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Gamergate Primer


Michael Hardner

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Samus Aran from Metroid, Shepherd from Mass Effect could be female, Robin from Fire Emblem can be female, Nariko and Kai from Heavenly Sword....

Ellie is not the protagonist in The Last of Us; Joel is.

Regardless, it's pretty clear that the exceptions here prove the rule. Samus was sexualized with the Zero Suit thing and for every non-sex object female protagonist there's a game like Bayonetta or Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball where women are hyper sexualzed.

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Second: the issue is there's practically no non-sexualized female protagonists in AAA games.

What are you still in the 90s? Almost every game I've played this millennium that involves a main character that you control, starts with the process of "character creation" where you can make your main character either a male or female, along with customizing their appearance and other attributes.

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If men have always been most interested in gaming, how do you correct the gender inequality in the number of females working in the game industry? How do you correct the pay inequality? If it's mostly men designing most games for a majority male audience, it's a foregone conclusion that games will continue to be made to appeal mostly to males. That's basic psychology and capitalism.

I guess you have to hope men are interested in things beyond their own narrow scope. I guess that's an impossible ask.

What are you still in the 90s? Almost every game I've played this millennium that involves a main character that you control, starts with the process of "character creation" where you can make your main character either a male or female, along with customizing their appearance and other attributes.

There's a few, but let's not pretend for a second that this is the norm.

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What are you still in the 90s? Almost every game I've played this millennium that involves a main character that you control, starts with the process of "character creation" where you can make your main character either a male or female, along with customizing their appearance and other attributes.

That's simply not true. Some games you can. The most popular games, not usually. If you play RPGs or RPG-like games like Skyrim, Oblivion, Fallout 3, Mass Effect, and Destiny, then you will have customization options. Still other games and arguably the most popular games of the generation don't offer it, like The Last of Us, Halo, Grand Theft Auto, and any of the Nintendo franchises (save for Pokemon and the female character was added late).

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More importantly, the writing for female characters, whether they're the protagonist or not, tends to be limited. Their sense of purpose in these stories is almost always about satisfying the needs or desires of men. Nintendo even ruined what was seen as one of the most feminist characters in the history of gaming: Samus Aran from Metroid. Other M was widely panned for turning her into a crybaby with daddy issues taking orders from the hyper masculinized space marines (all men). Samus was an independent and bad ass space bounty hunter, answering to no one. But then, people read into her story themselves. There never was much back story for her.

A writer at one of the cons made the point that female characters lack agency the vast majority of time. You can literally swap them out with a table lamp and not change the meaning of the story. Think about it sometime. What does it matter that Princess Peach is a woman? She's simply a prop for Mario to acquire. That's the problem with a lot of the writing in the gaming industry. Women are very often used as props and are not written as people with their own agency.

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Is there evidence she doesn't play the games she critiques? Just because someone might not love games doesn't mean they don't play them.

The first video I linked shows her in one clip LOVING the games, the next clip in front of a classroom she indicates she does not play games. So which is it?

Minor to you maybe.

It is minor. There are plenty of games in which there is no gender tropes.

Now I'm wondering if you've watched any of her videos. her point is females in games are usually depcited as sex objects and sex objects alone (when they aren't being used as mere plot devices to give the male characters motivations)

Sure they are depicted as sex objects. But is that because of the way they are dressed, or the way they act? Again, plenty of games where the female characters are not sexualized. But the gender tropes exist for the male as well. Which are unrealistic for the most part. It is a FANTASY a way to escape realism.

So your answer to the idea that video games are hostile to women is that women just shouldn't play games? OK guy.

That is not what I said. You even put that part in bold. She does not have to play a game she thinks is depicting women in a bad way. There are plenty of games in which there is no issues about gender or anything of that sort.

A series where men are mostly fully realized characters with motivations and nuance and women are...porn stars or shrews. Yeah, good examples.

Women are coked up whores and guys are murderous thugs. Does GTA paint a pretty picture of the genders? Nope. But that is not why I play the games.

Yeah, there are good examples of games that don't deal in tired tropes and they should be recognized, but the idea that most AAA titles that perpetuate the same old nonsense should be exempt from criticism is bafflingly dumb.

What is the same ol nonsense that any new AAA title portrays? I would love some examples.

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There are some (Alyx Vance from Half-Life, Chun-Li, Faith from Mirror's Edge, Chell from Portal, Jade from Beyond Good & Evil, Ellie from Last of Us, Kat from Halo Reach etc.) but there definitely needs to be more.

Throw in Ripley's daughter in Alien Isolation. The lore of Homeworld puts Karan S'Jet front and center of the epic story of saving their race from annihilation. Nothing sexualized about that character.

