While gamers rival Christians when it comes to the ease at which they can be offended, certain topics seem guaranteed to start a firestorm of hate and protest. Women in gaming easily tops that list. It seems that the minute the fairer sex is mentioned with regards to videogame culture, the sky starts falling as different segments of the Internet take up arms in a debate that only occasionally has merit.
There truly is a lot of misogynistic backwardness associated with the industry and society in general. On the other hand, so much attention goes towards imagined sexism that it can be difficult to root out the real offenders, leading instead to bloodthirsty witch hunts that would make even the settlers of Salem blush.
It’s as if nobody has ever heard about the boy who cried wolf. Or they read the story and the only thing they took away from it was that it was a boy who cried wolf even though a girl is equally capable of making false alarms.
In an interview with Eurogamer (link), Borderlands 2 designer John Hemingway referred to a feature designed to help even the worst of gamers make their way through their loot-driven shooter. The problem is that Hemingway noted the mode was sometimes internally referred to as “girlfriend mode.”
Oh. My. God.
John, girlfriends can play videogames! Girls can enjoy games as much as any boy can! Not all girls suck at videogames, John! You’re sexist to even suggest girls aren’t good at games! Go to hell, John!
Like it or not, there are plenty of guys who have girlfriends or wives who don’t have any interest in games like Borderlands. Is claiming that “girlfriends” can’t play games an unfair stereotype? Sure. Most stereotypes are unfair. But they become stereotypes for a reason.
Interestingly, Gearbox and the Borderlands team have always seemed to be very in touch with their female fans. They have also featured strong female characters in both of the series’ titles.
Back at E3, Crystal Dynamics revealed a scene in their upcoming Tomb Raider reboot that depicted protagonist Laura Croft as she’s accosted by her leering captor. The Internet took up arms.
“She’s a woman! You show her being raped! That’s sexist!”
In the scene, Laura goes on to fight off her attacher as she takes the upper hand. No white-knight came crashing in to rescue her. She didn’t need one.
Still, the Internet cried forth, “How dare you show a very real issue women face, and show a strong female lead overcome that!”
In the end, it feels like many people simply want to be offended. Women are treated unfairly. Sometimes. Many people seem to take that as a license to turn anything and everything related to women in gaming into some horrible crime against humanity. You may not agree with Hemingway’s comments about a nickname for a game mode that doesn’t really exist. Yes, he would have been better off to have kept that piece of information for himself. Still, it is doubtful that anyone on the Gearbox staff actually thinks that women can’t play games.
Crying wolf – regardless of whether you’re a boy, girl, both, or neither – doesn’t do service to anyone. And while society has come a long way in the last few decades, there are still plenty of real problems to take issue with. I promise. Why don’t we all save our breath for those occasions?Posted in Op Ed by Steve R Gibson on August 13, 2012