Gender and Video Games

Kassie Hartendorp

Anita Sarkeesian

Feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian

Earlier this year, feminist media critic, Anita Sarkeesian created a Kickstarter project to raise funds in order to explore tropes of women within popular video games. The project raised a backlash from the male gaming communities who launched a vicious online attack against Sarkeesian. This included abusive emails, blog posts, and social networking comments of a sexist and racist nature. The attacks also involved the creation of hate sites, Wikipedia vandalism (editing her page with crude messages and porn until it was locked) and hacking/DDOSing her website. There was even an online game made called ‘Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian’ which allows the player to ‘beat the b**** up’ until bruises and welts appeared on her face.

Many observed the events in shock and disgust as the attacks rolled in, while others were sadly unsurprised at the outpouring of misogyny towards a seemingly small and harmless venture. To feminist critics, especially those involved in gaming and the internet, this backlash was a manifestation of a wider problem. As background, the gaming industry itself is widely understood to be a male-dominated sector, with only 11 percent of gaming developers being women. There are many contributing factors to this; some argue that technology and gaming have historically been seen as the domain of boys and men. This perception (reinforced by the lack of outreach to females) is argued to have been a barrier to girls playing and enjoying video games, and therefore, creating a lack of motivation to pursue work in the industry. With few women involved in the development process, the cycle tends to continue over and over again. [Read more…]