Sexism In Gaming: 5 Reasons It’s A Thing
3) The He-Man Woman Haters Club Strikes Back
A lifelong gamer, documentary filmmaker Anita Sarkeesian became increasingly interested in discussing the way women are represented in gaming. So in April 2012, she started a Kickstarter to fund her planned documentary, Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. “I love playing video games,” she said on the official page, “but I’m regularly disappointed in the limited and limiting ways women are represented. This video project will explore, analyze and deconstruct some of the most common tropes and stereotypes of female characters in games. The series will highlight the larger recurring patterns and conventions used within the gaming industry rather than just focusing on the worst offenders.”
Now, whether you think it’s good or bad, it is simply impossible to deny that women are almost exclusively portrayed in video games as bustily and as scantily clad as possible, except when they’re portrayed as pretty princesses in need of a rescue. It’s such a common trope that it’s only notable when a game deliberately evades it (like the Mass Effect series). Exploring that seems like an excellent way of helping the gaming community come to grips with the way nearly 50% of us have to accept there will be few, if any, playable avatars that aren’t reduced to their sex appeal.
Naturally, Sarkeesian’s pitch attracted an incredible outpouring of hostility, ranging from insults, to outright threats of rape. Her wikipedia page was defaced. A DDOS attack brought down her site. One enterprising group of sexist pricks even created a game in which you could beat Sarkeesian up. A multitude of angry male gamers screamed their outrage at the very notion that sexism might be a thing, by proceeding to demonstrate just how sexist the community can be. (Some of them even insisted misandry is a far worse problem.) And all because she had the gall to ask people to fund a (GASP) documentary exploring the way game developers treat women in their games.
Which brings us back to Borderlands 2.
4) Girlfriend Mode; A Symptom, Not The Disease
So why is Hemingway’s ‘Girlfriend Mode’ comment a problem? Without delving too deeply into the contentious politics of an election year, it’s worth noting one of the more curious, and disturbing trends of the last 4 years: the appalling recurrence of bizarre, bigoted outbursts by members of a political faction that shall remain nameless. Whatever the reasons for these outbursts, each of the events in question have inadvertently provided outsiders with a brief glimpse of the way certain people talk about certain issues when they’re in what they consider to be a safe space.
With each of these events, two things are also guaranteed to happen. First, a huge number of people associated with the faction in question will insist that the outburst was simply an isolated event, unrelated to any larger problem. And second, an equally huge number of them will angrily castigate critics for lacking a sense of humor, for taking things out of context, for being too thin skinned to understand some obscure definition of a subculture’s mores, and worst of all, for being ‘politically correct’ (as though the expression retains any real meaning.)
I mention this not to start a political flame war in the comments section – though feel free to incinerate to your heart’s content – but because to a lesser degree, it’s precisely the same thing that happens in the gaming community every time a new example of the problem with sexism in the industry presents itself. Make a note that the events listed above have occurred in the last year and a half. (We didn’t even mention the Tomb Raider rape scene or the Hitman: Absolution trailer). They involve members of the gaming industry at various levels, who are unconnected to one another professionally. And yet they all display a haunting disregard for a large group of people who don’t much like being reduced to their naughty bits. I’m not suggesting that the industry is a cabal of misogynists bent on destroying all women, but if this list doesn’t demonstrate a pattern of behavior that suggests a business culture in dire need of reflection, then nothing ever could.
A community interested in honest self-reflection would acknowledge it.