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Anita Sarkeesian recently made it abundantly clear that she harbors utter contempt for video game violence; apparently, the mere mention of the things makes her Twitter fingers go aquiver. So, when some of E3’s more visceral and gritty games were presented during this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, everyone and everything needed to know of her opinion. Only, this time, the video game journalists – rather sheepishly, if you ask me – didn’t rally to support her. Intriguingly, they also didn’t refute her claims.
Maybe the entire industry was asleep that day, accidentally missing the contentious rhetoric spewed forth from their much-championed talking head. But why not since? Articles from lesser known websites have surfaced on the front page of Google search, including several posts from Viral Global News; social networks have been endlessly picking apart her naive critique; Breitbart has been doing its own thing. The explanation is quite simple: embarrassment.
Working over at Feminist Frequency HQ, Sarkeesian has engendered the unwavering, uncritical support of the gaming press. They, of course, found it difficult to support Sarkeesian’s contentions using cogent arguments, so focused, primarily, on the abuse she had received at the hands of Internet trolls. Collectively shooting themselves in the foot (and face), the video game critics attacked its core readership on two fronts. Firstly, it failed to listen to the concerns of its loyal readership and, instead, presented it with a shallow, one-sided account of the situation. It, then, prejudicially labeled a significant proportion of the gaming community as harassing simpletons, passing off the #GamerGate movement as being rotten to its, apparently, sexist core.
It’s also worth emphasizing that the video games journalists had, previously, defended both gamers and game developers from the likes of former attorney Jack Thompson. While Thompson campaigned to rid the world of all kinds of perceived evils – from rap music to Howard Stern – he took a particular dislike to sex and violence in video games, taking aim at Grand Theft Auto, Manhunt and Mortal Kombat.
No. Major gaming sites didn’t just forget to publish Sarkeesian’s comments on video game violence. They also didn’t just forget to criticize her remarks, as they had previously done with Thompson. On the surface, it seems these outlets deliberately chose to ignore her appraisal of violence in Bethesda’s Doom and Fallout 4. We’re back to the embarrassment.
Let’s think about this from the perspective of a video game journalist. You’ve dedicated months defending Sarkeesian’s work; she’s the bees knees, and nobody’s going to tell you otherwise. You ride the storm of controversy; and you deflect legitimate counter arguments, claiming her detractors belong to a toxic subgroup that is stuffed to the rafters with latent chauvinism. She has your total, unequivocal support.
It must then come as quite the shock to see the very person you’ve been eulogizing for so long attacking violence in video games – something you had roundly condemned Jack Thompson for doing.
You were played, you just didn’t realize it.
Anita Sarkeesian versus Jack Thompson
The gaming community is increasingly drawing parallels between Thompson and Sarkeesian, and with good reason. While Sarkeesian’s cultural crusade started out on a feminist trajectory, her attack is now two-pronged: she sees video games as being steeped in both misogyny and violence. Indeed, the similarities are so apparent that Breitbart felt compelled to pen the following piece:
Who Said It: Anita Sarkeesian or Infamous Game Hater Jack Thompson?
Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos notes “striking” parallels between Sarkeesian and Thompson, both of whom he accuses of stirring moral panic. In terms of the pair’s critical analyses, Yiannopoulos goes on to argue that they both use flawed science, allude to a consensus of opinion (probably true, as far as the hive mind of mainstream game critics go), and encourage video game regulation.
Yiannopoulos then goes on to present an interesting quiz, in which participants are tasked with deciding what quote was uttered by whom – Sarkeesian or Thompson. The resemblance between their mindset is uncanny.
Jack Thompson: “We have a nation of … children in schools who have spent who spend hundreds of hours on mass murder machines that teach them that it’s glamorous, that it’s fun to kill human beings.”
“Video games are art imitating life, and then you get a bleedover of life imitating art.”
“Almost every school shooter … is immersed in violent entertainment.”
“If you get started playing violent videogames, you’re more likely to copycat the behaviours in the game.”
Anita Sarkeesian: “It’s dangerously irresponsible to be creating games in which players are encouraged and even required to perform violence.”
“We need to seriously address connections between violence, sexism and toxic ideas of manhood before boys and men commit more mass shootings.”
“Brutal violence has been normalized, glamorized and celebrated in gaming for so long.”
And who could forget the following video?
And, of course, there’s Sarkeesian’s partner in crime, Feminist Frequency collaborator and culture critic Jonathan McIntosh:
More recently, the attack has become more vigorous and sustained. On June 22, the Feminist Frequency guys – under the powerful guise of “science” – published their own Survey on Combat.
Looking at the 76 games showcased at E3, they said there were only 18 nonviolent titles (24 percent) on display. However, Sarkeesian and colleagues broke the games down into “combat” and “non-combat.” In a blog post, the team elaborated on the survey’s methodology: “By this, we mean that the player is either required to or can choose to engage in violence as a means of conflict resolution, not simply that violence exists within the world of the game.”
