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I need your help with an article on video games

Some of you might know I’ve written some pieces on video games and also sexism.

At the moment, I’m doing some research into a piece on sexism and video games, trying to find an effective way to undermine much of the horrible responses that my non-male friends receive who speak out against misogyny and sexism, and speak for more inclusiveness. Indeed, they don’t even need to be speak out: they just need to be non-male and be vaguely public.

I therefore am looking for anyone

1. who has worked with and created games, especially female led ones, and

2. has experienced (or even said) the hateful, horrible things that tend to come from male gamers.

I’ve gotten some great contacts and spoken to some creators already, thanks to my wonderful co-bloggers here at FtB. But I’m hoping some of you out there that can give me more insight and information on this serious topic.

I am really wanting to write this, since the latest batch of Anita Sarkeesian hatred hit the internet like a flood of shit from the mouth of an inter-dimensional rage monster.

I’m part of this industry, as a consumer and very amateur critic. And I don’t want to be part of an industry or group in which people feel marginalised, unable to express their creativity and brilliance, or feel targeted, merely because of their sex, race, sexual orientation, or whatever.

If you can offer any help – whether recommending people or you yourself – please use the Email Me button on my About.me page. Thank you.

UPDATE 17/06/2013:

I’ve received some excellent responses. Thank you all.

Apologies that some comments have landed up in the spam and pending folders. Not sure why. We are having some tech gremline battles here, apparently.

Speaking of, some comments appear to be off-topic and just plain strange. I speak more about it here.

Comments

  1. maudell says

    Good one, I’m interested in keeping this conversation going. As a long-time female gamer myself (one of that non-existant demographic), this whole attitude is utterly repulsive to me.
    Besides the blatant sexism and racism of this loud core of gamers (hopefully a minority), I am puzzled by the common argument “The fact that you ask for more diversity in games makes you a sexist/racist.” I think this logic is based on the idea that racism/sexism will end if everyone pretends to be ‘colourblind/genderblind.’ Of course, this is utterly ridiculous (there’s a reason ‘colourblind’ ideas are way more popular with white people, it doesn’t work but it makes you feel good about yourself). Anyway. If they are so gender and colourblind, why do they care? It’s a mystery to me.
    Another thing I wonder about is that I commonly see men giving the exact same argument a woman would say, and the comments are pretty tame and respectful, structured like “I disagree with you and here’s why: argument 1-, 2-, 3-.” When a woman writes exactly the same thing, well… we know what kind of comments she gets.
    It’s like they don’t notice the irony.

  2. Pitchguest says

    Yes. Anita Sarkeesian. The person people bring up when they have no idea about actual sexism/hatred towards women. To begin with, Anita on her Feminist Frequency drew a lot of criticism for making terrible videos with bad research, to the point where nearly all of her videos were in the majority downvoted. This prompted her to disable ratings on her YouTube videos. Next when she received criticism (and a fair bit of trolling) in the comment section, she disabled that as well. Next she disabled statistics, and with all of that combined she’s made it impossible to quantify the importance of her videos.

    But because she made a Kickstarter where she inexplicably enabled both ratings and comments on the one video featuring her Kickstarter (but still disabled on the others), which (unsurprisingly) got downvoted pretty fast and filled with comments mostly to do with her other videos — because you couldn’t discuss them there as the comments were disabled — and again a fair bit of trolling. Which she cherry picked and highlighted on her Kickstarter as supposed evidence for “this is what happens when a woman wants to discuss sexism in video games.” Which was, of course, absolute bullshit. And a short while after the initial comments came in, she applied a moderation filter which means the comments had to be approved by Sarkeesian before they could be shown. She also took to deleting comments outright, however many of the troll comments remained untouched. And you have to hand it to her, it worked like a charm – 30 days later and nearly $160,000 richer.

    Anyway. The latest furore, the Twitter comments that she linked to (carefully picked, no doubt), is another one of her attempts to confirm her bias. And it shows. But I wonder if you’ve actually read the Twitter comments. Some of them tells her to just shut up (which isn’t an indicator that she should shut up about “sexism in videogames”, especially since it’s prefaced with “this … is what it’s like to be a videogame critic on Twitter.”) Some of them shows indifference and some of them say things like this.

    http://media.tumblr.com/c1547c3e16abf5ff6d230f81fa25ba8d/tumblr_inline_mo797etZ9h1qz4rgp.jpg

    In fact, more than half of the Tweets she shows say things like that.

