Gender Bias Rampant in the Gaming World – “Fun” Turns to “Fear”


Zoe Quinn, a woman placed at the heart of the controversies currently running wild on #GamerGate in the gaming community, is a game developer. She is known for her game ‘Depression Quest’ and the fact that she deviates from the regular video game norm by developing games that are based on feelings.

Now, in spite of the criticism she received (and still receives) for developing video games that turn away from the normal pattern of plot and theme, she apparently was also asked (read ‘demanded’) who had developed the game for her as girls can’t develop games.

(Please allow this writer to pause for a moment in stunned disbelief as we re-read that previous paragraph to make sure that we actually reported what we think we did.)

Now, we might be mistaken (not). But the general idea is that, the last time anyone (sane) checked, handling a computer, learning computer programming language, and/or knowing how to design and animate 2D and 3D games and videos using computer software, did not depend on one’s culture, history or biology. No, it depended on learning the skills required and having the ideas, dedication and creativity to make it. How on earth then was the fact that Zoe Quinn is a “girl” a contributing factor to whether or not she can develop games?

Anita Sarkeesian is another woman now known for being the target of #GamerGate harassment – Which is a shame, for she was earlier better known as the founder and owner of ‘Feminist Frequency’ and for being a gaming critic who frequently criticized how video games portrayed women in a weak and often abusive manner.

She constantly questioned why there were no female protagonists leading the plot in the majority of the video games released each year – or at least female characters sharing equal limelight to their male protagonist counterparts. And she also made detailed observations and blogposts about how women were often showcased as nothing more than sex symbols and frequently shown to be victims of gory deaths and violent actions within video games. If not portrayed or presented in this kind of situation, then at best, female video game characters were allotted the designation of “goal to be achieved” or “prize to be won”. And that is the end of a female character’s scope in a video game, the most optimistic being that of “damsel in distress”.

Anita Sarkeesian is known for questioning video game developers about why there aren’t any female player characters who can save themselves; why they can’t simply go on quests on their own; why they would need to be saved by someone else at all.

For her efforts and critics though, she has been brutally denounced by those who want to silence her and keep video games as sexist as they’ve always been; one of their quips being that males dominate the gaming community as players. And the fact that now female players are as common as male players for video games seems to make little difference to her opposers. Or is it that perhaps they don’t know yet that they’re sharing gaming space with female gamers? Maybe they are unaware that female players are, in some places, actually more in number to male players? (Not that this justifies harassment and abusive responses, but one has to wonder.)

Again though, it is not the actual debate (however bigoted or chauvinistic) that is held to blame. Rather, the real blame rests with how a “debate” has transformed into belittling war rife with threats and intimidation.

Video games are, in essence, a form of entertainment; of fun. So one has to wonder when exactly people decided to ruin it as a medium to cause fear and prejudice. Is this really what the gaming world – this wonderful, creative, exciting and addictively fun world – has been reduced to?