on Sep 30, 2012
In my column this week, I gently criticized the proposed Tropes vs. Women video series. This is a very touchy subject. It shouldn’t be. Sarkeesian herself has become a lightning rod and a lot of the discussion about her Kickstarter revolves around trying to discredit her. To be fair, not all of her critics are hate-filled troll monsters. Some of them are very reasonable and calm.
I don’t think the debate should be about her for the same reason that I never wanted the DRM debate to be about me. We’re talking about ideas, and that interests me. Even if Anita Sarkeesian is every bit the fraud her critics claim, it doesn’t really invalidate the debate itself. It’s just another Ad Hominem attack in a debate that’s already got way too much Ad Hominem vs. argumentum ad verecundiam.
This column was my own attempt to move the spotlight from her and her critics to the ideas I find so interesting. This is also why I try to keep the conversation positive. I’m not accusing anyone of of being outright misogynist. I’m pointing to a problem and hoping we can have a discussion that revolves around solutions.
The usual excuse – and I’ve already gotten a few responses to this effect – is that action games aren’t made for women because women don’t want to play action games. Everyone knows that anecdotes are the most reliable form of scientific study, so here’s mine:
A few night ago, my daughter was playing Left 4 Dead the other night with her friends. The gender breakdown of the players was 3 females and 1 male. Most of her gaming time is spent with other females. So females are playing, but they’re mostly playing with each other.
I’m not saying the split is 50/50, I’m saying the split is unknown and nobody has a really good way of finding out. And we have no way of knowing how much more even the split would be if online interactions weren’t so poisonously hostile and crude. And it might be better still if most action games weren’t stories where a man gets to be the big hero and the women are relegated to secondary importance. And no, I’m not saying those stories are invalid or that they shouldn’t be made. And obviously I’m not saying games need to be split 50/50. I’m just suggesting that there might be an untapped market out there. Instead of making another attempt to capture the same 18-30 male demo everyone is fighting over, it’s entirely possible that the right AAA game could open some new doors for the hobby.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.