Thursday, January 1, 2015

My Problem With Anita Sarkeesian and Feminist Frequency

Got into an argument with someone over Anita Sarkeesian and her blog, Feminist Frequency, and  was told that my real problem was just that I'm a gamer, and she's a woman, and thus I'm a huge misogynist.

As if.

No, its much more simple than that.

To put it bluntly, its because I cannot abide liars and con-artists.  I think people who manipulate other people by lying, especially when the goal is to con people out of their money, is the act of a despicable person.

And I think Anita Sarkeesian is a liar and a con-artist.  I openly make this accusation with a smile on my face.  She lied to get her funding, she lied about the nature of her research, and she lied about her intentions from the get-go.

Some specifics.  The largest and most important flaw in Anita Sarkeesian's "research" is the fact that she went into it with her conclusions in place up front, and analyzes game content (without the context) that validates those conclusions while ignoring game content (with or without the context) that invalidates those conclusions.  A researcher with any integrity would do the analysis first, and then draw conclusions.  She didn't do this, because she wasn't actually interested in analyzing things.  She was interested in proving her own assertions.

To this end, she intentionally misinterprets some of the evidence (for example, her analysis of the Mario franchise attributes sexist malice for a lack of female characters other than the "damsel in distress" when the real reasons are tied in with lazy storytelling and not wanting to spend a lot of money creating the programming to support new characters when all they have to do is recolor a bunch of game sprites that are already in use for a tenth the cost.

Sarkeesian is also guilty of creating her own evidence whole out of the cloth.  Her diatribe against the game Hitman goes into length about your character, the titular assassin, is sent out to murder these two women.  The truth is, these women are bystanders, and if you kill them, you are penalized.  The targets for assassination in the Hitman series are men.  Its a violent game.  But Sarkeesian goes on and on and on at length in her videos about murdering these two specific women, when they aren't even on the target list.

A quick analysis of most Let's Play recordings of this game reveals that successful accomplishment of this mission requires avoiding the women in question and never once coming in contact with them.  You actually have to go out of your way to have a face-to-face encounter with the two women in question, and then you have to go even further out of your way to kill them.

I already mentioned how all your targets in the Hitman games are male.  Sarkeesian doesn't comment on this, of course, because as everyone knows, killing hundreds of men =/= sexism, but killing two women, even when you're not supposed to and have to go out of your way in order to find them in the first place, does = sexism.

Now, am I saying there is no sexism in video games?  Absolutely not.

What I am saying is that the way Anita Sarkeesian went about demonstrating it was shoddy and dishonest and her conclusions are misleading.  Anita Sarkeesian implies in her assertions that the sexism that is present in video games is based in some all-encompassing agenda among video game producers to bring women down.  The truth is, the only real agenda held by video game producers is "make as much money as possible as quickly as possible for as little expense as possible."

Follow:  the overwhelming majority of video game buyers, and players, are male, between the ages of 18 and 35.  Video games are thus angled to appeal to the target demographic.  The companies aren't going to waste money trying to change their audience's minds; rather, they're going to utilize the same practices that worked for them in the past because they worked for them in the past.

Unfortunately, the video game industry is run on money, and the money isn't there to support sequels to games like "Mirror's Edge" or "Beyond Good and Evil" (both of which are "female-oriented" games and feature strong female protagonists).  Both of those games sold pretty well, but nowhere near as well as games like "Gears of War" or "Metal Gear Solid" did.  Promoting such games to the point that they do sell as well as male-oriented games would take too much money, in the opinion of the video game producers, spending too much money is a bad thing.  They are businesses, after all.

So, its not sexism that drives the video game industry, its profit-ism.  Or whatever you want to call it.

There's no anti-woman agenda.  The agenda is pro-"make as much money as possible."

So yeah, there is, I suppose, an undercurrent of sexism in the video game industry because these companies operate under the assumption that male fantasies sell better than female fantasies.  Problem is, its a correct assumption.  Most gamers are male.  Most game-buyers are male.  Therefore, the most successful games are going to be ones that appeal to men by featuring lots of guns, lots of explosions, lots of fast cars and lots of adventure.

Video games are supposed to be fantasy-filled.  They're a form of escapist entertainment, just as all entertainment media is escapist.  They're filled with sexy, physically superior characters doing outrageous things that real people would never be able to accomplish on their best days.

And something that Sarkeesian ignores is that video game companies are, finally, trying to appeal to women as much as men.  I can name an easy dozen games which contain shirtless men in beefcake poses for no other reason than to be there as shirtless men in beefcake poses.  Somehow the double standard that says cheesecake = anti-female sexism but beefcake = not anti-male sexism seems to make sense to other people.

Not to me, but other people.  I, apparently, am one of those freakish people who thinks all sexism is bad, not just the sexism that is directed at women.

I know.  Call me crazy.

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