Feminism/Sexism and Gaming/Geek/Popular culture Catch All

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Saw this via Gary Whitta's Twitter and found it shocking.

Feminist blogger Anita Sarkeesian decided to to a web video series to examine how women are depicted in videogames, and like most people with an idea these days started a KickStarter, it seems like a worthy idea and a topic that's been discussed around these parts a few times.

Predictably the nerds have risen up to demonstrate the very serious problems in gaming culture.

First up, the YouTube comments.

Then, the Wikipedia vandalising.

Turns out there's been a lot said about this, most of the media coverage is collected on the KickStarter's update page. Starting to work through some of it now, but I thought I'd share.

*edit*

I should mention that thanks to the controversy the project has raised $158 000 when the goal was $6000, Sarkeesian is going to be spending a lot of time on this project.

Also, predictably the RPS take, by John Walker, is a good one.

Yeah, been following this since it started. Why are there so many despicable people in the world?

In before someone posts the "internet dickwad theory" strip from Penny Arcade...

SommerMatt wrote:

In before someone posts the "internet dickwad theory" strip from Penny Arcade...

Honestly, thanks for that post. This issue is far deeper than mere anonymous internet dickwads and linking to the strip is, IMO, a pretty lazy response.

Sure, anonymity allows people to get away with saying what they like. I'm more interested in a discussion about what the comments say about gamers, and men, and nerds, as a whole and what we, as (hopefully) non dickwads, can do about this.

About the only thing to do is to be supportive, let your voice be heard, and if you know anybody who participates in this sort of crap, tell them what you think of it. When somebody says something, don't let it pass just to avoid making a scene.

We don't have enough dickwads here to be able to help much, though.

Still, we all participate in other places at times.

I would say that the silent majority have spoken in response, via Kickstarter. Engaging with these testicle-brained man-children won't get anywhere.

I'm also glad to see that my RSS feed is crammed with articles from the gaming press decrying these morons. Some idiot has started a Kickstarter essentially replacing the female bent of the original's title with a male one, which needs to be removed immediately as a frivolous and vexatious effort. Get yourself to Kickstarter and complain, shut the toolbag down!

This kind of thing makes me ashamed to be a male on the internet, never mind a male gamer.

I just hope that Sarkeesian produces a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece with the increased funding and publicity, and doesn't let these scum-based life forms anger her into an unfair portrayal of the industry and it's customers. There are too many valid points to be made on the topic to let them be lost in an attack piece.

In before blarg blarg blarg mens rights blarg blarg blarg misandry. Or maybe we've dodged that bullet here at GWJ?

I've also been heartened by the multiple stories from almost every game-related writer I follow. It's been a great time recently for honest and hard discussions about the issue of women and games/game culture in general. It seems like every time I see one of those articles, however, the comment sections are predictably filled to bursting with the most heinous crap. And it makes me wonder - who are these guys? Perhaps I live in a friendly progressive bubble, but I honestly don't know of a single person in my acquaintance who would have these views, let alone write them in such a vitriolic manner. On the bright side, it does seem like we've crested some sort of hill where this topic will be spoken about more freely and loudly. It's really long overdue.

A few random points:

I did see an interesting screencap of a 4chan post pretty much saying "Great going guys! Thanks for proving her point!". Being optimistic, I'd like to think that everything being so visible on the internet shortens the feedback loop between people acting stupid (and various other descriptions of behaviour) and the consequence of that behaviour, although for a feedback loop to work the parties involved have to be ready to react and change themselves.

I did see a decent RPS comment saying that as a base level we need better writers in games. I don't have much to add apart from "I agree".

Following from that, and thinking on generic tropes like the knight in shining armour rescuing the damsel in distress (and etc), randomly generated/procedural content in games could provide a path to go down and see what happens. I think I was reading a movie review a few weeks ago about the Snow White and the Huntsman movie, and how a woman rescuing a man (no idea if this is in the movie or if I'm remembering it wrong) is a positive thing and that scenario should be encourage, or something. The thing is, it's just as bad but reversed from the "bad" way of doing it, I'm reminded of efforts by my country's last parliament to address gender inequality in some workplaces by positive discrimination towards women, but that's still discrimination.

So with random/procedural generated content, a tool which can be used, you could have the game 'roll the dice' on all the characters involved in a scenario and present it to the player. You would need to involve all kinds of variables where you could have 'weak' or 'strong' people of either gender in all the roles. Perhaps the 'traditional' rescue scene plays out, or perhaps a weak male is killed trying to rescue the strong female who was perfectly capable of handling herself, both are interesting. Those things of interest come out of the interactions between those differences.

Would it be profitable to engage these people in like manner on the comments? I'm not hoping that they become reasonable, but simply to dilute the vitriol just a bit, and maybe exhaust the dickwads through sheer volume of contrary responses. I can imagine that positive response feedback on the comments section might also empower women like Sarkeesian further, by reassuring her that she has allies.

