#GamerGate: The Players and the Played

The #GamerGate controversy reached a new high (or low depending on your perspective) recently when one of its main protagonists, the radical feminist and cultural critic, Anita Sarkeesian, was featured on the front page of the New York Times. Ironically, in view of the focus of her criticism about passive female characterization in video games, she herself was cast as the “damsel in distress”, under threat from active male protagonists.

Ostensibly, headlines like this are a direct validation of her work. Sarkeesian asserts that video games directly contribute to a culture of gendered violence in real life and – hey presto – there it is!  

But are radical feminist claims about games promoting violent norms really correct?  Studies of violence in video games say no. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court evaluated the evidence and came to a disappointing conclusion for people, like Sarkeesian, who are fond of using ideological rhetoric to win hearts over minds before all the evidence is in.

It appears that video games, even violent video games, have more positive effects on people than negative. Where negative effects were noted, these were with people who had already scored highly on tests showing a predisposition to anti-social behaviour. But, as the following graph shows, the case for the corruption of society by video games, is weak.

violence vs games graph

*What makes people angry with Sarkeesian (anger is allowed, abuse is not), is that she is unaccountable. Her videos on sexism and toxic masculinity are used as educational aids in schools, yet they are based on ideology not evidence. Sarkeesian has no academic credentials. She has legitimate critics, I am one of them, but she refuses to engage in open debate and instead directs attention to the abusive minority. That’s cowardly and manipulative. There is no logic that dictates that women are any less corruptible by power than men. To suggest otherwise, in fact, would be sexist. 

This is not to excuse threats or suggest that such harassment isn’t traumatic. What reasonable person would not condemn the criminal harassment of women, (or men), in any industry? That is surely moot. What is less moot, is who is actually responsible for these threats.  

Sarkeesian is adamant that the culprits are the supporters of #GamerGate. Yet the evidence points to third-party mischief-makers and anonymous trolls being equally vicious to both sides. Journalists are disseminating the radical feminist narrative uncritically, but they themselves are implicated in the scandal, so their impartiality cannot be taken for granted. The involvement of the notorious hacking/trolling group GNAA (who are experts at tricking the media into panic-mode) should also send alarm bells ringing.

Absent further evidence, claims about the identity of the anonymous trolls are pure speculation. There have been no arrests. People on either side of the barricades have been subject to abuse, although coverage has focused mostly on one, photogenic side. In a story about games and players, it’s difficult to discern just who is the player and who is the played. 

Who are the most likely suspects? GNAA aside, in every 100 people there will be one bona-fide psychopath. Twitter alone has over 200 million active users per month! There are estimated to be around one billion “gamers” worldwide. That certainly leaves room for a sizeable minority of psychopaths who would jollily send prominent women obscene emails. I’m inclined to think it’s these kinds of people who are responsible for the threats, and a recent study of online trolls supports this. A lazy trend in the media towards favouring the narrative of lunatic minorities on Twitter to draw sweeping conclusions about gender and culture is not a healthy one.

But I spy another trend. I am a gamer, but I am also a researcher in evidence based gender studies. I see this squabble not as about games or journalism but an expression of a wider battle that has been spilling out into popular culture for a few years now. A battle that was surrendered, and whose unintended consequences are now emerging. When Sarkeesian made the front page of the NYT this battle also went mainstream, yet very few people are aware of it. It is the battle for feminism. 

Radical feminism has already won this battle. It is documented in the denouncement of the woman who launched the second wave, Betty Friedan, as an anti-feminist, by Susan Faludi in Backlash. Many equity feminists dropped “feminist” and took up “egalitarian” instead. The unforeseen consequence of this was a vacuum of authority that allowed radicals to claim the “feminist” brand. Now people who attempt to challenge radical feminism are, like Friedan, labelled anti-feminist, as if “feminist” and “woman” were synonyms. They aren’t.

The dictionary definition of “feminist” is in urgent need of revision!

 Radicalism is the orthodoxy in feminism today. Radfem mater familiar Germaine Greer went so far as to announce this summer, “We’ve gone as far as we can with this equality nonsense. It was always a fraud!”

The radical feminist script; about men and masculinity, female passivity, objectification and patriarchy, was written in the 1960s and 70s, but you can still hear it echoing down the generations in the sermons of people like Sarkeesian, who has a long and troubled relationship with “straight-male” sexuality.

gender raquel 2
Radfem questions are always rhetorical. The answer to, “Is it sexist?” is always, “Yes.” They see sexism and misogyny everywhere, the way Abigail Williams saw Goody Proctor with the devil.

