The issue of misogyny in the gaming community has been raised time and time again, yet very little has actually changed. The problem reared its head once more when Anita Sarkeesian, creator of Feminist Frequency (‘FemFreq’), was forced to leave her home and hide after the daily hate messages she received escalated and threats were made to violently attack her in her own home.

Sarkeesian’s FemFreq project is a series of videos discussing common tropes in video games and their harmful portrayals of women, such as hyper-sexualization and ‘damsel in distress’ syndrome. These videos generated a huge backlash, with Sarkeesian receiving violent comments, emails; people denouncing her as not a ‘real gamer’ and even the sharing of a game in which players punch her in the face. Ironically, all these people have done is prove Sarkeesian’s point; that the gaming community is steeped in such rampant misogyny that whenever anyone tries to bring up the issue they are forcibly silenced.

While Sarkeesian has also received an outpouring of support, the situation serves to highlight the serious issues within the community. Elizabeth Sampat, another woman working in the gaming industry, has also spoken about how toxic the industry is for women, saying:

A lot of the women in our industry exist in a constant state of fear. Women who make games and would never dream of connecting their face or real name with a Twitter account, just in case. Women who would never go indie. Women who are terrified of starting a crowdfunding campaign but who can’t get their dreams funded any other way, and so their dreams just die.

Perhaps it is not such a surprise that there is such a lack of positive representation in video games when women make up such a miniscule part of the workforce – only 11% of game designers and 4% of the programmers. Few women stick around as long as their male counterparts due to harassment and a hostile atmosphere, leading to a considerable wage gap between the two.

However, not everything about the gaming industry is full of hatred and sexism. When the makers of Dragon Age 2, BioWare, received complaints that the game had too much of a focus on women and queer characters rather than ‘straight male gamers’ the company released a statement saying:

‘The romances in the game are not for “the straight male gamer”. They’re for everyone. We have a lot of fans, many of whom are neither straight nor male, and they deserve no less attention… The majority has no inherent “right” to get more options than anyone else… They’re so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance. They don’t see anything wrong with having things set up to suit them, what’s everyone’s fuss all about?’

Other good news includes the fact that the current executive in charge of Xbox hardware development is a woman (Julie Larson-Green), and popular games such as Uncharted and Tomb Raider are being written and directed by women.

The gaming industry still has a long way to go, but the little victories still deserve to be celebrated.

Sources:

The Verge. 

Forbes.

Autostraddle.

Elizabeth Sampat RSS

Eurogamer.net

BostonGlobe.com