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As we come to the end of 2012, we find our hobby in the midst of another controversy; the claim that playing violent video games leads to violent behavior in real life. This topic has been argued ever since Mortal Kombat hit arcades in 1992. The argument has been exhausted for the most part. What interests me more is how the gaming community has changed in those 20 years, how we collectively react to controversy today versus then, and how most seem to be blind to the hypocrisy they now advocate for.

If the gaming media almost unanimously agrees that sexism is a problem in gaming, then why is violence dismissed so quickly by the media?

2012 saw controversies about sexism elevated to a new level, primarily because of widespread media endorsement. Women in skimpy nun outfits, the Dead or Alive series, Crystal Dynamics developers daring to use the word "protect" in a sentence; these things dominated our cultural conversations for the better part of a year. The argument from the outraged, which was often not even stated clearly, is that these games contain sexist imagery and content, that they lead to sexist behavior and consequences in real life, and they should be eradicated through shaming and PR pressure that impacts sales.

But if anyone suggests that violence is a problem in gaming, for the most part the media quickly denounces it, and even goes so far as to shame the people suggesting it. Why? If you took even a passing glance at gaming over the last few years, you probably would have found several more troubling elements in gaming related to violence than to sexism. Let's just glance at a few of the more notable ones.

New Splinter Cell: Blacklist video shows off controversial torture scene, moral choices
"We've arrived in a strange emotional clime when our popular entertainment frequently depicts torture as briskly effective rather than literally the worst thing one human being can do to another - yea verily, worse even than killing."

"I spent a couple days feeling ashamed of being a gamer, of playing or liking military games, of being interested in any of this disgusting bulls*** at all," he added."

Norway mass killer trained for mass killing playing 'Call of Duty'
"In his testimony, the 33-year-old Norwegian said he prepared for a firefight with police in Oslo by playing computer games, focusing on situations where he would be flanked by two commando teams. He said he played “Modern Warfare,” several hours a week, for 16 months starting in January 2010, primarily to get a feel for how to use rifle sights."

Military uses video games for training troops
"“The military was actually responsible for the funding that created video games,” said Corey Mead, an assistant professor of English at Baruch College."

"Video games stem from early preparation for nuclear war and the technologies that were developed came out of either academic research centers or corporate research centers or actual military research centers where the funding was to develop the technology for advanced thermal nuclear war.”

When “Doom,” one of the first blockbuster video games, arrived in 1993 the army started to use modified versions of these games as part of their training.
Today, the army has incorporated video games into their training to the point that every single soldier interacts with them at some point during their training."

'The ultraviolence has to stop' - Warren Spector:
Epic Mickey producer says he left Eidos in 2004 because of proliferation of violent titles at publisher, believes industry is "fetishizing violence."

"We have to stop loving it," he said. "I just don't believe in the effects argument at all, but I do believe that we are fetishizing violence, and now in some cases actually combining it with an adolescent approach to sexuality. I just think it's in bad taste. Ultimately, I think it will cause us trouble."

Urban Tool in Recruiting by the Army: An Arcade
"In recent years the Army has tried a number of ways to increase enlistment, including home video games"

"In recent years, the Army has had great success with using video games like America’s Army to attract recruits."

"He added that the center did not recruit anyone under 17."

Wikileaks reveals video showing US air crew shooting down Iraqi civilians
"The behaviour of the pilots is like a computer game. When Saeed is crawling, clearly unable to do anything, their response is: come on buddy, we want to kill you, just pick up a weapon ... It appears to be a desire to get a higher score, or a higher number of kills."

CIA chiefs face arrest over horrific evidence of bloody 'video-game' sorties by drone pilots
"The Mail on Sunday today reveals shocking new evidence of the full horrific impact of US drone attacks in Pakistan."

"A damning dossier assembled from exhaustive research into the strikes’ targets sets out in heartbreaking detail the deaths of teachers, students and Pakistani policemen. It also describes how bereaved relatives are forced to gather their loved ones’ dismembered body parts in the aftermath of strikes."

Conditioning? Xbox Poll Shows Overwhelming Gamer Support for “More” Drone Strikes
"Notice the question asks, “Do you support more use,” in regards to sending unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with missiles to bomb suspected terrorists in other countries, not just continuing business as usual killing people at the current pace."

How Do Video Games and Modern Military Influence Each Other?
"White gets to learn about numerous military technology advances long before the public does. But White was quite shocked to see a Humvee equipped with a .50 caliber gun turret that was controlled by what looked like a suspiciously familiar device: an Xbox 360 controller."

