I don’t think it’s all together out of the blue to bring up the perceived “war on games” that is said to be led by feminists within the gaming community. Since Gamer Gate came about last year this notion that feminists are intending to ruin video games by forcing equality on the world of gaming, thus changing everything we know and love, has kicked up a bit of a storm. As you can image, the so-called “war” is taking place between feminists and those who are against feminism – because darn those feminists and their declaration of war via advocating for representation in video games! There are many things wrong with this idea, but I’d like to go over the main problems and argue that no, there is no war on games led by the evil feminist mercenary party.
Firstly, let me explain (yet again) what a feminist is. There are a variety of different interpretations and ways of being when it comes to the label “feminist”. I can’t speak for everyone, and there are indeed a lot of problematic individuals within the feminist ranks, but for me and many, many others it goes like this:
“Feminism is a multi-disciplinary approach to sex and gender equality understood through social theories and political activism. Historically, feminism has evolved from the critical examination of inequality between the sexes to a more nuanced focus on the social and performative constructions of gender and sexuality. […]
Feminist political activists campaign in areas such as reproductive rights, domestic violence, gay marriage, and workplace issues such as family medical leave, equal pay, and sexual harassment and discrimination.
Anytime stereotyping, objectification, infringements of human rights, or gender- or sexuality-based oppression occurs, it’s a feminist issue.” [Credit]
Of course, that is an extremely boiled down version for basic understanding. An even more boiled down version is that feminism is the fight for equal rights of women and other minorities. In the video game world, feminism has aimed to take a stand against sexism and inequality against women and other minorities within games themselves. Most feminist gamers push for more female representation within games as well as representation for other races, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations. White, straight, cisgendered males have been the most prominent playable characters in the games we play since the dawn of video games themselves. Only within the last few years have we seen a shift to more female characters and generally better representation of women (ie not as sex objects, etc.). It’s not perfect by any means, and there is a lot of work left to do in games themselves as well as within the community of people playing the games, but there is some progress being made.
Now let me get back to this “war on games” before I get too off topic, though everything I have discussed thus far is indeed related to the main issue. Now this “war on games”, which I will continue to put in between quotation marks to as not to legitimize it because it’s an insane concept, is generally defined as feminists ruining games with their push for equality. Of course, that is the politely boiled down version but to be honest, I don’t want to sift through the sewers of the internet to find actual quotes from people who believe this garbage exists and if you don’t want to hate your life I suggest you don’t either. Though if you must search out “proof”, it’s not hard to see what the supporters of this “war on games” idea really think. There are tweets, Facebook rants and blog posts all over the place written by people who support this concept and who have a variety of reasons why the support it.
One of the main complaints is one in regards to invisible privilege. These arguments are usually about pointing out how many women there are in games and that the push for equality is pointless because things are already pretty good, women are represented so why keep pushing? I mean come on, there’s like Samus, Lara Croft, Peach, Zelda… That uh… One girl from that one game? Anyway, the thing is that no matter how many women you name off, it’s never as many as there are males in games when comparatively looking at a collective of games. It doesn’t stop there either as these people also disregard the push for equality of race and sexual orientation in games because “who cares?” I typically see this type of argument placed before me by white, straight, cisgendered males. I know it’s hard for some people to see the other side when they have privilege. As a white person, I cannot directly relate to the struggles that other races and people of color deal with. Likewise, I don’t expect these men to immediately and inherently relate to the struggles that women deal with. Privilege is hard to see through and I get that, but at the same time it’s not impossible. Choosing to not taking into consideration that you are privileged and that maybe other people besides you should be represented is just selfish. Take a step back and realize that simply because your demographic is most often represented in games doesn’t mean that other people’s demographics shouldn’t be recognized because “oh well, I got mine”. This type of argument is typically outrageously transparent, they will say they do think of others and that “that’s not what I meant” but it is and they need to know that it’s alright to admit mistakes. It’s understandable to realize that you weren’t really thinking about it from someone elses perspective, someone who isn’t a white, straight, cisgendered male. Constantly ignoring other people’s perspectives in order to perpetuate the “war on games” myth is ridiculous and selfish, so this argument is moot.
