The Five Worst Things to Happen to Gaming in 2012: 2012 – The Year of Sexism

Hiyo, again!  My countdown (I’m just going to give up the pretence that I speak for anyone else on this site completely) of the Worst Things To Happen To Gaming In 2012 is almost at an end but we still have two more depressing situations to slog through and shame ourselves over.  Today we’re going to sum up what has been, in all honesty, one of the best years ever for one of the worst problems that we as a medium are still perpetuating: sexism.

2] Women come out of the kitchen to play games; get shamed back into kitchen by douchebag gaming community.

Warning: if you are a decent human being, the following article will make you uncontrollably angry.
Warning: if you are a decent human being, the following article will make you uncontrollably angry.

Gaming is predominantly a boy’s club.  You can trot out as many statistics as you want that contradict that statement; Nintendo, Microsoft & Sony can make as many lifestyle ads showcasing gaming as a wholesome family activity as they want to prove otherwise; and developers can keep making stereotypical “girly” games to show that they’re being gender inclusive.  It doesn’t change the fact; gaming is still a boy’s club and 2012 showed that in force.

But how was 2012 different to any other year?  We were just as disgustingly sexist and appallingly awful towards women as we were any other year, right?  And back in those years no-one batted so much as an eyelid, let alone dedicated at least 5 A4 pages to shaming everyone involved with it.  Why was this year any different?  Because 2012, at long frickin’ last, was the year that those who suffered this endless abuse finally stood up and spoke out.  And, at long frickin’ last, we male gamers didn’t shout them down over their legitimate complaints.

But let’s start back at the beginning of the year and the Cross Assault live-stream that Capcom had going for Street Fighter X Tekken.  Whilst there; live on air in front of an audience of at least thousands, Aris “Aris” Bakhtanians, one of the competitors at the tournament, got into a heated debate over the issue of sexism in the fighting game community.  He was not on the correct or winning side of the argument.  “This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20-years-old and the sexual harassment is part of a culture… and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community.”  That is a direct quote from the man himself and you can find more such goldmines of excuses for usage in your next sexual harassment lawsuit over at Giant Bomb’s insanely well-written story on the matter.  Or, if you don’t much fancy reading, then simply get them straight from the man himself in this here compilation video!

Capcom took barely any action, Aris released a response that made things worse and the fighting game community come off looking exactly like the insular, sexist, immature douchebag community that it had been working so hard to grow out of these past 7 years (incidentally the number of years since the last Dead Or Alive game came out).  It’s just utterly disgraceful behaviour that sets our medium as a whole back several years.  Any extra players into the competitive fighting game arena should be proudly welcomed and treated well regardless of gender.

Conveniently, 2012 was also the year that we got Dead Or Alive 5 and a promise, that this time, we’d have more of a focus on the fighting engine (the reason why people play Dead Or Alive) and less of a focus on the ludicrous sexualisation of the bouncing jigglies (the reason why people are ashamed of playing Dead Or Alive).  Come release time and what did we get?  Chesticles as far as the eye could see and bigger than the Empire State Building.  Why?  Because when Team Ninja tested the game and got feedback from its test groups… “We actually got a lot of feedback from people who were playing it, saying, ‘We want bigger breasts. Make the characters more like that.’”  Maybe Team Ninja should take a lesson from yesterday’s entry of “The consumer is not always right”?

But our wonderful year of casual sexism doesn’t stop there, oh no!  Let’s rewind back to E3 time and Square Enix’s two tent-pole games of the year following the event; Hitman: Absolution and Tomb Raider.  Now, we’ve already covered the Hitman: Absolution trailer in question and I don’t much fancy ripping it to even further shreds (where the f*ck did the RPG come from?!!) because that’d be like continuing to mutilate the dead body of a paedophile after you’ve danced around it, pissed on it and set it on fire after performing a 45 minute, highly-choreographed song and dance number desecrating his entire existence in front of their still grieving and still horrified family.  At some point, regardless of how bad they were, you’re going to feel sorry for the paedophile.

So, let’s instead talk about Tomb Raider or, as I’m dubbing it, Every Ryona Fan’s Twisted Fantasies and Dreams Coming to Life At Once.  Firstly, go and watch that E3 trailer (posted above this paragraph), it is important that you actually see this stuff first before I lay my opinions out.  Back yet?  Notice anything about that trailer?  Of the cast that are tied up and mutilated by a crazed islander, of the cast that are shown being put through literal hell and of the cast that is kidnapped by the bad guys; not one of them is a man.  EVERY SINGLE ONE is a woman.  The men are all big and grizzled and hold their own; with their leader being especially big and grizzled and, seemingly, a father figure that Lara looks up to and always wants the respect and protection of.  Or, they’re EEEEEEEVVVIIILLLLL and possible rapists.   There are a tonne of unfortunate implications going on in that trailer that I just can’t get over.

Not helped, of course, by the Tomb Raider “rape” controversy or, more specifically, that little sequence shown in the trailer in which Lara is shown in a very compromised and vulnerable position at the mercy of a man who makes several seemingly sexual moves towards her forcibly.  One of the developers, executive producer Ron Rosenberg to be precise, dropped the words “attempted rape” into his description of the scene noting that the increased violence towards her will make players want “to protect her”.

