Hi there, ladies! Have I got a fun hobby for you! It's called video gaming, and it's kind of a big deal.
What's that? You say you're already playing video games, but you have an issue because you don't feel welcome in the gaming community? Whyever not? There are hordes of angry, permanently-adolescent ragebeasts who can't psychologically handle the fact that a woman likes the thing they like, you say? Why would anyone be such a turd zeppelin?!
For realsies, though, the gaming community has a huge problem in its treatment of women, as exemplified by a large portion of the Kotaku commentariat. Trying to claim that there ISN'T a problem (an actual thing people do when they're not on hallucinogenic substances) is pretty much proved to be the height of insanity after the Anita Sarkeesian incident and countless others. And the arguments these wankdolphins perpetrate! Good lord, it's a poop tornado of epic proportions.
This is no surprise to any woman who's ever tried to step into a gaming space (or who's been there for decades, 'cause, y'know, WOMEN PLAY GAMES). But let's take a look at all of these idiotic arguments and why they're so stupid. C'mon, it'll be a fun catharsis for us all, if nothing else.
Let's deal with the "complete and total denial of reality" arguments first, shall we?
"Games aren't marketed to women because women don't play games."
Oooookay, no. See, 'cause ACTUAL FACTS. While I'm sure you've heard and discounted this statistic before because it makes various parts of your body wobble sadly, 45% of gamers are women. 45% is almost half, in case you needed me to clarify.
"Women aren't REAL gamers, they're just casuals."
Mmmm...no. Plenty of women who play video games play some combination of things like Angry Birds/Temple Run and Skyrim/WoW/Bastion rather than one or the other. It's almost like they're complex human beings with varied tastes and desires! That couldn't be right, though — everyone knows women are evil succubi sent to torment and mock us for the ever-present layer of Cheeto grime on our gray, waxen skin, so they couldn't possibly be real human beings. Perish the thought.
Second, the bigger thing to consider is that very frequently, casual games are a gateway to games with more serious artistic heft. Until she randomly decided to pick up Skyrim one day, LadyTrout had only ever played Angry Birds and Temple Run (and, years ago, Barbie Horse Adventures — the sad thing is I'm not even kidding). Now I have to fight her for controller time. Given six months, I'm sure she'll be halfway through my 360 back-library. You can't possibly be saying that people new to gaming don't or shouldn't matter, can you?
"Anyone who came to video games late isn't a REAL gamer."
Oh Christ, you ARE saying that. This is worse than I'd thought. Tell you what: anyone who really does believe that gaming should be kept "pure" and that women (or men!) new to the hobby shouldn't be welcomed with open arms, do me a favor and give yourself carbon monoxide poisoning, because the world will be better off without you.
See, what you're failing to realize is that when the market is larger and more diverse, we all benefit from it. More people playing games means more games being made, serving more varied interests and fostering more competition between developers (and remember, more competition always = better situations for the consumer). More women (and people in general) playing games means better games — so I can only conclude that your aggrieved sense of self-aggrandizement matters more to you than the thing you claim to love.
"If you don't like the games, don't play them."
"Games marketed to women means fewer games that I'll like, because reasons."
No? NO. Good lord, you really don't get how Supply and Demand work, do you? More people playing games = more games getting made. Besides which, there are plenty of games marketed to you. Hundreds, in fact. If some of those games aren't marketed towards the gunbro demographic for a change, I'm pretty sure you'll survive. Worst-case scenario is that you'll only have 30 gunbro games a year to choose from rather than 35, while women might have five games a year to choose from rather than one every time they install a new Pope.
Besides which, why are you assuming games with strong female protagonists might not also be games YOU'LL enjoy? They're going to automatically not appeal to you just because you're playing as someone possessed of a hooha? What the hell kind of women-friendly games are your fevered imaginations conjuring up?! SimHairBraider? Metal Gear Solid: Ovaries of the Patriots? Deus Ex: Menstrual Revolution?
Somehow, I don't think you have to worry. You liked Beyond Good and Evil, right? Of course you did — everyone who actually played it did. Women gamers want more games like THAT. Like I said above, women gamers ultimately want the same thing guy gamers want: good games. Y'know, just good games that make them feel welcomed to rather than othered from the community.
I'm really starting to suspect this isn't about your own personal benefit as a gamer, but about your nigh-unfathomable inability to function around women. Care to say anything that might refute that?
"Women in games need to stop flaunting their ladybits by speaking and walking around and breathing and stuff, because it makes me sad in the pants-place."
Aaaaand there it is. As much as I'd love to take this one and just say "dude, fuck off and grow a pair," it's incredibly sad that the first half of this quote is something people actually say. To these sad, desperate, lonely wastes of humanity, even openly being a woman is somehow not acceptable within the gaming community. Then this happens:
Look, if the thought of a woman who's better than you with the Sticky Detonator in Halo 4 multiplayer gives you a sad, droopy pants-problem, I'm pretty sure the issue is with you, not with her.