    What’s wrong with that? It’s true. The gender of the protagonist *is* irrelevant to make or break the quality of a game. (Case in point: Remember Me.) But Anita actually thought him saying that was so terrible she decided to showcase it as proof of some sort of hate or harassment? Did you actually read the post yourself, Tauriq, and the tweets that accompanied it? (Where do I acknowledge there are some horribly sexist ones [the ones implying women shouldn’t play games, games with female protagonists don’t sell {which is plain idiotic seeing as Tomb Raider has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide} and how women should stay in the kitchen] and I don’t condone that in the slightest.)

  3. wtfwhatever says

    ” But I’m hoping some of you out there that can give me more insight and information on this serious topic”

    I interpret this to mean, “I know shit about this, but I have an agenda to press.”

    I think there are a zillion bloggers and pundits and reporters that believe this is reasonable, ethical, and profitable.

    I’d prefer you just shut up and listen unless you have real life experience on this.

  4. says

    “she’s made it impossible to quantify the importance of her videos.”

    And YouTube comments reliably quantify the importance of an individual’s contribution…

    Concern trolling, don’t you just love it?

  5. says

    Yeah PitchGuest… You are well known for your bullshit on FTBs, but how exactly do you explain the almost complete lack of idealised female protagonists compared to male? Anita makes a pretty good case for it, as does the video in LousyCanuck’s latest post ->
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2013/06/13/objectification-vs-idealization-in-video-games/

    Whereas you just assert that gender of the protagonist is irrelevant to the game… So why all the men then? Just co-incidence?

  6. says

    Just realised I added to PitchGuest’s derail as that’s not exactly on topic — why not head off to Canucks post to argue PG? Assuming you are not banned there already.

  7. Pitchguest says

    Tony Sideway: Mmm, yeah, something tells me you don’t know the meaning of “concern trolling.”

    From urbandictionary, here’s a definition of concern trolling.

    “In a situation where there exists mutually exclusive positions A and B, a concern troll is someone who supports A but professes to support B around genuine supporters of B. However, they express their “concerns” about aspects of position B in order to sow doubt and uncertainty amongst genuine supporters of B.”

    The only reason I brought up Anita Sarkeesian is because she was mentioned. That said, I don’t support her. In my opinion, she’s greedy, whiny and arrogant. She either deliberately or unwittingly features bad research in her videos to seemingly confirm her own bias, but neither accepts or encourages constructive criticism. She just doesn’t. The most infamous examples of why she began to shut down comments and ratings on her videos were her “Top 5 Creepy Christmas Songs” video which was almost universally downvoted, her analysis of Joss Whedon’s universe in Buffy and Firefly, and her review of “Bayonetta” which was so bad, so badly researched and where you could CLEARLY tell she hadn’t played even a minute of, that she actually deleted it.

    And when she started her Kickstarter, it became clear she was looking for pity donations the way she carefully picked the comments from YouTube and featured them on her Kickstarter page with a caption that said, “This is what it’s like when a woman wants to talk about sexism in videogames.”

    To cement how deceptive she really is, on her latest video, “Damsel in Distress, Part 2″, she actually provides a trigger warning for — and I shit you not — “violence against women [in videogames.]” I was just stumped by that. In her previous video, she spoke about a female protagonist from cancelled game “Dinosaur Planet” called Krystal. In it, the female anthropomorphic fox would fight lizard creatures, but it was cancelled and Krystal was instead shoehorned into Star Fox Adventures. (Which she lamented as another *strong* female character turning into little more than eyecandy. [Which I admit was pretty bad.]) But what she FAILED to mention were two things: 1) “Dinosaur Planet” was supposed to have TWO protagonists, one was Krystal and the other was Sabre (the MALE protagonist). You were supposed to be able to switch between them. And 2) all the enemies in the game were, at least as far as the trailers are concerned, MALE LIZARDS. That’s right. So when she talked a game with a female (and male) protagonist where you’re supposed to beat up MALE lizards in the previous video, she actually has the gall to provide a *trigger warning* for *violence against women [in videogames]*?

