It seems oddly appropriate that this is the 200th published post on Feminist Sonar.
I am so tired of being told, either implicitly or explicitly, that there are no girls allowed in games. It’s not just video games, it’s analog games too. I am tired of people acting like roleplaying games and video games were created for a boys club that would never end.
An entire gender does not get to co-opt a hobby.
Women in the games industry, and just plain women who like to play games are told through imagery, interactions with other players, and game content that they are not wanted. As Anita Sarkeesian demonstrated in her most recent Tropes Vs. Women in Games video, women’s bodies are used as props. Violence is done to our bodies virtually. Rapes are a plot device, and sometimes even a joke.
When choosing to write about the way that women are treated in games, we have to ask ourselves questions like “Do I really want to open myself up to the trolls?” and “Am I sure that I am safe in my own home if people decide to come after me?”
Here’s the thing: two women are unlikely to try and create a documentary about how men are destroying the world of video games for women. Instead, we write about the facts. Instead we create video series’ interrogating the issues in specific kinds of games. I’m not attacking anyone here, I’m literally saying what’s happening right now.
But a patreon titled “The Sarkeesian Effect” is doing exactly that. Two conservative white male gamers are choosing to try and raise funds to create a documentary discrediting specific women in the games industry, and just watching their video made me ill. In it, they say that they have “unreleased” information about Anita Sarkeesian, and others. They want to display the conspiracy against the games industry.
There is no conspiracy. None at all. We just want to play games. And we want to play games where we aren’t inundated with images of women’s bodies being used to, say, KEEP A GATE OPEN by having the body thrown into the gears of said gate.
I reviewed Tomb Raider last year when it came out, and the only thing that irritated me was the intensely graphic death scenes that no one needed. I did not need to watch a woman have her throat bust open in slow motion. I did not need to watch a man strangle my avatar to death in slow motion either.
But I DID get to shoot a would be rapist. I just don’t understand the dissonance here. You’re fine with creating a kick ass game about a woman who survives, but you’re not willing to make that game without exploiting women’s bodies?
I don’t get it.
I don’t undertsand why these people are afraid that I’m going to ruin their fun. I don’t understand why they’re acting like I literally stole the game from their hands. Don’t you want to play *more* games? Don’t you want to have more people to play with?
The thing is, it’s not just that they don’t want us to play. When I watched the Owen & Aurini team’s video for “The Sarkeesian Effect” I was afraid, because they don’t just not want me to play. They’re ANGRY. They are very angry that I, and other women, are trying to make games better. They don’t want us in their sandbox, and they will say and do just about anything to get us out. Men in this community are organizing a protest against Zoe Quinn being at PAX Prime, and on their fliers they are printing the URL’s to nude photos of her.
They wouldn’t do this to a man. They never have. They never will. They’re doing it to a woman because of one simple fact:
They hate that women are in their sandbox.
Well. I want to play in my sandbox too. I have been playing RPGs of one kind or another for most of my life. I started playing Magic the Gathering when it first came out.
This is my sandbox too. This is where I work. This is where my husband and I spend Saturday nights. This is where I met most of my friends. So, no. I’m not getting out of the gaming sandbox. You can’t put up a “No Girls Allowed” sign on the door, because I’ve been in for as long as you have.
Stop the violence. Stop the hate.
Games are made for everybody.
I am so afraid to hit the post button on this, because I know, without a doubt that people are going to come for me today. I will have hate mail in my inbox. I will reset the hate mail counter more than once. I don’t want to. But I know that this is important to say.
From my tearstained keyboard, to your computer screen, keep playing. Keep writing. Keep telling stories. Keep dreaming, and adventuring.
Well said! Gaming must be inclusive.
Damn right. Got your back.
It baffles me how terrified some of these people seem to be about people-not-like-them in their sandbox (this post is about women, but it also happens with other othered categories, as you and others have pointed out elsewhere). Almost as if there is something contagious about the very presence of someone else that will “ruin” their lives.
I think that terror drives some of the violence of the responses. However, I fear there are those who see the attacks as another form of game or intellectual challenge. They lack empathy for those they target, as if they are not human or worthy of consideration. As if they were objects in a game.
There’s a very loud subset of people making hostile noises, but how much are they drowning out more reasonable people or sweeping those people along with them? (I’m thinking of studies about college students drinking more when they think their peers drink more.) Are these hostile men involved in gaming and comics linked by that association or do they reflect a more general problematic strain of society? (Just collected in groups and amplified in their access to the media.) We know that many of these attitudes are present in other industries, but they’re not acceptable to present publicly.
Something else that worries me is the effect of the big lie. Many of the particularly vocal hostile people online seem to be quite young. When they hear, over and over, that women aren’t really gamers or are try to force their way into something that was always a men’s activity, they /believe/ it. Why wouldn’t they? They don’t know any better.
