My Problem With Video Games Isn’t The Violence, It’s The Sexism
Games and gaming culture are inextricable from our lives. My husband makes them, my daughter plays them, I suck at them, and we all love them. What makes this problematic is that most of you know by now that I am a raging (and potentially very hairy) feminazi who managed to trick my unfortunate husband into nuptials with my womanly wiles.
At almost every turn what I like (games) and what I believe in (feminism) are at odds with each other, because video games oh my god.
As a parent who often clutches tightly at her pearls, I am very wary about letting my daughter play video games.
A lot of the criticism that’s leveled at video games is rooted in some of the gorier, more violent games, and on its own, I can understand that. However, my daughter doesn’t really play violent video games because I know they would give her horrific nightmares and because I don’t think that she’s old enough, not because I believe that violent video games are responsible for all of the world’s evils.
Instead, a lot of my reluctance when it comes to my daughter and games is the sexism. It is pervasive, it is widespread, and it is incredibly noxious.
You have Duke Nukem Forever’s ill-conceived “Capture the Babe” component in multiplayer and everything that is Grand Theft Auto and you have the less horrible but still very disappointing stuff, too, like Ubisoft nixing playable female characters in Unity because they “can’t afford it” and then hiring a parkour expert to make their game more realistic. On top of that you get cranky chidults all up in your grill if you don’t like those things, mansplaining that it’s “just the culture” and urging you to relax and wondering if you’re on your period.
For years I’ve had a front row view to the game industry, and at almost every turn, I’ve been disappointed. A strong female protagonist is difficult to find (and almost always sports a physics defying set of monster boobs) and the games community is a pretty unwelcoming place for the ladies.
Even the games that my daughter loves that are gender-neutral (Minecraft, LEGO anything, racing games) are considered at this young age “for boys” which is why she never mentions that she likes them to her friends. In her words, “it’s not worth it”. Ouch.
My daughter wants to be like her dad. She wants to make games. So how do I explain to her what it feels like to sit across from an interviewer at a studio and be litmus tested for authenticity? To have your hopefully future boss say, “not to be sexist, but…” and then proceed to spew some of the most sexist shit you’ve ever heard?
How do I explain that female developers and critics are regularly harassed and threatened with rape?
I know my husband often feels that he has to make some kind of apology for what he does. After all, a job is a job and your boss is your boss and he’s worked on some great games that have shit female characters and he gets to listen to me complain about it. I don’t need him to apologize, just to understand why it sucks big buckets of nuts
Some of the heavy stuff is still years away for my daughter, but I don’t see her losing interest in gaming any time soon. Eventually, she’ll be confronted with vitriol and sexism and ugliness and that’s life. On the plus side, things are getting better. Slowly.
More people are calling out trolls and more developers are working on great stuff and more of my husband’s coworkers are starting families and having daughters that will idolize them, too, at which point it does get a little weird to dedicate so much time to better jiggle physics for those aforementioned monster boobs.