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Shame In Your Game

An absolutely pitch perfect rant-slash-analysis from Emily Gordon detailing sexism in the video gaming community. It must be read, especially by those of us who see this shit happening in our community but don’t have any insight into the nearly-identical fight going on in the gaming world.

I’m a female with a podcast about video games, so I am frequently asked tough questions: “How do I get my girlfriend to like video games?” “Are you a ‘real’ nerd?” “How do we fix sexism in the gaming world?”

My answers to those questions are, in order: “Start with two-player platformers,” “What?” and “I wish I knew.”

Gaming culture has traditionally been a male-dominated arena, and as women have entered and taken up space in this arena more and more, there have been several ugly instances of sexual harassment. In February, at a live-streamed Capcom fighting-game reality show called Cross Assault, a female player named Miranda’s own coach made so many disgusting comments to her and about her that people calling in to the show started questioning his behavior. Aris, the coach being questioned, instead of backing down, insisted that sexism was a part of the fighting game community, and that it was “ethically unjust” for people to tell him to stop. Miranda ended up forfeiting every match in protest, but luckily, she hasn’t given up on the fighting community.

And that’s just one example. There’s dozens more, including the Saga of Anita Sarkeesian which some of you might already know about. Go read more.

Comments

  1. F says

    “Are you a ‘real’ nerd?”

    I love the implication that being a gamer somehow makes one a geek or nerd, regardless of anything else. That in itself is hilarious. A dude asking that question better check himself.

    Sexism? Aside from the fact that lots of guys are sexist, and they get even more sexist in groups, video gaming attracted more men than women since the arcade days – even the days of arcade before video. I’m sure there has always been some sexism inherent in that, too. But whenever women show up gaming, lots of men feel threatened that they might lose to a girl!. And if they can drive them off or make them hide their gender before that happens, they feel safer in their weird masculinity.

  2. says

    I love the implication that being a gamer somehow makes one a geek or nerd, regardless of anything else.

    This. It’s stunning how “gamers” think they own gaming, when the sports gaming market dominated for years and the casual gaming market is huge these days. They’re such bad geeks they don’t even know the realities of their own geekosphere.

  3. says

    It’s stunning how “gamers” think they own gaming, when the sports gaming market dominated for years and the casual gaming market is huge these days. They’re such bad geeks they don’t even know the realities of their own geekosphere.

    Though I would probably be classified as one, the phrase “hardcore gamer” has often struck me as something of an oxymoron. How can entertainment be “hardcore”? Entertainment is casual by definition.

    I think most of these labels exist to feed people’s superiority complexes and sell more products by exploiting group cohesion. Otherwise, I can’t explain a lot of the behavior I see.

  4. Brad says

    With apologies to Obi-Wan, (sports) simulators* are not, from a certain point of view, video games and some “games” are really skinner boxes.

    I’ve always had the understanding that “gamer” in this context refers to a person who is a generalist videogamer** not falling neatly into a smaller subset. Requirements include, but are not limited to:

    Playing multiple games (otherwise WoW player, Madden player, etc)
    Playing multiple genres (FPS player, RPG player, etc)
    Playing “real games” (roughly games that would have come on-disk in 2003, as opposed to minigame collections, flash games or zynga’s skinner boxes)

    *I don’t consider MS flight simulator a game, per se, and stuff like madden is perhaps more correctly taxonomied as simulator or “electronic handegg”.

    **using “videogamer” feels like cisgender, in that “gamer” is assumed by default not to be talking about board games (anymore) or horseshoes/croquette/sports.

  5. Anonymous Atheist says

    kagerato – ‘Hardcore’ (or ‘diehard’) means taking something seriously as a pursuit you devote a great deal of time, energy, and passion to, and in many cases feel like it’s a major part of your self-identity. Things classified as ‘entertainment’ aren’t all treated ‘casually’ by all people. Video games, in-person card/board/RPG games, music, books, TV shows, movies… all have a majority of people who casually enjoy them occasionally, and a minority of people who enjoy something so much they become hardcore/diehard fans of it.

  6. B-Lar says

    Though I would probably be classified as one, the phrase “hardcore gamer” has often struck me as something of an oxymoron. How can entertainment be “hardcore”? Entertainment is casual by definition.

    Come back to me when you have played deep into the night for your 3rd night in a row. My best gaming is done at the seven-hours-in mark. Tiredness evaporates into concentration. no coffe is required until dawn when concentration breaks. Then work. Then home. Perhaps a nap. Then more game.

