EDITORï¿½S NOTE: This is a user-submitted article. While it may say my name up-top, it was written by one Andre Fredrick, a reader of the site who actually decided to write this and email it in. I'm always happy to accept user rebuttals to our articles, and so I wasted no time in getting this up on the site. I have not edited it.
The difference between Andre's original email and this article is simply I have added some screenshots to help make the piece a little easier on the eyes. We're always happy to hear your opinions, and while some have jumped to call her close minded, so is Katie. She'll enjoy reading and responding to this, I'm sure. If you want to email me, you can find my email at the top of the page. Without further ado... enjoy.
At a friend's behest, I've decided to take on the task of responding to a recent opinion piece posted over at the Unofficial RPG Site. I recommend you visit the site and read the article in question before proceeding. Once you've done that, go ahead and read my take knowing that my aim isn't to refute the suggestion that the game industry at large has historically alienated gamers of the female variety. It's a well established fact that the vast majority of gamers are male. However, to the industry's credit, it has recently taken note of the growing female demographic and is taking steps to invite them to the virtual playground of gaming.
Likewise, my aim here is not to belittle Ms. Katie Punsly and her personal opinions regarding the Xbox360. She is more than entitled to feel the way she does, and I'll even agree with her on a few points. However, her article "The Xbox 360: A Boy's Console?" is contentious for more than a few reasons. I will attempt to address the issues I have with her article in an intelligent and mature manner, but keep in mind that what follows is merely my opinion.
That said, I'll say that the disclaimer I just made marks the most obvious bone of contention that I have with Ms. Punsly's take on the 360 and its appeal to the female demographic. As stated previously, I realize that games are generally marketed towards the male of the species simply for business reasons. However, I don't feel that the arguments presented in Ms. Punsly's piece are really solid enough grounds for her to warrant labelling the article as a unanimous voice for the female gaming community. Had the article simply been titled Why Katie Punsly Won't Be Buying an Xbox360, I'd have no issue with the article as a whole. Were that the case, this article would have been a true opinion piece, representative solely of the author's unique opinions on the subject. Sure, I can disagree with that opinion, or take issue with its supporting arguments, but I would be unable to refute it. After all, who am I to say how Ms. Punsly should feel about the Xbox360?
However, once that opinion went masquerading as the voice of a specific population of people, the author went off the reservation. Do I think that Ms. Punsly speaks for the majority of female gamers? To the degree that most females aren't all that interested in gaming as a whole, yes. In that respect, had the article been a generalized expression of women's lack of representation within the industry, I think it'd be spot on. Unfortunately, this article doesn't address this larger issue. Instead it sets its sights firmly on one particular console when many of its arguments are applicable across platforms.
It also fails to take into account the growing female population that's out there gaming on the 360. Clans like the Frag Dolls have helped bring a great deal more attention to the growing interest among females and the subsequent needs to design consoles and games with their interests in mind. It doesn't take into equation the fact that, as a long-time member of the Xbox Live community, I have personally seen the number of women in games like Ghost Recon triple, even quadruple, over the service's lifespan. These facts are in direct conflict with the larger aim of Ms. Punsly's article; which, for all intents and purposes, appears to be painting the 360 as a discriminating console. Perhaps I've misread the author's intentions, but the way in which the article is presented (particularly its title) really doesn't allow that much room for interpretation or allowance. It sells itself as a legitimate commentary on the social appeal that the 360 offers women as a whole, yet lacks any arguments to substantiate the precedent it seeks to establish.
But even if I were to dismiss the flawed application of the article's title, I'd still find issue with the manner in which Ms. Punsly delivers her opinions. Not so much in the fact that she has managed to express it, but rather in her failure to convince me, as a reader, of its validity. I do not deny her the right to dislike certain genres, however a number of the arguments she offers run the gamut from being strictly childish to being outright contradictory. Again, I am not contending her right to an opinion, but if she's looking to market it and present it to a readership, she has a responsibility for making it relatively palatable to her readers (and no, I don't mean the fanboys, because we all know there's no pleasing them). What I mean is that, as a reader, I need points that I can concede to; not so that I can agree with a differing opinion, but only so that I might understand it.
