GamerGate: keep calm and respect women in gaming

Disaster has struck. The princess has been kidnapped, and now you, the valiant hero, must rescue the powerless victim. Sound familiar? Anita Sarkeesian, host of the web series Feminist Frequency, thinks so.

A few months ago, Sarkeesian released a video that critically analyzed the role of female characters in games. The video enraged many a gamer who disagreed, crying that games will be games. Behind the moniker GamerGate, Sarkeesian critics lit up message boards everywhere.

Arguing that no change should be made to accommodate the swelling number of female gamers fails to acknowledge important evolution in an industry that desperately needs progressive change.

“GamerGate has concerned itself with tackling feminism, the supposed behemoth of an ethical issue in game journalism, rather than paying any mind to journalistic integrity,” said Early College junior Harris Billings. “I find their attacks on feminist video game journalism to be childish and completely degrading to their image.”

The controversial movement’s other points can, and should, spur discussion, but not until those supporting the argument can calm down and find a common opinion.

The predominant pillar of GamerGate creates aggressive backlash against comments made concerning the treatment of women in games. The cries of the offended tell social justice advocates and feminists not to touch gaming’s flawed portrayal of women.

Many supporters of GamerGate stand too close to the problem to understand its implications. Critics point to a problem, and many gamers jump to defend their hobby before they can even hear what is wrong with it.

“I think women are perceived as threatening because we are asking for games to be more inclusive,” said Sarkeesian in an interview with Stephen Colbert. “We’re asking for games to acknowledge that we exist, and that we love games.”

The fear of outsiders, and the bullying that results from it, has plagued the industry almost as long as it has been around. On a daily basis women are harassed online just for being women.

“When I join a game of Call of Duty, the comments are usually sexual,” said Early College junior Laura Williams. “No one takes me seriously, and some of the comments really make me feel gross.”

These angry, offensive gamers refuse to see how bad the sexism has become. These gamers often treat female players as badly as the games’ stories portray female characters.

“A lot of games’ themes and characters are geared toward men,” said junior Ryan Siebens. “They focus on bulky males and over-sexualized women. Developers should look to make games that show women in a more equal light.”

The movement also targets the gaming press, throwing out accusations of sex scandals to push up review scores.

“I think that is a compelling way to reframe attacks on women,” said Sarkeesian in her Colbert interview. “(Problems with) ethics in journalism isn’t what’s happening; it’s actually men going after women in hostile aggressive ways.”

Those who really support GamerGate need to take a breath and calm down. The complaints of these critics do not mean the next Elder Scrolls game will not have attractive female characters, but it does mean the industry needs to take some steps to move away from the “boys club” mentality and toward a more universal platform.