    The term “Hardcore Raver” is for those club-jumpers who do it all night every night and only stop when their bodies are unable to take any more. This is the meaning of hardcore.

    I think most of these labels exist to feed people’s superiority complexes and sell more products by exploiting group cohesion. Otherwise, I can’t explain a lot of the behavior I see.

    You might be right to some extent here, but dont mistake your inability to explain as evidence of manipulation of the weak willed by “The Man”. Such thinking could feed into YOUR superiority complex…

  7. says

    While I normally disagree with third-wave feminism, every complaint about sexism in video games and the gaming community I have ever heard is true. It’s terrible that women have an incentive to pretend to be men just so they’ll be left alone.

    The blog “Fat, Ugly or Slutty” collected messages male gamers send to women and it’s worth seeing to get a scope of the problem.

  8. sc_d96895c92c1fdd62c08293f5907856b6 says

    Professional Game Developer here, of 9 years and counting. (Quite a feet in an industry with an average burn out rate of 2 years. )

    Sexism is a huge problem, in the vocal players, on the forums, chatrooms, and in the design of games themselves, character roles and character designs.

    I’d love to work on a game that had a female protagonist that wasn’t running around in high heels, short shorts with her boobs hanging out. I’m still outraged over Lara Croft’s treatment in the most recent tomb raider. :/ She’s been getting less and less cheesecakey as the years go by, and now they throw all that away. People are going to toss out a few characters that fit the bill, that feel like real people, and not running around in chain mail bikini’s. Those are the exceptions. Not the rule. Almost all of them Bioware. I was working on a home project that had a female android in it. Comments went two ways ‘Why is it female shaped? If it has no sex, shouldn’t it be androgynous”‘. Mostly from men. Women who looked at the design had a positive reaction, saw a robot with a female, art deco-ish shape with that wasn’t wearing highheels or have metal tna. Men saw ‘female’, and thought it should, apparently, be ‘neutral’, which to them was male, or ‘bigger boobs, spiked heels’ and a more sexualized shape. I gave up asking on 3d forums for advice on the model or design. Maybe I should toss it towards RW and the skepchick crowd if I get time to pick the project up again.

  9. Carolyn says

    Playing multiple games (otherwise WoW player, Madden player, etc)
    Playing multiple genres (FPS player, RPG player, etc)
    Playing “real games” (roughly games that would have come on-disk in 2003, as opposed to minigame collections, flash games or zynga’s skinner boxes)

    So, you get to declare flight simulators, flash games, sports games, and anything you don’t respect not real games? Really? Why? What authority do you have to declare your kinds of games to be the ones that count? What’s the criteria, other than “I don’t think they’re real games”.

    I hear this a lot, and I really don’t get it. They’re video games. The “casual games” are probably the most clear descendants of the twitch and shoot games I grew up playing in the 80s. Rock Band probably sold more Xboxes than anything else. Personally, I think some people like to make this distinction, because it means their kind of gamers stay the majority, and things they don’t like, despite them selling far more units, are fringe, casual, or just not to be respected.

    I’m a gamer, and I don’t need to defend it. If I’m playing a silly puzzle game, or in a period of excessive online scrabble and chess, or a puzzle zombie game from one of the Humble Bundles, I’m still as much a gamer as if I’m playing through Fallout 3 and Spec. Ops 2 for alternate sessions (my current games – Fallout 3 is paused across the room on the Xbox).

    But I’m not a “real” gamer, because I suck at shooters (love them, just don’t have the twitch for them), or I play on easy sometimes, or I don’t play online, or because I very rarely stay up late playing, or…I don’t know, because I’m a woman in her late 30s who doesn’t base her identity on this. But I buy games (actually, the husband buys them for me, because it makes me happy. He rarely plays any of them). I refuse to be invisible and unimportant to the companies making them.

  10. sc_d96895c92c1fdd62c08293f5907856b6 says

    @10 It’s called ‘Gamer Entitlement’ and it’s annoying as all hell. He’s not the gatekeeper, neither am I, and I make them.

  11. Carolyn says

    @11 – I hear it all the time from the CS undergrad students. Sometimes it comes down to “Men like video games more than women – oh, women play this class of games more than men? Well, they don’t count, they’re not real video games.”

  12. Brad says

    @10, 11, 12
    I didn’t say WoW player, an FPS-only player, and casual gamers aren’t people-who-game. I said they had more appropriate specific terminology for their subsets, and that the blanket term “gamer” has come to refer to generalists. There’s no new information here, read better.

