I was told growing up that violent video games can make you more aggressive. I never really paid much attention to the people who said those things, but after attending Anita Sarkeesian’s symposium on digital media ethics, I realized the world of video games is full of hostility. Granted its not the content of the game that drives people to be so hostile, it seems even worse to me that gender roles in the video game world have led to such aggression.
Anita Sarkeesian runs a non profit organization know as Feminist Frequency, which focuses on the video game culture in regards to women. She also makes YouTube videos that speak to this matter and much more. The gaming industry is a multibillion dollar industry, which is even bigger than Hollywood. The demographics of this video game domain have shifted from straight white males, into this wide spectrum of diverse people. Some men are threatened by this and because of her role as an advocate of this change, she has been the recipient of their aggression. Everything from trying to remove her YouTube channels to creating fake naked photos using her face has been done to her. She has even received multiple threats to her and her family’s lives because of her speaking out.
I have never really considered a very avid gamer. Still, video games have been around for most of my life, yet I had no idea that there could be so much of a division of male and female roles in video games. I mean it was very obvious when I was younger that there was this sort of unsaid mentality that video games were pre-dominantly for boys. As I grew older, however, I started to see more of a female presence in video games and I just assumed this transition would be positively. Instead, we see that video games constantly subject women to the role of the damsel in distress, while male characters were typically the protagonists.
Something that really struck me was how her relationship with videogames and computers could be complicated because of systems like GameBOY. Just having the name ‘boy’ in the system’s name gives it a bias. Another thing she noted was the stigma that Wii’s were a system for girls. This stigma alienated women from gaming. As an owner of both the Gameboy and the Wii, it really never hit me that these two game systems can actually be representations of how genders are separated through video games. This is important to Sarkeesian because these roles in video games serve as a window into our culture and what can be deemed a social norm.
I find myself both impressed by Sarkeesian’s dedication and agreeing with the points she has brought up. It is people like her, who are willing to take the risk and stand up for what they believe in that make the most change.
Do you believe that there are gaming systems, other than the Wii, that are geared towards being more feminine? Ones that are more masculine? If so, which ones and why do you believe this?
Is there a relationship between the view of women in the video game realm and the way they are viewed in real world? If so, what is this relationship and how can it be changed/improved?