September 25, 2011

Rants of a Gamer Girl: Kotaku’s Woman Problem

Filed under: Gaming,Gender,Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Rachel @ 1:47 pm

The image above was created with a sample of recent post titles, and the comments I found on those posts.

Gawker has 8 different blogs, each with a different focused topic.  Kotaku is Gawker’s gaming blog, and it’s little surprise that they also have a bit of a problem when it comes to women.  While in recent months the site has semi-frequently posted about the issues that women in gaming face, and the misogyny that’s usually allowed to run freely, their comment moderation shows a serious case of hypocrisy on the part of the editors.

While men are the majority of Kotaku’s writers (they compromise the entire daily editorial team), there are two female contributors who write occasionally for the site.  A majority of the comments on the bios of Leigh Alexander and Lisa Foiles comment on their looks, or belittle them for constantly drawing attention to the fact that they’re female.  (Interesting side note – neither woman writes the posts that deal with gender issues in gaming – these pieces are almost exclusively written by the all-male editorial team mentioned above.)  A comment on one of the women’s bios included a death threat which was visible for months before it was finally removed, and the user banned.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many options for gathering gaming news that doesn’t also include having to read through sexist drivel.  IGN, Joystiq, and Destructoid all have the same problem.  However, while a site like Destructoid makes a mockery of a petition against Duke Nukem, Kotaku asks why girl gamers don’t get respect, then retweets someone who reduces one of the female staff members to her breasts.  Oh, and the featured comment on one of the women’s latest posts was “Tits! Nice!”  Talk about a hostile work environment.

No matter what is written, no matter the topic, the focus always becomes their appearance.  On every one of Lisa Foiles’ recent posts, the majority of comments are sexually harassing, threatening, belittling, and just plain cruel.

Kotaku wants to draw attention to women’s issues in gaming and hear our thoughts but provide nothing even slightly resembling a safe space for us to do so.  If they are promoting comments that reduce their female staff to their cup size, why the hell would I want to register for an account to contribute to the discussion of “I’m An Anonymous Woman Gamer“?

My guess for the reason behind this completely contradictory attitude is that if they remove comments and ban users who contribute misogynistic comments on a daily basis, their readership will suffer. (Something that I don’t think any Gakwer blog is willing to risk after the redesign.)

Kotaku’s own commenting guidelines claim, “…break the rules, get off topic, start calling names, and you’re going to get banned.”  However, with a complete lack of enforcement, the “guidelines” are joke, and utterly worthless.





June 14, 2011

Rants of a Gamer Girl: Duke Nukem – Hail To The Queen

Trigger Warning: The following video contains nudity and sexual violence.
This is actual gameplay footage of Duke Nukem Forever.

Anyone who keeps up with my “Rants of a Gamer Girl” series/column, or simply scrolled through the front page, may have noticed the “popularity” of one of my recent posts “Duke Nukem: Smack My Chick Up

It’s garnered a bigger and more hateful response than anything I’ve written previously or since. There would be even more comments on the post if the threats of violence and classic anti-feminist name calling remarks hadn’t been deleted before they ever saw the light of day.

In fact, it garnered enough attention that Gearbox CEO, Randy Pitchford himself, stopped by the blog to respond. And despite the fact that I called his companys creation “misogynistic crap”, he managed to leave one of the most mature comments of them all.

Rather than respond to every comment individually (not to mention the waste of time it would be – I receive a new comment notification every day that spews the same bullshit) I decided to make a post. Something to sum up my feelings towards the response in a (sort of) brief summary.

So here goes:

Let’s start with the whole “I’m friends with a woman, therefore that makes me an expert on the matter/a feminist scholar/the decider on what constitutes misogyny”. Similar to the argument “I’m not racist, some of my best friends are black” a response such as this just makes you sound like you failed sociology 101. I challenge any commenter who claimed to know more than me about feminism and women’s studies to name a book title of Bell Hooks, quote Gloria Steinem, or even tell me who Kathleen Hanna is, without googling it.

Also – if your defense consists of calling me a: bitch, lesbian, cunt, whiny feminist, or tells me to shut the fuck up, congratulations, you just supported my argument, and failed at making your point by resorting to misogynistic name-calling.

If you think I don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, obviously you don’t read this blog very often. I’ve been a gamer for over twenty years, and occasionally write posts defending games. I’m not calling for censorship, never have, never plan on doing so. Gearbox Software has the right to make these games, and I have the right to call them on their bullshit. So, no…not like Jack Thompson.

And as for women having all the rights, getting free rides to college, and being treated so much better than men – women’s lives are so easy. Well, I could list hundreds of links here proving you wrong, or you could spend a whole 30 seconds of your time on google.