In an effort to make my own opinion regarding these arguments understood, I'd like to review and offer commentary on a few of Ms. Punsly's points. First, we have this excerpt from the opening arguments:
"When the Xbox came out, I hated it. It was Microsoft, a software company that is reminiscent of AOL in the way that there are tons of long-time users that can't stand it. It was the ugliest thing I've ever seen. An aesthetically unappealing, unshapely black box with a huge green logo. It boasted games like Halo and Call of Duty."
Now, I for one am rather tired of the whole aesthetics argument. What, exactly, the design of the console itself has to do with its ability to meet my gaming needs is beyond me. I mean, if I had an issue with console design, I'd have never experienced some of the great Gamecube games that I played. In addition to addressing an issue that really has no impact on the act of gaming, this paragraph also illustrates a predisposition on behalf of the author that threatens my ability to take the rest of the article seriously. I'm sorry, but simply hating Microsoft for being Microsoft doesn't really hold water. I need you to give me some particulars here. Explain how you have been slighted by them in the past. Don't just fall back on the vagaries of internet fashionabilities and expect me to swallow it without choking on it.
There's also the fact that the author mentions Call of Duty in line with the Xbox's launch, which indicates to me that she really isn't all that familiar with the Xbox, since the Call of Duty series didn't hit the original Xbox until November of 2004; a full three years after the system released. I know it seems nit-picky, but the fact is that in order for me to consider Ms. Punsly's opinion seriously, I need her to convince me that she knows what she's talking about based on experience. This just tells me that she's most likely completely unfamiliar with the Xbox. Sure, that might not be the case, but that is, nonetheless, what this statement tells me.
Moving on to her arguments against the 360's games library, I will concede that, by and large, the 360 doesn't have a whole lot to offer Ms. Punsly as an individual. However, there's a very real sense of condescension and childish ridicule that accompanies her expression of these arguments that automatically make me want to scream. The fact is, I can sum up almost every one of her arguments in one, nicely-packaged statement: I don't care for [insert genre here].
Sure, tell me why you don't like it, Ms. Punsly, but don't do it in a way that suggests I'm a twit because I might happen to like those genres. The dismissive tone with respect to genres like Wrestling and Fliers is fairly insulting. Her comments regarding Rare's Viva Pinata are both childish and ignorant. The author suggests that she speaks for everyone out there when she states, "those Mexican birthday toys you hit that no one cares about". I, for one, am looking forward to this one, and I'm sure it's piqued the curiousity of plenty of fans of games like Animal Crossing or Pikmin; both of which are based on similar premises and aren't on a Microsoft console. So, again, Ms. Punsly, express your opinion, but don't threaten that of your reader.
Other arguments posed against the 360 don't even weigh in against the console itself. The author's contentions with games like Mass Effect and Eternal Sonata are based purely on art and story decisions made by the respective developers. Surely, such disagreements between Ms. Punsly and artistic license stretch across consoles and aren't just isolated to the 360. Surely, her arguments against these games aren't simply the product of her gender, but rather matters of her simple sense of aesthetics.
I also find Ms. Punsly's sadness for the fact that DDR and Guitar Hero have found their ways to the Xbox360 a bit selfish. Selfish in that this "sadness" stems from the fact that her obvious consoles of choice no longer claim exclusivity over these franchises. Selfish in that she is saddened by the fact that other gamers out there can finally experience these games without being left out because they didn't get the "right" console. Not to mention that in presenting these arguments she mentions two good reasons that she might want to get a 360. Which leads me to believe that there's, dare I say, a bit of fan-girl lacing her arguments.
Honestly, I could go on and dissect Ms. Punsly's article ad nauseum. The fact is that I don't disagree with her personal opinions, but rather that I take issue with her methods of expressing them. I think it's unfair and a bit presumptuous to imply that she speaks for the female gaming community. It'd be like me suggesting that this rebuttal speaks for anyone other than myself, or worse yet, that it represents the collective voice of male gamers the world over. Even if I forgive Ms. Punsly's article as simply being the victim of a poorly chosen title, it doesn't forgive the fact that her supporting arguments do more to threaten her position than they do to help. I want to take this article, and, more importantly, Ms. Punsly seriously. I want to understand her opinion and recognize its legitimacy. Unfortunately, for the reasons mentioned, I can't. The end result is a well-written manifesto for fan-boys and -girls to either rally behind, or rise against. Viva la Console Wars.