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The Gamergate controversy explained in the Anita Sarkeesian interview

Anita Sarkeesian interview on Nightline

The feminist critic and resident troublemaker Anita Sarkeesian has appeared on an ABC nightline interview. The Anita Sarkeesian interview is called “What It Feels Like to Be a Gamergate Target” and explores the fear that women in the gaming community have felt during the Gamergate controversy.

For those who aren’t familiar, Anita Sarkeesian runs a YouTube channel called Feminist Frequency. On this channel she has started a large series called “Tropes versus Women in Videogames” that seeks to show the ways in which gaming’s women are often relegated to side roles, such as the “Damsel in Distress” or as “Background Decoration”. Sarkeesian’s goals are fairly transparent, she wants games to be more inclusive, to have more female protagonists and to portray women in a larger variety of roles.

This harmless goal has triggered a thunderstorm of rape, shooting and bomb threats. This Anita Sarkeesian interview shows her surrounded by an armed police escort at all times. It also shows us some of the more vicious tweets and threats that she’s received. Additionally, we learn that the FBI have officially opened a case file on Gamergate.

Brianna Woo, an independent game developer, also reports threats against her and her husband. This includes threats that involve castrating her husband, and threats against her family. She compares the feeling of fear that she experiences as akin to the fear one feels from a terror attack, stating that “I’m so hesitant to use the word ‘terror’ because it’s such a politically loaded word, but this is…it’s terrorism.”

When asked why she believed there has been such a backlash against women in gaming, Sarkeesian’s explanation is that “a lot of it comes from this idea that gaming is a male dominated space…and that games are for men, by men. It’s a very misogynist backlash. We are not meant to be treated with respect.”

Chris Scott, manager of 8 bit and up, offers an alternate theory. Accusing Sarkeesian of “capitalizing” on the controversy, he argues that “people have complained about Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty…it’s similar to complaining about Hip Hop or Rap music today. Saying…it’s violent. But it’s not what hip hop is about. You can’t judge gaming by what’s selling. You have to really get into the medium itself before you start saying well this is what gaming is really about.”

Arguments like this are a lot like the “love it or leave it” discourse you often hear in certain political circles. When somebody researches and constructively critiques a community that they exist within, this more often than not comes from a place of love rather than disdain. Sarkessian’s goals are to make games more inclusive to a female gaming audience that already exists. She’s not another Jack Thompson, aiming to destroy gaming from the outside.

What do you think of this Anita Sarkeesian interview? What do you think has caused this backlash? Feel free to leave a comment below.

About Anthony Sarian