Trying to see a bigger picture
Having thrown myself somewhat unwittingly into the seemingly omnipresent discussion amongst nerdy types about the misogyny and mistreatment of women, both in games (fictional characters) and around them (harrassment of female gamers), I find myself perusing article after article debating this issue. I’ve even taken to watching Anita Sarkeesian’s Female Frequency videos in the morning before getting ready to go to work.
The argument on one side is that female gamers are being harrassed simply for having the audacity to play games and also be female. And also that the overwhelming majority of female characters in computer games are portrayed as either defenseless prizes to be won or wailing fucktoys.
The argument on the other side is that girls have to play a certain type of games at a certain amount of time a day in order to count as gamers and that we spend too much time highlighting the bad things women go through instead of the good, that the statistical frequency of harrassment shouldn’t outweigh the overwhelmingly positive attitude towards female gamers, and that men are subjected to the same bullshit but don’t go around whining about it all the time.
In fact, there’s even a pair of guys making a “professional documentary” about how wrong Anita Sarkeesian is, called The Sarkeesian Effect. Lots of fun is being made of their appearance, which is sort of ironic and really appropriate all at the same time, but their crowdfunding campaign swears that they are not MRA’s or hate women. I’ll believe it when I see it.
All of this, to me, fails to see the bigger picture. I got suckered into arguing the nitty gritty myself, which honestly makes me feel kind of dirty.
Watching Anita Sarkeesian’s videos makes me realize that there does seem to be an over-reliance on aged stereotypes; some that would make even the most archaic, conservative Hollywood executive wince and demand rewrites over. The “damsel in distress” trope is overused. Female characters are being beaten and raped in games just so they can send the male protagonist off to kill the perpetrator, as if that solves anything. All of this is true.
It’s not about how there needs to be more female characters in games; nor is it about that you can’t portray a dystopian future where things have gone to shit and everyone’s miserable.
It’s about laziness.
The writers of computer game stories are lazy when it comes to portraying female characters, and the audience playing these games are lazy in accepting them.
It’s not because we are inherently misogynistic. And I will agree with “the other side“‘s argument that the subject has become so touchy that participants in the debate have become polarized in an almost binary sense — either you’re a militant feminist or you’re a women-hating scumbag — and that there is a trigger-finger tendency to shout slurs from either side as a way to quickly stifle real and honest debate.
It’s because we are so complacent and lazy that we look at something that, upon closer inspection, really is quite patently misogynistic — or at least should give cause for concern — and don’t even realize that it is.
Is it so hard to imagine a fully-fleshed out female character in a computer game that isn’t set up to be the victim, the prize, or just some random eye candy roadkill?
Of course it isn’t. I’m sure there are games that have done that. I’m sure there must be some game out there that switched it up and had the princess free the plumber, or some shit. But I haven’t heard of it. Have you?
As my friend Brian said, it’s good to learn. Learning hurts, but you may start to see sides of yourself that you didn’t notice were there. Most of us don’t seem to have the energy to look within and see that we have been accepting something unacceptable. But we have to evolve somehow. And what better way to start than by realizing it and using it to move forward and create better art?
Imagine if all that time spent rebutting each other’s arguments was spent making better games.