Another issue within this overall dispute is the one that begins with statements like “that darned she-beast Anita Sarkeesian blah blah blah”. People tend to like to pick one person out of a group with whom they don’t agree and use them as a target for all hate and vitriol they wish to push at said group. Basically, in this scenario, people don’t like her opinions or critiques so they use her as the main target to attack all feminists and “prove” that there is a “war on games” since, you know, Sarkeesian is apparently trying to ruin games. Sarkeesian is one person and while I personally have a lot of respect for her I can understand why some people dislike her opinions and/or critiques. Regardless of what you think about her or her opinions though, making her into a target by saying she alone is the problem because she dares to critique video games for their problematic sides in relation to sexism is not right. That’s like me saying that all Russians must be hate-filled, homophobic ass-hats because I dislike Vladimir Putin’s opinions. It’s just ridiculous. Here’s the thing, people often accuse her of cherry-picking issues for her critique videos, claiming that she only picks issues that benefit her argument without looking at all sides of the issue as a whole. Yet these same people, and many others, do the exact thing when they cherry-pick her as a person to vilify because it suits them and their decrying of the “war on games” instead of looking at all sides of the real issue (plus, there is no “war on games” so…). It’s all very hypocritical and nonsensical, so I find this argument to also be moot.
Something else that is part of the argument for the “war on games” is a general disrespect for women as a whole. There are people out there who basically dislike women and only want them around for stereotypical gender role activities such as being in the kitchen, cleaning the house and making babies. Sadly enough, some of these people are gamers. They see women trying to push for more equality in games and it makes them angry that a woman dares to even try such a thing. These people are often the ones who argue that “this is a mans world” and “there is no place for women in video games”. These arguments are obviously extremely flawed as they aren’t really even arguments at all, rather just bias hate of a gender as a whole. When this type of mindset is made clear while trying to prove a point, that point looses all credibility due to the negative bias expressed. I’m not going to listen to some argue a point against the Marvel cinematic universe once they state that they really dislike all the Marvel theatrical movies, so why would anyone listen to opinions on women in games from someone who obviously dislikes women? It’s yet again a moot point.
Lastly, a very standard argument brought up within the “war on games” discussion is the “but things are just fine the way they are” argument. In contrast to my first point about males having a hard time sympathizing with the females (or people in general with minorities) wanting to be represented in video games, this point is as simple as the saying “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”. These individuals are afraid of change and it’s mostly because they don’t understand what the change is and what it means for video games. I feel as if these people assume that when other people say they’d like more minority representation in games that they really mean they want all games to be thrown in the trash and remade with female characters instead. Or even that people want all future games to be full of female characters and no males. Both are vastly incorrect and I feel like I shouldn’t have to say that, it should really be as obvious as it sounds. Sure, we want change but that isn’t a bad thing if it’s done in the right way. More minority representation means more stories, more characters and more quality (again, if done properly). It’s a way for everyone to get something out of games as opposed to some people feeling alienated within a culture that they live in. Change isn’t bad and wanting it shouldn’t be so taboo among the gaming community. I find this to be another moot point as it again encourages selfishness and doesn’t really have a lot of power behind it, it seems more like fear of change or a general misunderstanding rather than an actual issue.
Basically, in the end, there is no “war on games” led by the feminists within the game community. Advocating for more representation isn’t a declaration of war, it’s a declaration of humanity. It’s the year 2015 and it’s time we stopped acting like females are few and far between in the gaming community. Fairness and equality should never been such and uphill struggle but it seems that it always is. No, feminists aren’t trying to ruin gaming for you. On the contrary, we are trying to make it better for everyone. For me, it’s impossible to comprehend the egotistical ideals behind the “war on games” concept, the innate need for preserving segregation and infighting. To be so adamantly against diversifying games is beyond me. I feel as if over the past few years, game developers have really taken on the task of adding diversity and we’ve seen some really great games come from the success of that task. All we are asking for here is some basic equality. It’s not a war, it’s not a fight, it’s a plead for fairness. So you tell me, is that too much to ask for?