Women and the Videogame Industry, a Dark Examining of 2012

 In every medium we have the loudmouths, the complainers, and then of course the outright insane. Those types of fans still exist, but they somewhat deterred over the years. I mean as much as the concept of ‘Bronies’ puzzles me, at least they aren’t condoning violence or something to that extreme. Those types of fans don’t take it as far as, well, using ridiculous insults to thwart women out of their ‘geek circle’. People love to believe that there’s no misogyny going on today, but unfortunately it’s still going strong in the gaming world.

As someone who has been playing videogames for years (since the SNES) I have seen some pretty petty things. However not in respect to the insults these women received, which was just surprising and revealing in the worst way possible. I know certain people are going to be upset at me for switching gears here with this article, but I feel like I have to bring attention to this. Since there were three big stories, along with a recent one that just shows the state of where gaming is at right now for women.

Bioware Logo

Writer For Bioware Receives Sexual Insults Over Twitter

Jennifer Hepler is a Bioware writer who’s worked on ‘Star Wars: The Old Republic‘, ‘Dragon Age: Origins‘, and ‘Dragon Age 2‘. And she’s been on the end of receiving disgusting comments from random followers, insinuating that she is the, “cancer that’s killing Bioware”. But what started all this? Did she punch a puppy or told Fox to cancel ‘Firefly‘?

Nope, she just wasn’t a big fan of gameplay.

The biggest objection is usually that skipping the fight scenes would make the game so much shorter, but to me, that’s the biggest perk. If you’re a woman, especially a mother, with dinner to prepare kids’ homework to help with, and a lot of other demands on your time, you don’t need a game to be 100 hours long to hold your interest – especially if those 100 hours are primarily doing things you don’t enjoy. A fast forward button would give all the players – not just women – the same options that we have with books of DVDs – to skim past the parts we don’t like and savor the ones we do. Over and over, women complain that they don’t like violence, or they don’t enjoy difficult and vertigo-inducing gameplay, yes this simple feature hasn’t been tried in any game I know of.” [killerbetties.com, Killer Women: Jennifer Hepler]

There are certain parts I may strongly disagree with here, but overall it is just her opinion. Plus videogames are meant to hold many different types of genre’s and gameplay. So the idea that all games are going to play like ‘Heavy Rain’ or some long cutscene seems like a very flawed argument. However how did people react?

Hepler Insult

Bioware Allegation

Granted it’s hard to find more examples of this type of behavior from her twitter feed, only because she had to delete her account after finding a huge list of unapologetic remarks. Most of which was started by Reddit, and the rest was added by the bad eggs in the Bioware community forums. The ‘best’ part of this though is when she got accused for the supposed poor writing and forced pandering to the lesbian & community in her games, mainly toward the ‘Mass Effect‘ series. Except the kicker is…she never worked on the ‘Mass Effect‘ series.

Aaryn Flynn who also works at Bioware’s Edmonton studios then had to come out to defend her from these ridiculous allegations. This even led to Flynn telling one of the attackers that he was a “fucking moron”, but it didn’t stop there. The attacker then said that he deserved an apology and even said that he would never buy a Bioware game again. This didn’t last for long, but it sure did feel like it considering that these were just a few of the comments that Hepler received.

It’s funny how something minuscule from an interview in 2006 can result in this kind of behavior. I don’t care if you’re a gamer or not, the amount of flak that Hepler got from this was not only cruel, but displayed gamers in a bad light. Though these types of incidents always happen on the internet, so sadly it’s not unusual to see comments like these.

Cross Assault

Sexual Harassment In ‘Street Fighter X Tekken’ Tournament

Fighting game tournaments can be a lot of fun, granted I’m making a pretty baseless assumption here considering that I have little to no knowledge that pertains to these events. So while I may not know a lot about these tournaments, I do know however that certain communities have their fair share of, um, offensive personalities. One of which is named Aris Bakhtanians, who was the leader for ‘Team Tekken’ on the Capcom sponsored show ‘Cross Assault’.

The game that was being advertised, as mentioned in the title, was ‘Street Fighter X Tekken’. Both teams were balanced, and included females in the group. The one in this case who had the most trouble on the live stream was Miranda Pakodzi, and was part of ‘Team Tekken’. The conflict that started this was when Bakhtanians was using foul language when talking to Pakodzi. Asking things such as, “Miranda, I wanna know your bra size.”  [giantbomb.com, When Passion Flare, Lines Are Crossed]

Aris (original source: original-gamer.com)

Aris Bakhtanians

The community manager of Twitch.tv, Jared Rea, also got into a tussle with Bakhtanians. Rea was asking several sensible questions, to which Bakhtanians responded with mostly the same answer. Questions Rea was asking such as, “Can I get my Street Fighter without sexual harassment?” [giantbomb.com, When Passion Flare, Lines Are Crossed]

And with Bakhtanians responding with, “You can’t. You can’t because they’re one and the same thing. This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20 years old, and the sexual harassment is part of a culture, and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community – it’s StarCraft. There’s nothing wrong with StarCraft if you enjoy it, and there’s nothing wrong with anything about eSports, but why would you want just one flavor of ice cream, you know? There’s eSports for people who like eSports, and there’s fighting games for people who like spicy foods and like to have fun. There’s no reason to turn them into the same thing, you know?

