Latest posts by Stephen Welsh (see all)
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I’ve been thinking a bit about something since watching ABC Nightline’s segment on #GamerGate last night. At least, it claimed to be about #GamerGate, but was making offhand comments and pull-quotes from the usual media narrative. You know, the one that says it’s a movement of male gamers (inaccurate) threatening women in the industry (disingenuous as there’s no evidence the assholes sending death threats are part of GG), instead of a backlash against corrupt gaming journalists (how anybody refuses to believe this is beyond me) and the severely flawed dogma being disseminated by them and their political allies.
The thing is, that wasn’t the focus of the segment at all. It was just framing a current event as an excuse to talk about the activism of Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian. I could make a whole series of articles or videos to break down her arguments, but I don’t think Anita and Johnathan McIntosh are worth the effort honestly. What I will talk about is how bizarre her main argument has devolved into. After the Damsel in Distress trope, Sarkeesian’s next main target in her videos was sold as being the trope of “Women As Background Decoration”. While the analysis started off as a critique of female NPCs being objects in game environments for the sake of eye-candy, it quickly devolved into a tirade against the ability to kill female NPCs in games like Hitman and Grand Theft Auto. Feminist Frequency’s expressed belief was that the women are paraded around on screen and that players are encouraged to kill them and look at their corpses as some perverted gratification for murdering sex workers.
I’m still struggling to understand this line of thought (though the infamous mind of McIntosh at least provides an explanation for how somebody could come up with such a strange argument). There are glaring issues that stick out here. The first is that players are not encouraged to do this kind of thing at all. The most damning evidence against this is in how dishonest the “Women As Background Decoration” video edits and contextualizes strippers being killed in Hitman: Absolution. Players are not encouraged to kill civilians in this game, and are in fact penalized for doing so. If she’s trying to argue that most players will do it “because they’re objects to be acted upon”, it’s also inaccurate, as this is very uncommon behavior for players; especially those who are that far into Hitman and would have been accustomed to the rules by then.
The second is that somehow the act of killing non-player characters is evident of misogyny in videogames. Grand Theft Auto has plenty of NPCs. Can they be killed? Yes. Are you encouraged to? Not really, no, as doing so often gets the police on your ass trying to kill you. You can murder civilians all you like, but that applies to all of them. Why is it suddenly an issue when the NPCs are female? Well in the case of Feminist Frequency, and a distressing amount of activists targeting gaming, they believe that acts committed in a videogame will encourage players to do the same thing in the real world. Yes, the same ideology the notorious Jack Thompson expressed a decade ago. Nevermind that it’s been disproven time and again that games don’t lead to players committing real world acts of violence.
So, I feel that a few questions need to be asked:
Why is killing a female NPC suddenly an issue?
Why is anything in a game more cause for concern than extreme content in TV, film, or that thing called real life?
Where are all the boys uppercutting the girls at school after playing Street Fighter?
How come people aren’t being murdered constantly everywhere at every time when Grand Theft Auto constantly sells millions?
Why do none of my gamer friends drop their pants and jerk off after running over civilians in a game?
There’s a lot to answer for in this argument, and what a folly it is when the people claiming to have full knowledge of the situation don’t respond to anybody that doesn’t listen and believe. I bring this up because as evidenced by the ABC Nightline piece, this is apparently one of the key issues with gaming today. Yet it keeps being reported as fact with no answer given to explain the glaring holes in the evidence. Female enemies in general are a rarity, so is the issue that players can kill innocent people? It wasn’t a problem when I was killing male NPCs. Excuse the gamers if they can’t understand why it’s apparently a social issue when those polygons have breasts.