The Land of Men: Why Gamergate was 100% Inevitable

When I first heard about Gamergate, my thoughts strayed to a dirty living room years earlier. A friend had challenged me to versus; the game was Soul Calibur 4. I hadn’t held a controller since my Mario 64 days in the 90’s, a blessed time of childhood triumph. I earned those 80 stars.

I picked Yoda as my character, because he was little and unassuming, and that kind of thing speaks to the underdog in us all. My friend chose a six-foot tall white-man, warrior-god equipped with only a trusty broad-range dick metaphor. I didn’t know which button was what, but I was prepared to mash them all. I had hope; no one can kick the shit out of Yoda and still feel good about themselves. It was going to be Mario 64: The Reboot, fun and clean.

That was the idea.

Initially, like a majority of non-gamers, I didn’t get Gamergate. Why is there a gate? Because “Gate" is serious business. "Gate" lets us all know that we need to meet up at the club because it's going down. As it turns out, what’s going down is just more of the same misogyny from a faction of men with access to social media.

Sexism in the gaming industry is news to absolutely no one. Games don’t accurately portray women. Video games, like movies, music or literature—whatever kind of story telling floats your escapism boat—has always shit on the marginalized.

Feminist blogger and critic, Anita Sarkeesian, dared to initiate (and maintain) an open dialogue about the harmful effects of sexism in the gaming industry. She was met with violent, hateful backlash. Her opponents think the best way to disprove claims of sexist manbaby-rage is to get a group of sweaty goblins together to gang-tweet anonymous rape threats. At one point, Gamergaters effectively shut down a university event Anita was scheduled to speak at with talks of a school shooting. This is what happens when a male space is criticized or seemingly invaded.

Gaming is Guyland, another problematic, hypermasculine space made by men to continue a conditioned legacy of Man Things. Women have a place in this sort of environment, but for the most part, it’s to be violently conquered or won as recompense for a hero’s tragic manpain struggle. And while video games are not the Hellmouth from which all evil, sexist things crawled out, they do perpetuate an all-too-real narrative of how violent masculinity dominates our real world. Sexism in video games exists because sexism exists.

Of course when women demand that games be more accessible, and that they be treated better within their online communities, the initial response by Gamergaters is unreasonable and violent. It always is, whether the argument is about video games, political standing, or basic human rights. Gamergate outcry has been frightening and defensive and over-the-top. These men think they’re the righteous, unsung heroes fighting a battle reminiscent of the digital worlds they know and thrive in. Men don’t see the consequences of their misogyny because they don’t have to suffer them, real life or digital, because let’s be honest here, the whole fucking world is a male space. Pick up a book, pop in a movie, turn on the news—masculinity dominates, and when threatened, it goes to terrifying lengths to prove that it still can and does.

Back in that living room, my friend and I battled it out. Lucky for me, broadswords didn’t work on my little avatar. For two minutes, I cleverly, if accidentally, dodge rolled, ran around in circles, and sent Yoda zipping through the air like a coked-out paper plane. I screeched and flailed my way to victory; it wasn’t even close.

I was unprepared for the hissy fit my opponent threw. I was unprepared for the physicality—literally being forced back into my seat so we could play a dozen more matches. He was legitimately angry. It was like he needed to earn something back. This was his game. This was his zone. I had no business winning anything, accident or not.

Whether a woman has entered a male space in an actual attempt to achieve some semblance of fair treatment and equality or just for some fucking Soul Calibur fun, there will always be a group of whiny little goblins prepared to go twelve rounds more to keep her out. And how long before those little goblins get violent? They’re already violent. It is what they’ve been training for, after all.

Laura Bania is a writer for The BAR. She graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University and firmly believes that if you put a sport coat over it, anything can be office appropriate. Her work has appeared in The Bare Root Review. Find her on twitter @bakedsalmonella.

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