80% of my games that I own, don't get into the realm of gender tropes. So really she is picking on a small aspect of gaming.

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The first video I linked shows her in one clip LOVING the games, the next clip in front of a classroom she indicates she does not play games. So which is it?

Who cares?

It is minor. There are plenty of games in which there is no gender tropes.

Again, minor to you. For a woman who wants to play a AA action title, these tropes are almost unavoidable.

Sure they are depicted as sex objects. But is that because of the way they are dressed, or the way they act?

Uh, both?

Again, plenty of games where the female characters are not sexualized.

And?

But the gender tropes exist for the male as well. Which are unrealistic for the most part. It is a FANTASY a way to escape realism.

Yes it must be terrible for men to be only be able to play as ass-kicking heroes all the time.

That is not what I said. You even put that part in bold. She does not have to play a game she thinks is depicting women in a bad way. There are plenty of games in which there is no issues about gender or anything of that sort.

"There are plenty of fountains and seats at the back of the bus for black people! What are they complaining about?"

Women are coked up whores and guys are murderous thugs. Does GTA paint a pretty picture of the genders? Nope. But that is not why I play the games.

Here's what Petit said in her controversial review of GTAV:

On a less positive note, it’s deeply frustrating that, while its central and supporting male characters are flawed and complex characters, with a few extremely minor exceptions (such as the aforementioned optional getaway driver), GTA V has little room for women except to portray them as strippers, prostitutes, long-suffering wives, humorless girlfriends and goofy, new-age feminists we’re meant to laugh at.

Characters constantly spout lines that glorify male sexuality while demeaning women, and the billboards and radio stations of the world reinforce this misogyny, with ads that equate manhood with sleek sports cars while encouraging women to purchase a fragrance that will make them “smell like a bitch.” Yes, these are exaggerations of misogynistic undercurrents in our own society, but not satirical ones. With nothing in the narrative to underscore how insane and wrong this is, all the game does is reinforce and celebrate sexism. The beauty of cruising in the sun-kissed Los Santos hills while listening to “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood turns sour really quick when a voice comes on the radio that talks about using a woman as a urinal.

As for the defense that "well men are terrible in thsi game too," that's fine. But it does raise a question: why couldn't they make one of the psychos a woman?

What is the same ol nonsense that any new AAA title portrays? I would love some examples.

I thought you watched Sarkesian's videos.

Throw in Ripley's daughter in Alien Isolation. The lore of Homeworld puts Karan S'Jet front and center of the epic story of saving their race from annihilation. Nothing sexualized about that character.

I'm not familiar with that game, so I googled the character. here's what I found. Nothing sexualized there, just a naked woman in a pool. :rolleyes:

The fact that people can usually rattle off the names of every fully realized, non sexualized female character in games right off the top of their heads says a lot to me.

80% of my games that I own, don't get into the realm of gender tropes. So really she is picking on a small aspect of gaming.

Even if it were true that anti-women tropes are a small part of gaming and not (as is the actual case) foundational to so many titles, why is it that it's a subject that can't be discussed without dismissal at best (Saarkesian is a whiner, it's no big deal) or threats and harassment at worst?

Edited by Black Dog
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Who cares?

It shows she is contradicting herself. The rest of her argument falls apart when she does that.

Again, minor to you. For a woman who wants to play a AA action title, these tropes are almost unavoidable.

No one is forcing her to play the games.

Yes it must be terrible for men to be only be able to play as ass-kicking heroes all the time.

Most RPGs out there you can play the ass kicking male or ass kicking female. Two of my friends always go with using female characters. But I am sure they are just being oppressive towards women.

"There are plenty of fountains and seats at the back of the bus for black people! What are they complaining about?"

Not the same at all. Choosing what games to play is up to the player. If the game is not for you (for any reason), then move along, pick another game.

I thought you watched Sarkesian's videos.

I watched a couple and thought her to be pretentious and ill-informed. She speaks in generalities and her specifics are terrible.

I'm not familiar with that game, so I googled the character. here's what I found. Nothing sexualized there, just a naked woman in a pool. :rolleyes:

Gonna pick on that one point? Or would you base your opinion on the game as a whole? S'Jet could be considered the hero of the game. She integrates herself into the mothership which she controls and gives orders to the fleet. What is misogynist about that? If you have a problem with her look there, check out Fritz Lang's Metropolis from 1927. Sure the story is not the same, but if you want to base it on look of a single image without the context of the story and gameplay you are going to miss the story.

I've already purchased the re-release of the boxed set Homeworld series. Just waiting for delivery!

