We Asked For Anita Sarkeesian and Other Critics

We Asked For Anita Sarkeesian and Other Critics

I’m going to take you on a stroll down memory lane. It’s the 90s, and people are flipping out over video games. Half the world looks at them as nothing more than children’s toys, waving them off as a waste of time. The other half of the world was calling them dangerous murder simulators that will corrupt our youth. People were talking about passing legislation which would prevent the sale or creation of games with mature themes in them. Basically, we were staring down a world that wanted nothing more to keep video games forever in the age of Pac-Man, and nothing more.

And you know what we did? We fought back! In one of the best showings of support I’ve ever seen the gaming community pull together, we let the world know that gaming was to be respected. We protested Jack Thompson and his flagrant abuse of his status as a lawyer, then cheered when his increasingly insane antics got him disbarred. We wrote to our congresspeople and told them that video games were not just children’s toys. They were art and deserved to be protected as such, the same as any piece of music, movie, TV show, book, play, or piece of poetry.

We had a message, and that message was “take video games seriously.”

This was the war we fought when video games were still young, and guess what? We won.

Aside from Jack Thompson getting disbarred, legislature never came down to restrict the production or sale of video games. Video games continued to evolve and tackle more and more serious issues. As we grew, they grew with us, with Super Mario Bros . transitioning into Final Fantasy 6 , transitioning into God of War and The Last of Us . We’ve experimented with using mechanics as metaphor, brought on Hollywood actors like Patrick Stewart and Kevin Spacey to voice act in our games, and guided people through a panoply of emotions. We laughed at South Park: The Stick of Truth , cried at the end of The Walking Dead: Season 2 , and pissed ourselves in fear at Five Nights at Freddy’s.

Time has passed and now we’re seeing Anita Sarkeesian and other feminist critics look at games through the lens of feminism. They wonder how many games are made for men as opposed to women. They critique the number of times women have been used as victims, rewards, or set dressing in games.

And half the gaming world goes nuts, that anyone would dare criticize our beloved video games.

We Asked For Anita Sarkeesian and Other Critics

Here’s a secret. Do you know what else gets critiqued by feminists? Everything! Books, movies, TV, theater, every piece of media in the world that has been respected as a serious art has at some point come under feminist critique. Heck, we actually teach people how to do it! We have college courses all about looking at things through the lens of feminism and gender studies!

Art is always critiqued as a reflection of the values of the society that creates it. That’s why we analyze it in the first place. We look deep into works of art to try and figure out what the people of the time were thinking and feeling. We analyze our own works of art to dissect the messages and emotions therein. We are obsessed with symbolism and how that relates to society, politics, emotion, and more. Once again, we have courses, heck, we have entire tracks of study devoted to this practice in college. We even start learning how to analyze media in high school. We teach our youth to examine the media they love critically.

What Anita Sarkeesian is doing is taking games seriously. She is looking at data from studies and surveys and comparing it with examples from some of the most popular games out there. She’s saying, “hey, maybe this game doesn’t treat women all that well.” And then we explode! We jump to conclusions, assume she is calling us all misogynists, and try to run her out of gaming.

But this is the thing. We asked for Anita Sarkeesian. We rallied behind the purpose of taking videogames seriously but now that we are being confronted with serious analysis, we want to go back to the way things were.

Because here’s the catch; in order for people to take things seriously, that thing needs to be in the domain of the public. Back when video games were seen as just toys or evil murder simulators, it was gamers who were special and saw the value in them. Video games belonged to us, and just us, and we campaigned to make the rest of the world see the value in them.

And they did! But as a natural result of that, video games were no longer just ours. Video games now make more money than movies, TV, books – basically any other media industry. We are the biggest media industry in the world! Video games have been opened up to people of all ages, sexes, races, religions, and more! Just like TV, movies, and books belong to everyone and everyone can critique them, so too do video games.

What we are experiencing now is the harsh realization that video games no longer belong to gamers. When we gave gaming to the world, we opened it up for everyone to experience. However, just as people can critique movies, TV, or books without having made them, so too can people critique games without creating one. They don’t have to be “one of us” to critique a game. Hell they could have never played a game in their life and still they are within their rights to critique them and analyze them, much like we all form opinions and thoughts about the first movie we see, even as kids, or the first play we see, whether we experience them as children or adults.

We love to frame people who don’t agree with us as part of the “other.” We say they aren’t gamers and thus they don’t know what they are talking about. But we asked for the world of non-gamers to come in. We screamed at the top of our lungs “TAKE US SERIOUSLY, WORLD!” And now that they are, we are saying “woah woah woah wait, no, no, maybe take us less seriously.”

But we can’t ever take it back, because here is the reality. Even if somehow Anita Sarkeesian is run out of the world of gaming, (and it truly looks like she won’t be) more will come. There are already a ton of people who agree with Sarkeesian in the gaming industry and beyond. There are tons of other sites doing feminist critique of games, that we just haven’t focused on as much because we have such a mad-on for Sarkeesian. There will always be another feminist critic, and for that matter another Marxist critic, or socialist critic, or sociopolitical critic. Someone else is going to come along and read deeply into games, and we can’t stop them.

So rejoice, gamers. You got what you wanted. People of the world, even non-gamers, are taking games seriously, and that means that people are going to disagree with you, and maybe even effect the way games are made in ways you don’t approve. Wear Anita Sarkeesian’s existence as a badge, because she proves that we won the war. Video games are serious. Video games are art. This is what happens to serious art. Accept that.

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