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Feminism or Falsification?

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  • In light of the recent compulsive insensitivity of Gearbox Lead Designer John Hemmingway (wow that's a lot of capitols) in which he described the upcoming Borderlands 2's easy mode "Best Friends Forever" skill tree as a "girlfriend mode," both the broad media and individual gamers have risen up in shock, frustration, protest and even cynical finger pointing.  Our own esteemed member ace13 is amoung the vocal crowd striking Hemmingway down for his insensitivity and implied sexism with her latest blog.  And while Hemmingway's comment is undoubtedly wrong in today's ideals of equality, it has also seen abuse by our 'professional' media outlets.  Numerous 'news' sites have taken Hemmingway's term and begun to ostracise Borderlands 2 as a whole because of it, taking it as an official description of the skill tree by Gearbox and condemning them for it.  Even well written articles emblazon their headlines with the "Girlfriend Mode" moniker, making it appear official.

    Hemmingway's original statement read: "I want to make, for lack of a better term, the girlfriend skill tree," before reaffirming the real name of the skill tree.  Original reporter Eurogamer never even updated the story with input from Hemmingway to clarify his statement.  Should these media outlets be able to use their position to peddle inflated reports that critisise a game and its developer based on the personal description of one individual, even when that individual clearly expresses that it is merely his heavy-handed description?  Escpecially as Gearbox is aiming to represent its female characters with wit, charm, strength and independence.  It matters not whether you can forgive Hemmingway for uttering a relic from an insensitive age, or condemn him for stealthily mocking today's pursuit of equality, my question is of the rights the media has to inject themselves into their job.  For they have the power to convince and beguile the public like a good shepherd, and is it right for them to take advantage of the recent volcano of sexism in the industry to suit their sneering headline?      


  • They're not "taking advantage" of anything, they're offering up the quote as given. It's a journalist's job to pull out the highlight of a given story and make a headline out of it. It was Hemmingway's job to pull out a highlight of the character and make a focus of it. He made a bad choice, games journalism reported on it, we've all seen what happens.

    It would be one thing if mainstream journalism was rampantly sensationalizing this. But even the original Eurogamer article just reported the line in the context it belonged in. Even if they DID make a sensationalized focus of it, I think it would be less taking advantage, far more calling attention to a ubiquitous issue in the industry that Hemmingway totally failed to take into account when he made a dumb remark and tried to backpedal from it after the ensuing rage. Even the article about Gearbox representing its female characters more positively puts out there that it's damage control for Girlfriend Mode. Even given that they may be aiming for better female characters, that doesn't erase the idiotic remark.

    Trying to hold games journalists accountable for this sort of thing ignores why it happens in the first place; people care about it and are tired of it. Journalists give readers what they want. It's not their fault that the news gamers want include an idiot's thoughtless remark, and pretending it was anything less than a big deal would be denial. Even if it wasn't, I'd rather see them try to capitalize on this than sweep it under the rug.

    Also, what's up with your sentence structure? Bit odd...

  • Now, I don't know too much about this issue so what I'm about to say might not even be a part of the thread and you'll have to excuse me if I sound like an idiot. So, you're saying that the news has the power and rights to convince the listeners or make them think one way about a subject, am I right? The editor from Eurogamer didn't update the story to clear up Hemmingway's 'mishap'. Am I right so far? On the case of the media having the right to convince their listeners to believe one way is not true, in my mind. The news is the news and it should keep personal opinions out of it unless if it's an opinionated site. Still, there is no right for the news to control how others think. Hemmingway said what he said and Eurogamer shouldn't try to make everyone think that he's an *ss for it but they shouldn't try and cover his *ss either. Should Eurogamer have made an updated story? Yes, Eurogamer should have indeed updated it (they did, didn't they?) Now, this isn't making it seem like the mishap never happened, the original story should still be out there. This way people can read both and gather and opinion, both stories show that the writers aren't single minded and doesn't show their thoughts and doesn't try to get the readers to think just one way of the matter.

  • Eurogamer definitely updated their story, and the original story didn't make a single criticism of the choice girlfriend mode. Really, it didn't do any sensationalizing unless you count putting "girlfriend mode" in the title. Which is a lot more to do with getting the whole point of the article across in the smallest space than a flashing neon "LOOK AT THIS SEXIST!" statement.

