October 13, 2014

When The Gaming Community’s Sexist Attitudes Go Too Far…


Live Mag Uk Editor Cherokee explores the some of the questions thrown up by the gaming community’s sexist abuse of pop-culture critic Anita Sarkeesian.

As I’m typing this, I am sitting in the Livity offices, surrounded by so many talented and creative women who are the driving force to the company, just as much as the men are. Our Managing Director and Co-founder Michelle wrote on International Women’s Day that Livity have a 70% female workforce. Since then, we have employed even more amazingly smart women.  That shouldn’t be a big deal when women are fully represented in all industries, but, unfortunately it is.

Gaming is one of those areas of pop culture, and a seriously profitable industry, that is deeply rooted in a massive issue – sexism. It goes way back to the beginnings of the stereotype of a gamer; a spotty male teenager who sits in his basement, never goes out/has no social life, and just plays video games all day.

Some gamers (definitely not all) feel protective over a community that they have felt has kept them away from judgement in a society that does, oddly, demonise gaming (despite it being the biggest creative industry earner). They’ll probably hate me for saying this, but it is similar to how Beliebers react to something, or Directoners. Except, with the gaming community, trolling and abusive comments are fuelled by – mostly – men.

Anita Sarkeesian is a pop culture critic, who makes videos on YouTube analysing how women are portrayed in games, films and TV. Over the last few years, she has started to focus more on games. She makes a series called ‘Tropes Vs. Women’ that discusses varying degrees of gender cliché’s and secured funding for the episodes through crowd sourcing. Nothing wrong with that, don’t you think?

Since her videos started to gain notoriety, the trolls descended. People felt like, and still do feel, that Anita is blaming them for the games, ignoring the fact that she is commenting on certain characters and scenes in a critical essay-like video. She doesn’t say you should feel bad for liking that particular game, or enjoying it – she is just making a very valid point that gives us something to think about.

The main target of complete revile around Anita has been her gender. Others do have their own opinions about her and it doesn’t mean you’re automatically sexist if you don’t like her videos. Some people will, some people won’t. But it is those that have an absolute hatred for her are the ones who are the worst. Rape threats, sexual threats, death threats, threats made to her family and hacking threats are the types of tweets and messages that Anita has received on a daily basis.

When she started a crowd funding campaign, someone didn’t like her so much that they made a game where you could physically beat her up until she was black and blue. All she did was ask people who wanted to support her series to donate money, if they’d like. That was it.

A few weeks ago, she was driven out of her home because the abuse – made against not only her, but family and friends too – became too much to handle.

Zoe Quinn, a developer who made the text-based game, Depression Quest, was ‘outed’ by her ex-boyfriend online for apparently buying good reviews by sleeping with her bosses and other writers. He screenshotted conversations they’d had on Facebook and published it on his blog.

There had been a bubbling hatred for Zoe online, again, spearheaded by men, who couldn’t wait for something like this.  After the story came out, her nudes were posted on forums, documents hacked, and was also driven out of her home by online abusers.  A hashtag #Quinnspiracy

As someone who likes and plays games, and hell, even enjoys the community (who aren’t all filled with people like those attacking Zoe and Anita), it’s sad to see. Gamers – do you want this to be your legacy? Is this the best way to go about ridding the bad stereotypes? There have been so many positive changes over the years – with properties like Tomb Raider and Mirrors Edge. Don’t screw it up!

If you’re reading this and happen to be someone who has sent a tweet to Anita or Zoe, telling them how ugly or untalented they are (and that is probably pretty PG for what has been said), just remember – you can still enjoy playing the games that Anita critiques, and you don’t need to play Zoe’s games. We can all continue, as we are, in peace, with women a part of the industry. Represented, with their voice heard loud and clear, just like at Livity.

15.09.14, Cherokee Seebalack, Editor of Live Mag Uk, Livity.