One example that I saw this morning said that women only got involved in games in 2005. By his handle, he was probably born in 1997. At best, he’d have been 8 in 2005. (Remember 8? That’s when girls-are-icky, boys-only-clubhouse (and vice-versa) type things are fairly common.) The responses to it that I saw were fairly mild, personal counter-examples, of the “I was gaming before you were born” type. But will that change his mind? Or will he just think that anecdotes are not data, or that these women are all lesbians, or simply that they’re lying to him because he already *knows* that women weren’t really into games back then.
How do we fix that? One obvious step is more diversity (as many many people have advocated). In panels, in game development, in game presentation, so that kids and young adults and adult adults *see and feel* that all sorts of people are involved (as we already are, just not as visibly). After school gaming clubs or robotics clubs or comics groups that are specifically aimed at girls. Because yeah, it’s hard when you’re in middle school or high school to break into a group that’s all one or the other already. That way, maybe it will be harder for people (especially as they grow up with it) to think that women aren’t “really” gamers or that they’re out to destroy gaming for its “true” audience.
We’re already playing in these sandboxes, but sometimes we stay in the sandbox on the other side of the playground because the kids in the one in the middle have made it annoying or unsafe to try to play there. That’s not really fair, but it’s going to take some time to change.
I don’t know really know who you are, and honestly I don’t care. You are welcome at my table, and if you choose to sit there, thank you. We WILL have a great time together!
Thanks 🙂 If you’re ever running In Nomine, save me a seat.
Some of my favorite players in games are women. Keep on keeping it real. You’re not alone or unheard.
Thank you for putting into words a feeling that has been nagging at me for quite a while now.
Thanks for doing this.
I’m constantly amazed at things like this occurring; not because I don’t believe them, but frankly, because I’m a white-enough male, and I don’t always see this kind of thing.
Sometimes, that’s because people don’t do these kinds of things in my field of vision. Sometimes, things just don’t resonate with me in the same way – Tomb Raider and Dead Space both made me uncomfortable in pretty much the same fashion, I just dislike graphic depictions of death – and sometimes that means I miss the cultural context.
Talking about this is important. As a dude who was brought into analog gaming by his female friends, I’m grateful that I was lucky enough to meet some awesome gamers, who by circumstance, happened to be female. Their experiences might differ from mine, and you know, what? That’s awesome. That’s how people learn and grow.
Please continue to be awesome, and inspire.
An articulate and well-reasoned piece of writing. I find it depressing knowing that such a rational article might trigger a reflexive torrent of hate from sexist bigot gamers.
Frankly I’ve never understood why members of a group that tend to see themselves as outsiders (gamers, not sexist bigots!) wouldn’t be happy to be more inclusive.
When I was a young gamer I wanted more women in the hobby because I didn’t want it to be some blokey men’s club. I felt the lack of women made the group a bit shallow. When I finally played in groups that included women I found they were more diverse and interesting.
I haven’t changed my mind on this point, except maybe to believe it even more strongly.
Yeah. I’ve already gotten two pieces of hate mail today, one of which contained a rape threat.
I marvel at the total intellectual failure of someone using a rape threat in response to an article that violent misogyny is a problem in gaming culture. Was the subject line “more evidence that you are right”?
No. But it *really* should have been
If I could pay money to keep Sarkeesian Effect from funding, I would.
The ongoing ordeal surrounding Zoe Quinn is heavy evidence for what you’ve written here. I don’t game, but I feel for you ladies who do.
I see that Sarkeesian has generated a lot of anger (though i will refrain from calling her a troll a comparison may be useful) And I dislike Richard Dawkin’s delivery for the same reason Sarkeesian annoys me… the delivery rather than the message.
Or maybe my reaction is just a defensive one as bad as the misogynists;
How and ever compared to trolls whose sole purpose is to generate anger Sarkeesian is doing a bang up job; my only question is how can we turn this anger into a positive change? If ‘the boys club’ is so annoyed about being attacked, they should build a better sand-box, one which is immune to such attacks (rather than lashing out like children to prove Sarkeesian wrong) The positive of Bronies trolling is that they highlight the inherent misogyny in ”men aren’t allowed like girly things” – it is a pity we don’t do more – but Sarkeesian has a great potential to channel this anger… i’m just not sure how…. Maybe we need some videos describing how to react to an attack without being defensive and childish. Some positive male role-model to explain to all the boy-men out there. (i fear feminism without male role-models will just continue to generate hate and be seen as anti-men… when there is literally no reason why pro-women should be anti-men.)
(are you sure a martini doesn’t really belong?)
I’m basically the poster boy of privilege… white cis straight male… and you know what? Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn (and their work)don’t threaten me. A desire for parity is just not something I can be worried about. And people who are scared of that, I have a hard time understanding.
Giving the guy posting revenge porn high fives, totally ignoring the journalists who supposedly /took/ sex for good reviews, and then bashing only the woman under the guide of “a journalistic scandal”. Saying misogyny in gaming isn’t a problem, and then threatening to rape someone to death because they say it is. That’s what worries me.
Please comment politely with a regular pseudonym or real name.