Cultivation Theory and Gaze Theory. Are they good fits for video games?
Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, Metaleater Media as a whole.
(Note: the following may contain various game spoilers and descriptions of things that may be triggering as part of critical analysis. Reactions may be strong. Please be respectful in your discussion of the issues.)
In part one of this series, I explored the general state of gaming, especially the areas influenced by Anita Sarkeesian and Jonathan McIntosh, AKA Feminist Frequency, and briefly discussed the intimidation tactics practised by their followers. I looked at how I believe gaming and associated communities are harmed by the these tactics and influence. In this second part, I'd like to take a closer look at Feminist Frequency's actual theories, and explore whether the methods they use are really appropriate tools to study video games.
At the core of feminist analysis of media is a distinction between whether something is legitimately harmful as opposed to personally distasteful. Every human being has personal sensitivities and things they just don't like. People should not be forced to consume entertainment products that they don't find fun or entertaining, or that remind them of something bad that happened to them. Furthermore, consumers should not be tricked into buying something under false pretences by misleading marketing. These are all personal comfort issues that gamers can encounter, but they're not sexism per se.
Ratings systems and content warnings exist to provide cautions to an individual so they can avoid unpleasant content or prepare themselves for being exposed to it. I've seen a lot of people mock these warnings online, and that has really surprised me. Content warnings of this kind in video games helped fend off government censorship and allowed the industry to self-regulate. The alternative was being at the mercy of governments that treat morality like fashion and don't understand interactive entertainment. Given a choice between voluntary self-regulation and arbitrary government censorship, which would you choose?