If the last 5 years as a video game journalist/insider have taught me anything, it’s that something has gone wrong with the industry that I love.
When actor Adam Baldwin led the charge of trolling against Feminist Frequency‘s Anita Sarkeesian, the “doxxing” of Zoe Quinn, and coined the term “Gamergate” on Twitter, the issue of gender, sexism and video game ethics was rapidly pushed into the forefront. Unfortunately, so were tons of threats to prominent women gamers, as well as any other woman who spoke out against “Gamergate.”
It seems that because these opinions were made by women, we have been seen as “feminazis” and “oversensitive,” with certain badly behaving people saying that we should just “get over it, or I’ll do [something terrible] to you.”
Jonathan McIntosh (above) has served as producer on the Feminist Frequency series “Tropes vs Women in Video Games” for the last two years. In that time, he has learned of and experienced exactly what we, as females in the video game industry, experience: from the crazy things said by socially inept “bro” gamers, to the aggressively horrifying anecdotes (i.e. death threats sent to a BioWare writer over something she’d said seven years prior).
Many women have courageously spoken out about how they experience alienation and harassment in gaming. Despite this fact, too many male gamers still dismiss the issue as “no big deal” and insist that there isn’t really a problem. One of the luxuries of being a member of a privileged group is that the benefits afforded often remain invisible. This blindness allows many men, even well meaning men, to remain blissfully unaware of what roughly half of all gamers experience on a fairly regular basis. With that in mind the following is a checklist of some of the concrete benefits that male gamers automatically receive simply for being male gamers.
With appearances by luminaries and supporters of female gamers that include Double Fine’s Tim Schafer, former X-Play host Adam Sessler, IGN’s Greg Miller (aka GameOverGreggy), GaymerX founder Matt Conn, Mitch Dyer, Kevin VanOrd, and more, “Playing with Privilege: 25 Invisible Benefits of Gaming While Male” is a clever and profound video that makes me both incredibly happy and sad, since the only reason some will pay any attention to it is because these high-profile men in the gaming industry and press have stepped forward to voice their concerns.
McIntosh also stresses that, “this list is referring primarily to straight men who are not transgender, but similar lists could be created for white, straight, cis, or able-bodied privilege, and there would certainly be some overlap with the conditions identified in this video.”
And with that, here’s five minutes that will hopefully open some eyes and — perhaps more importantly — minds.
As this is an important issue to me, let me give you just a small taste of the untruths mentioned in the video that I’ve personally had to deal with in the last few months, and even further back than that.
#2: “I am never told that video games or the surrounding culture is not intended for me because I am male.”
While at a conference in San Francisco this past July, I was eating lunch with a couple of developers and designers, when a developer sitting next to me decided to crack open his laptop and show a designer next to him a “build” of what his company was working on (a shooter game for PC). The designer who was shown the work knew I played a lot of first and third-person shooters, and said to the developer, “You should show this to Crix so she can give you some input.” The developer then made a weird face, shook his head “no,” and said in front of the entire table, “I don’t think you’ll like this game, it’s really not for you.”
Had this developer said that to me four years ago, he’d have left our table with a lot more than a bruised ego. Since he caught me off guard, though, all I could do was smile, and calmly say “That’s really offensive. Just because I’m a female doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy fragging the crap out of an opponent, or ripping out their spine in a fighting game.” I then volunteered the Entertainment Software Association statistics of women who game (above picture). He, of course, sheepishly tuned out and after all of this new information, much to the entire table’s surprise, and still wouldn’t show me the game’s build. However, I got my parting shot in when the guy he did show it to then said, “It’s like Medal Of Honor,” to which I replied, “Oh! Had you said it was like Call of Duty or Gears of War, maybe I’d have been more interested.” Boom.
#19 “When I enter an online game, I can be relatively sure I won’t be attacked or harassed when and if my real-life gender is made public.”
#20 “If I am trash-talked or verbally berated while playing online, it will not be because I am male nor will my gender be invoked as an insult.”
As previously mentioned, I am a sucker for first-person (Call Of Duty) and third-person (Gears of War) shooters, and will venture into multiplayer rounds with pals. Of course, though, there are times when I speak in-game, which then opens up the flood gates for other players to “up their kill/death ratio by singling me out for the rest of the game, as well as to endure sexual proposals and dumb questions like “are you a girl?” And, because my voice sounds like a 13 year old boy’s, I get called a bevvy of homophobic expletives every now and then, too. It’s really aggravating to be singled out because of my gender, and a lot of other women gamers can probably relate to that.
#24 “If I choose to point out sexism in gaming, my observations will not be seen as self-serving, and will therefore be perceived as more credible and worthy of respect than those of my female counterparts, even if they are saying the exact same thing.”
I was told one year at E3 that I’m “oversensitive” and merely needed sex by someone well-known in the industry. Another fun response is asking me if its my “time of the month,” as if that’s anyone’s business.
Finally, though, the most important fact of all to be featured in the video:
#25 “Because it was created by a straight white man, this checklist will likely be taken more seriously than if it had been written by virtually any female gamer.”
This is a very sad truth, and I can’t help but applaud the sheer accuracy of that simple statement.
The battle, sadly, rages on. In the end, though, I and others like me will never be afraid to speak our minds when it comes to what we love and believe in — and neither should you. I am firmly planted and refuse to be moved/chased out of the industry I love dearly.
So, please: discuss.
(If you’d like a transcript of “25 Invisible Benefits Of Gaming While Male,” it’s available here.)
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