Now that it's 2020, I've been thinking about what it felt like to be a woman writing about sex in video games back in 2010.
In the last decade, the gender imbalance in the video game industry has not been seen as a problem to be solved in reality and is something that is less well thought out. It was a common thing for notable women working in the video game industry to be fetishized, the victim, or both. In 2007, game designer Kathy Sierra quit her job and left public life after being harassed and threatened online; At the time, the incident was considered unusual but was not viewed as a sign of what Sierra described in 2014 Cord of planning as "a slow, steady increase in harassment and horror of online harassment" over the ensuing years. Most of the popular games of the day were not made by women, they weren't for women, and they were limited to producing some kind of gruff macho man of dreams. Call of DutyMany players did not have a female character until 2013, despite being announced as a "modern" war. Halo: Reach, which came out in September 2010, including the last option to play as a female or male Spartan, though the game hasn't changed according to this decision. Other role-playing games of the season, such as Great Outcome, has allowed you to play as a man or a woman again, and although the games have not included any significant changes in the story if you have done so, they have been suggested as the most advanced options of the time. The most popular games of the time that forced you to play as a woman were the sex-changers of fictional men (e.g. Lara Croft who was the female version of the Indian version).for Jones, Joanna Dark for being a sexy version of James Bond). A short list of exceptions to all this, for example character Come in They were good and bad, were kept as evidence that games have more than enough options for what is thought to be a very small amount of women desire to play.
The games were not straight men, and the gaming websites were. Stores love it IGN, Spike, again UGO is regularly included in the list of female characters most appealing to women in sports; IGN you did it same thing and real women, too. Even for gaming websites that tried something more serious than the usual "favorite publishers", analyzing the portrayal of gaming and sexuality was rare. These playhouses, too, were staffed mainly by white, straight, cosgender men, often in the middle of higher income backgrounds.
Again, none of this was considered bizarre or bizarre – in fact, that was the subculture of video game advertisers from the 1990s. As set forth in a a stellar timeline has been reported Written by Tracey Lien of Polygon In 2013, market research created the "chicken and egg" scenario after finding that more boys than girls played video games in the 80s and 90s. Because of this, advertisers focus more on sales games for boys, thus ensuring that gaming will receive social codes such as the pursuit of manhood in the decades ahead.
So it came to light that the most successful and famous people who wrote about video games were the people who were sold and video games decades ago. By 2020, this is an astonishingly spectacular sight. In 2010, expressing this was deemed unusual, worthy of ridicule, abuse, and even intimidation.
Of course, a variety of people have been playing video games. In the 2000s, the development of indie game and indie critic games grew. The rise of blogging platforms such as WordPress, the early days of YouTube, and the rise of social media have made the former dating characters soon find each other and have a variety of gaming and gaming sites.
In 2010, websites were similar Gamersist Women, Border House Blog, Sexy Videogameland, again Shakesville (a women's blog that covered sports at one time) was given to critics who were not straight, or white, or to men. At times these blogs dealt with complex social issues, but they also featured some of the highlights of the games they played. For me, these sites have made it a common idea that different types of people play and enjoy games, even though that marketing has told me so many other people for so long. At the time, I didn't know many real women who played sports, let alone live sports, so the presence of these blogs made me realize that I was not alone, and that if I wanted to write about social issues in sports, there would be other people out there to take care of. Unfortunately, all of the above is now obsolete, and most of them have been deleted from their archives. The critical distance, which started in 2009 and still exists, is still working on a weekly rotation of videos for the best blogs on the internet. Our archives show years of critical debates about the sport, some of which feel very grateful.
When leading sites tried to discuss topics that were common in indie spaces, especially the ways in which games create gender and sex roles, the answers often became furious with readers. Take, for example, Abbie Heppe's review Metroid: Other M., published in G4 on August 31, 2010. Most other game reviews at the time were neutral to the good, with some complaints about control and line build. In addition to the sound of these complaints, Heppe's review raised many issues with the narrative and structure of the game, especially its gender politics, placing a fully-fledged independent hunter and Samus Aran under the thumb of a men's military commander and reducing his improbability to a childlike state of fear when confronted with Ridley, often Metroid The enemy Samus had given him a few times before.