You can’t go to the NBA and say “hey, I like basketball, but I don’t want them to play with a basketball, I want them to play with a football.” It just doesn’t…it doesn’t make sense to have that attitude, you know? These things are established for years. That would be like someone from the fighting game community going over to StarCraft and trying to say “hey, StarCraft, you guys are too soft, let’s start making sexual harassment jokes to each other on StarCraft.” That’s not cool, people wouldn’t like that. StarCraft isn’t like that. People would get defensive, and that’s what you’re trying to do to the fighting game community, and it’s not right. It’s ethically wrong.

I know what you’re thinking “what do you know about ethics? You say racial stuff and sexist stuff.” But those are jokes and if you were really a member of the fighting game community, you would know that. You would know that these are jokes.” [giantbomb.com, When Passion Flare, Lines Are Crossed]

Rea asks, “So, ensuring that we alienate any and all female viewers…that’s the ethical thing to do?” [giantbomb.com, When Passion Flare, Lines Are Crossed]

Bakhtanians responds again, “Well, you know, there are layers here, if you think about this. There are layers of ethics. There are people who are racist and commit hate crimes, right? And then there are people who are racist but they have tons of friends of all colors and they have deep love for those friends. Do you think those people are one and the same? Absolutely not.” [giantbomb.com, When Passion Flare, Lines Are Crossed]

Later on it seemed evident that Pakodzi didn’t want to be there. On her Twitter feed she expressed her feelings about the event, although most of the comments got deleted afterward.

Inputting things like, “Capcom and the stream teams know and they don’t care. I just gotta wait 2 more days.” And, “I’m not leaving because by contract I have to stay here 2 more days. If it were up to me I would have left long ago.” [giantbomb.com, When Passion Flare, Lines Are Crossed]

Ultimately Bakhtanians actions wound up forcing Capcom to apologize for the rude behavior. And as much as the experience was depressing for Pakodzi, at least it gave a glimpse  into what was going on in some of these fighting game shows.

Tropes vs Women - Anita Sarkeesian

A Blogger Receiving Death Threats Over Kickstarter

What started out as simply an in-depth look into women in videogames, turned into a storm of hatred, violence, and misogyny. Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist blogger who puts a strong focus on how women are portrayed in pop culture. She mainly put up a series of videoblogs known as ‘Feminist Frequency’ which featured topics such as ‘The Smurfette Principle’ and ‘Women In Refrigerators’. Several months ago she also put up a Kickstarter for a project called ‘Women vs. Tropes in Video Games’.

The plan was to simply showcase female stereotypes and how they are engineered mainly for a male dominated audience, along with how they are portrayed in the media. What I got from Sarkeesian’s video was that she wanted to provide a bold-alternative view on the portrayal of women in videogames, but done in a way that doesn’t talk down to men either. Somehow this sparked a massive negative reaction out of Youtube commentators, causing not only Sarkeesian’s comment wall for the video to get filled with hateful comments, but to have her site get brought down momentarily as well.

Later there was a game on Newgrounds titled ‘Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian’ that got taken down a day later. The creator of the game was someone under the alias ‘Bendilin’, who had some pretty rough words about Sarkeesian. “Anita Sarkeesian has not only scammed thousands of people out of over $160,000, but also uses the excuse that she is a woman to get away with whatever she damn well pleases. Any form of constructive criticism, even from fellow women, is either ignored or labeled sexist against her. She claims to want gender equality in video games, but in reality, she just wants to use the fact that she was born with a vagina to get free money and sympathy from everyone who crosses her path.

While the harsh comments haven’t stopped, Sarkeesian actually managed to brush them off and move forward. Even more good news, Sarkeesian even managed to surpass her goal with an abundant $158,000 (the goal was to reach $6,000). Attention was brought to this madness, and shed more light into the mindset of certain male gamers.

There are times when I strongly disagree with people’s opinion on certain subjects, but what it comes down to is if you have the facts to back your points up. And I feel like Sarkeesian manages to do this in all her videos, even throwing in some light-hearted humor as well. I think these, from what I’m assuming, men are just upset because in their heads ‘feminist’ means ‘stuck-up bitch’. Either these men are just that sensitive when it comes to women criticizing their ‘vidya’ games, or they really are pressured into doing this because of what a select few are saying.

