Gaming has grown in the last few decades, becoming a significant cultural phenomenon and bringing in $10.5 billion in revenue (Video Game Industry Statistics 2014). 67% of American households have gaming consoles and spends 8 hours a week playing video games. Video Games is part of many American lives, reaching the same level as film, radio, and television.
One of the huge problems with the gaming community today is the hostility towards women. 40% of all gamers are female players (Video Game Industry Statistics 2014). But a vast majority of female characters are non-playable, scantily dressed, and over-sexualized (Gender representation in video games 2014). Some Feminist gamers, developers, and critics such as Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, and Brianna Wu are victims of cyberbullying, harassment, stalking, and violent threats of death and rape. This hostility has been going on for years, and in Fall 2014, the online movement #GamerGate has been brought to mainstream media attention after Sarkeesian had to cancel her guest speech after the Utah State University. USU received a threat of mass shooting because she was going to speak (Frizell 2014). #GamerGate was established in response to programmer Eron Gjoni’s blog posts accusing Zoe Quinn of sleeping with a video game journalist Nathan Grayson (Dockterman 2014). The participants of the movement called for more ethics in video game journalism, yet at the same time leaked Quinn’s nude photos, harassment, stalking, death threats, and some were trying to pressure her to commit suicide. #GamerGate went from being an activist movement to an excuse to terrorize female gamers and critics. A person should not fight for ethics with unethical decisions.
To improve and establish ethical gaming communities, gamers must first take a step back and be open to the idea that Gaming can be so much more than the usual violent shooting games or role playing adventure games. PBS Studios has explored how Video Games can be more than just the “age-old tradition of gaming” that “teaches us strategy, maneuvering, and the importance of making choices.” Video Games can be used as a “storytelling medium,” changing the way “we live and interact with information, and each other” (PBS Digital Studios 2012). By changing the way how we usually define Video Games from an entertainment device to an interactive communication device, we can open up opportunities to explore new creative ways to tell stories, teach ideas, and provide instructional and training information. Quinn’s independent game that is at the center of #GamerGate, called Depression Quest, was already considered a controversial game because it is a text adventure game that simulates the experience of having depression (Dockterman 2014). Several critics of the game believe it wasn’t a good game “in terms of experience,” it “diverged from the kinds of content and gameplay found in most mainstream games,” and the critics that praised the game were just doing to because it caved in to “political correctness” (Dockterman 2014). Depression Quest is different from mainstream games, but it is similar because of the interactivity. Players experience different outcomes based on the decisions they make throughout the game.
Another important step to improve the gaming community is to change the definition of what makes a “Gamer.” Gamers are heavily stereotyped as “young, nerdy white guy” but in reality the demographic is much larger to include a diverse range of people (Dewey 2014). Gamers should just be defined as people who enjoy video games. The participants in the cyberbullying of feminist critics need to understand that the criticism of the game is not an attack on the gamer. Sarkeesian specifically states in the beginning of her Feminist Frequency videos that people can still enjoy a video game while being critical of it. The game development industry should also encourage women and minorities to participate (Dewey 2014).
To build a safer, friendlier, and ethical gaming community, members should view video games as an interactive communication device and “Gamers” as people who share a love for video games. When the industry and community learn to get along and not become hostile for new ideas and perspectives, the gaming experience will be enjoyable for everyone.
An episode of Anita Sarkeesian’s “Tropes vs Women in Video Games”