LarryC wrote:

Would it be profitable to engage these people in like manner on the comments? I'm not hoping that they become reasonable, but simply to dilute the vitriol just a bit, and maybe exhaust the dickwads through sheer volume of contrary responses. I can imagine that positive response feedback on the comments section might also empower women like Sarkeesian further, by reassuring her that she has allies.

I think that actually could be helpful, not to try change their minds, but rather to demonstrate to people that is there is a reasonable, and vocal group that does look down on, and will challenge, douchebaggery.

It doesn't help that non-dicks sit on the sidelines and tut, like we and I are doing here, when it allows the assholes to control the floor.

The success of Sarkeesian's KickStarter shows that she has allies, and that there are people out there who do think that this is a problem and are willing to back a very interesting project, but we really need to be more vocal.

The way I see this is that the solution isn't just a fight of words with the trolls and (taking suggestions for a better way to phrase this) people out for male dominated roles in video game characters, but to approach the producers of games and show them how to put good female characters in them. I guess I'm a bit cynical of the "I'm creating awareness!" form of activism, which I think rarely changes anything. It's a probably a tired example, but I can't help thinking of Alyx Vance and that there wasn't any real push for them to do that character that way, they just went and did it, and there wasn't any backlash from a "this character should be male" group.

Go and get games made with better characters.

You know, $158,000 is far from zero. There's obviously a lot of support for her viewpoint.

What I don't get is why anyone would feel threatened by her project? All she wants to talk about is female characterization, so why on earth would anyone be upset by this?

Ah, from the RPS link, there's some thought that it may be just a few people, perhaps only a dozen or so. It's sort of like the Muslim extremists... a very small percentage can make a hell of a lot of noise if they're really dedicated, and that doesn't necessarily mean that the broader culture agrees with them.

When she does her videos, I hope she points out some of the games that do a good job... there aren't very many, but they do exist. The Longest Journey and Beyond Good and Evil come to mind.

Another thought comes to mind: this might just be a gigantic troll by the jerks... they may not even feel particularly strongly one way or the other, but they know it's an excellent way to piss off a LOT of people.

Malor wrote:

Another thought comes to mind: this might just be a gigantic troll by the jerks... they may not even feel particularly strongly one way or the other, but they know it's an excellent way to piss off a LOT of people.

IDK. Yes, I'm sure there's a percentage of jerks who just did it for the lulz, but I think that's part of the problem: discounting their behavior as just something that pubescent boys with time on their hands and an internet connection do.

I know Reddit has similar issues and their demographics overlap considerably with gamers. A recent PBS documentary about Reddit featured several of its prominent mods talking about the site. The male mods all appeared in person in the film while the female mod in charge of r/SRS had her identity hidden because she was talking about the site's tendency towards sexism/misogyny and feared retaliation--both online and IRL.

I think the discussion on reddit is worse then the youtube comments. It is easy to dismiss a stream of bile. The comments on reddit attack her credibility and motivation behind the project.

spider_j wrote:

I just hope that Sarkeesian produces a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece with the increased funding and publicity, and doesn't let these scum-based life forms anger her into an unfair portrayal of the industry and it's customers. There are too many valid points to be made on the topic to let them be lost in an attack piece.

Have you seen any of her other stuff? I randomly found her channel a few months ago, and watched through everything she has posted so far. I thought it was all very well done and thought-provoking. Her most recent look at the sexism of current Legos was great.

Malor wrote:

When she does her videos, I hope she points out some of the games that do a good job... there aren't very many, but they do exist. The Longest Journey and Beyond Good and Evil come to mind.

Her initial Kickstarter video says she's going to do just that. She shows a copy of Portal 2 when she says it.

OG_slinger wrote:

IDK. Yes, I'm sure there's a percentage of jerks who just did it for the lulz, but I think that's part of the problem: discounting their behavior as just something that pubescent boys with time on their hands and an internet connection do.

Agreed. This is well past Boys Will be Boys, or a PA strip--invoking PA seems particularly in bad taste, given their history. There's something much more profoundly wrong going on here. And I can't help but think that lazy dismissal is part of it. The linked RPS column drew me to that conclusion--Walker has a line in there about how it's tempting to roll your eyes and wonder what's expected at "youtube comments." But I can't help but think, now, that when we ignore a festering pit, it's just going to keep festering and eventually fester over.

I dunno, I'm really sick of this sh*t. I'm sick of casual rape threats, sick of every story about gender or race issues being met with the same over-thought ignorance, sick of every opinion that steps out of line being met with hostility.