"Cosplayers only dress up because they're sirens trying to lure me into their talons. They should know that I can never be separated from my true love: my neckbeard."
People aren't dressing in complex, time-consuming-to-make outfits for the express purpose of seducing YOU, random loser guy. Nobody gives a shit about you. They're dressing up for themselves, and they have a right to, just like you would if that was your choice.
Get over yourself. Your greasy ponytail and Penny Arcade t-shirt don't mark you as a Sex Symbol just because Big Bang Theory is popular now. For the love of God, look at yourself in a mirror and objectively ask yourself, "if I was someone else trapped on a deserted island with only Stephanie Meyer books to read, would I sleep with me?" I think we both know the answer to that question.
"Publishers don't make games with female protagonists because they wouldn't sell. Men don't want to play a female character because then they might kiss a dude and that'd be gay."
Y'know, most people grow out of the whole "ew, girls are gross and have cooties" thing once they graduate the 3rd grade. I can only conclude that anyone who says the above quote was held back so many times in elementary school that the wires in their brain got crossed, and now they run around in board meetings offering to eat worms for $5. People who make statements like this would be a walking argument in favor of forced sterilization if there existed any woman desperate enough to sleep with them.
Also, considering that HALF THE PEOPLE PLAYING GAMES ARE WOMEN, I'm pretty sure they'd sell just fine. There's also an overwhelming majority of guys playing games who don't give a shit about the gender of the protagonist and only want to play a fun game. THERE IS ALSO THAT.
So, now that we've gotten the more overtly, blatantly sexist arguments out of the way, how about we talk about the "it isn't really a problem because _______" arguments.
"It's not true that there's a shortage of female protagonists because of these four cherry-picked examples."
Oh God, this fucking argument right here.
Every time you mention the dearth of strong playable female protagonists in games, EVERY FUCKING TIME, someone will bring up the five goddamned examples in the HISTORY OF GAMING that run counter to it. Stop me if you've heard this one before: Mirror's Edge, Remember Me, Beyond Good and Evil, Metroid if we're pretending Other M didn't happen, FFXIII if we're being generous, Tomb Raider if you're suffering from a severe head trauma...what the hell else is there? Dreamfall? Something equally ludicrously obscure?
Contrast this against the LITERALLY HUNDREDS of examples of male protagonists throughout gaming history. Seriously, how brain-damaged do you have to be to say, "nuh uh, all of the games ever don't count BECAUSE JADE IN BG&E"? What kind of mental institution do you belong in where 7 examples outweigh 400?
How is it possible for a human being to make this point and also be able to put on pants correctly? When I even think about the mental gymnastics necessary to get to a point where this seems like a valid argument, my ears start to bleed. I would say these people are like a walking PSA about the dangers of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, but that's a disservice to victims of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Anyone who would make this argument is a waste of perfectly good oxygen.
"Gender in video games shouldn't matter — we should all just be humanists. I don't think about my gender when I'm gaming, so why should you care about yours?"
Yes, and then we can all float away on a magic carpet made of Unicorn farts and play tiddlywinks with some leprechauns on the lost Continent of Atlantis. A lot of people who forward this view are naively idealistic enough to believe it's a valid one, and I have some sympathy for them (because they can be taught that they're wrong). I have significantly less sympathy for anyone who believes that if an oppressed group would just stop complaining about their oppression, it would disappear.
That's basically what this argument boils down to: "it's your fault for caring about this very real problem." And that's not acceptable. I'd love for us to be at a place where gender didn't matter, but guess what? WE DO NOT LIVE IN THAT PLACE. And until we do, this argument doesn't hold water.
"Women aren't game protagonists because they're physically small and weak and only big burly man-muscles can win at Call of Battle: Dutyfield or Cattlefield: Modern Warfarts or Turds of War."
Yeah, 'cause it's not like we have women serving with distinction on the front lines of our wars or anything. It's not like our very own Candy Summers: Vagina High Priestess is a motherfucking Blackhawk pilot. Jesus, I thought we were past this crap when we all acknowledged that Vasquez was by far the most badass marine in Aliens?
But what about objectification? Let's talk about that for a minute.
"There's nothing wrong with objectification — a character who is nothing more than a pair of water balloons on a stick doesn't harm anything."
You know, I could unpack everything wrong with this argument, but I don't have FIVE FUCKING YEARS. Suffice it to say that if you had even the SLIGHTEST inkling of what it felt like to be reduced to nothing more than a collection of fuckable parts EVERY DAY for your ENTIRE LIVES, you'd feel differently. That's what objectification is: being reduced to nothing more than an object and being stripped of your very humanity. Anyone who says otherwise doesn't understand what the word means.
