(Trigger Warning: Graphic depiction of violence.)
Videogames are fun, but they aren’t without their flaws. Anita Sarkeesian, a documentarian, feminist and a gamer, started a Kickstarter project a few weeks ago to point out some of the flaws in videogames—notably with their portrayal of female characters.
In any other field, Sarkeesian’s work would have gone without dissension. It would have gotten funded, produced, and that would’ve been the end of it. But videogames are a sacred cow, especially to a few male gamers who find their favorite hobby becoming a part of the mainstream. Videogames are no longer—and arguably, have never been—a refuge for self-described ‘outcasts’ and ‘hardcore gamers’.
These overly vocal, insecure gamers have decided to classify Sarkeesian as a threat to their hobby and have, in recent weeks, attacked her YouTube channel by leaving a barrage of mean-spirited comments. Some of them have even gone to further lengths by depicting Sarkeesian being sexually violated in crude drawings.
One angry voice by the name of Ben Spurr, a resident of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, who goes by @bendilin on Twitter, created a game which invites players to literally brutalize Anita Sarkeesian. An image of the game can be seen below. Play it at your discretion.
Spurr, who admits that he’s “not that talented of a person” was confronted on Twitter for his decision to make the game. In his personal defense, Spurr insists that he wasn’t advocating violence against women.
“Of course. In a movies, novels, television, and video games, no one is actually being physically harmed,” he wrote. “The problem is, you're seeing this as ‘violence against women’ and not ‘violence against people.’”
“The game isn't about ‘punching women.’ It's about punching a selfish person. There's a difference,” he says.
Rather, because he’s too intelligent to be a bigot, and claims to be in favor of equal opportunity, Spurr was simply advocating violence against people in general—not minding the fact that his game reinforces the narrative that it’s okay to beat women.
In a report published by the CDC last year, domestic violence is a very real problem faced by billions of women worldwide. One in four women has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime. One in six has experienced stalking victimization—which is not unlike the stalking Sarkeesian faces. Her private details, including her address and phone number are being published on forums filled with irate ‘gamers’ who wish for nothing more than to silence her voice—all because she had an opinion on space marines.
The game Ben Spurr has created may not have been the intended subject of Sarkeesian’s documentary, but they do much to prove her points about the inherent sexism—and misogyny in particular—in gamer culture. It goes without saying that gamers internalize sexist ideas which demean and threaten women. Thanks for that, Ben. I hope you’re proud of yourself.