As #GamerGate wanes, the bigger issue remains
While there are some students at the University of San Diego who play video games regularly, even the students who are not gamers should be paying attention to the controversy of #GamerGate.
According to USD sophomore Mylène Macias, #GamerGate is a Twitter hashtag started by actor Adam Baldwin, who is best known for his role as Jayne Cobb on the popular cult TV show “Firefly” as well as voice roles in video games.
“He started it to raise awareness about Zoe Quinn,” Macias said. “She is an indie developer who got in a lot of controversy because there were assumptions that she was using [sexual] relationships to get media press on her upcoming video game.”
The abuse officially began in August 2014 when an entertainment journalist blogged about this alleged infidelity and manipulation by Quinn. This blog post led to a widespread campaign of abuse, mostly from Internet sites like 4chan and Twitter.
Baldwin began the Twitter campaign to come to Quinn’s defense, and bring the issue to the attention of media outlets such as Forbes, the New York Times, etc. According to Wes Jackson, senior and president of USD eSports, this was both a positive and a negative.
“It is a good thing, because there is obvious hyper-sexuality and misogyny in video games, and video games have been male-dominated for a long time,” Jackson said. “However, the mainstream media has sensationalized it to refocus on the [misogynistic] reaction of gamers.”
Jackson said that the gamers being quoted by the press are a very small minority of the gaming community, and the problem is that the harassers, gamers and journalists alike are being held up as representative of their respective groups.
“If you [journalists] did something like this at The New York Times, you would be fired,” Jackson said. “The original narrative of journalism ethics has been lost in the greater discussion.”
Though the original purpose behind #GamerGate may have faded into the background, the debate regarding sexism and misogyny in video games still rages on. In contrast to Jackson, Macias stressed that it was alright with her if people forgot about the initial incident of #GamerGate, as long as the bigger issue was addressed.
Jackson explained that it wasn’t hard to see how a conversation on journalism ethics spiraled out into one on sexism.
“Entertainment journalists are seen as being in the pockets of video game companies,” Jackson said. “And the industry does target men by portraying women in inappropriate or suggestive ways.”
As an example of this sexism towards women, Jackson pointed to “League of Legends,” which is currently the most popular video game worldwide. Online forums have pointed out, even before #GamerGate, how female characters are nearly identical to each other and how the game emphasizes certain parts of their bodies, such as disproportionately large breasts. There are also other examples such as in the popular Grand Theft Auto series, where women highly sexualized by the game designers and mistreated by the male characters.
While it is true that video games have historically been a male-dominated industry, Lennie indicated that that target audience has become negligible when compared to the growing amount of female gamers.
“Forty-eight to 49 percent [of gamers] is female,” Macias said. “Fifty-two percent male is barely a majority.”
Macias admitted that discrimination of female gamers is irregular, but detailed how it is still inappropriate.
“I think that I haven’t experienced the worst of it [on live chat], but that’s usually because I stood up for myself,” Macias said. “However, I feel that I am more hesitant to use live chat, because then people won’t want to be on my team…just because I’m a woman.”
Macias explained how she and other female gamers often feel they have to work harder to prove themselves, and show an unusually large amount of skill before they are considered “valuable.” Jackson agreed that women are treated differently in video games and attributed it to the anonymity that most male gamers are used to.
“Nobody reacts when a guy is playing, because that’s normal,” Jackson said. “A lot of video games allow you to be anonymous with ‘handles’, so you don’t know whether a girl is playing until they vocalize it and there is an obvious reaction to when a girl is playing.”
USD isn’t really considered a gaming campus. USD eSports has less than 200 members and only about 10 percent of those members is women. However, Jackson believes that women on campus should take interest regardless, because of what #GamerGate has become.
“Sixty percent of USD, the majority of campus, is women,” Jackson said. “By that statistic alone, USD should be paying attention to this, because women get harassed and sexualized within and outside of video games.”
Macias agreed that women on campus, especially those who self-identify as “gamers,” should continue to raise their concerns.
“This is definitely an issue that can’t just be pushed under the rug,” Macias said, “Women need to pay attention to the conversation and not be afraid to have it.”