I'm a recent graduate of Penn State University with a love of games that dates back to early childhood. In college, I majored in Media Studies and Media Effects to better understand how gaming affects people emotionally and psychologically. Fives years and one degree later, all the answers are at my disposal! Not really, but I like to pretend they are.
I host and produce the Rhythm Authors Podcast, a podcast about Rock Band Network and the RBN authoring company I work for. I'm also the editorial director of PMS Clan and a freelance writer.
That's right, the Internet is broken. Or perhaps more specifically, the people on the Internet are broken. Recent events have been riddled with negativity, hate speech, and an incredible amount of sexism that I'm just sick of. This post isnít about whether or not you think women in video games are poorly represented, itís about how Internet watchdogs donít like anyone asking questions about the industry they love. The last six months have not only made me ashamed to be a gamer, it's made be ashamed to own an Internet connection. I'm ashamed to know that I love a medium that breeds demons as vile as the ones I've seen over the past few months. It's no wonder news organizations think gaming is rotting our brains.
Let's start with Jennifer Hepler. A writer in the games industry dared to say that she was more interest in video game stories than gameplay, and the Internet threw a hissy fit. A witch hunt ensued as pitchfork wielding trolls targeted her gender, weight, and competency as a writer in an effort to, I'm not sure, make themselves feel better? The story becomes even muddier as many of the quotes attributed to the poor writer were entirely falsified by the mob itself. The wildfire they started grew hotter via the coals mined by their own efforts. This was a horrible moment in gaming, truly, and I'm disgusted to say it preceded a trend.
Then we move into the story of Aris Bakhtanians and Miranda Pakozdi. During Capcom's Street Fighter X Tekken reality show, Cross Assault, we got a glimpse into the mind of a man unable to understand limits. Aris not only manages to harass fellow teammate Miranda so much she seemingly takes a dive in her match to leave the show, he provides us with some amazing soundbites. Claiming that Street Fighter and sexual harassment are one in the same is true food for thought. While not an example of a mob attack, the event still exemplifies the sexism in our industry and how commonplace it feels to some people. Aris, for all his misguided beliefs about harassment, is obviously not alone.
Finally, we have the recent attacks on Anita Sarkeesian's Tropes vs. Women in video games series. This is, perhaps, the most severe of them all. It combines the worst aspects of the Hepler mob attacks with the normalized sexism in the Street Fighter X Tekken story. A blogger with a successful web series about female stereotypes in media decides she wants to do a series about video games. Why? Not because she believes games are evil, but rather she believes they are the future of entertainment. Gaming has a lot of power, and she knows it. Just the mere thought of a woman asking questions about her gender's representation in games sent the Web into a firestorm. So began a maelstrom of disgraceful youtube comments, Wikipedia vandalism, and absolutely ignorant statements on any article that dared to give Anita an outlet for discussion. The whole event felt like trying to take a ball away from a 3-year old to let other kids play with it. It's as if they lack the empathy to respect other people's perspectives. It's time to grow up, Internet, you're not in pampers anymore.
2012 has been a bad year to be a female gamer. Hell, it's been a bad year to be a morally sound gamer. It's been a bad year to associate yourself with the kind of crowd that plays video games. You donít have to agree with Heplerís opinion on gameplay, think Aris was out of line, or believe Anita is onto something to understand the real problem here. Whether or not female representation in gaming is good or bad is irrelevant. Our gaming peers, however large or small, have decided that harassment and personal attacks are justifiable when someone questions their industry. If we numb ourselves to the outrage, weíre no better than they are.