    But the thing is, I didn’t think Anita was shallow enough to consider the gender of the protagonist important enough to “make or break the quality of a videogame” as it were, but it appears she is. Which is just further hypocritical when she seemingly doesn’t care that thousands upon thousands of MALE enemies/flunkies/villains are murdered every day in games worldwide. Trigger warning! In fact, just yesterday I elecrocuted my fair share of male flunkies in Skyrim. I guess that makes me a misandrist? I have no idea.

    For those who’re convinced that female protagonists “make or break the quality of a videogame”, I refer to you to the SNES and games like “Pocky & Rocky”, “Donkey Kong 3″ and “Super Metroid”, to name a few. If you’re to mentally switch the genders of the protagonists in these games, would it really make a difference? Of course, that’s not to say that Super Metroid doesn’t *work* with a female protagonist or that it didn’t *enhance* the story of the game, because it did. But gameplay wise, which is really what’s important in a game? It would have made fuck all difference, especially in Super Metroid. And in Pocky & Rocky, you have the choice to play as either a tanuki (an anthropomorphic racoon) or as a miko, a female monk/priestess. Does Pocky automatically become a feminist hero(ine) because she happens to be a girl? And finally, in Donkey Kong 3, you primarily play as Dixie Kong but the gameplay is the same as the two previous titles.

    So don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying women have no place in games. That’s not what I’m saying at all. Women have every place in games. Of *course* they do. But it’s clear that the gender of the protagonist in a game is irrelevant until you’ve actually played the game and it doesn’t automatically determine the quality of a game (whether it’s good or bad). Did anyone care, for example, that the protagonist in Half-Life was a man? If it had been a woman instead, but retained the same qualities and general appearance, would it really have mattered? Obviously it’s impossible to know now, but personally I don’t think so.

  8. Sassafras says

    http://media.tumblr.com/c1547c3e16abf5ff6d230f81fa25ba8d/tumblr_inline_mo797etZ9h1qz4rgp.jpg … What’s wrong with that? It’s true. The gender of the protagonist *is* irrelevant to make or break the quality of a game. (Case in point: Remember Me.)

    What’s wrong with it is that he’s using it to argue AGAINST more female protagonists in games, when it actually implies that if gender of protagonists doesn’t affect game quality, then there isn’t any reason not to have more female protagonists. And the creators of Remember Me were turned down by publishers who rejected the game specifically because it had a female protagonist.

  9. Callinectes says

    Maybe because we, as humans, tell stories to each other, so narratives matter. Games aren’t all about the mechanics, otherwise it wouldn’t even be necessary to have a person as the PC at all, we could have a blob of undifferentiated protoplasm shooting nondescript elements for reasons that are never described. But I don’t think many people would buy that game.

    And point of fact: Sarkeesian never says that a game is terrible for having the problems she highlights, only that they have the problems she highlights. She bends over backwards to make it clear that you can recognise these problems in a game and still enjoy the game. But if her entire series was nothing but that statement reiterated over and over again people still would still hear her saying “games are bad because there are no women PCs”. She never says it, yet people hear it. Why? I don’t understand how you can say one thing quite clearly and then be resoundingly misinterpreted to be saying the nonsense people expect you to say instead.

    I like games, and so does Sarkeesian. But nothing can improve if we refuse to acknowledge their problems.

  10. Pitchguest says

    Callinectes:

    And point of fact: Sarkeesian never says that a game is terrible for having the problems she highlights, only that they have the problems she highlights. She bends over backwards to make it clear that you can recognise these problems in a game and still enjoy the game.

    Oh, she does nothing of the sort. What she does is complain and wax lyrically about the “game of patriarchy.” Her ego became even more bloated after her Kickstarter success, because I suppose when a woman receives trolling comments on YouTube it’s because of “misogyny” and because it reveals a power differential between men and women. *shakes head* She’s so full of shit.

