Part Three: Why Are Game(r)s Special?

In the last of this triptych, I want to talk about why this is happening in this particular way, with these particular people, and concerning this particular topic.

In part, this post stems from my curiosity as to why Sarkeesian didn’t receive inordinate amounts of harassment for any of her other “Tropes vs. Women” projects – in other words, why is the idea of a woman speaking about misogyny in videogames any “worse” than speaking about misogyny in print or on television?

Dr. Nerdlove’s (DN) article has an answer: “The misogyny we’re seeing in nerd culture is more about what happens when entitlement and resentment melt together and form a bitter little pill.” This springs from the fact that “nerds frequently see themselves as ‘special’; we are the outcasts and misfits whom society looks down upon but are unaware that secretly we are in fact superior beings in disguise.”

I’ve been a nerd for a long time. Since before Big Bang Theory and PAX and even the invention of the Xbox. I played games on my computer when it was a Compaq portable that need three large floppy disks to boot to DOS (and if that made no sense to you, that should tell you just how nerdy I am). And as much as it stings to admit, yes, geek culture does think of itself as a collective of misunderstood geniuses.

But we’re not. The stereotypes of nerds and geeks exist because “misunderstood” has often been a loose translation of “socially awkward,” and this spate of vile misogyny is really not going to help matters. (While I’ve said, and it’s true, that more and more people are becoming gamers, those people are not necessarily all nerds/geeks in the sense that DN and I mean, here.) Geeks/nerds form their own community because, as DN says, “we all understand each other,” or, at least, I thought we did.

I understand a lot of it, but as a female, I can’t understand the sort of stuff that’s been happening recently. And I’m sure that SWMs (straight white males) don’t really understand what it’s like to be anything but SWMs. But, honestly, I expect more out of nerds and geeks because they should understand what it’s like to be ostracized and discounted, whether they’re SWMs or not. They should know better and they should recognize when they’re doing the same thing to others that has been done to them. While DN argues that the sci fi and geek cultures have been largely occupied by SWMs (which is true), that doesn’t excuse their inability to empathize with others.

DN says that part of the problem is that “they tend to see women as intimidating. That intimidation makes them angry.” That’s not an excuse (and DN isn’t saying it’s a legitimate one). Geek, and, specifically, geek-gaming culture’s response to the perceived threat of “you’ll take the sexy women out of my games” is misogynistic psychological violence, and that should not be acceptable. But it’s wildly out of proportion.

The fantasy of being powerful and attractive and everything to pretty much everyone isn’t under threat. Player-characters will continue to be heroic savers-of-the-universe-who-get-the-girl/guy in the end. They will continue to be sexy. They just might do it in more practical clothing, and that’s not going to “ruin” your game.

DN’s conclusion is worth looking at:

The fucked up part is that this isn’t a zero-sum game. Nobody is trying to take men’s toys away – unless you are so vested in the ability to revel in the worst impulses of bullshit images of masculinity that you can’t stand life without it. All that’s being asked is that we acknowledge that things in geek culture have been a little fucked up and to try and make things less fucked up in the future so that everybody can enjoy it.