Women in Gaming: Anita Sarkeesian Goes too Far and an Insidious, Power Fantasy-Loving Man's Point of View
by Max Jay
Recently Anita Sarkeesian has been making some videos that have people all up in arms.
Sarkeesian is making a lot of noise by heavily criticizing games for misrepresenting women and forcing them to be “insidious plot devices that are only used to move the male power fantasy along on his journey of manliness." As mentioned on this site, people legitimately hate her for this. Like in the same way that people hate Hitler and every season of Heroes after the first one. Sarkeesian is combative, yes; I’d even go as far to say that she is even accusatory, but what people are missing is that she’s right about some of this.
**What're you lookin' at...? It's creepy, stop. Seriously.**
Playing games with my girlfriend is hard. Not hard in the way that I don’t want to spend time with her playing games, but hard in the way that she is not a gamer. She doesn’t really like the mainstream titles; first person games give her motion sickness and she detests gratuitous violence. Both of which I happen to love (in games, I’m not a crazy person… I think).
The other night we decided to go into Best Buy, (to be clear: I love Best Buy, and she puts up with because she thinks I’m cute). We eventually moseyed over to the game section to poke around and something crazy happened; I started walking to the Xbox section and she bee-lined for the Wii as if a magnet were implanted in her brain. She looked at the covers for Fortune Street and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, saying they looked “fun” and “cute” respectively. I tried to explain to her that Fortune Street was an abortion of a game that deserved to be stockpiled and send to a landfill to be burned, but to no avail. She liked the cover; the “little blue guy” (a.k.a. Slime from Dragon Quest) and Mario giving her thumbs up had her sold. Several hours later I said to myself: this is a problem.
**I wonder how much Mario got paid to do this game. Must have owed someone a favor.**
The marketing of AAA titles has become all about the sense of the 18-34 male demographic. I recently read an article surrounding some controversy with Capcom’s new title, Remember Me. Jean-Max Morris, creative director of Remember Me told ‘The Penny Arcade’ that many publishers denied the game funding based solely on the fact that the main character was a female, and as a result the game would be a complete failure. Saying something like this is akin to a movie studio refusing to cast a woman as a main character, and forcing a script to be completely changed in order to market, thereby crushing creativity and progress. Just imagine how terrible it would be if we never got movies like Million Dollar Baby.
Women make up a little over 50% of this planet, and I maintain that women are better than men at most things, except for maybe weightlifting and having penises. Companies cannot continue the blatant sexism raging throughout the industry because they think an entire gender is not marketable; it may make for a quick buck but in the long run it’s hurting them. Women buy stuff all the time, I’ve worked retail – I’ve seen it literally thousands of times. I’m not saying that the developers need to change their games and make them cutesy or anything, but I do think that an entire medium is being looked over by the fairer sex entirely due to accusations of sexism (sometimes justified, sometimes unfounded) and perceived differences between genders that have no legitimate existence in this specific culture.
**That battle attire is both ineffective and inappropriate... There are children here!**
Portrayal of Women Versus Portrayal of Men
There are few games in the history of time that give woman a good spotlight in a game. I honestly don’t care what gender I’m playing as providing it’s a good game with a decent story, but I wouldn’t mind seeing some more Alyx Vance-type women in games. If you break it down there are far more Lollipop Chainsaw type games in the world than there are Beyond Good and Evil’s, and that is a damn shame because Jade was a really deep, cool character that I (a straight man--GASP) loved playing as.
For example: if my girlfriend saw any trailer for ANY DOA Extreme Beach Volleyball (or any Dead or Alive game really…) she would likely be disgusted by its mere existence, which I believe is valid as it's borderline exploitation, and some pretty bizarre exploitation at that. Furthermore, this could cause her to completely write off “sports” games (which I happen to hate anyway), or all fighting games. See where I’m going with this?
**I want to be Nathan Drake when I grow up.**
Companies design leading men to reflect the kind of person that they think the gamer may want to be. Nearly all of them have similar build and facial structure; they’re supposed to be all handsome and witty and yadda, yadda, yadda. Women, however, are designed to be the kind of character that men want to… “hang out” with at bedtime. It’s smart marketing and I would probably do the same thing in similar situations where massive amounts of money are at stake, but wouldn’t it be just as easy to make realistic looking woman the main character and flip those rolls? A dedicated gamer wouldn’t care, and it could potentially make women feel like total badasses and by extension bring in more women that have misconceptions about games.
**I don't have a joke for this one, it's just messed up.**
Within the Industry too!
Beyond the blatant disregard for women’s taste within games, there is also a major problem with how women are treated in the industry itself. In November 2012 Kotaku reveled a very interesting story surrounding women in the gaming industry. Females in the industry flocked to twitter using the hashtag “#1reasonwhy” to say what they think their #1 reason is that more women are not in the industry. The accounts are sobering, and the spread to every corner of the industry; even in the games we all love and play. One woman said that she is mistaken for receptionist, and often assumed to be a booth babe at conventions. This is sickening, and it’s a legitimate flashback to the 1920’s.
To clarify: I’m FULLY aware that women play games. Many even play first person shooters, and probably laugh just as loud as I do when someone’s head blows up in the coolest possible way. But numbers don’t lie, and they say that far fewer women play than men do, and the fault of that lies partially on the marketing of the games and partially on the execution within developers and publishers. In order to be respected as an art form, let alone a viable medium women need to be included and respected in both the marketing ad production of games.
**This happens a lot, but I want it to happen more.**
Anita Sarkeesian is not completely wrong, but she is misguided in her efforts. She’s making people talk, which is great, but she’s making people talk about how much they hate her for ripping on games that they love. Hey Anita, if you’re listening: you’ll make more friends with a handshake than you will with a fist! This community as a whole will respond more favorably to less use of the word “insidious” (which literally made my blood boil) and more talking to people like human beings. You can guilt an industry into change, no matter how necessary it is.
**Fair is fair, right?**
Do you think Sarkeesian is pioneering women’s rights in gaming, or is she just making a lot of loud noises? Do you think I’m totally off base and women are represented well in the industry? Sound off in the comments and maybe I’ll fly or bus to wherever you are and take you out to a nice seafood dinner!Originally Published May. 30th 2013