terrible some gamers are than documentaries that showcase the average gamer. I’m not seeing many documentaries on the commentators who stream for days at a time raising money for cancer research or some of the eSports competitions where people have bonded and have been able to earn a living. They’re out there, but they don’t make big news like the ones pointing fingers at the community from within.

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The gaming community isn’t perfect, but the problem is without the balance of approach, people outside of the community will see video games as what the most vocal gamers are shouting. Gamers are immature, sexist and discriminatory. With mass shootings by people who play video games happening going on CNN talking about the death threats you get on YouTube is going to create a dialogue. Don’t get me wrong, it should create a dialogue because threatening people is unacceptable, but that’s the only thing non-gamers, law makers and the media will know. Gamers are now providing the evidence that lawmakers and mainstream journalists will site to prove their points. Maybe that point is games should be banned, or regulated further. Whatever it is, we’ll be the ones to help them make it. If we open a dialogue let’s provide the context, because if we don’t the media will.

The world will only know what we tell them, and it’s great to see all types of people speaking out and informing the world of how they see the video game community. I’m just saying let’s just make sure it’s not one message being shouted.

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Categories: #Opinion

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