Heppe explained how, how Metroid: Other M., Samus is prevented from using his abilities – some may pave the way or save his life in the future – until the unpleasant male character tells him that. She does this because she loves him, but as a friend. It doesn't matter which way you use the equipment properly, when you have 10 minutes in the lava field and can't use your Vazi Suit, you'll understand how ridiculous this buildup is. ”Heppe also enjoyed Samus' poor writing. Aran's interview: "Samus uses the word & # 39; s time to agree & # 39; as a 12-year-old girl who writes in her diary of Lisa Frank but actually Alan WakeMovies Movie Movies are all starting to age faster than you can tell & # 39; daddy's stories. & # 39; ”Heppe gave the game a perfect score on two of the 5 points.
In 2019, if you ask anything Metroid fan about Samus' exposure to Other M., they may dismiss the game as a sexual disappointment that makes its visitor wrong. But that was not the highlight of Heppe's first review. Posted “Backlash, ”I Brainy Gamer The blog described the critique of the review as "overwhelming (459 views, including counts) and personal," and included a few examples of comments Heppe received, such as:
"The female reviewer made it her chance to release her views on violence and anti-homosexuality on the subject and said very little about the actual GAMEPLAY, GRAPHICS, and all the essentials when playing the VIDEO GAME!"
“I'm not really a fan of Met Met, I just think they should have better ways of rating games. Maybe they shouldn't be reviewing games during their time of the month? Oh wah wah .. doesn't empower women anymore .. wahhh … What are the names of videogames like Metroid? Guys! (This is not Cookin & # 39; Mom) "
Brainy Gamerthe post cited this backlash as an example of "what happens when a high-profile graphic designer decides to tackle the game critically – I mean that when he works as a critic instead of just a reviewer." In the early 2010s, as evidenced in Heppe's review, the opinion argued that game reviews – especially those with scores – were meant to be consumer-focused consumer-focused indicators. The idea of analyzing the themes and tones of the game, especially using any kind of feminist analysis, considered the types of people who hated Heppe's portrayal as unrealistic and certainly not something that should have an impact on the game's plot. This illegitimate distinction has played out in generations of sex-based characters who deemed “male.” Criticism of the game's tone and narrative was seen as excessive and consequently racist, and "feminist." technology for men of technology.
Many of the comments that Heppe received back then expresses feelings that would be once again – still, over and over again, to marginalized critics who analyze social media in games: "Female genius and their emotions are starting to gain a foothold." to understand you, the same as your parents, or Jack Thompson.
In August 2010, a different issue erupted in sports. August 11, i Penny Arcade webcomic sets a dress when a video game hero decides not to worry about helping a non-player character, without urging the actor to "Every night we get raped to sleep with dickwolves." Shakesville Blogger guest Shaker Milli A published a post in connection with this strip, they admit to enjoying the general sweetness of Penny Arcade but not being a fan of this strip in particular, who felt like it was illegal about rape and is another example of how "rapists are often questioned, ridiculed, and publicly abused."
Back then, sportsmen used the word "rape," all the time, as the same word as "defeat." It's become so popular over the past decade that it's hard to imagine how people used to say it. (2012, previous Kotaku Deputy editor Patricia Hernandez wrote about how she used it the name himself, and its reservations about it.) Penny Arcade strip again ShakesvilleThe answer to it has been the perception of what has grown into a decades-long debate over rape jokes, and, by extension, the common use of the word "rape" in the video game spaces.
