#GamerGate perpetuates misogynistic video game stereotypes

The year 2014 produced one of the most controversial hashtags in gaming: #Gamergate. The hashtag is the punchline to many gamer jokes — similar to jokes about Ebola — but it is a creed to its supporters.

“[#Gamergate] refers, variously, to a set of incomprehensible Benghazi-type conspiracy theories about game developers and journalists; to a fairly broad group of gamers concerned with corruption in gaming journalism; to a somewhat narrower group of gamers who believe women should be punished for having sex; and, finally, to a small group of gamers conducting organized campaigns of stalking and harassment against women,” said Kyle Wagner, author of “The Future of the Culture Wars Is Here, and It’s Gamergate.”

Gamergate came to power last August when an ex-boyfriend of Zoe Quinn, a video game designer, posted on an online blog that she had sexual relations with a videogame reporter to get a good review for one of her games; this accusation has been since proven false. Once a hashtag gamers used to attempt to reform gaming journalism after the leaked affair proved that there was corruption within the industry, #Gamergate has been transformed into an anti-feminism campaign now used by a small, radical group of gamers to stalk, harass, and “hate on” females in the gaming industry which has escalated to the point of death threats and involvement of the FBI.

“So it doesn’t just stop with rape threats or death threats, which, sadly, being a woman in this field, I have been dealing with for a while now. […] I have had to get the FBI [and] local police involved to hunt these people down,” said Brianna Wu, owner and head of development at Giant Spacekat (an iOS game studio based in Boston).

Unfortunately, Wu is only one of many women who have been targeted by users of the hashtag. The goal of these aggressors is to ruin the reputation of any and all females in the gaming industry so that the industry will be eradicated of female influence. They do this by doxing — exploiting personal information publically online—threatening rape and death, and even in one case threatening a mass school shooting. The aggressors impersonate female game developers online, making up fake stories about their lives and sending them to prominent video game journalists and stating discriminatory and hurtful things to others in order to destroy women’s reputations.

“So it is every single tactic they can use to terrorize women in this field and get us to be quiet,” Wu said.

According to SuperData Research, an online firm dedicated to providing “relevant market data and insight on digital games and playable media,” females play more PC games than males. Females represent 50.2 percent of gamers, both core and social gaming. In the RPG (role playing game) genre, females make up 53.6 percent of the RPG market. However, males make up 66 percent of all gamers in the FPS (first-person shooter) and MMO (massively multiplayer online) game genres.

“Girls want to play as girls and not guys,” junior Kathleen Nquyen said. “You want to play as yourself.”

Females are the minority even when it comes to the gender of main characters in video games. Males dominate the role of male characters and, in some games, the whole array of playable characters. If a female happens to be a featured main character, she is portrayed in an overly sexual way like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.

“I feel like it’s contributing to the idea of male entitlement and power because girls can be heroes too,” junior Xolani Harrison said.

Croft was depicted with oversized breasts for her small stature and appealed to male gamers sexually. Later in the installment “Tomb Raider: Legends,” Lara underwent a drastic overhaul in her appearance when the game designers changed the proportions of her body, decreasing the size of her breasts and cladding her in more conservative attire to make her less sexualized.

“There’s always guy options […] but I am a female,” junior Calieha Bravo said. “You don’t look like that for one, and two, you don’t dress like that.”

By portraying characters in a less sexualized manner, the gaming industry raises the appeal for female gamers.

Considering that females make up a majority of the gaming industry’s consumers, it is hard to believe that there is a staggeringly low number of women in the industry itself.

According to the Entertainment Software Association, adult female gamers make up 36 percent of the gaming community while adult men only make up 35 percent of the gaming community.

Due to the lack of women in game developer positions, many believe Gamergate only further discriminates against the female minority in this industry. With all the aggressive hate toward females in high positions in the gaming industry, Gamergate’s anti-feminism movement is getting closer and closer to reaching its goal.