    A person who only plays zynga skinner boxes on facebook would never subscribe to game informer or walk into a gamestop or surf IGN. I have no qualms saying that person isn’t a gamer.

    My parents played clue and monopoly with me and my sister when we were younger, that didn’t make them boardgamers.

  13. Brad says

    The gamers I’m talking about are sometimes referred to as “core gamers”, but I can’t remember ever hearing someone self-identify with that label.

  14. Carolyn says

    @Brad: So, a generalist doesn’t have to play flight simulators, Rock Band type games, puzzle games? That’s not a generalist. You didn’t mention platformers in your types of games, either.

    I read just fine. I disagree.

  15. says

    My wife kicks my ass at Mortal Kombat, but sucks at other fighting games. She’s decent at shooters. But she mostly plays The Sims and casual games.

    Categorization of people as “hardcore” / “no true gamer” is stupid. There’s enough overlap that it’s impossible to pigeonhole someone as being “part of the community” or not. And the categories of games that don’t count are terribly suspicious, where they’re largely populated by women.

    I get what you’re saying — the average joe whose only foray into gaming is playing FarmVille or Bejewelled on Facebook is different from someone willing to sink dozens or hundreds of hours into a game. I would consider myself a lifelong gamer and a damn good one at most genres, but put me online against human opponents in any gaming genre and I simply can’t compete. Most online gamers in pretty well any game have put in thousands more hours into the specific game they play than I could ever find time to put into gaming in general, much less that one specific game.

    But that doesn’t make any FarmVille player any less a gamer than me or than those single-game grinders. It just means those single-game grinders have a sense of entitlement that far surpasses the casual folks, so when a casual gamer (or a core gamer like me) joins in for a fun game and they get beaten down mercilessly and told “L2P” and subjected to personal harassment on the scale described in the linked OP, there’s two things happening there. One, those people think you are only worthy of respect if you’ve put in those thousands of hours; two, they’re creating artificial barriers against anyone being willing to put in those thousands of hours if they have to put up with the bullshit they just received the whole time.

    I don’t play network games because of that level of vitriol and bullshit. The calculus doesn’t work out. Either their culture has to change to fix the wall of hate they use to shut out newcomers, or they stay insular, shrinking, bitter and hateful.

  16. says

    AND. When the specific vitriol they get is stuff they get in every other area of their life, like women getting death threats and rape threats for raising their heads and being apparent in just about any online situation, then they won’t join because they could be doing other things that they enjoy instead. You’ll get a culture where it’s nothing but men, because it’s a feedback loop. More women would fix the culture, but the culture is resistant to more women by definition.

  17. smhll says

    But that doesn’t make any FarmVille player any less a gamer than me or than those single-game grinders.

    Some of my friends were really into Farmville a year or two ago. I’m pretty sure if the v. serious gamers here heard a 30 hour a week Farmville player heaping scorn on a 3 hour a week Farmville player, they would be tempted to laugh.

  18. Brad says

    @15 A generalist doesn’t have to play any particular game or genre, it’s about breadth and depth, the checkboxes are exculsionary, not inclusionary.

    @18 That’s pretty funny.

    Moving on,

    If you care about games that aren’t out yet, you might be a gamer.
    If facebook ceased to exist and you would still play games, you might be a gamer.
    If you go to gamestop for yourself more than once a year, you might be a gamer.
    If you argue about over which game or character or console is better, you might be a gamer.
    If you don’t any of those, then you might not be a gamer.

    @Jason

    My wife kicks my ass at Mortal Kombat, but sucks at other fighting games. She’s decent at shooters. But she mostly plays The Sims and casual games.

    Categorization of people as “hardcore” / “no true gamer” is stupid. There’s enough overlap that it’s impossible to pigeonhole someone as being “part of the community” or not. And the categories of games that don’t count are terribly suspicious, where they’re largely populated by women.

    I successfully pigeonholed in #5. The categories are a coincidence. My friend that owns a “comics, collectables, and games” store plays madden and (formerly) WoW, but nobody in their right mind would call him a (video)gamer. He’s not invested in videogaming, was an adult in the 90’s and never read a video gaming interest magazine, etc. Similarly I don’t think of fratboy dudebros who only play Medal of Duty as “gamers”. I assure you it has nothing to do with female domination.