    A lot of outlets that allegedly blew it out of proportion were mostly referencing the fallout from the statement, unjudged and well within context, from the Eurogamer review.

    Also, in reference to the original post here; Is that Venture Beat story really condemning it at all? Sounds like it's praising the concept and tearing down the girlfriend mode comment. This whole ordeal irritates me when people put it into the perspective of not a big deal, or having made a mountain of a molehill. What criteria does a statement or aspect of a game need to meet to deserve controversy? Why do we need to be "fair" to sexism that's already incredibly lopsided?

  • @J Warrior:  I'd say you're pretty accurate so far! :)  Eurogamer updated with CEO Randy Pitchford's statements which really were a kind of broad, corporate apology.  'He's not sexist, Gearbox isn't sexist and he shouldn't have said that' was basically what he said.  I believe Eurogamer should have went back to Hemmingway for further comment, since many more news sources have made the mini-controversy out of it.  They did little wrong in their original story, they only quoted him and used it one more time in their own text to describe the Best Friends Forever skill tree, although it makes me wonder if the tone of that second use played a hand in the storm.  

    When I said that bit about the news being able to influence, I don't think its right either, but today so many journalists put their own opinions into news stories, of all kinds not just about games, and to frequently it creates a story that peddles a specific perspective and people absorb that.  Like you I believe the news must remain neutral, reading in between the lines but never pushing a specific opinion, so that we can interpret the facts on our own.  But professionalism in journalism isn't what it used to be, today Frank Sinatra's famous quote rings especially clear.  

    @Bradamantium:  Game journalism didn't report on it,  Eurogamer quoted him and the others made entirely opinionated statements about it.  Sites like Gamasutra that had 'Opinion' right up their in their headline have done it right, even if their choice of word is too severe and one sided for the tone of the article itself.  And Cinemablend didn't officially declare that it was damage control, again that was an opinion that actually had nothing to do with their subject, but I care little for that one.  This isn't like the sources that re-reported snippets from the CVG interview with ACIII Creative Director Alex Hutchinson, in which he makes his racist comments against Japanese devs and makes subtle stabs at game journalists everywhere.  In this case those sources printed (or is it posted?) excerpts from the interview alongside the odd description like 'peculiar,' and no more.  This is great as you can't expect everyone to catch their news from CVG.  But the ones commenting on Hemmingway's remark inserted their unwanted opinion into their official report on the essence of Eurogamer's story; the importance of Best Friends Forever.  

    I thought I made my displeasure with Hemmingway's comment very clear, and in no way am I saying is that the manner in which the argument has been handled is wrong.  And I never said Eurogamer sensationalised anything, they individually did nothing wrong.  And why must we be fair to sexism?  To ask that question is to ask why we we give a criminal a fair trail and sentence?  They contributed to something hideous as well so why don't we just execute them?  The answer is dignity, the thing that makes our human existence worth something and keeps us from becoming mindless zealots to our cause.  

  • I think my favorite article on the topic was the editorial by Ben Kuchera at Penny Arcade Report.  Not only did he make a point to say that the actual skill tree itself was a good idea that was unfortunately being overshadowed by the controversy of John Hemingway's "nickname" for it, but he also didn't shy away from calling out the nickname as an example of casual sexism.

    And it also included this stinger of a line:

    "Randy Pitchford clarified that this was an internal name and shouldn’t be taken as evidence of sexism on the part of Gearbox. He’s got a point, we have the existence of Duke Nukem Forever and press events held inside strip clubs for that..."

  • onehundreddollars.tumblr.com/.../the-day-after-columbine-i-was-interviewed-for-the

    ^ I hope this doesn't seem like I'm rambling or going off topic, but I really like Ebert's quote about the media so I'm including it here. As he says, I also think the media gets carried away and sensationalizes things to sell itself, as evidenced by the Columbine tragedy.

    However, in this incidence, I think everyone here so far has generally agreed that what Hemingway said was sexist. I don't like Jaffe's response to this controversy... but then again I don't like generalizations or stereotypes. He claims that we should talk about games respectfully while being able to say a vast amount of women aren't interested in this game, like how many men aren't interested in The Notebook.

    It's just plain lazy and hurtful to those who don't "fit" into these stereotypes. It makes me think of that poor boy out shopping for a purple game controller who was reprimanded by his father. That's awful. So there are fewer women then men playing Borderlands, according to "statistics", it doesn't rectify Hemingway's blow.