In the face of increasing tolerance of sexual expression, radical feminism has refused to adapt. More worryingly, it has refused to listen to the voices of dissenting women. This raises an important question: Does feminism exist to support women, or do women exist to support feminism? Unlike radical feminist questions, this one is not rhetorical.

So when radical feminists protest that gamers are “anti-feminist”, remember this does not mean “anti-woman”. In the modern context, it is more likely to mean “pro-equality”.

Radical feminism is a separatist movement, not a conciliatory one. One which “Bathes in Male Tears” while David Haines and other members of an accursed class of “straight, white males” pay an unimaginably terrible price for the freedom radical feminists take for granted. Radical feminism is about building walls between the sexes. Egalitarianism is about building bridges.

In an interview before she died, Friedan wondered, “if women are alienated from the women’s movement because it is antagonistic toward men, I understand that…Maybe the women’s movement has to be superseded by a larger political movement.” That movement is egalitarianism.

#Gamergate is an egalitarian push back against a modern feminist doctrine which explicitly wants to suppress “problematic” elements of human nature. History is littered with the damning results of such attempts. But history also shows that humans – men and women – fight back. Against the last wave of radical feminism comes a rising tsunami of egalitarianism.

*edit 25/10/14

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144 thoughts on “#GamerGate: The Players and the Played

  1. […] #GamerGate: The Players and the Played | Paula WrightBut are radical feminist claims about games promoting violent norms really correct?  Studies of violence in video games say no. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court evaluated the evidence and came to a disappointing conclusion for people, like Sarkeesian, who are fond of using ideological rhetoric to win hearts over minds before all the evidence is in. […]

  2. The feminist mantra that all men are rapists is about as useful and accurate as the rapper’s mantra that all women are whores.

  3. As far as Anita’s comments on women being objectified only in gaming, her examples are baffling.

    She condemns a bit on a game where you are trying to break up a sex trafficking ring. The women are shown on stage as sexual objects — which, logically, you would expect to see in a human trafficking ring. The traffickers wouldn’t treat them with respect. If they were, then stopping that treatment would be illogical.

    She mentions Hitman as a game where you can kill women. Which is true. You can kill anybody in that game. You are also penalized in your final score if you kill anybody who is innocent. So, can you kill women? Yes. You can also kill random men. It will also insure that your performance is rated incredibly poorly by the game itself. The game doesn’t remotely CHAMPION misogyny. It is open world and allows you to do what you want, but pretty clearly leads you to what the “right” thing to do is.

    Are women objectified in games? In some, yes. Women in combat heavy games due to tend to wear “insufficient” armor. I can get that. Croft being small and nubile? You’d expect that in somebody who is jumping and flipping around tombs all of the time. You’d also expect small and somewhat tight clothing because baggy clothes would make a lot of what her character does nigh impossible. Yes, she was a “woman” because the developer would rather look at a woman’s butt than a man’s, but her design did make some logical sense and still does.

    If Anita actually addressed criticism, her arguments would fall apart. I’ve seen people state that gamers are “obsessed” with her because they will make long videos taking her opinions apart. I would ask what else could they do? She won’t communicate with anybody not fervently on her side. If one thinks she is horribly mistaken, then YouTube is one of the better options to express one’s views. As it stands, she is a modern-day Jack Thompson, who the gaming journos had few qualms hating and wishing harm upon regularly.

    I’m happily married and my wife HATES feminism because she associates it with what can generously be described as misandry. She knows I adore and respect her and she knows our sons adore and respect her. Men aren’t the enemy and a lot of things that new wave feminists fight for (such as the recent concerns over colleges handling of rape claims) seem designed to basically leave men with no ability to defend themselves without ruining their lives.

    A good game is a good game. If the protagonist is a transgendered woman, fine. But a game where that is a big selling point, odds are, is not going to be terribly good. I avoid overly political games currently (which eliminates a frighteningly large number of indie titles) and the behavior of a lot of developers in this Gamergate thing has made me swear off their games because of their behavior. Heck, Anthony Burch seemed determined to screw up Borderlands with his very political dialogue in the most recent game.

    • Great write-up, and I agree with most of your comment. I just want to make one correction. The original Lara Croft was actually 6 feet tall, or 5’11 at the least. It’s what used to define her as a character, domineering & bigger than the average sized man. it’s hilarious how her design is only noticed for her huge mammies, when everything about Lara Croft’s body & muscular composition was huge, even by male standards.

