Apparently I suck at gaming… or so I’ve been told. Yes, it seems that the secret is out. I never thought I was going to win any tournaments, no, but that I “suck?” Well, that seems a bit extreme. So why is it? Is it because my thumbs aren’t lightning quick? Perhaps I lag too much? Maybe my tv is too small or too big? No? None of those things? Then why?
Because I have a vagina. The cat is out of the bag! This explains everything! I’ve also wondered why I’ve had a leg up on sandwich making and cleaning house! At least according to Adam C over at Airborne Gamer, women SUCK at video games. There’s no getting around it. It’s the curse of womanhood at its finest. The article goes into detail about why my gender is so horrible at gaming compared to the almighty man who is surely born with a gamepad clenched in his tiny little fist, but you may not have the time as, if you’re a woman, you’re “focused on shopping, gossiping and talking on the phone for long hours,” (or playing the sandwich making simulator he so kindly included a link to).
Though at the end of his post, Adam is sure to include something of a disclaimer, an attempt to shield himself from the coming criticism (“Oh, come on guys, I was just KIDDING!”), this screams his sentiments regardless. However, I’m not here to counter-rage. I’m here to evaluate. Let us reason together. Let us try to answer the almighty, “Why?”
What is it that facilitates this mindset? Adam C is certainly not along in his convictions; reading a few of the comments assures us that. How does this continue to grow, to flourish?
What may have been an attempt at humor in effect emerged into being as the end product of the conditions not only in our beloved gaming industry, but in society overall. As far as we’ve come, it is still present, rooted in our lives from the very start. It is there in manifestations as innocent as happy meals when little boys are awarded transformers and girls get a doll to care for; when boys are encouraged to be police officers, firefighters and lawyers and girls are told to get in the kitchen.
Gaming has not been immune to these pressures. Societal norms are reflected in industries, tech included (don’t get me started on the “brogrammer“). Historically there has been a discrepancy between the amount of women and men inside of the tech sector running all the way down to college recruitment where men are more likely to flock to degrees that turn into these types of jobs.
But like the question of the chicken or the egg, is it the lack of representation in the industry’s workforce that is facilitating games that encourage unrealistic views of women? Or is it the games that are encouraging misrepresentation in the industry?
In 2008, the Entertainment Software Association released a study indicating that 40% of gamers are women, a minority but not overwhelmingly so. Of course, this likely not only includes “hardcore”platforms, but casual ones as well. Coincidentally, the gaming industry is a sausage fest with only 12% of the industry being females, according to the Game Developer’s Association.
Likely four out of ten people you meet on Xbox Live will not be female and even if they are, they likely won’t let you know. The trend of mistreatment of women in games is not only encouraged by the games, but by gamers as well. A female gamer can hardly put her mouth to a mic without enduring cat calls and other types of harassment. CollegeHumor explained it best by turning the tables in “XBox Girls Get Revenge.”
But what is it that drives this? And why is it so prevalent? Once you accept that men and women are portrayed vastly differently in pop culture and video games, the next question can only be why.
Anita Sarkeesian is a self described feminist pop culture critic at FeministFrequency.com and creator of Tropes vs Women, a web series dedicated to examining representations of race, gender, sexuality, class and ability in pop culture. Unfortunately, she could not be reached for comment by the time of this publication, but her recent run in with perpetuators of this state in gaming speaks volumes.
Sarkeesian recently created a Kickstarter for a new project called Tropes vs Women in Video Games which started with the goal of raising $6,000. Instead, the project has raised $158,922 with just short of 7,000 backers, more than 25x the original amount. But despite the fund raising success, the backlash against someone who might even have the nerve to voice an opinion about the state of sexism in the medium has been swift and harsh. Largely the naysayers resort to ad hominem method: personal attacks based on appearance or background made in an effort to discredit Sarkeesian and others with similar arguments. And the harassment launched here is not an isolated incident. Earlier this year, Jennifer Hepler had her name dragged from the mud after alleged comments she made some time ago.
If the dialogue were simply counter-arguments and logical disagreement there would not be as much of an issue. However, what is taking place here is personal attacks, harassment and outright defamation.
Another writer for Airborne Gamer posted a response to Adam C titled, “Boys Are Stupid, Throw Rocks At Them.” While the title only furthers animosity by stereotyping men, the content expresses that there are stereotypes on both sides and it takes everyone to get past them. Just as not all women are like Princess Peach, not all men are like Duke Nukem. It does have to be us vs them. We can all just sit down and blow shit up and have a good time together.