Crystal Dynamics then proceeded to back-pedal so far that they’re currently located in the middle of Uganda… without actually managing to make anything better.  Tell me, does describing the behaviour that the man exhibits in that sequence as “close physical intimidation” make it sound better or even worse (feel free to use that phrase in your defence when you’re arrested for rape, folks)?  They tried to make it sound like it’s a vital story point and a step forward to mature storytelling in videogames.  No, it’s not.  You’re making I Spit On Your Grave; you’re making Grindhouse but without any of the self-knowing winks and nods that makes good Grindhouse watchable.

In fact, whilst I have your attention, can I posit my opinion to you that Lara Croft has never been a good or strong female character?
In fact, whilst I have your attention, can I posit my opinion to you that Lara Croft has never been a good or strong female character?

And you know what happened in the end?  Turns out that there’s no rape if you fail the QTEs and the guy just chokes you a bit and shoots Lara in the head.  PC Gamer resisted every moral fibre in their being to find out.  So, this leads me to the question, why the f*ck are such terrible and offensive undertones in there in the first f*cking place?!  It’s a waste of time and resources and just begs the question of why he didn’t just shoot her in the first place!

But let’s move on now to the saddest controversy of the sexist calendar year: Anita Sarkeesian.  Sarkeesian started up a Kickstarter back in May for funding so that she could make a documentary series about women in videogames entitled Tropes vs. Women In Videogames.  She got her funding… and a whole hell of a lot worse.  For whatever reason, the absolute scum of the gaming community came out in full force and mobilised themselves into a non-stop attack squad bent on bringing her and her project down.

The comments on the YouTube video for the Kickstarter had to be closed, her Wikipedia page was defaced, the top Google search hit for her once had the top return sentence be “Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist video blogger and c*nt”, Kickstarter were spammed with messages to shut down her project, her site was the victim of DDoS attacks, her Twitter and YouTube channels were reported under “terrorism”, “hate speech” and “spam”…

And, worst of all, somebody made a flash game in which the objective was to punch her in the face.

I am not going to show you an image of the game because I refuse to give it the publicity.  Contend yourself with Anita’s vandalised Wikipedia page.
I am not going to show you an image of the game because I refuse to give it the publicity. Contend yourself with Anita’s vandalised Wikipedia page.

Not one episode of Tropes vs. Women had been aired when this abuse started.  Not one episode of Tropes vs. Women has aired at time of going to press.  Even if it had or if the people causing the hate had actually seen any of the not-yet-made episodes before beginning their horrendous campaign it wouldn’t have made any difference.  They still would have done it to the horrific scale that they did and it would still have been utterly reprehensible with no justifiable reason attached to it.  I am refusing to let myself go on about this subject anymore because I am angry and I’m terrified that if I start typing about this I’ll be out of job by the fourth paragraph.  So, let me just say that I find these people, all of these people involved in this absurdly extreme hate campaign, scum and leave it at that.

So, after such a year of nothing but pure crap for women in games (and this is not even mentioning the bad Girlfriend Mode joke of Borderlands 2 or Ryan Perez’s insinuation that Felicia Day is only a nerd icon for her looks or the ludicrous “fake nerd” fiasco), it’s little wonder that a few of them have had enough.  Fortunately, it just so happens that there’s a social media tool that allows a group of like-minded people to project their feelings on a worldwide stage that allows others to get involved.


Thus #1reasonwhy was born.  A platform for women who work in the games industry, whether it’s PR, developing or even journalism, to vent about the endless amounts of casual sexism that they are subjected to on an almost daily basis.  Whether it’s women having their work outright ignored because they’re the only woman on the team, being belittled on their appearance, subjected to sexual harassment at conventions, speaking up about being afraid to speak up, having to remind developers that women might want to play their game or about the lack of true female representation in AAA games; the list goes on and on and on and on and on…

It’s a highly depressing read.

Folks, I’m a feminist, have been for a very long time, but this is not a question about “FEMINISM IS CUMIN 2 DESTWOY US ALLL!!!” because such things are idiotic bullsh*t that you’re making up in your heads and getting deludedly paranoid over.  This is a question of you turning away potential game players because you’re refusing to accept the fact that gaming is not your secret little boys’ club anymore.  You are not 8 year old boys whose first thought towards girls touching your stuff is “Ew! Cooties!”  You are grown men who should know better than to be this casually and blatantly sexist and to not kick up a storm, screaming “All hands on deck!” whenever a woman tries to do something with, or talk about or examine, your medium.  Because it is not your medium anymore and it has not been for a long time.

Gaming is fundamentally no longer a boy’s club, despite what the top of my article said (that was more in relation to the way we treated women this year).  Accept it.  Grow up.  Act like decent human beings, for f*ck’s sake, because I don’t want to have to be back here this time next year reading you all the riot act again.  Women are just as good as men and deserve the right to enjoy the things that men do.  Let them.


So which major controversy or trend or act managed to make it to number 1 on our countdown of shame?  Come back tomorrow to find out!


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