TRIGGER WARNING: 16x9 : Dangerous Game: Tropes vs Women bullying

5:21 pm - 11/17/2012

Pop culture critic Anita Sarkeesian had an idea. She wanted to produce a web series probing stereotypes that objectified women in video games. Anita appealed for donations toward her project through the popular crowd funding website Kickstarter. That’s when the harassment began. “I got threats of death, threats of violence, threats of rape. It was really intense. And there was so much of it.”

Anita says she was bullied because she threatened video gaming’s established order. “It’s very male dominated. And I think with that male domination comes a sense of entitlement, that these games are for men, by men and that women, if they’re going to participate, they need to shut up.”

The backlash against Anita hit a new low when a flash-based game dubbed “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian” was made and posted by an Ontario gamer. The game encourages users to click repeatedly on an image of Anita that appears more ‘beaten up’ with each click.

We tracked down the man behind the game, Bendilin Spurr, but he declined our request for an interview. In an email to us Spurr claims the game he made has nothing to do with Anita being female but is a common response online whenever someone does something controversial. Spurr added that “the games are not meant as a threat” and “they are not meant to intimidate.”

But in the world of online gaming, there is much intimidation. Grace is the creator of “Fat, Ugly, or Slutty,” a website that re-posts obscenities read or heard in online gaming.

“As it turns out, from the reaction that the website had, a lot of people didn’t understand what women experience in the online games.”

Grace believes the existing mentality of ignoring bullies in games lessens our understanding of how harassment actually happens.

“If your friend is telling you don’t worry about it it’s just a troll, then you’re not going to be inclined to tell about the next death threat. So then you stop talking about it.”

But the video game industry is talking about harassment. James Portnow makes his living designing games and has been playing them since he was five years old. “If your game is a highly competitive game, you should be able to include methods to curb some of these things or empower your community within the design itself.”

These methods range from muting verbally abusive players, rating behaviour and the ability to select specific people to play with.

Stephen Toulouse is the former Director of Policy and Enforcement for Microsoft’s Xbox Live and an example of the gaming industry curbing harassment from within. Stephen and his team policed games on Xbox Live and took action against players who violated the Xbox’s code of conduct. “We had the ability to – again – suspend people from the system for egregious behaviour, all the way down to preventing their console from ever connecting to Xbox Live again.”

And while Stephen has shut some gamers down he admits that bullies in gaming still don’t face many consequences. “Notice, it’s always the jerk who says it’s part of the game.”

nevermademe 18th-Nov-2012 01:50 am (UTC)
yaaaaaaaaass Anita. I love her and I'm so glad I donated to her kickstarter even though I could only afford a dollar
nevermademe 18th-Nov-2012 01:52 am (UTC)
also i wanna work for silicon sisters. i graduate next semester let me intern ;-;
fantasticjackie 18th-Nov-2012 02:21 am (UTC)
I've gotten so many of those messages, including pictures of guys' junk. I don't let them affect me personally, but they do bother me on the community level, because I'm just one more chick experiencing it.

Initially, I was harrassed on XBL for being a gay man. -No, I'm not a man and I'm not gay.- My old gamertag was PatriotJackJack, and I had to change it because I got tired of the abusive messages and in game comments. I guess it was the "JackJack" bit? Because my bio said I was a girl. For over a year, I played with everyone muted. Then I decided that was a ridiculous approach, to not be able to communicate because of idiots. I went with a more neutral name, but when I refused to give up the mic, the comments got worse because they could tell I was a girl. So now my name proudly flaunts that I am a chick.

Most of the time now, a fellow teammate will speak up in team chat if there's a loser among us, but even if not, I generally don't respond until after the match. I report them to X-Box, send a one word message that says, "Reported," and block all communications.

There are days when I get nothing but compliments, and days when I'm reporting two and three gamers every new match. Now I even get attacked for pretending to be a girl. Because I can't actually kill you if I am one?? One thing's for sure though: I get far more messages from random people than my guy friends because I'm a chick who's also a decent gamer. I doubt this culture will change much for years; it's too prevalent.
weber_dubois22 18th-Nov-2012 03:23 am (UTC)
[Cortana Icon!]

I don't see how your initial username alluded to homosexuality, even then, they were probably accusing you of being gay under the pretense that it was an insult worse than the C-word.

Yeah, I hear you on that. some groups are just so stuck in their ways its hard to believe any sort of change will happen and stick. I don't even use mikes if I play online (which apparently upsets a lot folk who play online multiplayer if the groans and complaining about that "one guy who doesn't use/have a mike" are to be taken seriously) and I'm constantly dissuading my thickheaded siblings from engaging with assholes who are sore enough losers to use "Your Mom" jokes whenever they get defeated in a deathmatch, because I quite frankly don't want the trouble of waking up the next day and learning someone who bold enough to try and muck with our account or send profane messages something.

Nevertheless, despite knowing that isn't the kind of change that's going to be immediate because of the strength in numbers this kind of discrimination comes in, I'm glad to see that there are people willing to step up and do something about the assholes harassing women online through the video game medium.
luminais 28th-Nov-2012 09:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this, and yay for supportive and thoughtful comments.
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