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Post Column: Gamergirl: Sexism is too deeply entrenched in gaming

With all the love in the air today, I figured I would talk about the most appropriate topic there is with video games: misogyny. You better watch out, it’s about to get romantic up in here.

While searching for some of the worst offenses against my fellow ladies, I stumbled upon Anita Sarkeesian. Sarkeesian is a feminist media critic who has made waves with her YouTube series “Feminist Frequency,” in which she critiques the portrayal of women in the media.

This past summer, Sarkeesian released a video on Kickstarter detailing a project she wanted to do called “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.” It would be a web series focused on investigating the five main reoccurring stereotypes in games: the Damsel in Distress, the Fighting Sex Toy, the Sexy Sidekick, the Sexy Villainess and the Background Decoration. This project would rely on crowd funding for the research.

She reached her goal of $6,000 in just 24 hours, but with it came massive amounts of hate mail. The video had thousands of malicious comments saying some of the most grotesque things I have ever read (they’re all still on her website; read them if you are ever in the mood to really doubt humanity). Most of the comments were sexual and violent. They even created an online game in which you could click a picture of Sarkeesian and she would become more and more injured. After posting a screenshot of some of the YouTube comments on her website, the donations skyrocketed, reaching more than $150,000.

The most surprising part of this whole ordeal was that Sarkeesian didn’t even say any of her opinions yet. The only thing she mentioned was that there are a few big stereotypes that the gaming world abides by. The thought that she would even have an opinion freaked some gamers out.

A similar thing happened to Jennifer Hepler, a senior writer for game developer BioWare. In an interview, she said that a feature to skip to the end of a violent scene is something she would like to one day create. The interview took place in 2006, but it was recently dug up on Reddit, and thousands of abusive comments were thrown her way. With the attack over her comment also came slander about some of the socially innovative things that she has brought into game story lines — specifically gay romances.

I’ve mentioned before that there are very few women game designers in the world. Hepler didn’t even say that she was definitely planning on making a change to games. Even if this change were put into games, it would be something that could easily be skipped over and ignored. As for the same-sex romances, it’s a little bit like the real world on this one. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. Simple as that.

Michael Kimmel, a sociologist specializing in gender studies, says that a bulk of this ambivalence toward women in games comes from the fact that guys see the gaming world as a place to feel empowered. He thinks men see the virtual world as a return to the time when men ruled and no one questioned it.

While I’m not sure how true Kimmel’s theory is, you just can’t escape the fact that more than 40 percent of gamers are women. It might not be the majority, but it sure is a huge portion that we can’t count out anymore.

Men used to be the majority in the gaming world. Women understand that. Times are changing, however. The Entertainment Software Association stated that the fastest-growing demographic for the gaming industry is women over 18.

Move over, men. We aren’t trying to steal your world. We aren’t trying to change it. We aren’t even trying to dominate it. We just want a little room to play, and a little room to make the industry better. Let us in; we promise we can only make it go up from here.

 

Sophie Kruse is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University and a columnist for The Post. What video games have the best female characters? Email Sophie at sk139011@ohiou.edu.

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