Penny Arcade followed by a the second string featuring the characters of a writer and comic book artist directly in the sense that anyone would become a rapist by just reading jokes (“If you are raping someone now, stop,” they tell the reader). On October 6, 2010, the site began selling dickwolves-themed property. After much criticism, they released the store on January 26, 2011. It wasn't until September 5, 2013 that Penny Arcade published content that can be easily taken for granted to apologize by comedian, Mike Krahulik, in which he expressed remorse "for all we did after this joke" while standing with the leading comic cartoons. “If we were just standing on a rope and moving forward, Dickwolf would not be what he is today. Which is a joke about harassing victims of rape or the symbol of deportation of people who have been sexually abused. "
The most disturbing aspect of the dickwolves controversy was amount of abuse they insulted people who expressed displeasure in the first row and the proliferation of the word "rape" as an alternative name for single players. This type of organized violence against the enemy that was seen as the sanctity of toys was a trend that would continue in the 2010s. In February 2012, a 2006 interview with Bioware senior author Jennifer Hepler doing cycles on Reddit. Hepler, who has written many times Dragon Age games, suggested that games could be incorporated by giving players the option of "moving forward" by using the way they allow players to move forward through negotiation. When the conversation resumed, social media users began to harass Hepler, with many commenting on Reddit's original claim that he was "the cancer killer of Bioware." The suggestion is that focusing on a war story will ruin "Bioware Games, the most painful statement inside Bioware's latest post –A song period. This abuse played into a false, feminist dichotomy that showed that women care only about video game issues, while men (real players) care about what really matters, which is war. This debate has also turned into debates over whether games have nothing to do with actual games. Later, in August of 2013, Hepler left his job at Bioware behind receiving violent threats against his family.
The notion of “real players” has also played out in the gaming communities itself. Even women who played competitive sports were still trying to be recognized as equals. In February of 2012, Capcom released a virtual reality event Street Fighter and Tekken Players look to be part of the promotions of a new anti-company game Street Fighter X Tekken. The show is now remembered for featuring an incident involving the head of the club Tekken players, Aris Bakhtanians, sexually abusing a female player. The Bakhtans at the time defended themselves as "sexual assault is part of the culture, and if you remove that from the fighting community, it is not a fighting game … There are shops for people who love sports shops, and there are fighting games.
The statement by the Bakhtanians received a backlash, but it was also often misunderstood by people who did not have the full context of social isolation between the game community and the alternatives used. The battlefield has a history they differ greatly in race there are other esports scenes — while most esports are Asian and white players, in the martial arts community it is common to see black and Latinx competitors reaching the top ranks, as well as racing and becoming professional commentators and broadcasters. The fighting game community is proud of what makes it different; The choice of Bakhtanians to spend money in contrast to this real social divide for the purpose of harassing a female player was a trick that has contributed immensely to the competitive field of martial arts, as well as the women who have competed in it. Her behavior and comments emphasized that women had to put up with abuse not only for being “real” martial artists, but for maintaining local authenticity. It is a work in progress to this day. At Evo 2019, longtime female participants in the theater talked about the quest to be listened to and respected when describing the struggles they face at competitive events, and how hard it is for them to strive to gain this respect.
On May 17, 2012, women news analyst Anita Sarkeesian launched a Kickstarter for a video project called Tropes vs Women In Video Games. That went well.
Just to play: Sarkeesian's Kickstarter went viral, and, like many other critics of the games before him, Sarkeesian experienced a deluge of abuse and violent threats that lasted for years. As marginalized players could find each other online and make their voices heard, so did actors with equal parts, through shared signs that they were supporting dickwolves and starring Sarkeesian or Jennifer Hepler, who had been grouped together with a set of well-known video game enemies.
Big Dig players who wanted to keep anyone from their video games became a lot of enemies in 2012, as it became clear that many different types of people could make games. In January of 2012, the release of Indie Game: The Movie– The text that came after the creators Fez, Fear, again Super Meat Boy-Based on the distribution of indie games, thanks to the availability and availability of game-making tools. The indie swimming pool on the growing streets was also growing, with several marks and leading ladies. 2012 saw the release of similar games dys4ia by Anna Anthropy, Lim by Merritt Kopas, Dogs Howling by Porpentine, too Mainichi by Mattie Brice. Although each of these plays was different in design and style, they often described in the same breath as the other, though it was for the sole reason that they each had a woman who passed on as their sole designer.
In 2012 he also announced the start of the "Twine Revolution," a great motivator for interactive fantasy games created by a free and easy-to-use Twine engine. It was a statement made by Porpentine in November 2012 was entitled "Creation Under capitalism and the Twine Revolution" Night Mode, a blog founded and run by former Kotaku employee Patricia Hernandez. (Patricia started working at Kotaku full time in 2012, side by side and some familiar names.) The most famous breakthrough game in the so-called Twine Revolution is possible The Despair, a play by Zoe Quinn with additional writing by Patrick Lindsey and music by Isaac Schankler. That came out on February 14, 2013, and would continue to receive a critical claim, as well as be part of Gamergate.
