I usually stay out of Internet scandals for a reason. I don’t bring it up much, because my vagina doesn’t actually have much to do with the way I game, but I am a woman, and sometimes being a woman gamer is weird. This is one of those times. I actually debated for awhile with myself whether I even wanted to MENTION this on my blog AT ALL, because I’d really prefer to not get rape and death threats, you know? But then I thought, “Hey, it’s pretty fucked up that you’re actually considering not mentioning something that upsets you on your OWN BLOG for fear that someone might post some shitty comments.” And then I thought, “Man, you only get 25 hits a day on your blog anyway, so who gives a shit?”
Perhaps you have heard of #GamerGate? It’s gotten pretty complicated in the past few days, so forgive me if any of this information is inaccurate.
Last week, Anita Sarkeesian posted a new video in her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games YouTube series. I haven’t had a chance to watch the new video yet, because I just started a new job and I am super busy, but I’ve watched the other videos in the series, and I’ve quite enjoyed it. I don’t agree with everything she has to say, but I like hearing her perspective, and I’ve certainly had uncomfortable moments with the depiction of women in games, so I think the ideas she puts forth are important to consider. Unfortunately, there’s a highly vocal chunk of the Internet who disagrees and apparently wishes that she and her videos were bombarded with nukes or something, because the harassment she seems to endure whenever she releases a new video is staggering to behold. BoingBoing linked a great essay from the New Statesman that chronicles the issues that Sarkeesian is dealing with in great detail (like death threats so serious that she had to flee her house) and explains why her work is so valuable. It’s worth a read if you’d like more details about the situation.
However, this simply served as an inciting incident for an unexpected maelstrom of Twitter updates and games journalists weighing in on the issue of sexism and discrimination in the gaming community and industry. One piece from The Guardian (written by a woman) attracted so much hateful Internet attention that the author has decided to back off from games journalism for awhile. Even Al Jazeera wrote a piece on the situation, so it’s clear this is getting a lot of mainstream attention.
It’s just baffling to me. If Sarkeesian had decided to create a webseries called Tropes vs. Women in Movies, I don’t think anyone would have had a problem with it. No one would have accused her of being a “fake movie watcher” or a “social justice warrior movie watcher.” Why is it that having the gall to both have a vagina and criticize the depiction of women in games paints a giant target on your head?
I’m a gamer. I’m a woman. Also, I am not a minority. I love JRPGs, and I still play them despite the fact that I am occasionally dismayed by how skimpy the female costumes are and how sexist some of the attitudes towards women are. I don’t play a lot of the games that Sarkeesian cites as examples in her webseries, but that’s more because I don’t like playing shooters than because I don’t think those games should exist. I think there should be games for everyone, from those who love playing GTA5 to those who want to play more games like Gone Home. And why shouldn’t there be different games for different people? Not everyone likes watching moody indie films, but I don’t see a lot of people arguing that there isn’t a place for moody indie films and blockbuster Michael Bay films in today’s world. Why should video games be any different?
There is a problem with diversity and representation in the gaming industry. Anyone who says otherwise need look no further than the droves of stories about women getting harassed in the gaming industry. Anyone who says otherwise need look no further than the top of this blog post where I mentioned that I was trepidatious about posting a piece about this on my own personal blog for fear of getting rape and death threats. It’s sad to me that my favorite hobby sometimes feels like a scary and alienating place, and it’s sad that the industry itself is clearly such a scary and alienating place to the women with the skills to make more games that I might like to play. Every creative industry is made stronger by the different kinds of voices contributing to the creation of more awesome things, and I want more awesome games to play! Isn’t that what every gamer wants?