So I know that I am coming to this conversation VERY late in the game (pun intended), but still I want to talk about it. In case you have not followed the whole mess here is Anita laying down what happened to her in a TEDx talk she did back in 2012
Quick recap, in case you don’t feel like watching a 10 min video.
Anita created a series of, in my opinion excellent, videos that took the lens of feminism to video games. If you have been playing video games your whole life like I have, it is pretty easy to see how they might be, to put it mildly, a wee bit sexist.
Her videos thoughtfully, and respectfully, dissemble many of the TROPES, or literary cliques, that exist in video games. Each video begins by her saying, “remember, it is both possible and necessary, to simultaneously enjoy media, while also being critical of it more problematic or pernicious aspects.” She then goes on to create a coherent, well structured argument about what these tropes are, where they come from, and they may also be detrimental to society.
A rational person, making rational claims supported by evidence. No problem right?
Not if you are talking to crazy people on the internet! What insured next was what can only be described as an all out war on Anita. Her crime? Critiquing a media that privileged people beloved.
For now I am going to skip the conversations on male privilege, misogyny, and all the other factors that went into play with event, not because I think that they are unimportant, but because I don’t feel that I am qualified to explain them in detail. If you are interested feel free to hit the Wikipedia and go nuts clicking on every single link.
I want to talk about what I found personally very offensive about the onslaught to Anita. I am no video game expert, let just get that out now. I am actually pretty bad at them. But I enjoy them, and always have. When I was growing up I went through some dark times, like many of us. I didn’t really have many friends. Typical story of a gamer right?
For me, video games were a safe place that I could go and feel in control of my life, even when I wasn’t. It was very much escapism, and arguments against that aside, video games really affected me in a positive way. They taught me life lessons, they gave me a place I could feel in control, very often they challenged me intellectually, they forced me to think critically.
They were a big part of my life, and they made me a better person.
So when I began to discover the truly abhorrent way that people were responding to these pretty benign videos, I was appalled. Here was an example of a woman trying to improve video games by critiquing them, and she was met with pure, unadulterated hate.
I saw the worlds that I grew up in become less assessable to others, women, who might also want or need a safe place as I once did. This pains me to see. This out pouring of vitriol only serves to scare off women, who may have been considering video games, or any person who dares to critique them in a way the radicals don’t approve of.
This does nothing to improve video games, free speech, or society.
I personally feel, and remember that I am a bleeding heart idealist, that video games have the power to improve the lives of others. They have the power to heal, to teach, to entertain (they have that aspect pretty locked down at this point!), and become vessels or mirrors of our society.
When you cut video games off from criticism, make them exclusionary, and elitist, you are only left with a narrow world with walls that are ever closing in. This was not the culture that helped me when I was younger, and it won’t help anyone now. I hope that enough poeple in the gaming world will agree with me, and we can all work to stop this from happening again.
B. G. Carter
PS. Here is the original video that started all this.