Sexism In Gaming: 5 Reasons It’s A Thing
Here’s a fun little game: Let’s say you’re inspecting your house. You notice the foundation is rotting. You notice the wooden frame is full of holes. You notice that your cabinets and other woodwork are crumbling. Then someone tells you that you’ve got termites. Would you A) say “Jeez, yeah maybe I ought to do something about all these termites!”, or would you B) punch the person who brought them to your attention and angrily slur anyone who says ‘hey dude, you might want to do something about all those termites before your house collapses’. The obvious answer is A; because if you notice a pattern, it’s probably because there is an actual pattern. Fix it and move on, right?
But apparently, if you’re a gamer, a developer, or a member of the gaming press, the answer is just as likely to be B.
2 weeks ago, Gearbox’s John Hemingway, in a discussion of Borderlands 2′s new Mechromancer character (that’s her at the top of the page), referred to a reduced-difficulty skill tree option available only to that character as “girlfriend mode“. The idea being that some people kind of suck at playing real games, the skill tree allows them to create a game more attuned to their strengths. That’s all well and good, and it’s worth noting that the apparent official name for this skill tree is going to be ‘Best Friends Forever’. But Hemingway repeated the joke several times during the discussion, suggesting that official or not, it’s been the internal terminology for a while.
In the aftermath, a healthy number of publications covered the matter from the point of view that, you know, it’s kind of bad to causally sling sexism like that. Unfortunately, an equal number of publications took to angrily defending the concept of ‘girlfriend mode’, often in terms far in excess of the tepid outrage expressed by critics. It’s the same sad cycle that always accompanies these outbursts and suggests that even among the commentariat and the fans, the very idea that there might be systemic problems in need of fixing is verboten. But if the gamer community wants to be taken seriously, it needs to realize that honest self-assessment isn’t the same thing as selling out.
It also needs to recognize the wart jutting sharply from its nose.