    Actually, she does say that and she has said it in the past. (Case in point: Bayonetta.) With games featuring *strong, independent women*, she’s lashed out at that too, saying they’re just emulating men. She is rarely satisfied when it comes to both games and films (and television series), and as I mentioned she even saw ulterior motives in Christmas songs.

    However, I at least figured she wouldn’t be so shallow as to think the quality of a game is dependent on the gender of the protagonist, but ‘lo and behold, in the Tumblr post above where she highlights some tweets (which are also rude and sexist, as I’ve also acknowledged), some she finds negative are also ones that simply point out that the gender of the main character is irrelevant. For instance, one of the best writers in games today, Amy Hennig, was head story writer for one of my favourite game series, the Legacy of Kain. She’s also creative director for Naughty Dog game company and head story writer for the Uncharted series AND has been named one of the 100 most influential women in the game industry. Would she pass on the opportunity to write a female lead character in a game?

    The creative director for Remember Me said that there aren’t enough female lead characters and remained steadfast in his decision to keep the lead female throughout production. Actually, he even went so far as to say publishers are sexist because he’d apparently gone around to different publishers and they had said the same thing – “people don’t want female protagonists.” Which sounds like absolute bullshit, what with the Tomb Raider franchise having sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, as well as the recent one already hitting the 4 million margin. But whatever, he stuck by it and Remember Me was marketed with that in mind – a female protagonist. But was the game itself any good? Turns out, not really. The world design was inspired, the ambition for the story was admirable (but fell short), however the gameplay was repetetive, the platforming awkward and had otherwise poor design choices overall.

    So did the quality of the game improve simply because it featured a female protagonist? Seems not.

  11. Pitchguest says

    Oh, and I should mention Rhianna Pratchett, who was the main writer for the recent Tomb Raider, Heavenly Sword and Mirror’s Edge — all of which have a female lead.

    But she was also the main writer for such games as Overlord (the entire series), Stronghold Legends and Viking: Battle for Asgard, which do not have a female lead. There are also scenes like this in Overlord II, which others here might even consider objectification:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3s5szus0SU

    However, I reiterate, written by a woman who also wrote the three great games I mentioned at the start. The Overlord series is also very good gameplay and storywise.

  12. says

    Pitchguest: “Look at all that cherry-picking! She did not put forth all her Twitter comments and every other thing I demand! Now respect my tirade with lots of words and my cherry-picked quotes!”

    Give me the feminist frequency links and everything else that you need to demonstrate your whole claim. Otherwise the differential treatment that I see women endure is enough for me to give her the benefit of the doubt. You do not deserve that benefit when you undermine your own argument with lack of info. Again, I accuse you of the same thing you are complaining of. No one should listen to that kind of bullshit.

    When a single women speaks out and draws attention to herself she becomes a target of the mob. So you will have to do better than that to convince me that what she endured is somehow normal or unsurprising. ESPECIALLY since you did not back up your arguments about the quality of her work. Your word and cherry picked quotes is not enough when you claim the same of her.

    The only thing that is “of course absolute bullshit” is your whole hypocritical approach. Quality is subjective and we are different subjects. Games are different subjects too. The subject Tomb Raider is not independent of gender because it is a long running series with a protagonist with certain “attributes” that were already part of gender debates. You might like conveniently forgetting the older comments and opinions about that series but your ignorance is not my problem.

    Tauriq
    Since I see your intention to collect data and then tell us what you find, I look forward to hearing what you learn.

  13. says

    I take it PitchGuest was either banned at Canucks place or he fancies derailing this thread to be all about his dislike of feminism, yet again.

  14. says

    @3:
    Your interpretation skills leave much to be desired.
    Tauriq has admitted a lack of experience dealing with this. He wants to write on the subject, but wants to do so from an informed, educated perspective. Hence, asking for help. Unlike both you and Pitchguest, who both have a clear agenda to press (though at least you don’t drone on and on-as Pitchguest does-all the while thinking a point has been made when a simple “I dont like feminism, feminists, or FtB. I also dont believe in rape culture, patriarchy or toxic masculinity, despite the wealth of readily available evidence that I refuse to read.”)

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