I love video games! I have been a gamer in every sense of the word since I was just a kid playing my brother’s Sega. I even had the Nintendo 64 Kid freak out when we got one for Christmas. Back then I didn’t know a single girl who played video games. Girls played with dolls, boys played with controllers. That was just the way things were and I never questioned it. As I have gotten older I have been watching intensely as this role has slowly begun to fall out of practice. Today we stand at the start of a cultural change.Women everywhere are coming out of hiding and not only proudly stating they’re female gamers, but that they can hold there own against the best of us boys.
So the question is, how is the online community going to handle this sudden invasion of female gamers into their culture? As an avid gamer I try and keep well informed of all that is gaming news. One story that has caught my attention over the last couple of months is the story of Anita Sarkeesian. Anita Sarkeesian is a Feminist critic and blogger who has made a series of successful YouTube videos which examine the portrayal of women in video games and gaming culture. Last year she became the victim of a violent smear campaign by the gaming community.
The story begins with a popular online website called Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a place where people can put projects online and ask the online community to become backers, or people who fund the project. These backers can donate any amount of money towards the project and typically receive benefits based on the amount of money they put towards it. Since its creation in 2009 millions of dollars have been funded to projects covering everything from movies, and games to art and clothing. Last year Anita Sarkeesian decided to put a project on Kickstarter with the goal of examining the way women are projected in video games today and release a series of webisode which would portray her findings. An ambitious project entitled Tropes Vs. Women.
Seems pretty simple right? Well, you would be wrong because the response to this project was merciless. The online gaming community raised a organized and well planned attack on the project and Anita herself. Using Anonymous Forums and message boards such as reddit and other dark Mos Eisley like places on the internet thousands of people joined forces with one thing in mind, Stop Anita Sarkeesian! To do this they mercilessly flooded her videos with sexist comments, sent here multiple death and rape threats, flagged her videos for terrorism, and attempted to hack all her social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. There was even a game made with a simple objective, click to punch Anita in the face and be rewarded with increasingly graphic images of her being beat up.
The amount of harassment Anita faced was pretty astonishing, but what really happened here? Was this a single case of a organized group of people’s backlash to her opinions or does this go much deeper? I believe this was not a attack on Anita, but instead a warning to all female gamers with the message being abundantly clear: IF YOU TRY TO SPEAK OUT WE WILL DO THIS TO YOU TOO! I draw this conclusion from looking at this case logically. So Anita makes a video series that outlines sexist roles of women in video games. Does this mean all the games we know and love are gonna be changed? Absolutely not, even if the videos are hugely popular it is very unlikely that we would see any changes to the games we know and love. The only thing that could possibly see happen is to make video games in the future more women friendly (if we even see that). So why did these gamers feel it was necessary to publicly harass her in the hopes of making her go away. The answer is simple, they were afraid. These gamers were afraid of the idea of women having a role the gaming industry. With the growing popularity of women in games it is only natural that games will soon begin to cater to their growing female player bases. These gamers saw Anita as a way to resist this transition and scare more women from actively trying to shape the gaming industry. This can also be seen in game chats. Many women who play games with voice chat hesitate to speak for fear of being harassed by other male players. This seems extremely ironic to me when you consider that if you ask most single gamers what they want in a woman, 90 percent of the time there first response is a girl who I can play games with. However by constantly scaring away female gamers and creating a overall hostile environment, they are not improving their chances of finding one.
So does this mean all male gamers are misogynist? Of course not, there are many male games who welcome the introduction of women into video games, I for one being one of them. I have several friends who are women and play games. As far as I’m concerned womens introduction into the gaming community can only aid it more. If you introduce female gamers into the equation then that introduces a entirely new audience to video games which can only increase sales revenue. With the state of the video game industry and all the game companies going bankrupt, THQ comes to mind, this change could easily be what the industry needs to bounce back to its feet. Even the people who participated in he harassment on Anita are not necessarily misogynist either. Some are men who as stated earlier are afraid of the introduction of women into gaming fear it for different reasons. Gaming has always been a way to escape the realities of life. Its been a boys club where guys could go to get there mind off school, work, and life. In many cases women might be the cause of these problems they’re trying to avoid. Thus they fear they will lose there escape if women are there as well.
So perhaps the biggest irony in this whole situation was that the attempted harassment completely backfired on the harassers. Instead of hiding from the harassment, Anita took a stand and brought the incident to the media’s attention. The result was a explosive increase in Backers for the project. Originally the Goal of the project was to raise $6000. The final amount pledged was an astonishing $158,922 from almost 7000 backers. Without the media attention resulting from the harassment the project would not have been anywhere close to the $158,000 mark it made.
Below is a video response Anita made at a feminist convention regarding the harassment and her plans for the project if you are interested.