Women in Gaming: Anita Sarkeesian Goes too Far and an Insidious, Power Fantasy-Loving Man's Point of View

Are women REALLY misrepresented in games? Yes... We all know it.

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.**Misguided MarketingPlaying 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 MenThere 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!

Featured Columnist

I am an aspiring video game journalist and a professional awesome person. My words make knowledge parents in your brain that give birth to baby-smiles on your face. You can listen to my podcast by going on iTunes and searching Video Game Podcast Show!

Published Jun. 14th 2013
  • Seth_4867
    If women want to be treated as equals, then they should behave as equals. The #1 way to do so, IMHO, is to shed the dainty stigma that comes with always covering their nipples. Take a look at the picture at the end of this article. It has the caption "Fair is fair," but I don't see anything fair about that at all. Why do women get to see everything but the briefs but men don't? Uncool! Not fair. It's the main reason why I don't get upset that women make so little in the workplace; don't withhold if you don't want to be withheld on. Convoluted wording, sure. But also kind of a double entendre, so I'm gonna leave it.
  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
    I've gotta say: I think you're wrong.

    If you were REALLY concerned with equality you would be as outraged as anyone that women still make $0.75 to every man's $1.00.

    Also I have no idea what your argument is with that whole "covering the nipples" thing.
  • Natalie_9608
    Hi Max.
    I take issue with your advice that she could "catch more flies with honey than vinegar." I agree in that her language is off-putting. If I were a game developer, I'm sure it would sting to be called lazy.
    But, I don't think a cutesy smile and opinion delivered in an apologetic tone is the way to go. That's obviously not who she is. People feel threatened by her, I don't think she should respond by taking a non-threatening tone.
    She's a media critic. She's not pulling punches. Nor do I think she should just because some have difficulty with her message.
    People will get over it eventually. She's started a huge conversation. She's heightened everyone's awareness.
    Would she have the same effect if she were non-threatening? Probably not. Less people would be angry. Less people would discuss her videos.
  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
    You are correct to say that she has garnered way more attention by her accusatory tone. However the attention is almost entirely negative, and it makes the majority of the community not want to listen to her. She's coming out guns blazing and expecting people to say "oh... you know what, you're right!" Which will just never work.
    Anyone with a half operational brain and a pair of eyes can see that there are problems with the industry, just like any other, but it's not about pulling punches She's attacking instead of talking. She's making gamers feel ashamed for things that are by-and-large unintentional. If you could find me a single developer or executive that sits their and says, "Let's give her a ridiculously disproportionate body, that'll keep women down," I will concede completely. The reality is that this goes back so far, to the beginning of storytelling and while there has to be progress and positive change in the future, applying blame is not the way to establish that.
    I, as much as anyone, see the problems with the representation of women in the industry. It's archaic and kind of sad and a little infuriating. The thing about her message that really upsets me isn't what she's saying: It's that she's a well-educated, articulate person that COULD be making a difference by reaching out, but instead she's sitting in an ivory tower.
  • Amanda Wallace
    Former Staff Editor
    I appreciated her bringing the topic to such a place where it's being discussed. Because there's nothing worse, in my opinion, then the people I've seen online saying that sexism and misogyny in games don't exist at all.
  • MirandaCB
    I think she has some valid points, but I think she needs a male counterpart to qualify some of her points and provide the male perspective in regards to the conversation.

    I'll be honest, I like the damsel in distress trope and its variations, there's something very appealing about it to me as a woman but that sort of played out role doesn't make me feel subordinate to men. In the second video of her Damsel in Distress set, her argument on the psychology of men and women in the games felt like a slippery slope that harkened back to my AP Literature days where you had to dig and dig for something that probably wasn't there but sounded really intellectual and smart anyway. I did agree that female characters' deaths tend to have more meaning than their lives, which could be a beneficial adjustment overall, adding depth to important characters and to the general story, that way the death may have more impact without just being thrown in there to mess with the main character.

    I think it can be an interesting conversation, but she did approach it in an irritating way for gamers. I wasn't bothered by her "picking on" some games I enjoy, because some trends are present in them, but there are so many other contributing factors to her overarching arguments that need to be addressed if they're going to be taken seriously by the gaming community.
  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
    I happen to love the damsel in distress trope too. Maybe its because I spent my childhood being obsessed with Superman and watching him save Lois Lane (but maybe it's because I'm an evil man).

    I like the comparison you made to scholarly writings. As an English major I more or less made my GPA on digging for B.S., so it's pretty easy for me to spot since I've done it so often. I wish I had thought of that line when I was writing this, because it really sums up her argument.

    It would be a great idea to have her sit and have a conversation with an opposite male extreme. I somehow doubt she'd ever concede to that though, which is unfortunate as her most basic points are both important and valid.
  • Ryukan7
    I've watched most of her videos, even liked a couple, but I have to say I agree, particularly in the recent tropes vs video games ones. Watching them, it seems my time is equally spent between going "That's a valid point, that really is a overused trope" and "OH STOP TALKING YOU INSUFFERABLE FOOL".

    My problem is that her identification is quite good, those tropes definitely exist, while her analysis of those tropes is beyond terrible, full of equivocal sweeping statements with no support or any attempt at balance. The whole thing just ends up feeling contrarian and as a consequence has zero value as a piece of dialogue. I would love to be able to point to her videos as a good illustration of sexism in video games, I think it's an important topic, but ultimately all they end up doing is undermining the conversation by painting feminism as a coven of idiots burning video game straw men in effigy.
  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
    Well put; I wholeheartedly agree.
  • TygerWDR
    Featured Contributor
    I would argue that she brings nothing new to the discussion of women in video games, but she's managed to do just that. She brought a boat load of anger with her. As I said before, the language she CHOSE to use is the language of hate. I think she's a troll, plain and simple.

    All I know is what I had planned for next week's show is postponed. This week's was handed to me by a feminist wearing flannel.
  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
    I think it's more ignorance than hate. She doesn't seem malicious, just poorly informed. It makes her look more stupid than hateful to me.

    I'm actually beginning to think that she's doing this to get a rise out of people so we're forced to talk about it. Though I ma be giving her too much credit.

    She's a person with a particularly extreme opinion of how things are, and how they should be. Games include many of the things she talks about to breed conflict so the gamer has motivation. She makes it seem like the men in suits on the top floor of their building have a whiteboard that's titled: "How to Hold Women Back."

    There are things that have to be changed, she's just trying in a way that forces everyone to return with blows, as opposed to understanding.

    I'm not defending her really... I just think she's harmless.

    Also - nothing wrong with being a feminist, so long as you do so with class.
  • Germ_the_Nobody
    I think she's just going to extremes. I'm all for feminism but after watching several of her videos i find it hard to believe she actually plays video games. Seems to me she just uses them for her crusade.

    Love the part in the article about the Wii.
  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
    Either she plays or is really good at research, right?

    The whole problem is her tone. I'm a pretty open minded person, and I felt like she was trying to make me feel guilty when all I am is a consumer of the media.

    She absolutely has some points, but her tone of shame is awful and is only hurting her message. Which in turn hurts the legitimacy of the issue.

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