Even if it were true that anti-women tropes are a small part of gaming and not (as is the actual case) foundational to so many titles, why is it that it's a subject that can't be discussed without dismissal at best (Saarkesian is a whiner, it's no big deal) or threats and harassment at worst?

She does not deserve threats, no one does. But she is a whiner. But please be naming all the AAA title where she has a concern, and I will find you 4x the games where gender tropes do not exist.

Here is a short list of the games I play frequently and you tell me what gender trope she would be concerned with.

Team Fortress 2.

Age of Wonders III.

Kerbal Space Program.

Space Engineers.

Minecraft.

Cities XL.

Anno 2070.

Flatout Ultimate Carnage

Civilization V.

Edited by GostHacked
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It shows she is contradicting herself. The rest of her argument falls apart when she does that.

That's an ad hominem argument. Her sincerity in loving video games has FA to do with her arguments about them.

No one is forcing her to play the games.

So? That's not her argument.

Most RPGs out there you can play the ass kicking male or ass kicking female. Two of my friends always go with using female characters. But I am sure they are just being oppressive towards women.

Great. And what about the other games that don't?

Not the same at all. Choosing what games to play is up to the player. If the game is not for you (for any reason), then move along, pick another game.

If one has an issue with shitty representations in games, not playing those games DOESN'T SOLVE THE ISSUE.

Gonna pick on that one point? Or would you base your opinion on the game as a whole? S'Jet could be considered the hero of the game. She integrates herself into the mothership which she controls and gives orders to the fleet. What is misogynist about that? If you have a problem with her look there, check out Fritz Lang's Metropolis from 1927. Sure the story is not the same, but if you want to base it on look of a single image without the context of the story and gameplay you are going to miss the story.

Oh so her having her tits out has a plot function, then? You'll note I'm not "basing my opinion on the game" on this one point. I'm pointing out that your example of a strong female character appears to still be depicted in a way that could be considered highly sexualized. It's not enough for her to be a hero: she has to be hot. That, my friend, is a trope.

She does not deserve threats, no one does. But she is a whiner. But please be naming all the AAA title where she has a concern, and I will find you 4x the games where gender tropes do not exist.

This article has a good primer on what Saarkesian is talking about:

There's a common trope of framing Sarkeesian's work as "cherry-picked", as she takes isolated examples from many games and presents them as a stream of misogyny in order to create the illusion that all of these games are entirely misogynist, the entire way through. That's a fundamental misunderstanding of what it is Sarkeesian is doing with TvsWVG, and what cultural criticism in general is. These are tropes - they're fragments of a whole. By definition they don't make up the entirety of a work of art by themselves, but are instead definable cultural touchstones which artists, writers, developers etc, can use when creating a fictional reality.
In other words, Anita Sarkeesian only presents sections of games as sexist because she's only talking about the sexist bits of games, and how, of the tropes developers choose to put in their games when designing for female characters, they frequently fall back on sexist ones.
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That's simply not true. Some games you can. The most popular games, not usually. If you play RPGs or RPG-like games like Skyrim, Oblivion, Fallout 3, Mass Effect, and Destiny, then you will have customization options. Still other games and arguably the most popular games of the generation don't offer it, like The Last of Us, Halo, Grand Theft Auto, and any of the Nintendo franchises (save for Pokemon and the female character was added late).

There is a tiny subset of games that has pre-defined protagonists with a pre-set name, gender, appearance, and backstory. Those are by far the exception. The vast majority of games do not have this. In RPGs, you control a character of your choice and creation, which can almost universally be of either gender. In strategy games, you as the player control a civilization or base or army and are not yourself represented by a human character within the game. In many games you play as an animal of some sort, or a spaceship, or another non-human object. In most FPSs, the backstory is of little relevance and you can pick an avatar of either gender.

And as for the "most popular games of the generation"... most popular games today are simpler and involve no human characters at all... just simple game mechanics, like angry birds or candy crush or plants vs zombies. Or MMORPGs like world of warcraft where you can obviously be of either gender. Or international esports phenomena like league of legends.

No, pretty much the only games to which the whole "protagonist gender imbalance" applies is the tiny tiny subset of "story-driven FPS".

The reality is people who complain about "gender imbalance in game protagonists" don't know the first thing about games and think a couple block-buster titles that they hear about on the media in the course of them lamenting "violence in video games" is all there is to the gaming world.

Seriously, go pick 100 games from all gaming genres at random, and you'll find probably less than 10 of them have a pre-defined, pre-set human protagonist who you play as.

Edited by Bonam
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There is a tiny subset of games that has pre-defined protagonists with a pre-set name, gender, appearance, and backstory. Those are by far the exception.

#notallgames

No, pretty much the only games to which the whole "protagonist gender imbalance" applies is the tiny tiny subset of "story-driven FPS".

