I'm not saying gaming news should become as mature a genre of journalism as politics, business, and world news. It's still a new field and will always be as subjective as covering music or film, with the accompanying celebrity culture. But now that women outnumber men in online gaming, party games like Rock Band appeal to both sexes, and casual games (popular among women and adults) are the fastest-growing segment of the gaming industry, gaming journalism should be an all-inclusive genre. Why does it still pander to a core audience of straight young males with outdated misogynistic material, to the boredom and frustration of all of us who can get laid outside of World of Warcraft?
I'm not talking merely about tech and gaming journalists who write about sex and porn. Wired is doing its job when it analyzes the business of porn; Gizmodo is just playing when its staff leaves the CES tech conference for the AVN porn conference next door to poke fun at the dildos. Gaming journalism doesn't need to sanitize itself; gaming gets dirty and so should the writing. Plus, well, I wanna read about sex.
What needs to stop is the boy's club, in which women are only featured as sex objects. Forget being offended by it; I'm just sick of it — if I want titillation, I'll go to porn or, you know, an actual woman. Maybe I'll read Esquire, where they at least pretend to respect an actress's work before showing off her calves. See, it's not just that gaming journalism is obsessed with sexy women, it's that the obsession takes such an awkward form. The practice is found all over the industry. Some examples:
- Porn Stars Love Video Games! Popular site GameDaily interviews porn stars about whether their boyfriends can play video games, and which game characters they'd like to get with. In the interest of service journalism, each micro-interview is smaller than the photo of the porn star above it. (No male stars, natch, but then again who ever wanted to hear something from the mouth of a male porn actor?) GameDaily also wants you to read "Babe of the Week" and "The Most Outrageous Boobs in Gaming."
- Strip Halo 3: Porn stars get naked on video while playing a shoot-em-up with ugly guys.
- Shooting Range: Industry leader Electronic Gaming Monthly sent a team of girl gamers to a shooting range to test their real-life skills. Am I picky for being annoyed that they were chosen for hotness?
- Digital Lust: Now folded, Gamestar Magazine was an unapologetic tits-and-games mag. These "behind the scenes" photos from a holiday gift guide shoot looked so much like the start of a soft porn gallery, I felt surprised when I scrolled to the bottom and saw the model still had some lingerie on.
- Gaming's kinkiest costumes: "Got a fantasy? Chances are there's a game to match," promises this gallery from Games Radar. The copy is full of "then go talk to a real girl" asides, which only make it sadder that the site is so desperately reaching for the never-touched-a-girl audience.
The industry is addicted. Like a GOP presidential candidate, they're too afraid of losing the base to appeal to normal people with reasonable options. No wonder they're losing attention to mainstream coverage (who says GQ can't review video games?) and sites like Penny Arcade, a biting comic and review site in which a pre-teen girl — the niece of one of the authors — is the maturest, most capable gamer. Gawker Media's gaming site Kotaku, says editor Brian Crecente, goes out of its way to stop boy's-club coverage. Both sites have enjoyed years of rising traffic.
Sure, it's probably unhealthy to train men to treat women as sex objects. Screw that, it's unhealthy to the industry to alienate half its audience, and likely most of the other half too, particularly the part that's not living in its Mom's basement with little disposable income. We're not aching for a flash of tit from a girl made of polygons; we're not desperate to hear that our favorite girl from Bang Brothers wants to cuddle with Raiden from Mortal Kombat. We have money, we consider ourselves normal and maybe even cool, and we want to buy video games that don't suck.
Chuck Klosterman asked in 2006 why there was no Lester Bangs of video games. Writer Clive Thompson answered the cultural critic in Wired News: A. No one would hire him; B. He's already here and he writes Penny Arcade; C. The research takes too long; and D. The medium needs a new approach. I say E: The 18-year-old future Lester Bangs of video games is at some site being forced to compile "Twenty Hottest Asses of Xbox 360."