The games introduced the evolution of gender inequality in video games. In late 2012, the hashtags # 1reasonwhy and # 1reasontobe appeared on social media. The first hashtag was first circulated on Twitter in response to why so few women made games. Women and others are filling the # 1reasonwhy hashtag with depressing but realistic signs of entry barriers for prospective sportsmen, some talking about to take a closer look at their appearance others joined stories of sexual abuse at sporting conferences. Rhianna Pratchett, lead author of Tomb Raider The reboot, which will be released in 2013, contributes to the hashtag and, it is often said that it should remind designers of the game they are working on, "What if the player is a woman? ”As a follow-up, he then encouraged others to share inspirational stories of game development under the # 1ReasonToBe hashtag. These hashtags are still occasionally used today, and Game Developers Conference is now hosting the annual # 1ReasonToBe panel focusing on the experiences of various ex-video players, in recent years increasing the focus of the panel on women only.
At the time, Pratchett-labeled Tomb Raider the reboot had seen its share of controversies and general scrutiny in the execution process. In December 2010, Tomb Raider artistic director Brian Horton he explained that he wanted protagonist Lara Croft to be a "fat baby," then added, "Lara Croft as a sex object is not our goal. No bikinis are not open." Lara Croft's restarted version had no more than an hour figure as her actual body, but in fact she didn't have "fat baby. . "Leara Lane restarted it seemed like a smart girl who didn't go wrong. and the boys. Well, a little. "He will not be as tall as the men around him – they will probably be very short," Horton said at the time. "This reinforces the feeling that you are resistant to all conflicts."
In 2012, Tomb Raider Executive producer Ron Rosenberg told Kotaku that Lara Croft will be battling a rape attempt in the show. Later, he he brought it back, saying, "Sexual abuse of any kind is not a topic we discuss in this game." Rosenberg's sneakiness underscored the controversy played by three-A games about how she introduced and marketed the leading female actor. For example, Rosenberg had first explained how this player would want to “protect” Lara, saying, “You are definitely a hero but you have someone to help. If you see her having to deal with these challenges, you start to break her down in such a way that you can't associate with a man. ”
Apart from the confusing marketing campaign leading up to this game, Tomb Raider The reboot is very effective, allowing its protagonist to move between accurate depictions of vulnerability and difficulty in ways Metroid: Other M. once tried but failed to make it with its heroine in 2010. Tomb Raider and received widespread critical accusations and sold well enough to show that the 2013 game audience was ready for a different kind of hero in a triple-action game.
The success of Tomb Raider Controversially paved the way for some female characters to advance to the triple-A-Tubes of the 2010s: Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn, Kait in Gears 5, Ellie in between Finally For Us: Left Behind and what is to come Finally for Us Part 2. Most of the other three popular video games that came out in 2013 did not feature female characters. Instead, games like Bioshock: Infinite and Last to Us give us examples that will be the highest examples of what became a trend: big budget games focused on fathers. KotakuStephen Totilo himself has seen the first phase ofgame disappointment"In February 2010, 2013, Mattie Brice called it"supply of games. ”This trend has continued from 2018, when the god of war restarting its franchise in father-themed form. The play focuses on the protagonist's idea of a game that serves the role of a father to a young and very vulnerable. From time to time, these great designers of these games draw real similarities, making themselves fathers of their game. Ken Levine described the sighting Bioshock: InfiniteElizabeth as & # 39; s daughter & # 39; to her (admittedly, that was just a case of not wanting to see her sexually). the god of warCory Barlog reiterated his experiences with my father as influencing the direction of the game. Much of the digital is left above the patriarchal bodies in these games, some of which include them The critical distanceCompilation of Bioshock: Infinite– Related text.