I almost won feminist gamer bingo.

So, feel free to continue to comment, even though not one of you has managed to make a compelling argument. In fact, thanks for the continued inspiration to write. You all make me realize how important my voice is in the echo chamber of gamers who’s philosophy tends to be something along the lines of “STFU BITCH”

With the game now on sale, and gamers uploading videos to YouTube, it turns out, I was right in my assertion that it was “misogynistic crap” all along.

March 23, 2011

Rants of a Gamer Girl: Duke Nukem – Smack My Chick Up

Update: Randy Pitchford responded directly to this post.  Please see his response and my reply in the comments.

Following the incredibly sexist strip-club press event held for the release of the upcoming video game, Duke Nukem Forever, I thought we had finally hit rock bottom.  I was wrong.

This week, developer Gearbox Software announced the multiplayer options that will be available in the latest installment of the franchise,, including a spin on “Capture the Flag”, titled “Capture the Babe.”  Rather than trying to steal another team’s actual flag or taking an enemy captive, the objective is to “capture” a woman.

The first reports about “Capture the Babe” stated that while playing, you slapped “the babe” in the face to get her to calm down.  The CEO of Gearbox Software, Randy Pitchford took to twitter to correct everyone – it turns out she gets slapped on the ass instead of the face.  Here’s a quick note for Mr. Pitchford – slapping a woman who is scared and trying to break free, on the ass, instead of the face doesn’t make it better. It means the word “sexual” should be added to the assault.

As CEO, Randy Pitchford is the one in charge, and I have no problem blaming him for the consistent misogynistic crap his company continues to promote.  In fact, he thinks it’s “great” and “awesome” that he has angered feminists with the game’s promotion of sexual violence and objectification of women.  Randy, you know what’s not awesome?  The reality of sexual violence against women – statistics, such as, there’s a woman sexually assaulted every two minutes in the U.S. According to Pitchford, the game can be used by feminist organizations as a teaching tool.  I guess it never occurred to him that making a game that promotes respect towards women could achieve the same educational effect.

By not just allowing, but rather, encouraging sexual violence to be perpetuated against women, Randy Pitchford (and Gearbox Software) are not only affecting the gaming community, but rather society as a whole, by adding on to the millions of images and messages that further promote and perpetuate a culture of violence against women.  If Randy really thinks the work that feminist organizations are doing is “really important” then maybe he should try changing the messages in Gearbox’s games to include positive female role models, rather than to promote violent gameplay against women.

February 8, 2011

Rants of a Gamer Girl: Welcome To Titty City

Filed under: Gaming,Media — Tags: , , , — Rachel @ 7:01 pm

The above images are from the press event for “Duke Nukem Forever” and appear on the
official Facebook page and blog of 2k Games.

Yesterday, a press event was held in Las Vegas for the newest installment in the Duke Nukem video game series. The developers invited the press to learn more about the game, and play a demo of the upcoming release.  The game has been in development off-and-on for over ten years, finally being completed by Gearbox Software.

Now, Duke Nukem is certainly not a series that is known for it’s positive portrayals of women, or high-brow comedy.  However, they brought the 3-D objectification of women in their games into the real world, by holding the event in a temporarily renovated strip club.  (Most developers hold press events in hotel conference rooms or large offices.)  The signage outside the strip club was replaced to advertise “Duke Nukem’s Titty City.”  Arrows pointed men and women in different directions, and the demo screens were set up around stripper poles on small tables.  President of Gearbox, and former employee of 3D Realms (the original Duke Nukem company), Randy Pitchford, took to the main stripper stage to make the announcements.

Rather than focus on the first-person shooter gameplay, or the game’s lengthy development process, Gearbox instead decided to focus on the sexist environment they’ve created, and to make it their main selling point.  Women were hired to parade around in tiny outfits to bring drinks and snacks to the press.  Gearbox and 2k games updated their twitter feeds throughout the event, and posted pictures on the official blog, like outlines of topless women painted in neon colors, or “Hail To The King” posters with women depicted as submissive sex objects.

Female game journalists had to watch and listen to the exclusive announcements being made, in a building called “Titty City.”  (And women were there, they can be seen in the pictures posted from the event.)  To anyone who insists there isn’t sexism in the gaming industry, that everyone’s a big happy family, that gender doesn’t make any difference, I’d really like to hear their take on this event.  Because to hold a press event in a building where women are objectified, every. single. day. is to ignore the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of every female gamer, journalist, and  employee in the industry.  It’s these attitudes and behaviors that are so pervasive throughout the entire industry, that cause websites like Fat, Ugly, or Slutty to exist.