Most days I’m happy to be a part of the gaming community. I legitimately think that it is impressive how the industry brings people together, and how it opens up new ways of communication and educational exchanges. There are times when I find myself marvelling at the creativity that is reflected in the myriads of critical discussions, fandoms and constructive exchanges of opinions happening right now, right here pretty much 24/7. Then that nasty reality check kicks in, and my proud crooning over the positive aspects of the industry comes to an abrupt stop. Because inevitably, I am yet again reminded in some way or other of all the misogynistic bullying and abuse directed towards women and queer contributors in the industry.
It’s such a major and downright disturbing presence that I sometimes feel like retracting my public opinions and return to my old occupation of a lone gamer steering clear of forums and gaming sites. The harsh truth is that if you are not a heterosexual man and you happen to be involved in gaming to some extent, you are automatically a target. Especially so if you’re a high profile like Anita Sarkeesian, who recently received threats and abuse in response to her latest YouTube video of her critical and analytical series Tropes vs Women. Sarkeesian’s latest video is well crafted with accurate reflections over how women are represented as sexualised background props, subject to extreme violence in video games. And the reaction? Yeah, you guessed it. She got harassed with threats against her and her family. One has to wonder if it perhaps hit home so badly that people were rendered unable to produce nothing but anger?
This month has seen game producer and high profile Zoe Quinn having her personal life compromised and exposed online. People seem to justify the aggression and threats made towards her because she supposedly represents the lack of ethics within the industry. The irony lies in the fact that whilst people talk about ethics and how people like Quinn are allegedly “ruining it for everybody”, they themselves behave like oppressors and hence are creating an even more serious problem. There are definitely issues present in the industry when it comes to ethical judgements and actions in relation to reviews and representation, but bringing the issue in question to the surface via personal exploitation only removes from the severity of the problem and instead serves to create new predicaments. Nothing can justify these kind of attacks and yet they keep on happening. It is disappointing to see such a large portion of the general attitude amongst gamers being coloured by immaturity and sexism. People behave as if they are in some kind of boys only-club. An abusive fraternity full of nasty bullies responsible for women being stalked, harassed and invalidated without reprieve.
It generates negative prejudices and assumptions from all angles. It creates hostility and mistrust among us as rape and murder threats are being thrown around while personal details are showcased online. Not only does it make female and queer gamers feel targeted by extreme sexism, it serves to reinforce a general sense of stalemate and backward thinking within the industry itself.
I personally suspect that the root of these issues are prolifically tied to exactly what Sarkeesian’s latest video is about. The issue stems from a sleeping acceptance and how unchallenged traditions of violence, objectification and sexism allows for these negative features to keep on functioning as norms. As much as the game industry is often perceived as a niche, this is a crisis that spans into every single nook and cranny of our supposed “civilised society”. There is no logical transition taking place from one state of mind to another. We base our behaviour on what is presented to us by the media, whilst a few noisy people complain about it. People like Sarkeesian. And when they draw attention to society’s complacencies, our comfortable little state-of-mind is threatened and we react with hatred. However, it still fails me to comprehend how people who are responsible for this kind of persecution can look themselves in the mirror and think that, hey, I’m totally an okay person. Because they’re not. They allow themselves to become and remain narrow minded, uneducated bullies who would do well spending their time on learning a thing or two about equality and respect instead of finding a new victim for abuse. It doesn’t help that people can hide under the anonymous blanket where they will remain both unthreatened and powerful.
While a lot of gamers are children, I doubt they are the ones behaving as such online. But it’s so much worse than people being childish, what has been and keeps on going on is an attack on human rights. I guess the right thing to do would be to approach this in a sensible way and discuss respectful behaviour and treating others the way you want to be treated. There are indeed articles and guides out there for DO’s and DON’Ts in relation to these issues.
But you know what, I’m tired of playing nice and vocalising my worries and disappointment in a sensible way that aims to be constructive and “nice”. It might not be very politically correct of me but I am angry as hell and I’m not even going to pretend otherwise. I’ve had it with the way women are treated. I’ve had it with sexism, invalidation and death and rape threats being a more or less common aspect of a day in the life of a female or queer gamer. I refuse be content with saying that it’s “sad” or “unfortunate”. It’s horrible, it’s ugly, and it’s thoroughly disgusting. Above all, it is unacceptable. So what do we do? It comes down to one thing: stop and think about what you’re doing and why. Take a moment to think about what you are fed every day in terms of images and attitude, not only in the games you play but in the world around you. Because, newsflash, the world is pretty messed up. If you get angry on such an intense level that you throw hatred towards someone you don’t even know, maybe you need to have a think about why you feel the way you do. Try to find a constructive solution of tackling the issue. Create a meaningful discussion. Try to refrain from rage-smashing your keyboard and spitting out abusive language and rape threats.
You are validated to your opinion, everyone is, but look around you before you express it. If you still feel the same, spend some time developing a good argument and present it with a sense of decency. It really is that simple. Sarkeesian is doing it right with her critical thinking via careful presentation. It is almost laughable how poor the response has been. At least it would be if she wasn’t receiving threats towards her and her family. I’m not quite sure how my hope in humanity will be restored unless people wake up and reflect over their behaviour. Until then, I don’t think I can ever go back to being happy of being part of an industry I wholeheartedly want to love and be passionate about.