    I get what you’re saying — the average joe whose only foray into gaming is playing FarmVille or Bejewelled on Facebook is different from someone willing to sink dozens or hundreds of hours into a game. I would consider myself a lifelong gamer and a damn good one at most genres, but put me online against human opponents in any gaming genre and I simply can’t compete. Most online gamers in pretty well any game have put in thousands more hours into the specific game they play than I could ever find time to put into gaming in general, much less that one specific game.

    Online or LAN PvP or cooperative play is not a prerequisite. I don’t play online either. Online play is the extension of arcade play, but “gamer” by itself has never told you if a person only plays by themself or if they play with other people. We either agree here, or you’re strawmaning.

    But that doesn’t make any FarmVille player any less a gamer than me or than those single-game grinders.

    Yes it does. And single game grinders aren’t necessarily gamers either. They’re $game players. Neither they nor Joe FarmVille is invested in gaming, they’re invested in facebook or their one game. Playing a video game doesn’t, by itself, make one a “gamer”. Calling people that only play one thing ever “gamers” is imprecise and inaccurate. Everyone and their mom knows how to and has played monopoly, but there aren’t 300 million boardgamers in the US. It’s not a value judgment.

    It just means those single-game grinders have a sense of entitlement that far surpasses the casual folks, so when a casual gamer (or a core gamer like me) joins in for a fun game and they get beaten down mercilessly and told “L2P” and subjected to personal harassment on the scale described in the linked OP, there’s two things happening there. One, those people think you are only worthy of respect if you’ve put in those thousands of hours; two, they’re creating artificial barriers against anyone being willing to put in those thousands of hours if they have to put up with the bullshit they just received the whole time.

    You’re not talking about me or my arguments here. I think those assholes are assholes too. I’m not an expert in this subarea of gaming, but I’ve heard there’s rank or skill based matchmaking which solves this issue. As does not turning on the chat or plug in your headset. If you want to participate in that chat, then you’re wanting to talk to the assholes that currently overrun those chatlines, which makes me pretty sure saying “don’t turn on the chat” isn’t a victim blame.

    I don’t play network games because of that level of vitriol and bullshit. The calculus doesn’t work out. Either their culture has to change to fix the wall of hate they use to shut out newcomers, or they stay insular, shrinking, bitter and hateful.

    Online/competitive gaming isn’t the end-all be-all of gaming. I agree that group has some serious shit to work through, but “gamer” culture is more than the online gaming that has become visible. They have problems that don’t exist in anyone’s living room. I and my girlfriend with my xbox, computer, our 360 and her computer, PSes 2, P, and 3 and variety of games from TIE Fighter* to Halo to rockband are unimpeachably gamers without ever playing online. Its not the number of platforms (and I’ve never said it was), but rather the breadth and depth of games and the interest in gaming in general that make somebody a “gamer”. My dad who played madden and fifa with me five years ago fails this, Joe FarmeVille fails this, Captain Fratboy Dudebro, Call of Warfare player fails this. Just like parents (including mine) who play(ed) monopoly with their kids fail it for boardgames. I’m not denigrating anyone (other than zynga, because fuck their business practises), I’m being a taxonomnazi. My dad, Joe FarmVille, some Dudebros and others aren’t “gamers.” That doesn’t defame them as people. It feels incredibly incorrect and absurd to call NFL Head Coach a game rather than a simulator.

    My kingdom for rich text editing.

    *TIE Fighter, one of the best games ever, with levels and objectives contrasts nicely with MSFlightSim, which traditionally hasn’t had any gaming in it. Similarly the sports games under the EA Sports its in the game label are few and far between on gaming elements to make them more than simulators, as opposed to those under EA Sports BIG. Madden Cards, introduced in Madden ’01 are an example of game elements over and above the football, but those elements are 100% optional and are more like cheat codes than anything else, as opposed to SSX which is all about not being a simulation of snowboarding.

  19. sc_d96895c92c1fdd62c08293f5907856b6 says

    Again, you’re not the gatekeeper.
    You’re using a different definition of ‘game’ than the industry uses, let alone the people playing them. It’s like defining art. You’re defining games as what /you/ think they are. Sure. They’re not games to you. Alright. But what you’re trying to do is tell other people what is and isn’t a game, based on your preferences.

    On a side note ‘The art of Game design” has some great chapters on the definition of games and the nature of play.

  20. Brad says

    @sc_charachtersalad (is that sequence on purpose, or is it like the old yahoo and googlemess from scienceblogs?)

