Video gaming can no longer be the boy’s club it’s been for years. But a select few misogynistic extremists are trying to keep it that way in their fight against progress in what has been horribly dubbed GamerGate.
GamerGate’s origins are long and meaningless. It stems from a few gamers falsely accusing developer Zoe Quinn of promiscuity. But it’s what this group of “true gamers” did next that made national headlines.
They began to make death threats — even threatening to commit the largest school shooting in history any time critics spoke out against the anti-women attitude the gaming community has fostered.
I’ve been gaming since I was a child, and it’s been a beloved passion of mine. Gaming has helped me stay in touch with friends and lifted me up when nothing else would. But it’s times like these I am ashamed to be a gamer. I’m sure this is how many Republicans feel when the tea party makes some racist statement about Obama.
So how do we fight this bad PR? We talk about it.
We talk about the ridiculousness of female portrayal in video games. When the term “bikini armor” is commonly accepted among a community, there is a problem. But the implied sexism in games can be even more subtle.
When I picked up the latest Call of Duty, I was thrilled to see I could make my character female, and better yet, her customizable armor was just that — armor, no bikini.
But all of 20 seconds into my first game, I noticed while the male characters grunted and yelled when they got shot, my character sounded like she had her first orgasm when she died.
But worse yet, this sexism has deeply rooted itself in the community. It’s a community where, if they even think a player is a girl, every 12-year-old with a mic or keyboard will harass or threaten to rape her.
And being a woman gamer still gets the response: “She doesn’t actually play, she only does it for attention.”
While playing a single match of League of Legends with a female friend, which is obvious by her username, she was sexually harassed by more than half of the players in the match.
As gamers, we need to understand where we and our industry are falling short in order to become a more inclusive community.
Anita Sarkeesian of the Feminist Frequency has been trying to fight sexism in the gaming industry. While I disagree with her on some points, and think she may go a little too far with some of her claims, I still listen and try to engage people on the topics.
Again, we don’t have to agree with everything critics like Sarkeesian are saying, but we can at least respond better than releasing her home address and making death and rape threats toward her and her family, like what happened to her in October.
Gamers are nothing if not passionate about their hobby. Just look at the conventions where thousands gather dressed as their favorite characters just to see new games and socialize with fellow fans.
Passionate people can do stupid things and think too little. But look past the idiots making the threats, and gaming can be a great community, regardless of gender or sexual identity.