As someone who likes video games, these past few weeks have been horrifying and embarrassing. Two women in the community, a developer and a critic, have been subjected to incredible harassment that affirms the image of gamers as misogynist babies. Zoe Quinn, creator of Depression Quest, was targeted around the time her already controversial game was finally released. Having already faced similar treatment last winter, Quinn is now the subject of a massive smear campaign claiming she cheated on her boyfriend with several men in the games industry to get herself and her game attention and reviews. While this was going on, Anita Sarkeesian released the newest entry in her Tropes vs Women in Video Games Youtube series, which, possibly due to the gamer blood already boiling over Quinn, prompted a very zealous troll to release the home addresses of her and her family, along with serial-killer style threats.
Hating women has always been part of the stereotype about gamers, and over the past couple years, we’ve seen it proven beyond a doubt. While the community at large flails and screeches about how wrong and stupid Sarkeesian’s misogyny-pointing-out videos are, it goes ahead and demonstrates that venom and deep sickness burbling in its gut. While gamers attack Zoe Quinn over contributing to the toothless and vacant state of gaming press, they cry man-baby tears over anyone actually taking their hobby seriously.
The Strategy Against Zoe Quinn Outweighs Any Wrong She Might Have Done
Allegedly, Zoe Quinn cheated on her boyfriend. There’s a blog I won’t link, authored by said ex, that goes into exhaustive detail that nobody but his mother would ever care about if Quinn hadn’t created a video game that made gamers mad. The men she cheated with are involved in the games industry, because Zoe Quinn has pretty heavily invested herself in that world and spends a lot of her social time at events. For some reason, the ex decided to post this story on the internet, in corners such as 4chan and Reddit, where bile against Zoe was already established. Naturally, the story was picked up and twisted into a fantasy exposé of corruption and nepotism in games journalism. Because why would any woman sleep with a nerd, if not to extract something of value? How would any woman succeed, if not by offering up her body?
As the story spread, Reddit and other sites began removing all discussion of it, prompting cries of censorship. And, you know, maybe an accurate word, but let’s keep in mind what was being censored. Unsubstantiated rumors with the aim of career assassination, based on an open letter that should have never been. Sexual slander. Nude photos of Quinn. Personal information. A video detailing the controversy that focuses strongly on how many men she slept with. There’s complications here that one could pick nits about, but the fact of the matter is the conversation being had was not in any way worth having. Corruption in the gaming world? That’s worth talking about. Kind of. That is not what people talked about.
Games journalism has always been garbage. With few notable exceptions, it’s just of no intellectual or critical value. The vast majority of content written about games is either buyer’s-guide-style reviews or affirming, extra fun facts or fan content. The relationship between review sites and publishers is shady, to say the least. From Jeff Gerstmann’s termination from Gamespot for his subpar Kane & Lynch review, the default 8.0 or above score for each year’s wretched AAA titles, the constant clickbait Reddit fodder from Kotaku-like content aggregators, this is not a landscape that has been somehow sullied or brought into sharp focus by Zoe Quinn’s alleged behavior. And if it has, what does it say about gamers that it took a female indie dev boning a couple people in the industry for them to really get up in arms about it? What makes this woman, who is sexually active, unconventional, and succeeded in making a boring game about depression before they could manage to sell a major publisher on their brilliant idea for an open world shooter in yet another exotic eastern locale, such an attractive scapegoat for the state of games journalism? Loaded question, I guess.
Anita Sarkeesian Continues to Prove Her Point Just By Existing
In the beginning, I found Sarkeesian’s videos a little boring and basic. Damsels in Distress is a tired old thing to talk about. But they demonstrated their value by gamers’ vehement denial of the trope’s prevalence and meaning. Sarkeesian said “There are a lot of games where women are made to be the victim for the purpose and benefit of the player and male protagonist,” and millions of gamer voices suddenly cried out in terror. Now, the videos are getting more interesting, analyzing games’ use of women and violence against women as flavor and window dressing, and the gaming community has grown even more agitated.
On Monday, Anita published her latest video, which was met with the usual specious arguments about “context,” sexual insults, harassment, and protestations that while the game developers took the time to plan, propose, approve, program, voice, and animate scenarios depicting sexual violence against women, the player doesn’t have to let it happen in the game. Death and rape threats against her are so disturbingly common that Sarkeesian just has to ignore them at this point, but one particular set of threats Tuesday included accurate home addresses for her and her family. She contacted police and left her home out of legitimate fear.
Although Sarkeesian’s videos have markedly improved, and their arguments are, contrary to popular gamer belief, fairly unassailable, it doesn’t even matter. She set out to expose a misogyny problem in gaming, and at every goddamn turn, gutter gunk gamers help her out and threaten to drink her blood. She could be as inaccurate, off-the-mark, and dishonest as they say, and she would still be right. She could hate video games, she could be a “fake gamer,” trying to destroy video games, and she would still be contributing to the goal of making video games better.
Video games are so fucking stupid, and so fucking bad. It is infuriating that people care so much about video games continuing to be stupid and bad that they will risk prison to keep women in the community feeling unwelcome and unsafe. Gamers want to whine about the state of games journalism? Look what happens when someone actually examines games. Gamers are always fantasizing that they’re under attack and their video games are being threatened. Maybe it’s time we oblige.