      The new Lara Croft, the one which is approved by new Wave RadFems is only 5’5, scrawny, and she fits the “save the princess” trope much more than the classic Lara Croft did. Funny that, considering that the Newwave RadFems are vehemently appalled by the save the princess trope.

      Why does this matter? I’m just pointing out how RadFems create problems out of nothing, Had Lara Croft started out as an average sized woman like thereboot LC, then the RadFems would’ve been pushing for her to be all tall & macho (for a woman.) like her original incarnation.

      This is the problem that a lot of content creators are faced with. If there is no women in the game. Change it, not enough women. If the woman is too sexy. Change it, you’re imposing unrealistic beauty standards. If the woman is too ordinary looking. Change it, the women aren’t beautiful enough. It’s just an endless cycle of “fix it, because I don’t like it.”

    • I think you’ve struck on the core disconnect, here. Gamers, broadly speaking, expect games to be, well, games — mass-market entertainment. They buy games to be entertained, not to be preached to (especially by people who are at best only debatably-qualified to be delivering said sermons). If there’s some social commentary embedded in a game’s narrative, that’s fine — that kind of thing has a long and honorable tradition in fiction in all its forms — but if the commentary begins competing with the story, then it’s a distraction that diminishes the entertainment value of the game.

      On the other hand, you have the Sarkeesians of the world arguing that it’s fine to be entertained by “problematic” games as long as one assesses them critically. Setting aside whether these critics are accurately and fairly characterizing the “problems” in the first place, implicit in their argument is the idea that games must be edifying first and fun second: that they must seek to inculcate goodthink in their audience, and if they do an insufficient job of it, then they are compromised no matter how well they may serve as entertainment.

    • I don’t believe any man that speaks for a woman and claims she “hates” feminism. She can speak for herself, I’m sure. There are women who “hate” feminism but I truly believe that those women either don’t understand feminism, are trying to hard to placate men or they do not have gratitude for their own liberation. And that is truly sad.

      • I understand feminism – or more accurately ^ feminismS^ – very well Alison. I have been studying them for over a decade now.

        Your use of the word “liberation” is interesting, as this is a radical feminist concept, not an equity feminist one. Free from what exactly? I know – patriarchy.

        Free from patriarchy literally means free from men. And most women don’t want this.

        Equity feminism is about promoting egalitarianism and most of us are very much in favour of this. Radical feminists have no interest in equity however, because as you rightly say, they want liberation.

        As individuals they can have it. They can go set up their Herland. I will stay here thanks and defend my territory against them.

      • Suppose this woman can indeed, speak for herself, but unlike her male partner, she is wise enough to not waste time on the internet trying to hammer sense into stubborn, ignorant, man-loathing radicals?

        That this was the only part of his post that resonated with you, while his well-argued on-topic criticism completely flew over your head, suggests his wife is indeed one of those wise people.

        Apparently, I’ll never learn either.

    • Mike, pertaining to your comment regarding the sex trafficking ring, that was in the game Watch Dogs. There may indeed be sex trafficking in real life but in the game it is used as a plot point and the females are both sexually objectified and treated like helpless victims. I play many games, all the ones that come out on Steam and I can say that while sex trafficking is not common in games, strip clubs, prostitutes and other forms of hypersexualization of female characters while at the same time (and this is important) disempowering them in some way. Male characters are far less frequently subjected to this kind of thing. It MATTERS, as much as men like you try to pretend it does not.

      Bringing up your wife, as though you are speaking for her, is really cheap. You don’t speak for women. You never will.

      I can say that as a female gamer who plays first and third person shooters daily, these things are constantly present in games in one form or another and there is one strong message that I get from it: You as a woman are second class and as far as we are concerned, your enjoyment of this game does not matter to us.

      • “Male characters are far less frequently subjected to this kind of thing.”

        Yes, because art reflect life Alison. The male characters are subjected to more of the things they face in real life; i.e. violence and early death.

  4. Sorry I’ve been too busy to comment to you all individually. With the weekend over the hard work must begin again, fighting the good fight and smiting radical feminist nonsense!

    It’s amazing to read all your intelligent opinions. We must not get cynical like the radfems and use dishonest tactics. Egalitarians will win this war fairly and squarely!

  5. Reblogged this on The Worlds of Tarien Cole and commented:
    I’ve been wanting to write on #GamerGate for a long time. But this pretty much sums up the Sarkeesian angle. Then there is the fact that trading favors for positive reviews—in any manner, whether for coin, jobs, or in the horizontal position–in not just wrong, it’s so unethical as to render the person unfit for any work above Food Service the rest of their lives.