Like Metroid: Other M. in 2010, Bioshock: Infinite it was released in March 2013 in wide receiver, but it also had its critics. Writers crashed among one of the most influential female actors in the play: Elizabeth Comstock, an eyewitness, incarcerated Disney princess, and Daisy Fitzroy, the black leader of the Vox Populi, a group of activists fighting for the dictatorship of the founders. Much of the discussion at the beginning of 2010 about the portrayal of women in triple-A sports focused on white women, such as Samus Aran and Lara Croft. Bioshock: InfiniteThe decision to classify an innocent and protected white woman as a sympathetic assistant, and to cast her black woman politically as a dangerous villain, has led to critical discussions about racial and gender relations in sport. Most opponents of the game are more sensitive to Daisy's grief than Elizabeth's.
Lots of setback against InfiniteReduced narratives did not take place in ordinary playgrounds, but in smaller spaces with fewer resources, such as re / action, an independent and short video game blog founded and led by a trans woman of color at Mattie Brice. In July 2013, the site published an i article by my friend Soha El-Sabaawi, who wrote about her heritage and ways Bioshock: Infinite he did something wrong by Daisy Fitzroy, writing, “As I fought (Vox Populi) to perpetuate the stories of Booker and Elizabeth I have been asking aloud in my empty apartment, & # 39; Why? Why am I doing this? & # 39; With all the Vox Populi members I killed, I was turning off their history and pressing one character at a time. They are not enemies. They are not my enemies. ”
As in previous years, there has been a constant push for some of the reactions behind writers who were critical of games through lenses without technical specs. In just three years, critical discussions of sexuality in sport had gained more value than, on average, the average Metroid: Other M. Updates from back in 2010. Even mainstream literature had begun to deal with the gender politics of games, including racial tensions, queens, and other stereotypes, thanks to the varied voices of critics and game creators.
In March 2013, Feminist Frequency released the first video in the series Tropes vs Women in Video Games, finding the level of rage that happened at that distance was predictable and expected. After The Despair It came out in February, having received widespread critical coverage and coverage, but has also received a return from the voice recorders of players who have not seen the text and multiple appearances of the Twine Revolution as integrating the same level of reach as other types of games. The same kind of backlash happens I'm home, a 2013 indie game about exploring an empty house and learning about its inhabitants. Both The Despair and I'm home they were set in the real world, telling stories of declining social types – mental health at The DespairThe case, and the story from the line inside I'm home. Both games were about everyday life and the things that make us human. For many critics, the release and success of games like this has signaled an exciting shift in ideas of what games can do, what stories to tell, and who to tell better.
By 2013, the publication of the best videogames had significantly diverted their titles and their sports affiliations. Games like The Despair and I'm home write alongside big budget, high quality games. At the time, the rise of Patreon and other crowdfunding options allowed many previously despised critics and creators of indie games to make a living, if only for a small part. Former private discussions, such as how the video game industry can be incorporated, have been in the past.
For the bigots, that change came very quickly. Some began to suspect the kind of hypocrisy among journalists who had forced them to see value in smaller, more distinctive indie experimental games than before. The games, some argue, were not games at all and could not be matched with great compliments.
It was a line of thinking that encouraged and strengthened the hate group now known as Gamergate, the organization that made the false claim and explained that The Despair engineer Zoe Quinn slept with Kotaku reporter to get good coverage of the game. This line of reasoning was first proposed in a blog post written by Quinn's boyfriend on August 16, 2014. The big game players are working with it, taking the opportunity to challenge Quinn while arguing that this could result in the success of some formerly undeserving people in the gaming industry.
Along with many others, especially women, I was accused by strangers on social media that they were lying around to continue the gaming industry. Given that I was a part-time nurse who was a nurse at the time (my full-time employer, Boston Phoenix, he was out of business in 2013), this accusation is funny in retrospect, but since I had already received death and rape threats for years at that point, I found it hard to laugh. Others, such as Mattie Brice, Jenn Frank, and others suffer greatly and they received so many threats that they left the Internet and greatly reduced their public returns in the years that followed.
