G@m3r G1rlz: Sexism and Gaming

When one of our members, Sacamano, shared a video on sexism in nerd culture with A.R.K., I realized that this is one area that seems to go unscathed when it comes to the women’s movement.  And the more and more I thought about it, the more frustrated I got.

The video by Bob Chipman, which was posted on The Escapist, talks about how sexism in nerd culture is “NOT OKAY”.  Recently, on Cross Assault, which is the company Capcom’s online reality show, Aris Bakhtanians, the coach of Team Tekken, made persistent sexist remarks to Miranda Pakozdi, who was the only female member on his team.  The coach commented on her breast size, among other offensive remarks.

As Giant Bomb stated, “Pakozdi’s contract obliged her to stay in the competition so she had little choice but to endure it. Eventually, to escape this unpleasant situation, she stopped trying to win matches and got herself knocked out of the competition.”

Yet, when challenged about his behavior, he defended his blatant sexism arguing that sexism is part of the gaming culture, and if removed, the fighting game community would no longer exist.  So…does this mean that it was Miranda Pakozdi’s fault that he got to act douchey? 

Sadly, the incident that occurred on Cross Assault barely even scrapes the surface of the sexism that does occur on a regular basis in the gaming world.  For instance, the language used among gamers.  Is it really ok to harass women? Or to use sexist slurs as a form of violence? And since when did it become acceptable to use the word “rape” as a casual word, used as a synonym for defeat?  As stated in one article,

“When complaining about the way I was treated at a certain event, I was told I just need a ‘stiff dicking.’ In what other industry is this even remotely acceptable behavior? 

This is why I care. Because I know I’m not the only one who has to deal with this, and I know I’m certainly not getting the worst of it.


Besides the language, what about how women are portrayed in games? For instance when designing female characters, most designs are not based on playability, but rather, on fuckability, admits LaToya Peterson.  Game designer Jonathan Jacques-Bellêtete tries to “always trying to have very beautiful female characters.” I am not arguing against having attractive characters; I am arguing against characters that are purely defined by their appearance.  And for those of you whose retort has to do with empowerment via liberated sexuality, there is a fine line.  Are these women created to be sexually empowered, or are these women purely created because men want to see them looking a certain way?  In other words, are these women created to be more than another male fantasy? And yes, there are female gamers who try to be “g@m3r g1rlz”, thinking that if they are seen as an object of desire they will be treated better.  But, usually they are quickly labeled as attention whores, and are not respected.

At Freeplay, an independent games festival held last year in Australia, there was a panel titled ‘The Words We Use’ that quickly developed into a conversation including sexist statements about what women’s place in games criticism should be.  Tracy Lien, editor at Kotaku AU commented on her reaction of complete silence while sitting in the audience saying,

“At Freeplay I was afraid that had I said something I’d have been dismissed or ignored…I was afraid of hearing someone say (or tweet) that I should just suck it down and deal with it, that I’m making a big deal of something that means nothing to them, that no one cares, that my kicking up a fuss was just a sign of my weakness. As a woman, I felt that my gender somehow made me less qualified to speak about gender issues that directly affected me; that people, especially those who needed their views challenged, would be less willing to listen to a woman (yes, I see the irony).”

Does anyone else see the problem here? Women should not be forced to be distanced from gaming as a result of sexism.  This will only further perpetuate the same issues, and punishes the victims. Can we just move forward from here? I don’t see this as a problem that will go away on its own. And why is there such resistance to talking about sexism in gaming culture? I am not trying to say that everyone thinks like Bakhtanians about sexism in the gaming community.  I know that most gamers do have good intentions, or at least that is my hope.  But at the same time, even if sexism was an integral part of gaming culture, does this make it any more acceptable? Should sexism be an integral part of any culture? And “Because, this is the way things are, so why are we even talking about this?!” doesn’t seem like a sound, steady argument to me.  Would people rather the media provide even more criticism and scrutiny on the gaming community, or can we just grow up, address our own problems, and take the high road here?  Please don’t tell me you need to keep up the boy’s club because you aren’t finding social acceptance beyond the gaming world.  You are better than that.  And yes, I know it is highly unrealistic to entirely eliminate sexism from the gaming world. This hasn’t really occurred in any other cultures or communities either.  But at the very least, this should be the beginning of the end.  And it starts by talking about it!

Do you think that sexism in gaming culture should be left alone? How do you think this problem should be addressed?