    And to be clear, the payment of favors for positive reviews is NOT a new thing in gaming. Stepping into the wayback machine, there is the infamous example of Ascendancy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascendancy_(video_game) Where the game reviewer wrote the barking STRATEGY GUIDE. Uh…yeah.

    The lack of ethics in game reviews is not a new problem. Blaming the gamers for the lack of ethics in reviews, OTOH is a new, salacious low.

    • People make up stories. They claim journalists are trading favors for positive reviews of games made by female developers, who give up their bodies for positive reviews, ie. claims made by Quinn’s ex-boyfriend which are probably false.

      The accusations made by Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend were likely untrue. Why there was an entire movement over it without anyone questioning if it was even valid speaks volumes about the misogyny in the industry. And it speaks volumes about how eager many men are to throttle women any chance they get. #Gamergate was nothing more than a gross display of that. I don’t think it had anything to do with journalism.

      • No. They weren’t untrue. That’s why the defense went to ‘slut shaming’ and ‘why should she be feel ashamed of who she sleeps with.’ If it was untrue, that would’ve been open and shut.

        But it wasn’t just one instance. And as I noted in my 1st article, and you patently ignored, favors of all kinds for positive reviews in video gaming is NOT a new thing. It’s been going on for DECADES.

        And that people who call this out. And call out the lamestream media that supports this, being taken to task as if they were sexist is asinine.

  6. I’m not a gamer, but I’m very glad to see the gamers standing up for themselves. They deserve a lot of credit for confronting this situation so effectively; especially considering that a lot of major media outlets have taken the side of their attackers.

    A similar community of ideologues have been attacking the software programming community for several years now. Their tactics and behavior are basically the same – right down to the activists posing as insiders, the melodramatic accounts of personal victimization, their tendency to lie, and their aggressively malicious characterization of the very community that they claim to be so concerned for.

    I think that what gamers have correctly identified, is that they are dealing with bigots. This isn’t a case of impassioned activists going too far. The ‘SJW’ and their allies are motivated by the desire to harm people. They don’t like the sort of people that they’ve identified as gamers and programmers and they want to destroy their reputations and the communities and institutions that they’ve built.

    • It’s a fallacy to believe that there are “gamers” and then there is Anita Sarkeesian and all her non-gaming supporters. I am an avid female gamer (I own 120 first and third person shooter games and have played over 800 hours on my favorite ones. I’ve been playing games since Atari in the 1970s). I’m also have a graduate degree in psychology. I agree with Anita Sarkeesian. Her research reflects my experience as a hardcore female gamer.
      I think she has done a great job explaining to people the problems that plague games, especially concerning female characters.

      The people who have attacked her work largely don’t understand how to read research and they don’t understand how to critique it. I’m willing to bet most of the people who bash her haven’t actually watched her videos. They really are that immature and stupid. They are largely #Gamergate and the whole movement is a sham. It really doesn’t have anything to do with journalism. As far as I can see, the only thing it really has to do with journalism, is that the people who are attacking journalists are really, really pissed off that journalists have essentially become what they see as white-knighters, looking out for the interests of a so-called small minority of female gamers instead of accurately reporting on games. The reason this thinking is wrong is because those same people are wearing sexism blinders – they are mostly a bunch of men who can’t see the sexism in games so attack journalists for unethical writing because they don’t see it.

      #Gamergate isn’t really about ethics in journalism. It’s about ignorance of sexism and that’s why sexism and misogyny became a huge sticking point for #Gamergate and pulled it under. The whole reason #Gamergate exists is because sexism-blind people formed a movement.

      • The “problem” is that even in games, art reflects life and radical feminists like Sarkeesian have no idea what female power looks like if it doesn’t resemble male power. That’s plain ignorance, which is the basis of her bias and work.

      • And, as a published, peer reviewed researcher I do know how to read research. It’s telling how she doesn’t put her self published research through peer review or engage in open debate with critics such as myself, who are neither male, misogynist or sexist.

        She directs attention to a lunatic minority (who troll everyone) to deflect attention from this.

        She is, in that true American tradition, a carpetbagger

      • “It’s a fallacy to believe that there are “gamers” and then there is Anita Sarkeesian and all her non-gaming supporters.”

        Who has ever said that her supporters are non-gamers? They are radical feminist sympathisers. There’s the fallacy right there.

