Earlier this week, at the biggest video game conference of the year – the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) – Microsoft unveiled a number of new games for their Xbox One video game console. After the presentation, Anita Sarkeesian, of Feminist Frequency, correctly observed that none of the games featured had a female protagonist.
Her one tweet elicited a slew of negative and hateful replies from male users who inexplicably seemed to take offense to her statement.
Their vitriolic and sometimes violent words, as Sarkeesian says, reveal “the male privilege and male entitlement endemic in the gaming community.” In fact, during the very same Microsoft event, the tech company introduced a game by making an oppressive rape joke themselves – in front of a massive audience – for which they were later forced to apologize.
As video games have become one of the dominant forms of entertainment globally, with the top titles regularly out earning even the biggest summer blockbusters, it’s increasingly important that we challenge the messages these games and the larger community around them send to our girls and boys.
Let’s not forget that the aforementioned sexism is reflective of a larger American culture that continues to demean and degrade women. For instance, this same week, Republican congressman Trent Franks claimed that pregnancy rates are lower for women who have been raped, while others in Washington decided not to substantially overhaul a military system that allowed at least 26,000 sexual assaults to occur last year.
The issue of misogyny in gaming is particularly troubling because – contrary to stereotypes – at least 45% of all gamers are women and girls. How can our leaders, in corporate America, the media and beyond, continue to ignore and demean half of our population? And how can so many sit idly by when the women and girls they love continue to be disrespected and disparaged?
It’s time for all of this to stop.
On Monday, U.S. late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon will launch his annual “video game week,” where he will spotlight – to an audience of millions – many of the titles that debuted at E3. The producers of his show have explained that the intent of this week-long celebration is to broadly represent the rise of video gaming culture. Which means, they should be critical of the rampant sexism on display and certainly include the voices of women and girls.
Yet, based on early reports, the show doesn’t plan to promote any games with a sole female protagonist.
Tweet Mr. Fallon (@jimmyfallon) and his team (@LateNightJimmy) to ask them to stand up for women and use their influence next week to challenge misogyny in the gaming community. By encouraging a better representation of women in video game culture, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon can help reverse the troubling trends that were on display this week.