Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist, media critic and a creator of the video blog “Feminist Frequency”. Sarkeesian has been targeted by a huge online harassment campaign following the launch of her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series. The situation has been extensively covered in the media and has placed her in the middle of discussions about misogyny in video game culture and online harassment. Sarkeesian has continued to study gender perceptions in video games and speaks publicly about the problems she perceives in the gaming industry and it’s culture. During her speech at Loyola University Chicago Digital Ethics Symposium, she discussed the issues she has seen in the gaming industry and how she has become a victim of online harassment.
Sarkeesian like many young girls, grew up playing video games that lacked strong female characters. Games have always felt like a boys club and create a culture that can feel alienating to women. She gave the example of the gaming system Gameboy; just in the title it has the word boy, which can be off-putting to many parents who would be concerned about giving their child a toy meant for the opposite sex. Recently there have been changes occurring within the industry making games more inclusive. A cyber mob called gamer gate has formed from misogynistic men who feel games are being ruined by these changes. Sarkeesian although not reasonable for the changes has been vocal about her feminist views on games and has become the target of their attacks.
Many of them feel Sarkeesian is personally responsible for the changes and have made threats of violence and rape because of it. They are defending the male dominated gaming media that is the domain of many young men. To further attack Sarkeesian, they have been impersonating her by spreading false quotes and creating various social media using her name, photos and logos. The most surprising form of harassment to me was the superimposing of her face on the bodies of naked women. Although all these hate crimes are occurring against her it seems like not much is being done about it, tools that are suppose to be used to help are being used against her. For example on YouTube, they have been exploiting the anti harassment setting on YouTube by mass flagging all her videos to get them removed from the site. Her Twitter is constantly being flooded with tweets and although it is possible to block other users on the site, it is impossible for her to block every single person. She spoke about how all these social media sites have features to protect users but need to do more.
Sarkessian’s talk was very eye opening, I had never considered how degrading some of these games can be to women or how defensive someone can be when something they are passionate about feels like is being attacked. To most people games seem insignificant, but to the people playing they are huge part of their lives.