    Do I think journalists leapt at the chance for a good story when Hemingway made these comments? Yes, probably because of the existing sexism in the industry, and not just out of the goodness of their hearts. But do I hold these journalists accountable? No, Hemingway brought this upon himself, he wasn't misquoted or anything. He never clarified himself or said anything, Randy instead stepped in for him.

    @Kate Thank you for that article link! That was indeed a stinger... can't believe I missed that Gearbox made Duke Nukem, what a gem of a game...

  • "Why do we have to be "fair" to sexism that's already incredibly lopsided?" Nikolas is absolutely right, Dignity. We can't scoop out stories whenever we hear someone mess up and only keep that story up while completely ignoring any other stories that might appose your view point. There is two sides to each tale and both sides deserved to be told, whatever side you take is your own business. We need balance in society, we can't be one sided, and if you fail to report two stories about a mishap like this, then you have failed at reporting. As a reporter, you need to inform your listeners with facts, quotes and stories when you are writing about a case, such as murder, rape, drug charges etc. You must report both sides of the story in a completely unbiased way. That being said, the same should be done for something like this, the original story should indeed be up and should stay up, because Hemmingway said what he said and he can't erase that, but an apology or a 'clean-up' deserves to be put up if Hemmingway requests. Why? Gearbox, the company probably doesn't want people to think that they have sexist a**holes working on their game, and of course, dignity. You can hate the man but let him have some dignity. Now, if you believe he is sorry and that he didn't mean for it to sound the way it did, then that's your own business, but just because you are single minded on a topic, or you hate what happened and you don't want to hear another story doesn't mean that a second story shouldn't be up, or should be frowned upon. Same goes for reporters, just because you hate sexism (and I'm not saying sexism is right by any means) and want to bash anyone that makes a reference to it doesn't give you the right to not report another story and giving someone to save a little dignity or to inform viewers of updates.

  • Dignity be damned if it comes at the cost of softening the blow these sorts of lines deliver to more and more women looking to be treated as legitimate gamers.

    Journalism's responsibility is to present relevant news. Hemingway trying to take back his words and apologize is anything but relevant. It's only natural that he'd try to take back what he said, considering the backlash over his comments, and it really doesn't change the fact that he was careless enough to choose to represent his company's work that ignored women as competent gamers. There were a hundred and one things he could have called "girlfriend" mode that wouldn't inspire backlash, but he took the lazy, easy path. And instead of trying to apologize, higher-ups at Gearbox like Randy Pitchford leaped into the fray to assure us that Hemingway is definitely not sexist. I honestly don't think he is, but the focus isn't on whether or not he's a sexist; it's on the language he used trying to sell his game to the masses, which actively ignored a section of those masses.

    As far as I'm concerned, Eurogamer played it perfectly by the book. A few sites could've sat this one out, but no one really threw fuel on the fire or contorted the story. Either they reported on Eurogamer's report or on the resulting ire of the Internet. Hemingway's to blame in full here, and no publication owes him any right to "fairness" when it's pretty obvious that what he said was objectively wrong. It's not a debate about whether or not his words were sexist, or a question of right and wrong, or a simple matter of disagreement over his meaning; what he said was, out and out, sexist, and that's plain wrong.

  • It's a tough position to be in. On the one hand, if this is portrayed as a single quote out of context, or not representative of Gearbox (or the game industry) as a whole, it might just blow over as a case of "foot in mouth." On the other hand, if excessive attention is drawn to the quote to get the point across that sexism still exists in the industry, the media can be accused of sensationalism.

    The trick is to keep reporting these incidents, as they happen, with the proper level of vitriol, so society as a whole doesn't have a chance to forget what the last incident was. This year along you'd have a half-dozen comments like this one, plus the s***storm surrounding Tomb Raider, plus Tekken and DOA offering swimsuit costume incentives for pre-ordering.

    I still think the best way to push back against this crap is a steady stream of calling people out on their nonsense. Once you get the point across that it's a pattern and not a series of unrelated incidents, people might notice and start to care.

  • I agree Markus, we can't just crucify Hemingway himself. We need to keep calling people out and criticize the intent behind their action/remark and talk about it like we are doing now.

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