The tiny subset that happens to be the biggest selling genre.

The reality is people who complain about "gender imbalance in game protagonists" don't know the first thing about games and think a couple block-buster titles that they hear about on the media in the course of them lamenting "violence in video games" is all there is to the gaming world.

Strawman fallacy.

Seriously, go pick 100 games from all gaming genres at random, and you'll find probably less than 10 of them have a pre-defined, pre-set human protagonist who you play as.

How about the top 100 best selling games of 2013 (UK list).

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There is a tiny subset of games that has pre-defined protagonists with a pre-set name, gender, appearance, and backstory.

This is absolutely wrong. Like, so far from the truth, I'm not even sure we live in the same universe.

Even in RPGs, by far the most popular franchise of all time is Final Fantasy.

There's no custom character creator there. It's only more recent American RPGs that give you that option. JRPGs most of the time do not.

Game franchises are entirely based on their "pre-defined protagonists." That's how you build a brand.

Edited by cybercoma
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This is absolutely wrong. Like, so far from the truth, I'm not even sure we live in the same universe.

Even if it is true, I'm not sure why it matters. How prevalent does a phenomenon have to be before it is deemed worthy of discussion? Like, out of nearly two million Muslims in the world, only a relatively small number engage in terrorist acts, yet we seem to spend a great deal of time talking about them.

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This is absolutely wrong. Like, so far from the truth, I'm not even sure we live in the same universe.

Well, half the threads in this forum appear to be of people who seemingly live in separate universes filled with separate facts talking entirely past each other. I suppose this is another example of that.

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Well, half the threads in this forum appear to be of people who seemingly live in separate universes filled with separate facts talking entirely past each other. I suppose this is another example of that.

I just have absolutely no idea how you can think the vast majority of games allow you to be a female protagonist. It's completely wrong and Black Dog is right, it's also irrelevant. The discussion is about the presentation of women in video games, regardless of how many or how few there are. Quantifying them doesn't mean a whole lot.

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#21 Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the first one on the list where you can create a female character.

Following that are:

#27 & 29: Pokemon X/Y

#41 & 69: Skyrim

#61: Diablo 3

And that's it.

Totally wrong of course. And not to mention that a good chunk of the games are genderless, as I explained.

I just have absolutely no idea how you can think the vast majority of games allow you to be a female protagonist. It's completely wrong and Black Dog is right, it's also irrelevant. The discussion is about the presentation of women in video games, regardless of how many or how few there are. Quantifying them doesn't mean a whole lot.

No, I said the majority of games don't even have a primary human protagonist at all.

Edited by Bonam
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No, I said the majority of games don't even have a primary human protagonist at all.

Let's say for the sake of argument that is the case.

So what?

We're talking in part about how women are portrayed in games. It stands to reason that we're talking about games that feature portrayals of women (which again, happen to be some of the biggest, most successful titles).

Your "well, there's not that many games that have women anyway" is entirely beside the point.

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What are you still in the 90s? Almost every game I've played this millennium that involves a main character that you control, starts with the process of "character creation" where you can make your main character either a male or female, along with customizing their appearance and other attributes.

That's mostly only for RPG's/MMO's and sports game though. The majority of games still use pre-designed characters.

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Samus was sexualized with the Zero Suit thing and for every non-sex object female protagonist there's a game like Bayonetta or Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball where women are hyper sexualzed.

Samus was also sexualized with the "justin bailey" codes back on the original game and the SNES sequel. In the first game you enter that code and can play as Samus in a bathing suit:

1390705994747.jpg

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We're talking in part about how women are portrayed in games. It stands to reason that we're talking about games that feature portrayals of women (which again, happen to be some of the biggest, most successful titles).

Where is the evidence that male stereotypes are any less prevalent? Seems to me just as many male characters are just as sexualized in male macho kind of way. Edited by TimG
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A writer at one of the cons made the point that female characters lack agency the vast majority of time. You can literally swap them out with a table lamp and not change the meaning of the story. Think about it sometime. What does it matter that Princess Peach is a woman? She's simply a prop for Mario to acquire. That's the problem with a lot of the writing in the gaming industry. Women are very often used as props and are not written as people with their own agency.

i think it's getting better now though. Back in the 80's and 90's virtually all games were designed by men on smaller teams where the designers/programmers/artists wrote the story too. Now on AAA games you usually have professional writers come in and write stories/dialogue for characters, and some of these writers, especially with female leads, are female, like the authors of Heavenly Sword, Tomb Raider (2013), Mirror's Edge, Uncharted series, Thief (2014), Bioshock series, Gears of War 3, Prince of Persia (2008), Deus Ex Human Revolution etc.)

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