The Great Video Game Debate

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by Ally

A few weeks back, someone wrote us an insanely awesome comment on the Riot Grrrl blog post. Because it was so magical and, honestly, everything I ever wanted from life, I thought I’d share it with all of you and then respond to it. Here goes-

She said: “I just wanted to say that this post could not have come at a better time, and to give a warm thank you and an encouraging post for inspiring me, and reaffirming some thoughts I myself have been having as of late. With everything go on, not just in main stream media,but also in subcultures like gaming culture, there’s been some serious upsurge of sexism and a growing concern with those women who support these scenes and its astonishing lack of support for women and their male counter parts who openly discuss this topic, and try to expose the inequality and fight against such horrible prejudice and discrimination. So finding this post, a voice of reason fueled with passion really renewed my belief that maybe there’s some good still in humanity as a whole(and women kind inparticular who really see whats going on) and that I am not alone in my dream of justice.I 100% agree with you, a new wave of Feminism and general Civil Rights Movements are needed right now more than ever, and that we can gain some empowerment from the past, in order to forge ahead into the future re-envisioning of our culture.

Thank you again. Lets make this world a better place, here and now.Riots not Diets. Many blessings and rock n roll/punk rock grrrl style dreams to you sister.” -Harru

I said: Hello!

I’ve particularly been thinking a lot about what you said about gaming culture- and what it means to be sexist in contention with the first amendment. In high school, I went to hear the Supreme Court opening statements about the 2010 video game case, Governor Brown and the State of California vs. Entertainment Merchants Association. The decision was made in favor of the entertainment industry, protecting video games as a form of free speech and expression. I’m a massive proponent of free speech- and I don’t necessarily disagree with the decision. The Court advocates for a separate category of video games to be available to children- ones without such crude and explicit content. But what I keep thinking is this:  why can no one see the real damage here? Games where men can rape, maim, and kill women are disgusting to me- but I can grudgingly agree that they are a form of self expression. But why are the aggressors always men and women their victims? Rarely do women get the opportunity in digital form to rape or kill…they are always the victims. I’m not denying anyone the ability to be violent in video games, the ruling has stated that that is an American game player’s choice. But what about the connotations of this-why can’t women ‘kill’ too? The argument made by the plaintiff is that children should not be exposed to violence that could affect their habits going forward, but why should women be exposed to this without, quite literally, any defense? Video games like this display women as helpless victims with no way of fighting back, visual beat-up dolls to be stolen from, driven over, and killed in back alleys. The double standard makes me sick: give men the ability to express themselves by raping women in game form, but not only rob women of the same “opportunity” but consistently show them as prizes to be won through carnal disrespect. The game ‘RapeLay’ allows the gamer man to rape a woman, then board a train to rape her mother and family. He can impregnate and then tell her to have an abortion- the purpose of the rape is revenge after she accuses him of  sexual molestation. The literal goal is to attack a woman sexually after she somehow “wrongs” you- how can this be something we, as a society, want to encourage?

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I’m not a gamer- but I know a lot of people that are. It’s a modern art form, they say. Fine- but like so many art forms the dark currents of manifest bigotry swirl through them. But unlike movies, video games take the viewer one step closer to being participatory to the violence they see onscreen: because they are the ones initiating it. I have a hard time believing that this doesn’t affect the way one sees the world, but I don’t solely blame the gamer. I blame the gaming companies- and I blame society for dictating the themes of anti-feminism and sexual abuse that are championed in these visually interactive spaces. I never used to think about the effects that exposure has on the individual- but now I see it everywhere. I see how people conform to the norms they believe to be prevalent- I understand the tools that make patriarchy predominant.

It is up to all of us to not fall prey to sexual discrimination. Now that a precedence has been set by the Supreme Court, we know our limits. We understand that it is our prerogative to choose to play a sexually violent videogame, and to allow our children to do so too. It is a right that has been protected. But that doesn’t mean we should continue to blindly follow this path- or be unaware of the damage these kinds of games can do to both the male and female psyche and their relationship with one another.

Thank you so much, Harru, for your unbelievably touching comments. I know there are more people like you that read OJ, and I hope that together we can make even a small dent in the way people understand the female in relation to American culture. From there, the possibilities are limitless.

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