Kyle Wagner & # 39; s Deadspin article,The future of culture wars is here, and it is Gamergate, ”He explained how Gamergate's plans worked. Participants are scheduled on forums such as Reddit, 4chan, and 8chan with Kiwi Farms to unleash organized attacks against specific targets, often using anonymous social media accounts to provide massive sponsorship fraud. Those attacks include harassment and intimidation on social media, with the goal of getting up to calling someone's employer and trying to drive them away, or, if reporters, targeting booksellers & # 39; s trying to convince those companies to make money. Uma ungakwelinye icala lomkhankaso onjengalo, kungahle kube lula ukuvele uyeke futhi uyeke ukwenza okwenzayo — ukuyeka ukubhala ukugxekwa kwabesifazane ngomdlalo wevidiyo, ngokwesibonelo. Lawa kwakungamacebo akade asebenza ngaphambili, njengoba kubonwe ekuphenduleni okuhleliwe kunoma ngubani okugxekayo IPenny ArcadeAma-dickwolves amahlaya, noma impendulo ehlelekile kumaphrojekthi afana ne-Tropes vs Women in Games. Lawa maqhinga ayephumelela kakhulu ekuxhumeni abantu kwi-intanethi, njengoba uKathy Sierra, uJennifer Hepler nabanye abaningi bebengafakazela lokho – ukube bebesembusweni wabantu.
Lo nyaka, i New York Times ushicilele iqoqo lezindatshana ezinesihloko esithi “Konke KuyiGamergate, ”Ngesihlokwana esithi,“ Eminyakeni emihlanu eyedlule, uchungechunge lwezehlakalo ezimbi zashintsha indlela esilwa ngayo online. ”Kepha uGamergate akazange ayishintshe indlela esilwa ngayo ku-inthanethi. Okuguqukile kwakuyi-intanethi, nangokwengeza imidlalo yamavidiyo, eyayihamba kancane kodwa ngokuqinisekile itholakale kubantu abaningi.
Ngazi iningi labantu ababandakanyeka kuyo yonke impikiswano eyenzeka. Sonke siye kumaphaneli afanayo e-Women In Gaming ezingqungqutheleni, ukuhlangana okufanayo kwabantu ababekade bengafanele emicimbini yezimboni. Abanye abantu bebengixubanisa nesandla sabanye besifazane ababhala ngemidlalo, ngakho endaweni ethile, ngicabange ukuthi ngingaqhubeka nokulandelela abakushoyo, ikakhulukazi lapho ngiphikisana nabo. Sonke asifani; sasingesibo bonke abangane, njengoba abakholelwa ku-Gamergate bezokukholwa bakholelwa. Kepha sasingontanga sihlangene neqiniso lokuthi abanye abantu baqhubeka nokusihlanganisa ndawonye, baqhubeka basiphonsa njengezitha. There was no grand organized conspiracy—just an increased presence of marginalized people, finally given the means to find one another and to talk about and make the games they had always wanted to exist. It was just a series of conversations—a blog post here, a Twine game there. And yet those individual conversations, each one not so important on its own, became powerful when taken as a whole. Powerful enough to frighten bigots, who in turn, worked together to frighten us back.
At the outset of 2010, I was 23 years old. I had been working full-time for the Boston Phoenix since 2008. I covered the nerd culture beat, including cult films, comic books, and video games. I reported on local gaming events and met several Boston-area indie video game developers: obscure up-and-comers, like Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu. Most of the time, I wrote about competitive video games, especially shooters and fighting games—my favorites.
On March 31, 2010, I tossed off a post titled “Gears of War 3: Adding a Female Character?” According to the extended universe of Gears of War comic books and novels, the majority of women in the post-apocalyptic Gears universe were forced into birthing camps instead of fighting the invading Locust horde. The only women who were allowed to fight were those who were infertile, after first spending their childhoods and teen years in these camps. The comic books described one woman, Alexandra Brand, who as a teenage girl was raped repeatedly by her captors before finally turning 18, at which point she was officially declared infertile and sent to fight on the front lines.
In 2010, my criticism of the gender politics of the Gears universe was not that deep. I kept it dead simple, writing, “What if a woman just didn’t want to make babies, and wanted to serve humanity in another way?” After all, I reasoned, Gears of War was clearly a power fantasy for its beefy, cartoonish male heroes. Why weren’t women allowed to participate in the absurd power fantasy, too?