    Of course I’m using a different definition. Mine is more precise and useful. MS flight simulator is hardly a game, how do you win at it? I’ll grant that achievements turn basically anything into a game (including completely absurd things, like punching yourself in the face. 5 punches? Achievement! 10? Achievement! K.O yourself? Achievement!) but am sorely tempted to argue that gamerscore and it’s cousins are the real game, and the tasks you perform on various simulators, even if run on a game console aren’t necessarily games on their own in absence of the achievement system. Or to put another way, if you play a sport, but don’t keep score, is it still a game?

    I’ve briefly described my gaming habits, based on that, what kind of gamer am I? I described a friend who plays madden sometimes and has been off the WoWahol for at least four years, what kind of gamer is he? I mentioned my dad’s gaming habits, what kind of gamer is he? I’ve noted the existence of people that only play facebook games or some other extremely narrow subset of games, what kind of gamer is each of those categories?

    All of us are gamers, except my dad, who has played games but neither identifies as a gamer, nor would be labeled as such by any observer, but not all of the rest of us are appropriately described individually with an unqualified gamer. There are casual gamers, $genre players, people who play games sometimes but aren’t gamers, former gamers, and gamers who don’t fit in any subcategory. That’s the difference between gamer and gamer. All gamers are gamers, but not all gamers are unqualifiedly so. Joe FarmeVille is a (casual) gamer, sure, but he falls short of the attitude and behavior that would make him simply a gamer. If you can put a gamer neatly in a smaller, more descriptive box, they aren’t a gamer

  21. says

    The character salad comes from that commenter logging in with a SocialConnect alternate auth mechanism, but never editing their profile to change the displayname.

    I think the overarching point here is that you don’t get to decide whether or not someone else identifies with the gamer culture, THEY do. Like how your dad doesn’t. And how I do, even where random internet jackholes might refuse me those creds because I can’t stave off a Zerg rush (kekekeke).

    And all of this is pretty damn far afield from the point of this post. How did we get from “people are being shitty misogynists to girl gamers” to “no true Scotsman” again?

  22. Apparently Not Erin says

    We’re arguing about true Scotsmen, because real gamers can’t be girls and therefore misogyny can’t exist so we’d better derail the conversation before it gets any further.

    So, MacDerail, I am not a gamer. I may play a few MMOs, I may have been in the betas for a couple and I may have even stood in line for a midnight release or two, but thanks to my two Y chromosomes and my refusal to play a wide variety, I am not a gamer.

    But wait, I’ve played video games on computers since I was eight (in the 80s)! In fact, my father bought me games to get me to use the computer. Now I’ve got a Steam account and go looking for things that might interest me. So maybe I am a gamer afterall.

    Either way, when some douchebag tells me to get back in the kitchen and go make him a “sammich” I tell him to make his own damn sandwich.

    The attitudes that I’ve seen are pretty poor. The conversations I’ve stumbled into when switching zones have been pretty offensive. There are guild names like Sapped Girls Don’t Say No (I reported it) and a whole pile of offensive character names (I report them too). I’ve given up on game forums because they’re full of assholes.

    Most recently, I had my baby try to roll off my lap while I was in combat. He did it at a point where I had to keep moving or die. I caught him and therefore had no hands on the keyboard and died. The healer rezzed me, but the tank started yelling at me for being stupid. I explained what happened and he immediately switched from calling me stupid to a boatload of sexist remarks (including the get back in the kitchen fallback). He wound up on my ignore list and if I end up in a group with him while on my healer, he’ll die.

    What we need is more women making it known that they’re there. We need characters with sensible shoes and fewer gravity defying outfits with necklines plunging past the belly button or bikini tops made of chain mail. We need people to say that it’s not right to refer to your girlfriends as bitches or skanks in public chat (or anywhere). We need to tell them that their attitudes are unacceptable and won’t be tolerated.

  23. matriarchy says

    All the online trash talking buttheads, the WoW community, I say they’re the noobs. Real gamers go single player, Mario-style platformer, Ocarina of Time. What the f*ck is this cesspool of dickholery, Xbox Live?

  24. sc_d96895c92c1fdd62c08293f5907856b6 says

    Sorry for the derail. Gatekeepers and ‘That’s not a game!’ with very precise qualities on what they feel makes a game (Which basically boils down to, “If I don’t like it, it can’t be a game!”)

    If you identify as a gamer, you are one.

    Rampant misogyny in gamer culture: Yup. Huge, huge issue. Look at the abuse Jade endured, as an example. As an industry, we need to grow up.
    Character design needs to get beyond chainmail bikinis and spandex. Protagonists need to be something other than white and male. Female characters need to be people, rather than sexual fantasies.

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