I didn’t attend this year’s Freeplay games festival held in Melbourne but I did listen to the audio from the panel at it titled ‘The Words That We Use’ in which the panellists were unable to name a single female videogame critic. How a panel of people talking about videogame criticism (who presumably have some interest in videogame criticism and videogame culture) couldn’t name a single female videogame critic (when there are many) astounds me.
The panel has already been examined in detail, by people who were present at the event, such as Brendan Keogh, Ben Abraham, and Katie Williams, to name just a few, whose pieces on the event are all worth reading.
So it had me thinking about videogame culture and the videogame industry if women are ignored and discriminated against because of their gender. Is it a boys only club? As a male myself, I’ve never felt barred from enjoying videogames. It’s considered acceptable in society for guys to like videogames. Whereas by contrast, had I had taken an interest in a hobby that society at large considers to be feminine such as ballet, then it’s quite likely that I would have faced condemnation from society which disapproves of males doing anything that it considers effeminate. It’s as though society is saying that anything feminine is inferior so if any privileged male dares to do something that is traditionally in the female domain, then he is debasing himself. It’s absurd, but that’s how sexism effects both men and women and why it should matter to all of us to stamp it out. For more on that, have a read of the article 5 Stupid, Unfair and Sexist Things Expected of Men that Ben Abraham linked to in his Gamasutra post about Freeplay.
I’ve never understood the driving force behind sexism. I was raised by parents who consider themselves feminists, and so do I. Equality and fairness are the goals. It makes no sense to me to exclude one set of humans based on their gender being different to yours, and when it comes to videogames, it’s always been an open house for me. Everyone is welcome I say. Come join the big nerdy party!
And while I know many guys who feel the same as me on this, I’m well aware that there are many other males who don’t hold the same view, who jump onto internet forums and announce that there are no female gamers or that OMG Girlz Don’t Exist on teh Intarweb!!!!1.
At times when I encounter such guys, I feel like the black hat guy in the following XKCD comic:
Unfortunately, science hasn’t yet found a way to remove all arseholes from the internet.
As a male, there’s a feeling of shame I have when I read the site Fat, Ugly or Slutty. It’s not a shame for myself, but a shame for those of my gender featured on the site such as this gentleman:
What makes them think that this is okay? Is that seriously his best attempt at seduction?
I’ve heard this mindset from a lot of nerdbros. You know the type. They’re parodied by the characters in the comedy series Pure Pwnage. They have a very narrow vision of how gaming culture should be. When anyone who doesn’t fit their perception crosses their path, they become caustic and utter such phrases as, “Wii is for fags” or “girls only play causal games”.
The end result of this is that it can have the effect of distancing females from gaming. A LAN party for Battlefield 3 in Texas earlier this year decided to ban women from attending for their own safety, to avoid them being harassed. Great job there punishing the victims instead of the perpetrators. It’s as stupid as an Italian judge in 1998 overturning a rape conviction because the victim wore jeans. Excluding women from gaming so as not to upset the nerdbro status quo does us no favours in the long run. If we want videogames to be taken seriously (as other forms of expression are such as literature, film, and music) then we need a diversity of input. As much as the nerdbros hate to admit it, gamers are a diverse bunch, and especially so with the expansion of the market in recent years. With new markets such as social games on Facebook and the ubiquity of the iPhone and other mobile gaming devices, gaming truly is for everyone. For the industry to continue to grow, we still need people who come from all walks of life to play games, to make games, and to critique games. That includes women who are half the population. Let’s stamp out arseholes who try to say otherwise.