Mirrors Edge

Movement On Twitter Raises Sexism Issue

A recent article on Giantbomb.com talks about a movement on Twitter called ‘#1reasonwhy’. Where women who work in the gaming industry tell stories of the rough environments they  are embedded in and the ignorant co-workers they have to deal with. Some of these women range from working game designers, to gamers who were mistaken as booth babes. Such as the case here:

“#1reasonwhy: Because gamers assumed I was a ‘booth babe’ at a games convention, and always asked my male colleagues the “serious” questions.” [Giantbomb.com, Gaming Women Raise Sexism Awareness With #1reasonwhy Movement on Twitter]

Because our lead designer used to yell about there being “a vagina in the room” and nobody called him on it, boss included. #1reasonwhy” [Giantbomb.com, Gaming Women Raise Sexism Awareness With #1reasonwhy Movement on Twitter]

And then that’s when these comments came out.

“#1reasonwhy You’re all crazy aren’t you? Just DON’T GIVE A FUCK,jeez stupid women.” [Giantbomb.com, Gaming Women Raise Sexism Awareness With #1reasonwhy Movement on Twitter]

“#1reasonwhy Men have as much problems in the industry, difference is most men get through those hard time and fight for there place.” [Giantbomb.com, Gaming Women Raise Sexism Awareness With #1reasonwhy Movement on Twitter]

There isn’t much else to say here, other than it’s a trend I’m glad that’s growing. But it still bugs me to see that there are people who, even when told, still have this ignorant attitude against women. For no other reason than, “Oh she has genuine problems within this industry? Well then she can go to hell!”

Conclusion

It seems like this movement of misogyny stems from a lot of factors, mainly the fact that the male community seem to not like change. What’s especially shocking from these stories is to the extent that these men/boys are willing to go just to shove women away from them. This ranges anywhere from violent comments on Youtube, to condoning outright rape on these women for no other reason than, “she had a different opinion.” It’s a mentality that’s grown since the invention of the internet and Xbox Live, where you can speak as freely as possible without adhering to consequences. It also doesn’t help that games like ‘Halo’ and ‘Call of Duty’ are decently violent FPS’s that sprout these massive fan-base mentalities.

Not saying all videogames support these violent mannerisms, but in certain cases they do definitely affect the psychology within some of these players. Competition is a definite heavy factor, and since most of online gamers are comprised of males then it makes sense for them to not want someone of the opposite gender to break the mold. Realism in games like ‘Battlefield‘ and ‘Call of Duty‘ are becoming much more apparent now, but for young men (and boys) it romanticizes the idea of violence and war by inserting spawn points and bombastic ways to kill your opponents. Not to mention the fact that these games barely even have female characters in them, thus assuming that these games are only meant for young men.

It’s a very sweaty-testosterone filled environment that just doesn’t appeal to some women, which is very reasonable. But for women who just want to shoot aliens and have fun, why push them away?

One of the arguments seems to be, “well, men have had just as hard a time trying to do things in the industry” or “grow a pair, and fight for your place.” Not only is this rude to those women who have actually had a tremendously difficult time trying to provide input in their careers, but also it’s a blank assumption. Furthermore, and this is coming from a male gamer, but men can easily just jump into any game of ‘Halo‘ without the worry of backlash. Plus how have men “fought for their place” when the market is male dominated in the first place?! This seems more of a male pride thing than anything else, which is really sad.

As I said, I’ve been playing games for a long time. And not once did I ever thought it was appropriate to shout out “rape that bitch” or even say “you get no sympathy because you have a vagina”. The fact that I had to make this article and didn’t even forget about these stories says something about the state of this industry. It depresses me that these men are putting this image out there, because it means that these women won’t be able to get the same fun experiences that we get. Ultimately I think this industry needs to grow up and actually listen to women who have creative ideas, because we certainly need it right now.

[Heads up, if you like this article then you’ll LOVE ‘Paging Dr. NerdLove‘. It’s not just a love advice site for geeks, it’s also a very valuable site to those who want to make themselves better. Check out his stuff like ‘Nerds and Male Privilege: Tropes, Trolls, Haters & Anita Sarkeesian‘, and parts one, two, and three of the Male Privilege series. Also if you’re fascinated by women’s roles in TV, movies, books, and videogames then check out ‘Feminist Frequency‘ by Anita Sarkeesian.]

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2 Comments

Filed under Misogyny In Videogames

2 responses to “Women and the Videogame Industry, a Dark Examining of 2012

  1. It definitely is something that is unfortunate and hard to pin point why there are so many bad reactions. I guess a lot of it comes down to lack of empathy? Young gamer males are hardly pinnacles of worldly views and the industry has largely been dominated by males as both creators and consumers.

    What I find interesting is the confusion about what is a “strong female character” in so much media and how she should look and act. Is she a strong woman who happens to be sexy in her own right, or is she a sexy fantasy that happens to be strong in her own right?

    • That’s actually a pretty interesting discussion, and I think there’s a lot more weight to it if you consider applying such main characters to a triple-A game (like an ‘Uncharted’ or a ‘Halo’, except with female protagonists). But I think it’s just that the medium is evolving, and in the process we’re seeing backlash against that change. I mean hell just recently the ‘Walking Dead’ won GOTY at the VGA’s and that’s kind of a big deal considering it’s not an epic-major title. Yeah I agree it’s hard to pinpoint where the hatred is coming from, but I think in due time it will die down, it has to.

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