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Recently, feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian has been raising funds for a research project in which she plans to explore the female gender role as it applies to video games. Sarkeesian’s premise for this study is that women are portrayed negatively in video games, whether they’re weak, too sexualized or too stereotypical. Though Sarkeesian’s intentions were honorable, her request for funding was met with much hostility from those with opposing viewpoints.

Sarkeesian’s Beliefs

Mainstream video games usually portray women as damsels in distress, background decoration or less-than-talented sidekicks. Instead of acting as heroes and role models, most video game women are either in need of rescue or so unimportant that they don’t merit a place in the foreground. Her project, for which she requires $6,000 of research funds, will delve into video games to determine if her hypothesis is correct. Using the results of her research, Sarkeesian plans to make a series of web videos to teach the general public about the gender bias of the video game industry. With advances in video games and new storylines being written, Sarkeesian’s stance is one of developing changes. Online gaming is trying to follow this as well, with Marvel slot machines and other virtual reality experiences being updated.

Public Reaction

Some members of the public quickly supported the critic’s project, both verbally and monetarily. However, many others were outraged by her criticism of the video game industry. These individuals took to “trolling” Sarkeesian’s Wikipedia page, making lewd comments on her social media profiles and even threatening her life.

Before Wikipedia was able to lock Sarkeesian’s page, more than 12 IP addresses had already wreaked havoc on her page, calling her a variety of derogatory names and stating that she has a “Master’s Degree in Whining.” Her YouTube video received over 5,000 comments, most of which were negative, and she received multiple email threats of bodily harm, rape and murder.

Sarkeesian’s Response

In spite of the public outcry against her, Sarkeesian plans to move forward with her research project. In fact, she has already received most of the financial support she needs to complete it. Sarkeesian allowed the derogatory comments to remain on her social media profiles in hopes of showcasing just how real misogyny is in society. She also states that this sort of behavior should not be brushed off as being “expected on the internet.”

Female-Friendly Video Games

Though many of the video games available do exhibit the signs of misogyny to which Sarkeesian is referring, some female-friendly games are available. Below is a list of some options for video gamers looking for games that support a healthier view of the female gender.

  • Fall Out 3 With the choice of a female character and a compelling storyline, this game is perfect for the female gamer.
  • Need for Speed: Most WantedThe classic getaway chase franchise lets everyone get in on the action of breaking all the rules behind the wheel.
  • Dragon Age Dragon Age is a high-fantasy game with several female characters and excellent graphics.
  • Mass Effect This game includes the option of a female lead with abilities that match the male lead option.

Obviously, not every video game excluded from this list is misogynistic. For example, you can probably play video poker or craps online without running into too many damsels in distress. Sarkeesian may have a point when she says that many of society’s popular video games favor women over men. How do you feel about her research project?