Video game

Lise Ravary: Time to tackle the sexist, violent world of video games – Montreal Gazette

The outlook for change seems bleak given the small proportion of women studying computer science.

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The topic I will cover today might earn me more abuse than writing about vaccines, language laws and Bill 21.


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What, you ask, could send people into such a tizzy?

Video games.

Many gamers take criticism badly, especially from a woman. Threats of violence, sexual assault, even death have occurred. Even if 48 per cent of Canadian gamers today are women.

In 2014, a group of male gamers launched the hashtag #GamerGate, a harassment campaign aimed at women. Feminism bothers gamergaters. It is an impediment to progress. It’s a new world out there, get with the program, they say.

It began when successful game developer Zoë Quinn’s ex-boyfriend published a blog about an inappropriate — in his view — relationship she had with a journalist who had praised her games. Then it got ugly. The attacks exploded into something no one had anticipated. She received more than 1,000 online threats. She had to leave her home and stay away from her job. The police got involved.


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It raised the lid on the sexism that pervades the world of video games.

Her story was so publicized that Quinn was invited to address the United Nations about her experience. The same day, the UN had published a report stating that video games cause violence. It did not help Quinn.

Many gamers agree that it is time for change but they face a challenge: games that glamourize violence against women. Grand Theft Auto 5, the fastest-selling entertainment product ever, shows a man stopping his car to pick up a prostitute. When the deed is done, he runs her over to get his money back. There are no female lead characters, only strippers, porn stars and dead sex workers.

Do you really like your 15-year-old playing this game? Well, ban this one and there are hundreds out there just as unpalatable. Of course, games with good ethics are more numerous but a junk game like Lollipop Chainsaw still gets around.


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As more women get involved in the gaming industry, things will change, right? It might take a while. According to Statistics Canada, the proportion of women studying computer science is as low as around 18 per cent.

An international study with 82,286 respondents, conducted by Statisa, showed that 91.67 per cent of developers are male. Reports of sexist and misogynistic behaviour in computer schools abound, making the learning environment toxic for women.

Last year, Montreal’s Ubisoft, the largest beneficiary of Quebec’s largesse with $1.1 billion in tax credits since 2005, was embroiled in a serious sexual harassment scandal. Female employees talked about a “climate of terror.” Senior executives were fired.


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Few things make me as mad as imagining a future run, once more, by men alone. The industrial revolution left little room for women because many jobs required physical strength while today’s genderless digital world thrives on intelligence and creativity. We can’t let guys build the digital world without us. Especially grown-ups who behave like adolescents.

There is another side of gaming the industry hates to address: addiction.

There is a compulsive gamer in my life. His mother introduced him to gaming when he was a child. At 26, he has no life, no “real” friends, no prospects and cannot hold a job for more than a few months. He did not pursue higher education although he won the Governor General’s Academic Medal for excellence in high school. His only life is online. He plays at least 12 hours a day. So much has been done to help him embrace the real world but after a short while, he’s back at it. He is a very sick man.

It is an addiction, a mental health issue, and the WHO recognizes that. But resources are few, and expensive.

Besides, you can’t drag a 6-foot, 2-inch 26-year-old adult someplace he doesn’t want to go to when he thinks his gaming life is funky doo dah.



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