Women in Video Games and a Lesson on Acceptance and Understanding

Unfortunately, I have to take a time-out from my usual humorous attitude to address a problem in the gaming community. If you haven’t kept up with the news, recently, the game critic Anita Sarkeesian cancelled a speech at the University of Utah after the school received emails threatening a massacre if she spoke. Prior to that, game designer Zoe Quinn found herself the target of rape and death threats because of her role in game design.

I was born in 1983, and can reasonably assume I’m older than most members of the gaming community. To those of you in your twenties and younger, I want you to understand you have a wonderful gift. Your interests are mainstream. People like video games. People respect them as valid entertainment. You can go see movies based on games. You can buy T-shirts with pixilated creeper faces on them and expect people not only to recognize them, but to laugh at it and enjoy a shared interest. You can go on the internet and watch the Game Theorists or The Completionist or read my blog and know that there are a lot of people in the world who would probably like you as a person and enjoy doing the same things you do.

When I was young, I didn’t get that treatment. I was treated as lazy and worthless because I didn’t want to play sports all the time. I could subscribe to Nintendo Power, but I couldn’t go to a store and pick up half a dozen video game themed magazines, or go see a video game themed movie. Worse yet, despite being a straight A student, people eyed me up nervously, expecting me to pull a Columbine and shoot up my school. They believed I was antisocial, desensitized to violence, and that I had no concept of reality.

Gamers today, thankfully, can live without that stigma. However, I almost wish that weren’t true. Because of my experience, I know what a horrible thing it is to be pushed to the fringe, ostracized, and even threatened for something that made me happy, something that didn’t actually harm anyone else. It find the idea that gamers would instigate this against anyone appalling and sickening. Four out of ten console gamers are women. Forty percent. Can you believe that? If that had been true (or if it was true, if I had only known), I might not have any of the social anxieties and phobias I do today. Why wouldn’t we want to accept everyone into our social circles? We’re creating conflict where it shouldn’t exist. Messy, ugly, bloody conflict.

I have no problem with women in video games. I like playing as Samus. Or Yuna. Or Aya Brea, Jill Valentine, Claire Redfield, or any of the other…two or three..women who may not star in their own game, but at least share equal time with their male counterparts. I’ve even been to Sarkeesian’s youtube channel. Go listen to her! She’s brilliant! I’m going to show her to my students. She brings up a few I actually wanted to talk about in my upcoming Mario RPG entry. In fact, let me embed one of her videos below!

But don’t act like dicks. The older members of the gaming community have been terribly marginalized, watched suspiciously, and villified at every turn, and have very little tolerance for those who commit such crimes. So if you can’t play nice, I will pull the player 2 controller out of the socket and finish my game solo. Go play basketball or something because hatemongering is unacceptable.

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