Among the non-violent video games were sports games, racing games, Animal Crossing games and a Despicable Me spin-off game. Just to clarify, this means Feminist Frequency has lumped games like Yoshi’s Wooly World into the same broad category as Doom. Perhaps realizing how skewed the data appears, the group offer the following appraisal:
“In compiling data on whether or not a game’s mechanics incorporate violence or combat, we aren’t making a value judgment, or saying that the cartoonish sword-swinging of The Legend of Zelda is no different from the gratuitous chainsaw kills in DOOM.”
However, this conflicts with the post’s introduction, which, quite clearly, does push forward a value judgment:
“Of the 76 games counted, only 18 are nonviolent, or at least appear as if they might not have mechanics involving combat or violence.”
The remainder of the post, then, goes on to make a series of contestable value judgments, like this one:
“When game narratives consistently take place in inescapably hostile antagonistic environments, it severely limits the kinds of stories that can be told.”
The problem with this “analysis” is obvious. When you oversimplify an issue too much, you end up with a set of dubious results. In turn, these findings lead to potential misinterpretation and erroneous conclusions. The team confess there’s a stark difference between the violence of Doom relative to that experienced in The Legend of Zelda, yet do nothing to highlight these differences, statistically or otherwise.
Some more in-depth analysis and stats would provide a more empirical and objective means of assessing the context, nature and pervasiveness of violence in video games. Just a few examples:
- Games with and without guns and/or melee weapons
- Games with and without blood
- Games with and without dismemberment
- Games in which combat/violence is and isn’t optional
- Games in which violence is against humans (e.g. Dishonored 2) versus games where it’s against fictional creatures (e.g. Doom’s demons)
As it stands, the afore-mentioned pie chart represents everything that’s wrong with Sarkeesian’s video game commentaries: it’s sensationalist, misrepresentative, shallow and lazy.
Bethesda Takes An Arrow to the Knee (Or Something More Original)
Bethesda also received the Sarkeesian treatment, after it presented two of its most popular video game franchises – Doom and Fallout 4 – at this year’s E3. As previously reported by Viral Global News, Sarkeesian was joined by McIntosh in condemning the games’ “depressing” violence, along with the conference’s over exuberant audience:
People saw the hypocrisy and the double standards. More importantly, they saw the transition from Anita Sarkeesian to Jack Thompson, prompting tweets like this:
It also stirred interest from the game developers of several major studios, who took the opportunity to mock the pair’s misguided narrative on Facebook. This included lead artist designer at id Software, Jason Martin:
It’s difficult to fathom why Sarkeesian and McIntosh were surprised by the violence presented during the Maryland-based publisher’s conference. Did they fail to do their research, simply not realizing that Bethesda has always developed violent video games? It’s akin to a cultural critic venturing off to watch Pulp Fiction only to exclaim, “Did Samuel L. Jackson really just use a swear?”
The Impact of Left-Leaning Critics
The Federalist’s Mytheos Holt recently produced an insightful article, in which he explores the Left’s fanatical dislike for video games. He opens his article with the following rather succinct point:
“Video games show the dark side of human nature, which the Left doesn’t want to believe exists.”
He then goes on to suggest that the far Left aspires to see a world where “… human nature is artificially truncated so that certain forms of violence are so unacceptable as to be literally impossible and inconceivable; where certain impulses are metaphorically not even part of the human being’s programming.” And to stop male gamers from internalizing harmful aspects of today’s patriarchal system, the Left demands that violent video games be gone.
So, where is this all heading? With Anita Sarkeesian and Jonathan McIntosh mirroring the ideological stance of Thompson, it’s entirely conceivable we’ll be hearing calls for more strident video game censorship measures. If you think this is a ludicrous and paranoid stance to take, check out the following tweet (and those afore-shown):
While such a contingency is difficult to prove with any certainty, it’s made all the more likely by the burgeoning population of anti-violence crusaders, rabid culture critics and puritanical journalists. This situation, no doubt, will be compounded by the ineptitude and frailty of video games journalists – people who belong to an industry inextricably tangled in mediocrity and accusations of ethical misconduct, and can no longer be trusted to provide any meaningful counterbalance to the extreme Left.
Since this article’s original publication, dated July 1, 2015, Jack Thompson has made contact with Viral Global News, and sought to clarify his own position. With his permission, we have included the email he sent to us:
I am Jack Thompson, yes THAT Jack Thompson. I have read with interest your article about Sarkeesian. I couldn’t possibly disagree with her more about certain things.
BTW, my entire effort was to stop the marketing and sale of M-rated games to those under the age rating. That was it.
This is the reason why I am still widely defended across the pond in the UK where it is a crime to sell a “certified” game to a minor. They take the age ratings seriously there, not only because the ratings are logical and science-based (based upon the neurobiological differential between where young brains process violence and where adult brains do), but also because video games have been linked there to certain murders.
This is in part why the BBC2 is going air this fall the docudrama about my fight with GTA and its sociopath, Sam Hauser. BBC has always been supportive of my position. Even Bill Paxton, who portrays me, gets it.“