Thinking about Portal and BG&E (or HL2's Alyx to a lesser extent), it's kind of disappointing that those two are the most common in a really simple "video game Bechdel test" kind of way. Not that they're bad characters, but that there's only two, and that the female character has to be the lead in order for it to get noticed or even pass the test of being a good character.

Keep in mind the Bechdel test really doesn't test for good female characters. If a "sexy villainess" character tells a "fighting f*cktoy" character that she's going to enjoy killing her, it passes the Bechdel test.

Yeah, that's why I said "kind of", it's not the 'right tool for the job' in this case, but it's the best comparison I could think of.

SommerMatt wrote:
spider_j wrote:

I just hope that Sarkeesian produces a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece with the increased funding and publicity, and doesn't let these scum-based life forms anger her into an unfair portrayal of the industry and it's customers. There are too many valid points to be made on the topic to let them be lost in an attack piece.

Have you seen any of her other stuff? I randomly found her channel a few months ago, and watched through everything she has posted so far. I thought it was all very well done and thought-provoking. Her most recent look at the sexism of current Legos was great.

Thanks for linking these. I found her videos about The film and book versions of The Hunger Games to be very thought provoking. Especially when she spoke about the career tributes.

Heavy Rain was pretty good on that front, and it didn't make a big deal out of Hey, Look, Female Protagonist.

Malor wrote:

What I don't get is why anyone would feel threatened by her project? All she wants to talk about is female characterization, so why on earth would anyone be upset by this?

This is what I don't get. Do these people think she's going to come cut their dicks off? Because they're acting like it.

Spoiler:

Maybe she should.

iaintgotnopants wrote:

This is what I don't get. Do these people think she's going to come cut their dicks off? Because they're acting like it.

Spoiler:

Maybe she should.

Sorry, I just got back from youtube. So I really can't tell if you're joking.

But I don't think threatening people with mutilation because they disagree with you is a good idea.

Lucan wrote:
iaintgotnopants wrote:

This is what I don't get. Do these people think she's going to come cut their dicks off? Because they're acting like it.

Spoiler:

Maybe she should.

Sorry, I just got back from youtube. So I really can't tell if you're joking.

But I don't think threatening people with mutilation because they disagree with you is a good idea.

It was obviously a joke, and NO, you shouldn't threaten people because they disagree with you.

I think the entire point of this thread, though, is that this isn't about "disagreeing" with someone-- being a sexist, disgusting, death-threatening asshole isn't something that we should just allow to exist unchallenged because of a difference of "opinion."

SommerMatt wrote:

I think the entire point of this thread, though, is that this isn't about "disagreeing" with someone-- being a sexist, disgusting, death-threatening asshole isn't something that we should just allow to exist unchallenged because of a difference of "opinion."

Uh, yeah, werd. While technically, there is disagreement over an opinion, the opinion at hand boils down to "Is it acceptable to threaten someone with rape over a series of gender study videos?" which isn't exactly "Coke or Pepsi?" It's really more of a schism over acceptable human behavior. And in this case, the other side of the schism is so profoundly wrong, I don't think we should care much for their feewings, because I rather doubt they have any save bile.

Obviously, this is all sh*t. She should not have this harassment and I wish it could go away but I feel like I have to object to this:

Alyx, from HL2, is not a good female character. She's fanservice, she's bland and on her knees to the male player character. She's simpering and docile when in Gordon's area of effect but portrayed as a badass when not. It wasn't even until Ep 1 when she was acknowledged in terms of skill and brazenness.

I hate it every time Alyx is trotted out as a good example of how to do women in games. Seriously, go back and play through HL2 and critically look at how she is portrayed and her relationship with Gordon/the player character is portrayed. It's sickening to see the disconnect here!

Duoae wrote:

Alyx, from HL2, is not a good female character. She's fanservice, she's bland and on her knees to the male player character. She's simpering and docile when in Gordon's area of effect but portrayed as a badass when not. It wasn't even until Ep 1 when she was acknowledged in terms of skill and brazenness.

I hate it every time Alyx is trotted out as a good example of how to do women in games. Seriously, go back and play through HL2 and critically look at how she is portrayed and her relationship with Gordon/the player character is portrayed. It's sickening to see the disconnect here!

While I agree that she's not on the same level as Jade or Chell, I wouldn't call her simpering or docile. She definitely has a hero-worship thing with Gordon, but that doesn't make her bland or "on her knees" (I'm assuming you meant in a "we're not worthy" way).

With HL2 every character with a few exceptions has some fanatical adoration of Gordon, in the case of the civilians it's due to his great PR efforts after black mesa. Alyx doesn't have that excuse.

Scratched wrote:

With HL2 every character with a few exceptions has some fanatical adoration of Gordon, in the case of the civilians it's due to his great PR efforts after black mesa. Alyx doesn't have that excuse.

Her father's adoration of Gordon seems like a good excuse to me.

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