After detecting a pattern of similarities in my social media feed this morning, I felt compelled to sit down and write about it (I have very little time to write these days, so this must be a strong compulsion). It then occurred to me that what I was viewing as a pattern is rather the fundamental nature of mankind. These stories that my mind connected were, in no particular order, about the end of Christianity in the Middle East, the ongoing gamergate, and the typical pitting of “biblical marriage” against same-sex marriage. There are always related subjects that could be added, but these were the three I fixated on. I will, therefore, write three posts, and I will start with gamergate.
I would like to talk about Anita Sarkeesian and her mode of feminist literary analysis that she has extended to the world of gaming. Okay, no I would not like to do only that, to be honest. I would like to give my own literary analysis, as well. If she can do it, so can I. To lay a foundation first, let it be clear that I don’t care what the demographics of games are. I don’t care that nearly fifty percent of the gaming audience is composed of women. The games Sarkeesian analyzes are being targeted at a male audience, and those are the ones she would like to see changed.
That they are targeted at a male audience is frankly obvious from the get-go. How do I know? Men are traditionally the warriors of society. They have been the primary warriors in cultures around the world and throughout history. They are the warriors for obvious reasons: they are bigger, stronger, and more aggressive than women are. The core of video games targeted at men are fighting based. They use an arsenal of weaponry, and bad guys must be killed at every level. Personally, I find the violence downright nauseating and unnecessary. As a woman, I don’t understand its attraction. And yet, it seems to be very attractive to the male mind. Sarkeesian would say this is a toxic cultural ideal of men. However, it’s not a cultural ideal; see above. Men are the warriors of society. They have always been. We didn’t make this up in our culture. We didn’t train men to be this way. They are this way.
Not every video game story involves a Princess Peach; in fact, I would venture to suggest that when moving past contemporaries to Mario Bros, the plot lines become increasingly more complex. But we’ll go with the simplistic notion that video games are not only violent, but they involve rescuing a damsel in distress because Sarkeesian’s worldview is a bit simplistic. The “rescuing a damsel in distress” trope is yet another indication of games being created for a male audience. A man might just as easily go on a mission to rescue a brother-in-arms, but rescuing a woman is attractive to men because [most] men are attracted to women. They are attracted to the female form, such that rescuing a woman with an overblown female form will most likely be even more attractive.
What is happening to the male subconscious as he picks off scores of bad guys and tangles with some bad women, too (maybe even some strippers and prostitutes), in order to rescue a damsel in distress? I suppose it could be exactly as Sarkeesian sees it: women are being used as pawns for male stories; they are being objectified as sexual objects by the active male subjects. What if that isn’t it at all, though? What if, through this process, men are actually learning to integrate with the feminine aspect of the universe? Rather than a feminist interpretation, this would be akin to a Jungian interpretation. It goes about like this: bloody violent male must defeat his shadow nature in order to rescue his anima. Blowing away scores of bloody and violent men and dabbling with prostitutes and strippers equates to shadow and a poor relationship to anima (respectively). Somehow, though, if the male hero is successful, he enters the inner core of his psyche and rescues his enchained anima, thereby integrating as a person who can now lay down his arms.
Looking at video games in this way, I can see they are actually beneficial to the male psyche because they force men to go through this integration process repeatedly. Even Sarkeesian recognizes that media affects us. It affects us on a very deep psychological level. According to her — and I actually agree with her — those who most vociferously deny that media influences us are the ones who are the most influenced by it. Can she honestly discount that utilizing the male warrior wiring to rescue a woman and defeat the negative images of femininity (prostitutes, strippers) throughout game play can positively alter the way men deal with the women in their lives? She can and does appear to view games as having precisely the opposite effect. Whether she is honest is another question altogether. She might simply be deluded in her understanding of fundamental reality.*
*My half-baked Jungian analysis is not fundamental reality. However, Jung had a very fundamental understanding of the genders, and using his ideas is at least a step toward understanding fundamental reality. Like it or not, video games marketed at men are going to resonate with the fundamental nature of men. Likewise, I would expect games marketed at women to resonate with the nature of women.