Friday, September 27, 2013

GameOver Hate #6

Day 5: Friday

Today's theme was how we could take action based on everything we had talked about in the previous days. We prepared several project ideas which we could follow up with after the conference. We also had a guest speaker, Mr. Todd Harper from MIT, who discussed his views on hate speech and fielded questions from us.

In the morning we began with group presentations we had prepared the previous day. The objective was to gather a group of people from similar backgrounds and discuss what we could do to combat hate speech, then present our thoughts to the rest of the group. My group was called Dat Science Team (writers and researchers) and we concentrated on the need for pure, hard facts to combat all the harmful pseudo science widely used in the field. Our main conclusion was that it would be awesome if there was an academic website devoted to the science behind games, which collected papers, experiments, research and other things to get proper facts about the game industry in one place.

 For science!

Our guest lecturer, Mr. Todd Harper from MIT, was awesome enough to make time for us even though he had some difficulties getting to the video meet-up. He talked a little bit about his dissertation called The Art of War: Fighting Games, Performativity and Social Gameplay, in which he draws on feminist theory to study how gamers construct their gaming experiences and social play. 
He also explained how a game can frame the interactions you have with other people - depending on the game, you are in environments that cause you to behave differently than normal. Sometimes that behavior is harmful, especially if the environment encourages it. As long as we're in a framework where we play with strangers, stuff will just keep going bad - the less you know about a person, the more likely you're to view them as an object than a person. Same goes for real life too.
He spoke about the need for diversity and risk-taking in the development community. People need good, diverse examples in order to be more understanding to diversity itself. Developers need to be less defensive about their own design choices (for example, defending a female character who they've billed as "a strong, female protagonist" when she's merely eye candy) and keep being critical of their own work. Does the character have to be white for the story to work? Could it just as well be a female as a male? Might the different, unexpected choice actually make the story line more interesting? Driving our point home by boycotting companies isn't going to work. We need to get games out there that prove people want diversity, by giving consumers a wider choice about what they're going to buy.
All in all, stopping the tide of hate-speech is a full time job. It's important to realize when a battle can be won or lost - just ignore the useless comments containing nothing but swear words, and reply to those which have a little bit more content than just a couple of expletives. Freedom of speech is a great thing, but saying whatever you want means you also have to be ready to take responsibility for the consequences.

After the guest speech, we were once again split into groups to come up with concrete project ideas we could do after the conference. My group decided to concentrate on bettering the community from the gamer's point of view. We discussed about several possible approaches to this, and came up with the idea of doing a wide survey of different communities, their ways of dealing with problems in the community and the kind of hate speech gamers are faced with, and then writing an article on the results. Sure, something like this has probably been done before, but we wanted to start small and lay out some concrete facts before building something bigger.Our group is not even sure if we'll actually do this beyond creating the idea, since some of us have already formed much larger projects with other participants. 
I also volunteered for a couple of interesting projects in Finland, which will hopefully bear even bigger fruit eventually!   

In the evening, a Soul Calibur V tournament and a sauna was had. There was much rejoicing!  


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