I’m a gamer and damn proud.
You won’t catch me toting a DS waiting to update my Animal Crossing town or feed my Nintendogs. I won’t spend hours in front of my tv wasting the brilliance that is the outdoors. And I will never pass up time with friends, to finish that last level of Bioshock Infinite or play one more round of Zombies. However, I will keep up with the industry’s latest and greatest. I do long for that occasional heartwarming nostalgia that comes with replaying an old N64 favorite. And I will always look forward to the occasional follow-up or reimagining of a series like Zelda or Tomb Raider. Gaming has been ingrained within me since as far as I can remember, but it wasn’t until recently that I stumbled upon a daring vlogger who prompted me to reanalyze these pieces of my past with a new feminist perspective.
A month from yesterday will mark the one year anniversary of a bold concept that would later rock the gaming community forever. After being invited to speak to video game development company BUNGiE, vlogger and creator of Feminist Frequency Anita Sarkeesian felt satisfied with her involvement, but realized there was a lot left to be said for the industry as a whole. She decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund a series of videos that would analyze the history of video games from a feminist lens and illuminate the iconic portrayals of women in these games. Little did she know the tidal wave of backlash, harassment, and vandalism that would follow her from arguably the most proverbial of boy’s clubs.
Two hours is all it took for her video to go viral with over 100+ misogynist comments. The same video that would later garner tens of thousands of comments and over 300,000 views was barely the tip of the iceberg. What started as typical internet backlash soon grew to include threats of extreme violence on several of Sarkeesian’s personal profiles.
Her social media accounts were targets of false reports of fraud, spam and even terrorism. Hackers tried to break into her website and email account. Some even attempted to locate and distribute her personal information including email, phone and home address. Sarkeesian’s Wikipedia page was edited to include sexism, racism and pornographic images. Finally, a game was made in her likeness called, “Beat the Bitch Up,” where upon a few clicks her picture would grow to be increasingly battered and bruised.
After all the negativity and attacks, Anita persevered. It seemed nothing could crush her spirit and in the end she triumphed beyond belief. Within 24-hours she fully funded her initial kick-starter request of $6,000 to create five full videos. Astonished, she expanded her proposal to include one of five additional videos for every $1,500 reached. Again, within two weeks her goal was reached. I literally could go on and on with the growth of support beyond the shadow of hate, but I’ll cut to the chase and say 6,968 contributors later, Anita raised $158,922 to include 13 high-quality videos and a classroom curriculum educators can use for free.
“Every day I am encouraged by the women who persevere, who continue to engage and who refuse to be silenced. I truly believe that if we work together, we can create a cultural shift where women, without fear of intimidation, without fear of threats or harassment, can be full and active participants in our digital world.”
I’m encouraged by people like Anita Sarkeesian who stick to their guns and refuse to be put down on the internet. I hope further enlightenment of the gender tropes in video games opens the door for more open-minded games, and in turn, open-minded gamers. Take a look at her first video below and tell me, where have you noticed gender inequalities in games or was there anything from the video that stood out?
Wait! There’s more! Check out Anita’s blog, Feminist Frequency for even more videos and updates for the Tropes vs Women series!