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Women in Games

You may have heard about all the recent hate for Anita Sarkesian, maker of the “Tropes vs. Women” series of videos that take a critical look at the representation and presentation of women characters in video games. This critical look has apparently proven very unpopular with certain elements of the internet, and she has received numerous death wishes, death threats, rape threats and so on, simply because she dared to make these videos. This is in addition to all the people declaring her incompetent because of her gender and asking her to get back in the kitchen if they’re being nice. It’s horrible depressing stuff, and recently got so scary that she felt she had to leave her home for her safety.

And so far, I kind of ignored it. But that is really not okay of me.

I thought it doesn’t affect me, but really, it does. After all, on an abstract level, she does the same thing as me: Look at things that are wrong in video games and point them out. The main difference is that she does it better, she does it about things that matter, and she is a woman. No, there is no logical reason why the last one matters, except that people who disagree with Sarkeesian doing this analysis are basically by definition misogynist men. Now, if these attributes applied to me, I’d probably get the same reaction, so arguing that it doesn’t affect me is just a plain lie. After all, if pointing out flaws in games is acceptable (and I think it is) then surely this must include comments from everyone on every topic, not just me on irrelevant things.

Another reason for me not writing about this is the idea that it doesn’t matter. This is a very unknown website made by a completely unknown guy, neither of which looks like it might change anytime soon. What does it matter what I write?

This is almost certainly true, but then, it applies to everything I post here. At the end of the day, I either buy into the delusion that I have something to say or I don’t. The dividing line shouldn’t be whether the topic is fun or not.

So let me make this clear: Sexist portrayal of women in games is a problem. Harassment of those who point it out, or of women who work in games or games journalism, is not okay. I wish this were really as self-evident as it feels while typing this, but apparently many hateful people disagree. We cannot tolerate their behavior any more, even if it is just by staying silent while they wreak havoc. What is not a problem is women playing games and/or pointing out what’s wrong with that. More people playing games means more games, and more people criticizing games means better games. Video games have never been a male-only domain. And don’t get me started on anything with “political correctness”. This isn’t about pleasing some politicians. The point is to not insult people unless they actually deserve it. That is not the end of having mindless fun with games; it is actually the start of it.

A lot of people reply (on sites that have comments) by pointing out real or supposed flaws in the “Tropes vs. Women” videos. In general, that is okay; this whole thing needs to be a discussion if we want to get anywhere, and that requires more than one side. The main problem I see with this is the word “but”, as in “These death threats are horrible, but insert (often fictional) problem.” No. These death threats are horrible, period. If you’re really concerned about the quality of the criticism, then go ahead and state the problems, but take your time to do it properly, and do not use it to justify anything that cannot ever be justified.

Alternatively, feel free to start your own blog to criticize problems in games the way you want to. It’s easy enough, trust me. After all, that’s why I have this site to begin with.

Posted September 8th, 2014, 22:47