Feminist Video Game Critic Visits MSU

By Kristine Goodrich The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Great Article in which video game critic Anita Sarkessian gives eight concrete examples of ways in which the video game industry can support the empowerment of women. One example includes putting female characters in armor or sports bras, not lingerie!  Another suggestion is to include female characters with varied body types in the videos created.

MANKATO

Anita Sarkeesian is a critic of video games, but not a hater.

"It's both possible and necessary to simultaneously enjoy media while also to be critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects," she said.

In fact she's loved playing games since she was in grade school, despite growing up in an era when she was told that "games were not for girls," the 32-year-old said.

Yet until she studied the depiction of women in media in graduate school, she never considered herself a gamer.

"I bought into the myth that in order to be real gamer you had to be playing testosterone-infused macho-posturing games," she said.

She went on to become a well-known critic of how women are represented in video games.

The activist, whom a Los Angeles Times reporter recently called "the world's most famous video game critic," spoke to a sizable crowd at Minnesota State University Monday evening.

Sarkeesian's visit was sponsored by MSU's Department of Gender & Women's Studies. It was the 12th of an annual speaker series in honor of former department chair Carol Ortman Perkins.

The Canadian-American is creator of Feminist Frequency, a nonprofit website with blogs and videos "analyzing pop culture from a critical feminist perspective."

Sarkeesian and her website are best known for "Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games," a series of online videos appraising female stereotypes in gaming.

The male-dominated industry tends to objectify and alienate women, she contends.

"The vast majority of games either ignore women or are openly hostile toward us," she said.

She suggested eight ways video game producers can make their games less sexist:

1. Have multiple female characters with a variety of traits. "Main characters tend to be disproportionately men." And the token female character is often a stereotype.

2. Female characters should wear armor or sports bras, not lingerie.

3. Female characters should have varied body types. Most female characters have an identical body type -- tall and slender with a large chest -- while male characters come in many sizes.

4. Stop emphasizing female character's rear ends. Attire and camera angles often emphasize the posterior of female characters and do the opposite for male characters.

5. Include more females of color and don't depict them in racist roles.

6. Female characters should move more like a real woman, not like a model on a runway.

7. Don't sexualize female characters' vocalizations during combat. "Make pain actually sound painful instead of orgasmic."

8. Depict more women engaged in combat, but don't sexualize the fight. "Violence should never be sexy." While video games are her primary subject, Sarkeesian also examines other forms of media and pop culture, including film and even Legos.

Her latest project is "Ordinary Women: Daring to Defy History," a forthcoming five-episode animated web series that will highlight five women who changed history but aren't widely known.

She said her media critiques have made her the target of online harassment and threats and she's become a writer and speaker about those topics as well.

"The last few years we've seen an intense increase in the hostility toward women in the (gaming) industry and their supporters," she said.

Most recently there was "Gamergate," which Sarkeesian described as a "coordinated all-out assault on women in or around the games industry, specifically targeting women who are in some way challenging the status quo. They're trying to guard the purity of gaming as a niche male-dominated sub-culture."

They're losing the battle.

Nearly half of gamers today are female, Sarkeesian noted.

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