Vitriol damage

The New York Times has coverage of the threats against Sarkeesian and the broader campaign of hatred against women by a faction of gamers.

The threats against Ms. Sarkeesian are the most noxious example of a weekslong campaign to discredit or intimidate outspoken critics of the male-dominated gaming industry and its culture.

The instigators of the campaign are allied with a broader movement that has rallied around the Twitter hashtag #GamerGate, a term adopted by those who see ethical problems among game journalists and political correctness in their coverage. The more extreme threats, though, seem to be the work of a much smaller faction and aimed at women. Major game companies have so far mostly tried to steer clear of the vitriol, leading to calls for them to intervene.

Yeah just “steering clear” of this kind of shit doesn’t cut it. People need to speak out against it, oppose it, organize to fix it, institute policies that would discourage it, name and shame it.

The malice directed recently at women, though, is more intense, invigorated by the anonymity of social media and bulletin boards where groups go to cheer each other on and hatch plans for action. The atmosphere has become so toxic, say female game critics and developers, that they are calling on big companies in the $70-billion-a-year video game business to break their silence.

“Game studios, developers and major publishers need to vocally speak up against the harassment of women and say this behavior is unacceptable,” Ms. Sarkeesian said in an interview.

Representatives for several major game publishers — Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard and Take-Two Interactive Software — declined to comment.

Well that stinks. They should comment. Just looking the other way does nothing to discourage it.

“Threats of violence and harassment are wrong,” the Entertainment Software Association, the main lobbying group for big game companies, said in a statement. “They have to stop. There is no place in the video game community — or our society — for personal attacks and threats.”

Good, but weak. They should comment more forcefully than that.

On Wednesday, as word of the latest threat against Ms. Sarkeesian circulated online, the hashtag #StopGamerGate2014 became a trending topic on Twitter. The term #GamerGate was popularized on the social media service over the past two months after an actor, Adam Baldwin,used it to describe what he and others viewed as corruption among journalists who cover the game industry. People using the term have been criticizing popular game sites for running articles and opinion columns sympathetic to feminist critics of the industry, denouncing them as “social justice warriors.”

Because all decent people hate social justice, amirite?

Gaming — or at least who plays video games — is quickly changing, though. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 48 percent of game players in the United States are women, a figure that has grown as new opportunities to play games through mobile devices, social networks and other avenues have proliferated. Game developers, however, continue to be mostly male: In a survey conducted earlier this year by the International Game Developers Association, a nonprofit association for game developers, only 21 percent of respondents said they were female.

That’s because…uh…it’s because playing is for women and men but development is more of a guy thing. Yeah that’s it. If you say otherwise you’re a social justice warrior and you should be killed.

Still, game companies have made some progress in their depiction of women in games, said Kate Edwards, the executive director of the association, who works with companies to discourage them from employing racial and sexual stereotypes in their games. A game character she praises is the new version of Lara Croft, the heroine of the Tomb Raider series who once epitomized the exaggerated, busty stereotype of a female game protagonist. The new Lara Croft is more emotionally complex and modestly proportioned.

Ms. Edwards said changes in games and the audience around them have been difficult for some gamers to accept.

“The entire world around them has changed,” she said. “Whether they realize it or not, they’re no longer special in that way. Everyone is playing games.”

All the more reason to threaten and harass, so that maybe everyone will stop playing games and let the guys have it to themselves again.



  1. says

    I hope you don’t mind me posting a few links:

    Here’s a GDC panel on women in development:

    Here’s a year-old piece from a woman recounting her own experiences in the industry. This was before Gamergate and it’s interesting that she’s hopeful things will blow over:

    And her original blog post.

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