But you don't know what that's like. You can't. Hell, as a guy, I sure as shit can't either, but I like to think I have the barest modicum of empathy necessary to begin to comprehend how horrendously awful that would be. I realize interacting with other human beings is not something that comes naturally to you (particularly with women, who as previously established are clearly a foreign species), but just for five goddamn seconds maybe TRY to actually put yourself in someone else's shoes.
"Men are just as objectified in games as women, because big burly man-muscles."
...you can't fucking be serious.
Ok, Jim Sterling already covered this better than I possibly could, so I'm just going to hand it over to him:
"We know that mainstream game development is predominantly designed by men FOR men, and knowing that, we have to ask: exactly who is this hypothetical male objectification being done for? Women? No. Because the industry has a practiced history of not giving a fuck about women. Gay men? HAH! We've not even moved past the 'lol u wanna have sex with a man lol gay' stage of video game writing yet (if only). No, in the same way female characters are being designed to appeal to men, so too are male characters — but not, of course, in the objectifying sense.
Objectification is the reduction of a human being to a thing, an item, a something to possess. This is what's meant when we say women are objectified. [Video games objectify women] by making them the targets of sexual desire while stripping them of their agency in sex. Women are allowed to dress skimpily, they're allowed to be hit on, and they're allowed to be fucked. However, they're not allowed to initiate sexual contact, be playable during a sex scene, or really have any input in a relationship outside of being an objective, a goal, a thing for the male hero to go after.
This is not what happens with male characters. They're presented as tall, muscular, heroic, and brave, and most importantly, they're not supposed to be things we want to own. They're not targets, they're not goals. Their ideals are our goals, but they themselves, as individuals, are not. And that's what men are in the game industry: not objectified, but idealized.
That's the difference in the game industry, and this is where people arguing that we're all equal trip themselves up. Women are objectified; they are supposed to be things men want. Men are idealized; they are heroes men are supposed to want to be."
"Men are treated badly in games, too! Look at how many men get shot in games!"
Exactly how many times would I have to bash myself in the head with a shovel before this argument wasn't completely Whackboots McGillicutty? Being shot in games is not equivalent to being objectified, stereotyped, or ignored. They aren't the same. One involves mowing down hordes of faceless enemies whose gender (and species, considering how many of them are aliens) is entirely irrelevant. The other highlights their gender in a way that marks them as clearly inferior and other. In one case, gender is irrelevant; in the other, it's the only thing that matters.
If you are making this argument, congratulations, you are now officially the Mayor of Banana Town.
"If you want more games with female protagonists, design the games yourself."
I saved this one for last on purpose, because I wanted to crescendo to a roaring breaker of stupid, and as far as I'm concerned, nothing (not even the "here are my miniscule number of counter-examples that prove your clearly-established trend wrong" argument) indicates a broken brainbox like this one does.
Hey, doucheschooner — do YOU write and design your own games? No, someone else slaving away at a soul-killing job for a corporate monster like EA or Activision does. So how exactly is it fair to expect women to do this for themselves when you won't even do so? Look up "hypocrisy" in the dictionary some time. It'll explain a lot to you about yourself (and also about the Republican party, but that's an entirely different subject).
Also, it's not like the tech industry is entirely unwelcoming to women or anything. No, no — perish the thought. And it's not like we previously established in this very article that most major publishers refuse to even do things like making games with female protagonists. The system is set up to make it basically impossible (outside of indie games, which require a lot more work and are a LOT harder to get into the public eye) for women to be able to make their own games, and yet you're telling them "make their own games." To quote MLK, "It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps. Also, why are so many video gamers complete fucking misogynistic pieces of septic scunge?"*
And if your counter-argument to that is "well, maybe fight to change the industry, then," THAT'S WHAT WE'RE DOING WHEN WE COMPLAIN ABOUT THIS ARGHBARGLRJEHUIAHSDIUHGASUIHAISUBUYIAHXFYASIG!@#!@$!@$!@one. Jesus tapdancing Christ, that's the entire point of complaining about and trying to fix the misogyny problem in the gaming industry/community. This is like talking into a singularity.
So to anyone who has ever made one of these arguments: you too can be saved from being an asshat. Just, y'know, stop making these arguments. Have a tiny bit of empathy for people who aren't you, and ask yourself — REALLY ask yourself — if the problem isn't women playing games, but the men who are too scared to share their toys with the scary, unknowable ladypersons.
*Well, I mean, he WOULD'VE said this last bit, were he still alive.
Edit: Oh, how I love my dismiss button since this got mainpaged. Remember, everyone: when the trolls arrive, you have the power to make their misogyny go away.
Edit 2: Oh, for fuck's sake. Stop it with the "here's one incredibly obscure PS1 game with a female character. You are proving nothing. I could sit here listing the names of every male protagonist in gaming history too, but I don't have THREE MONTHS.