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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Column: Gaming culture misogyny should push all our buttons

    While in 2014, a majority of female professional gamers are treated well, I know some in the community who are not. The female gamers who always catch the most ire are those who are perceived as using games as a cheap gimmick to shore up their cam girl personas, and get talked about in the same mythical way as the “fake geek girl” a while back, with constant attacks on their credibility. What’s interesting about these comments is not how atypical they are, but how these problems have been a visible and static part of the gaming scene since even when I got into it in the early 2000s.

    The issue has exploded into prominence as of late, starting with the backlash against Anita Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter for the YouTube series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games for daring to suggest that maybe female characters could stand to be treated better in video games. Further volatility came with the Zoe Quinn scandal, in which an independent female developer was accused of conspiring to exchange sex with journalists for good reviews.

    There has been an endless stream of harassment directed at these women, a function of the ugliness that has been simmering under gaming’s surface for a long time. The mainstream game industry is becoming incredibly cancerous, greedy and stagnant, and it’s relatively easy to see the real reason why it’s finally exploded. Though I disagree with a lot of what she says on video games as an extension of establishment power, I do think blogger and developer Ellaguro made a good point when she said all this horribleness is about trying to get back a feeling of shared culture that has been lost.

    Devin Faraci, a writer for Badass Digest, adds to that by talking about how being young and on the bottom of the social ladder, even as a white straight cis man, can make being talked to about privilege feel like a personal affront.

    All of these factors have led to attacks on women because there’s always been a problem with women being seen as invaders in the shared nerd culture.

    And thus, women and the people who would advocate for their interests are made a scapegoat for the wounds of the gaming community.

    But, behind all that begs the real million-dollar question: Where do we go from here?

    Mainly, we need to start listening to women and having their backs. So much of institutionalized sexism, including in the gaming world, happens because we blow off the complaints and thoughts of women.

    So, whenever a woman gets angry about harassment or mistreatment or being belittled, don’t just dismiss her as overreacting — give her the benefit of the doubt. If the facts back her up, which most of the time in my experience they do, back her up, and smack down the mean-spirited little twerps who would harass her, making it crystal-clear that this behavior is NOT OK.

    Thankfully, I’ve seen more of this lately than I have before, with creators like Tim Schafer and Arin Hanson jumping into the fray, but we can still do better. We need to be a crowd shouting down harassing voices and making gaming culture a safe place both passively and actively.

    Even in the debate for more non-sexualized female characters, we need to speak up. It’s the easiest damn thing in the world to envision a character as male and change it to a female in the writing process, and we should stop acting like it’s some Herculean task on the writers’ part.

    We don’t want to ban or eliminate characters like Bayonetta or Ivy from “Soul Calibur,” we just want more protagonists like Chell from “Portal” or Jade from “Beyond Good and Evil.”
    Gaming has long prided itself as a safe haven for the outcasts of the world, but undercurrents have shown that even there, we cannot escape the maladies of real-world discriminations. If you want to cleanse the industry of filth, pursue the real culprits in the corporate sphere, the kind consumer advocate Jim Sterling talks about week-in and week-out.

    But sexism is part and parcel of that same cancer that is gnawing at gaming, both in pitting enthusiast against enthusiast and keeping us from addressing our real problems. We need to address these problems rather than accepting them as an inherent part of the culture.

    — Tom Johnson is a film and television production junior. Follow him @tbok1992

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