"I pointed that out to them and they said ‘Well, of course. We’re not going to reinvent a new way because we get all these kids into the military, they already know how to use a 360 controller, they’re already familiar with it. So we’re just going to use that in how we’re building the technology,’"

“When it was done, it was amazingly powerful because what we did was create a transition from the real world of photographs and reports into the virtual world’s polygons and there was a feeling of ‘now we get it.’ Now we can see what the bad guys are doing and what their point of view was, what the trigger man’s aim point was.”

US Army Creating Their Own Gaming Gun Peripherals
"now the Army is taking a new step forward to even further prepare young cadets for their future life off the couch and in the military. They’ve partnered with CTA Digital for a line of gaming accessories. There are a few headsets, but the eye catching devices are the plastic Playstation Move controller holders shaped like variants of various real life assault weapons."

The Designer of Call of Duty’s ‘No Russian’ Massacre Wanted You to Feel Something
"In a stellar piece about interactive atrocity, game designer Matthew Burns gets Alavi to explain the intent behind that level, a level in which the player is put in a position as an undercover agent to assist or simply watch a terrorist cell of Russians massacre Russian civilians in an airport. The level wasn't designed to create controversy. It wasn't to sell more copies. It was to further the plot, Alavi tells Burns, saying he wanted to: "sell why Russia would attack the U.S., make the player have an emotional connection to the bad guy Makarov, and do that in a memorable and engaging way." He didn't want it to be a movie. He wanted you to feel involved"

That was just off the top of my head.

DESPITE ALL OF THIS, gamers and the gaming media more or less stand united. They do not want to sacrifice the freedom to enjoy whatever violent content they want, even on the eve of the death of 20 kids in another teenage shooting. They don't want to have their gaming dictated by moral outrage and mostly unscientific claims, they don't elevate and endorse gaming critics like Jack Thompson, and rally around him until publishers have to bow to his pressure for informal censorship, or endorse Kickstarter campaigns for him to create video series about violence in gaming.

But if someone uses the word "protect" in a sentence, all bets are off. If a nun wears bondage gear, all bets are off. If you have a fighting game with ninjas in bikinis, ban this sick filth.

Again, why the difference?

If you support the right for games to exist, free from the constraints of moral outrage, unscientific claims, and informal censorship, at least be consistent about it. Otherwise, it's complete hypocrisy to support one and not the other.

Another interesting fact is that both Anita Sarkeesian and Jack Thompson have had flash video games created that allow you to beat them up. Can you spot any difference in how gamers and the gaming media reacted to those two games?

9:10 AM on 12.03.2012

can be viewed here.


How do you all think she did?

7:03 PM on 11.27.2012

It's worth pointing out that Rhianna Pratchett penned the story to the new Tomb Raider game. That game had months of extremely bad press that will almost surely hurt sales and reviews because the media was certain it was created by a cabal of sexist, sadist pigs.

For all the condemnation of workplace abuse going on, sometimes the media can be just as guilty of perpetuating negative stereotypes. "A violent Tomb Raider story couldn't have been created by a woman," but it turns out it was. The same woman who started the #1reasontobe tweets that everyone in the media is gushing about.


A cynic could even say that she was more motivated to create this for positive publicity because the backlash against her game has been so heated. Jezebel tore her game down the worst. That's irony.

"The Rapey Lara Croft Reboot Is a Fucked-Up Freudian Field Day"

"Freud would have a fucking field day with this. First, including rape in Lara Croft's backstory is an expression of the abject clueless dudery of a dismaying number of mainstream video games. Do the people behind Tomb Raider think that the way to get men to care more about a female character cover her up and then threaten the integrity of her vagina? "

"A Freudian Field Day," as in, deep down whoever created this must be barely able to contain their sadism and sexism, so it's spilling out into their creative work. But yeah, not the case, it was a story from Rhianna Pratchett.

A lot of the gaming journalists who are eagerly promoting these tweets in stories should realize that they might have more to learn than they originally thought. Hopefully her new game won't bomb at retail because of all the negative press and overreaction from people in the media who thought they were protecting something.

Condemning workplace abuse is fantastic, and I hope that one day no one has to be harassed at work. But it doesn't mean that every article the gaming media has ever written on gender issues has been part of a noble crusade, because many of them, if not most, have been extremely misguided. So be careful not to trip over your shoelaces during your victory lap.

A week ago I had an interesting conversation about gender roles, and various gender theories in the comments of the God of War: Ascension article, with the creator talking about cutting back on violence against women in the game. I argued that this was another indicator that our society views males as the more disposable of the two genders, and that collectively we care much more about demonizing and preventing violence against women. (For more on male disposability see this video.)

