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Aug 02 2012

To more public calls for change

So is all this trashtalk about women just a big joke, something to take for granted as part of life in gaming, the Internet, sport, business, computer programming, uh…everywhere? Or is it just more of the same old shit and something to get rid of?

The latter, according to the New York Times.

When Miranda Pakozdi entered the Cross Assault video game tournament this year, she knew she had a slim chance of winning the $25,000 prize. But she was ready to compete, and promised fans watching online that she would train just as hard as, if not harder than, anyone else.

Over six days of competition, though, her team’s coach, Aris Bakhtanians, interrogated her on camera about her bra size, said “take off your shirt” and focused the team’s webcam on her chest, feet and legs. He leaned in over her shoulder and smelled her.

Ms. Pakozdi, 25, an experienced gamer, has said she always expects a certain amount of trash talk. But as the only woman on the team, this was too much, especially from her coach, she said. It was after she overheard Mr. Bakhtanians defending sexual harassment as part of “the fighting game community” that she forfeited the game.

Mr. Bakhtanians sounds confused – he thought he was supposed to be harassing a player on his own team?

Sexism, racism, homophobia and general name-calling are longstanding facts of life in certain corners of online video games. But the Cross Assault episode was the first of a series this year that have exposed the severity of the harassment that many women experience in virtual gaming communities.

And a backlash — on Twitter, in videos, on blogs and even in an online comic strip — has moved the issue beyond endless debate among gaming insiders to more public calls for change.

We’re doing that too!

Executives in the $25 billion-a-year industry are taking note. One game designer’s online call for civility prompted a meeting with Microsoft executives about how to better police Xbox Live. In February, shortly after the Cross Assault tournament, LevelUp, an Internet broadcaster of gaming events, barred two commentators who made light of sexual harassment on cameraand issued a formal apology, including statements from the commentators.

Even so, Tom Cannon, co-founder of the largest fighting game tournament, EVO, pulled his company’s sponsorship of the weekly LevelUp series, saying that “we cannot continue to let ignorant, hateful speech slide.”

“The nasty undercurrent in the scene isn’t a joke or a meme,” he said. “It’s something we need to fix.”

People in this scene are saying that too.

Like Ms. Sarkeesian, many women gamers are documenting their experiences on blogs like “Fat, Ugly or Slutty” (whose name comes from the typical insults women receive while playing against others online). It cheekily catalogs the slurs, threats and come-ons women receive while playing games like Resident Evil or Gears of War 3.

Men call me things.

Just as on the broader Internet, there are people who delight in piquing anger or frustration in others, or “trolling.” For trolls, offensive language — sexist, racist, homophobic comments — are interchangeable weapons that vary with the target.

“They treat the Internet like a vast game,” where offending others scores points, Mr. Toulouse said. But the standard advice to ignore the taunts (“don’t feed the trolls”) is now, in the wake of Ms. Sarkeesian’s treatment, being accompanied by discussions about “how to kill a troll.” And many people are calling for the gaming industry to do more.

Same here.

It’s uncanny, isn’t it.

16 comments

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  1. 1
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Oh my god, what BULLIES the New York Times, EVO, Pakozdi, LevelUp and Sarkeesian are!

  2. 2
    Ace of Sevens

    A bunch of commenters threw a fit in comments about Kotaku’s coverage of the Cross Assault tournament.

    http://kotaku.com/5889066/competitive-gamers-inflammatory-comments-spark-sexual-harassment-debate
    http://kotaku.com/5889415/this-is-what-a-gamers-sexual-harassment-looks-like

    Note there’s also a lot of condemnation of him for exemplifying the worst stereotypes of gamers, so there is hope.

  3. 3
    Ace of Sevens

    Also notice that Bakhtanians lost a lot of support when a video surfaced of what exactly he said rather than the theoretical idea of his making sexist trash talk.

  4. 4
    eric

    The coach and commentator thing is just baffling. Hopefully some of this will go away as the tournaments become more mainstream. I can imagine the Bakhtanians of the world losing positions to coaches who, y’know, actually help their players win. Particularly if this goes the way of many individual sports, where the competitors themselves hire and fire the coaches.

    Likewise with the commentators; I can imagine if the money gets serious, jokers like these will lose out to people whose commentary is about, y’know, the game.

  5. 5
    CanadianChick

    what a disgusting piece of crap that guy is. Even if we could ignore his blatant harassment, which I can’t, what kind of ‘coach’ constantly distracts and annoys his team?

  6. 6
    Scr... Archivist

    As 2012 wears on, I become increasingly convinced that it will be remembered as a year of reckoning for geek culture. Is it going to smarten up and open up? Or will it fence itself off from civil society, and steadily decline?

  7. 7
    Cam

    Or, third option, will it fork into civilized and feral versions? Because I can tell you this: we female geeks, we’re not going away easily.

  8. 8
    Nomen Nescio

    @#6: since when was geek culture NOT fenced off from civil society? one could make a good argument that geek (sub)culture started out BECAUSE of geeks being excluded from mainstream, “civil” society.

  9. 9
    iknklast

    “what kind of ‘coach’ constantly distracts and annoys his team?”

    A coach who believes that women want to be treated like sex objects. Strange how many men have come to believe that, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

  10. 10
    Rogi Riverstone

    I made a video, discussing Online survival strategies. We really need to regroup. Fourteen year olds are setting the “standards” for discourse in society. We need to brush up on etiquette & self defense.
    http://youtu.be/578KMivqilc

    Some strategies for speaking truth to power, confronting abuse and dissolving the haters. In response to

    “Don’t Feed the Trolls – SkepchickCON/CONvergence panel”
    http://youtu.be/GSHipqT1wa8
    Published on Jul 8, 2012 by ZOMGitsCriss

  11. 11
    Eskeptrical Engineer

    These conversations are happening in gaming. They are happening in science fiction. They are happening in programming. Of course, they are happening in atheism and skepticism.

    I feel like we’ve just hit some kind of cultural tipping point. There are women (and men) in so many different areas simultaneously standing up and saying “No more.” I think that a lot of good is going to come out of this.

  12. 12
    Godless Heathen

    A coach who believes that women want to be treated like sex objects. Strange how many men have come to believe that, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

    I assume his “evidence” is television shows and men’s magazines. So, when he meets actual women who tell him that’s not the case, he can’t incorporate that information into his worldview.

  13. 13
    Lou Doench

    @Nomen Nescio
    That is exactly right. I happen to think that the upswing in such vile behavior in geek culture can be at least somewhat (lots of weasel in that somewhat) explained by the mainstreaming of geek culture. IMHO a lot of the douchebros that inhabit this realm would not have been geeks 25 years ago. They would have been jocks or preps. The explosion of home gaming and online gaming as well as the mainstream acceptance of geek oriented films has greatly expanded the pool of possible geeks way beyond our original subculture.

  14. 14
    Ophelia Benson

    Ah that’s an interesting suggestion. I keep wondering where all the geeks were before, and what they did.

  15. 15
    Brad

    What is this “coach” and what the hell is it doing in videogames? Are we sure it’s not rejected furniture from Peewee’s Playhouse?

  16. 16
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