Everybody plays: A look at video games’ most outspoken critic, why her arguments for change of gender tropes are misguided

Angelica Wallingford, Editor in Chief

To advocate for an issue that you’re passionate about is admirable, however, to demonize an entire group of people in the name of the issue your advocating for is completely and utterly wrong.

Take that mindset and apply it to one of the most controversial pop culture issues surrounding one of the most popular forms of entertainment and you’ll end up being knocked out so fast you swear you’re in “Street Fighter.”

The Gamergate controversy started in August 2014 when the scorned ex-boyfriend of indie game developer Zoe Quinn made a long blog post detailing their break up and accused her of a number of things including a relationship with Kotaku journalist Nathan Grayson.

Gamergate has sparked somewhat of an uproar in the gaming community and has made various figures such as Quinn and developer Brianna Wu bring up issues such as sexism, gamer identity and misogyny.

However, both Quinn and Wu have been relatively quiet compared to gaming’s most infamous outspoken critic – current gaming public enemy number one: Anita Sarkeesian.

Through her website and YouTube account Sarkeesian’s commentary on video games, called “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” discusses famous gaming tropes such as the damsel in distress, the sexual object and the background character.

Sarkeesian’s bare bones argument about how there should be more women characters in video games – on top of the already long laundry list there are – is completely valid and is something that most, if not all, gamers are in completely favor of.

Where Sarkeesian’s argument falls flat is when she attacks and accuses gamers and developers of being sexist and misogynistic just for playing or developing a game that has even an ounce of sexualizing women or having violence against them.

“It gets worse and worse,” Sarkeesian said in an interview with ABC News. “It reinforces this idea that women are sexual objects… it reinforces the idea of women as um playthings for amusement.”

It almost goes without saying that Sarkessian’s strong comments, critiques and analysis against gaming has gotten her a lot of negative reactions and backlash. Sarkeesian, like everyone else in this world, has every right to voice her opinion, no matter how wrong or flawed her analysis about games and gamers might be.

However, gamers and developers also have the right to respond to her allegations of sexism and misogyny. The problem is that a very very small percent of gamers and “trolls” take things way too far, bombarding Sarkeesian, Quinn and Wu with a multitude of death and rape threats.

One of the most famous cases happened in October 2014 when Sarkeesian was to speak at the Utah State University. The university received terrorist threats from a person perpetuating a student. The letter-writer said they would commit “the deadliest school shooting in American history,” and cited the 1989 Montreal Massacre as inspiration.

That threat was just one of many threats that Sarkeesian and company get on an almost daily basis. Death and rape threats like these are proving her point that gamers are sexists and misogynists that only want gaming to be some sort of a “boys club,” which, on the grander scale of gaming is false.

If the small percentage of gamers and trolls really want to make a statement about Sarkeesian’s skewed critiques and analysis then they would stay silent.

Silence speaks volumes. If they would just keep their mouths shut and log off of whatever social media site they frequent then Sarkeesian and her war against tropes would just go away and fade out. However, that doesn’t mean that Sarkeesian can completely escape criticism.

For Sarkeesian to call an entire group of people, both male and female, sexist for killing random woman character A on the street in “Watch Dogs ”or for picking up a prostitute in an off-brand knock off of a Ferrari the “Grand Theft Auto” franchise is completely absurd.

Objectives such as these examples are almost always optional when playing a game. No one is going to hold a computer generated coded gun to your characters head and make them do any of those things. It’s all up to the player, which brings in a discussion of the person playing, not video games at large.

To accuse developers of being misogynists because they have sexy female fan service characters or the token female character is illogical. By that conclusion, that would mean that the developers of games such as the “Call of Duty” and “Wolfenstein” franchises are Nazi sympathizers for featuring Nazi figures in their games. It would mean that Juliet Starling of “Lollipop Chainsaw” would just be that sexy blonde all-American cheerleader sucking on lollipops and not the fierce chainsaw wielding, limb maiming, decapitating zombie slayer that she is in the game.

The fact is, none of these age-old video game tropes are going away anytime soon.

Mario is always going to save Princess Peach, there’s always going to be those random side characters with extraordinary “jiggle” physics that serve absolutely no purpose but to be looked at, killing random characters A and B is always going to an optional objective and the one of the most iconic and fierce video game characters – Samus – is always going to be female.