I argued that these theories about male disposability highlight areas of our gender social constructions that feminism completely fails to address with the "patriarchy" model. I seem to find clear evidence of social pressure to put female life above male life in terms of value, and that this can't logically fit with a social construct that is supposedly focused purely on promoting male self-interest.

So today I was watching The Young Turks, a progressive, left wing online news show, and I was immediately struck by the headline of one of their recent videos: Boyfriends Take Bullets To Save Girlfriends From James Holmes In Colorado Shooting. 4 of the 12 victims in the recent movie theater shooting died while literally shielding their girlfriends from bullets. The girlfriends survived.

What really shocked me though was the commentary from the two hosts in the video.

Male Host: "You think you might do the right thing when the time comes, but you don't really know, right? [...] It was a moment of emergency, and they all not only did the right thing, the heroic thing, but it was also quick thinking."

Female Host: "I can't imagine the heartbreak, and the kind of confused mixed feelings that these girls must be dealing with. I'm sure that they're dealing with, obviously, disproportionate amounts of guilt - there's absolutely nothing to feel guilty about - I think that, just like you said, these were heroic actions that really proved how much they loved their significant others."

Male Host: "It's not just a matter of how much you love them either, it's just the decent thing to do."

I just had to point that out, because I couldn't believe how blatant it was. Don't misunderstand, I'm not saying they did the wrong thing in any way, or diminishing what they did. Personally, I would aspire to be strong enough to make that kind of courageous sacrifice when the time really came. (But keep in mind, that anyone claiming to genuinely promote true gender equality would have to find some of this deeply troubling)

What I am saying though, is that our whole society socializes males to accept that their life is worth less than a female's, and that this flies in the face of any attempt to try and paint modern western society as deeply patriarchal. Clearly this isn't gender equality either, because both of the hosts (both aggressively pro-feminist on past shows), went out of their way to reinforce gender stereotypes promoting male sacrifice. They glorified the event. They didn't even acknowledge the humanity of the male the entire time. They spent more time talking about how the girlfriends would have a hard time moving on because of the guilt - but made no mention of the man who lost his life and what he's lost out on, or his parents' hardship in losing a son. They didn't seem to mind that our gender roles in society directly influenced 33% of the fatalities in this one shooting. And while they did praise them several times for their heroism, they ended by just calling it "the decent thing to do." Die, it's just the decent thing to do. To not die would just be rude.

This is the kind of stuff I talk about when I say that feminism is flagrantly wrong. Not only have they exaggerated the modern influence of any remnants of a patriarchy, but there's plenty of evidence that suggests that in reality, our society elevates women and children above all else (the complete opposite of their theory). The right to live in an emergency. Modern day, 2012.

Here's the 2nd part of that Anita Sarkeesian critique I posted a little while back. It's not perfect, but I think it adds to the debate and is worth a watch.


I like that he goes right to the endgame. What is the point of her, and feminism's critique? It's informal censorship, or creating an environment of self-censorship. Until feminist critics specifically outline what their end goal is (you'll notice if you pay attention, they never, ever do) we have to assume it's censorship.

Next, he goes right at feminism which is the right call. I don't see the point in spending time on sex-positive feminists though. It's interesting, but it's not really clear to me from watching the video what they even stand for, and why they feel the need to cling to the feminism name at all. It seems like they're past that (is someone really going to call themselves a sex-positive feminist? Why not just say you're ... normal? Pro-equality for everyone, and not a fundamentalist?). The key point to take away from that whole section is that Anita's position is conservative, and really fully parallels the agenda of other conservative, fundamentalist critics of video games. It's also good to just get on record again that she doesn't come close to representing all women.

The whole section about her comments on youtube, I didn't really care for. It's hard for me to get worked up about her comments, or banning comments. I just don't care. I'll have to watch it again, because he tries to link it into a pattern that shows that she manipulated the whole controversy for funding. That's an interesting angle, but I don't know if he really covers it with enough depth.

Overall, good video. Glad I watched it, and I still think it contributes to the debate.

If you were a fan of Chris Carter's excellent article, "A response to some arguments in Anita Sarkeesian's interview," but felt like you wanted more; well this video is for you.

This is part 1 of a detailed analysis and critique of her entire career. It was just posted yesterday, and it's also quite high quality. Amazing how you can put together high quality videos for less than $6,000 (or $150,000).

Anyway, check it out. I subscribed because I'm definitely interested in seeing the rest of this series.

Here's the video.