My hastily written and thinly argued post blew up. It even got linked on Kotaku. I got messages from people who said they wanted to hurt me, to shoot me, to prove to me that a woman like me couldn’t survive in a battlefield—virtual or otherwise. At first, I viewed these messages as stupid and dismissed them. Night after night, though, I lay awake questioning my career choices. The more messages I got, the worse I felt.
I didn’t take good care of myself in the wake of that experience. I read every single email, every comment, every forum post about what I had written. I wrote multiple follow-up blog posts and responded to far too many comments. I wanted gamers to see that I wrote the post because I care, because I’m “one of them.” I could tell they saw me as an outsider. I thought if I could only convince them I wasn’t, the harassment would stop.
I blamed Kotaku, at least in part, for linking to my article in the first place, even though I knew that wasn’t entirely fair. But none of it felt fair. What if someone came to the Phoenix offices to kill me, all because I had written a blog post? Why did I have to be so scared, just for writing down on the internet that I wanted to play as a female character in one of my favorite games—ideally, a female character who hadn’t been raped repeatedly and marginalized from birth? It didn’t seem like very much to ask.
Now it’s 2019. Gears 5 came out earlier this year. It has a female character who is not only playable but the lead character of the game. She didn’t grow up in a breeding camp. Although the post-apocalyptic world of Gears is still just as harrowing, its female characters aren’t in constant sexual peril. Instead, they’re in a lot of different types of peril, just like everybody else in the world of the game. I reviewed Gears 5 for Kotaku, a website where I now work as managing editor.
The past ten years almost sound like a victory, if I just leave out how bad it felt to experience. After all, it’s normal to talk about gender in games, now. It’s not even that weird for a game to have a female lead. It’s almost trendy. Replacing your muscle-bound white dude character with a thin white woman is just another way to stand out in a crowded marketing landscape full of too-similar titles. You could even make the white lady gay, really blow some minds. I can be jaded about that now, because I recognize that the changes we’ve seen still haven’t gone far enough, but in 2010, it would have blown my mind, because all of that was impossible for me to imagine. Video games still have so many more daring stories they could tell, but it’s obvious that the medium has changed over the past ten years in vital and easily observable ways. Unfortunately, that change has not come easily, and it has not been nearly as transformative as it should have been.
At the beginning of 2010, I had no idea how often I would be terrified, over the next ten years, to be writing about video games and gender. I had no idea how tired and jaded I would become by the time 2020 arrived. I had no idea that Gamergate would become international news, that various people I had met in passing at local gaming meet-ups would become talking points for mainstream political pundits beyond the world of games. I had no idea how much games would change, and how hollow and pointless the supposed victories would often feel in comparison to the fear and the pain I experienced and watched my peers experience.
In the early 2010s, the world of games criticism felt small. The few people who pushed back against the status quo tended to stand out. In the early 2010s, they were easy to find, easy to follow, easy to remember. Easy to target. It was just video games, but it felt huge and all-consuming. My peers and I felt like we were fighting for our lives. After all, our lives were threatened, often, because of the jobs we had. It’s hard to keep a healthy perspective when you’re in that situation. Even now, it’s hard for me to tell which of these controversies mattered at all, which ones moved the needle forward and which ones didn’t. I’m also sure that there were plenty of groundbreaking games and debates that I missed entirely.
Many of the people whose work influenced me the most in the early 2010s have left games journalism or the games industry. The ones who have stayed this whole time are not the same. Many have significantly scaled back their online presence. Over the past ten years, the hottest gaming tips I learned from my peers were about how to delete my address and phone number from people-finder websites. I have trained myself to close the tab when I’ve read too many cruel comments about myself. I have improved my reaction time at muting and blocking people on social media. I can barely recognize the person I was in 2010. Man, she thought she’d seen some shit. But she had no idea.
She is still me, though. And even now, I lie awake at night sometimes and wonder why I chose to do this, just as I used to wonder back then. I think about the people who quit, the ones who got driven out by hate mobs, lack of resources, or both. Especially the ones whose work was much better and much bolder than mine. I think about how independent and diverse newsrooms helped propel these changes, and how afraid I am of losing that. There’s still so much left to do, and still so many bigots who wish more than anything for a return to a more exclusionary status quo.
All I know is, I’m not done yet.