  7. […] #GamerGate: The Players and the Played The #GamerGate controversy reached a new high (or low depending on your perspective) recently when one of its main protagonists, the radical feminist and cultural critic, Anita Sarkeesian, was featured on the front page of the New York Times. Ironically, in view of the focus of her criticism about passive female characterization in video games, she herself was cast as the “damsel in distress”, under threat from active male protagonists. […]

  8. This is so clear, informative, cogent, and NEEDED! If no one see this current culture war as a budding crises that would be unfortunate. My hope is that clarity of mind such as this will ultimately be more impactful than the hysteria, divisiveness, and downright irrational meanness that I so frequently see from the likes of Sarkeesian, Valenti, and Marcotte. This lot seem to believe that they speak from a position of impunity — a true God complex — where their statements are also their reasons.

    In the end, no one will be better off. Ethics are ultimately for the cohesion, not the dissolution, of community. These agony aunts need to support their versions of justice with ethics.

  9. Paula,

    You’ve documented gender narcissistic attributes of ideological feminists. Having been married to a woman with expert-confirmed narcissistic personality traits for 19 years, I assure you this is true. I see essentially similar narcissistic traits in ardent feminists as I did in my ex-wife.

    Let me know if you’d like a complimentary, no-strings-attached copy of my first book on the topic: http://www.michaelmcconaughey.com/reviews.html. You’ll have a eureka moment regarding these feminists, I assure you.

    Local Professor Janice Fiamengo (super lady) endorses the book and its gender narcissism thesis. In the future sequel, I think I can bridge Lasch’s “The Culture of Narcissism” with Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” via something I refer to as the unified construct of gender narcissism.

    Cheers.

    themirrorbooks@gmail.com

  10. Dear Paula

    Excellent piece, your writing and thinking is always spot on.
    You might be interested in Gavin McInnes’ podcast ‘Free Speech’ featuring Justine Tunney. They examine ‘GamerGate’ in a very clear and rational way that reminds me of your work.

    Thanks

    AJ

    • Right on. Women like Tunney should know by now they have no right to criticize men – women’s lib has a lot to answer for, now we have female doctors, soldiers, truck drivers – where will it end?

      • @Paula

        This isn’t a blog about women knowing their place?

        McInnes is very clear, for example he believes that women should not attend spring break because they cannot hold their liquor and “boys will be boys”; women are just asking for trouble – just like those women who expect to be taken seriously when they criticize games.

      • @ Paula
        “This isn’t a blog about women knowing their place?”

        <<<<<>>>>>

        From McInnes himself, no-one has offered any disagreement to his thoughts on women.

        🙂

  11. Delighted to have discovered your writing. Will look forward to following.

    Few points.

    1. There is something emotionally unhealthy about people in a very privileged culture (I’m very poor by UK standards and I have a GREAT standard of living by world standards) who simply don’t have the tools to be content.

    (and instead gravitate towards manipulated narratives about women’s pain and suffering in order to feel better about themselves?).

    2. Re, Gamergate it would seem some geeky gaming dudes (sorry but it’s late at night and I can’t think of a softer term!) are more of a “soft target” than confronting anything real?

    The size of Lara Croft’s tits is interesting to very few people.

    I’m a confident but average looking woman who is an ethnic minority, and I am definitely not worried that a computer game which I will probably never see in my life doesn’t have characters that look like me.

    If some guy I don’t know and wouldn’t want to date (and vice-versa) wants to fantasise over Lara Croft that is not a problem for anyone.

    What IS insulting is some self-proclaimed spokeswoman for women claiming that I’m now lacking in self-esteem because of this.

    I actually like the way I look and LOVE planning what dress I’m wearing for a Friday night date or art opening. Being a woman is fantastic!

    But according to those who profit out of women’s insecurities, is “not allowed”.

    I “should” be crying in a corner with low self-esteem, else I’m deluded.

    3. I was the subject of some media stories when I was younger (which led me to blogging)

    What has really struck me is (not restricted to any “side”, both from Sun and from the Guardian) readers literally getting off on manipulated tales of women’s (people’s?) woe and misery and (generally created and stimulated by the journalists) drama.

    4. It doesn’t seem like a battle between Men And Women, it seems the battle is the “media/political class” anxious to protect its privilege and monopoly over commentary? Watch how many journalists will switch from the Mail to the Independent with ease.

    (Dunno if you watched the last Sherlock Holmes which indicates how arms manufacturers provoked war in order to profit from the weapons trade?

    Just a story, but I reckon the media likes promoting artificial drama merchants because that’s what it makes it’s own living out of).

    Sufiah Yusof

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