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Anita Sarkeesian and her list of 8 things devs can change

Anita Sarkeesian recently spoke to game developers about her list of 8 things developers can do to make games less sh***** for women.  For those who don’t want to read a long article covering the topic, here they are:

  1. Avoid the Smurfette principle (don’t have just one female character in an ensemble cast, let alone one whose personality is more or less “girl” or “woman.”)
  2. “Lingerie is not armor” (Dress female characters as something other than sex objects.)
  3. Have female characters of various body types
  4. Don’t over-emphasize female characters’ rear ends, not any more than you would the average male character’s.
  5. Include more female characters of color.
  6. Animate female characters to move the way normal women, soldiers or athletes would move.
  7. Record female character voiceover so that pain sounds painful, not orgasmic
  8. Include female enemies, but don’t sexualize those enemies

I don’t really want to get stuck on this, because frankly there is a huge debate going on out there about all of this.  And really, if you read the article, her overall speech did not impress me one bit.  I applaud some of the things she is doing, but as one commenter says she can be terrible at seeing both sides.

I will bring up one example.  When confronted with the fact that games sexualize men as well, she is dismissive, saying that she doesn’t buy it because it is common to see female characters breasts jiggle but rare to see male characters private parts do the same.  This….is just an absurd thing to say.  I have never, ever, ever heard any of my friends say “wow” or “oooooh” appreciatively at the jiggling of a man’s private parts.  You know why?  Because in clothing, they rarely do that!  Penile bounciness has never been listed as an attractive trait for men, as far as I know.  Sarkeesian’s comment is dismissive of how a male character can be sexualized in all the other ways, while at the same time taking pains to point out all the ways a female character can.

But I digress.  Most of her points are good ones.  Heck, I’ve been decrying #2 for years in all types of media (books, movies, etc.).  But Sarkeesian misses one key point, every time.  There is an overriding factor that cancels out everything she says:

Artistic freedom.

But hey, you may say, isn’t it bad for a game to portray X or do Y?  Sure.  I could point out several examples that support her claims that I completely and utterly agree with.  However, at the same time, I fully and utterly support the game developers’ right to create the game that they want to make, without outside pressure or influence.  How, then, will some of these things get corrected?

Money.

It’s very, very simple. I agree with her about some games.  And I didn’t buy them.  It’s such a weird thing, but you know, when people stop buying something because they object to it, the market generally makes less of that kind of thing.  The most powerful thing she can accomplish is to make gamers aware of what they are really seeing, but not ask for games to be made differently.  Gamers are seeing what she says as an attack on freedom of expression, and that resonates deeply.

I think her cause is a good one.  I’m glad she is raising overall awareness.  I think she is a terrible advocate and has only gained in notoriety because of the threats to her.  I think she should be trying to change the consumer, for history has shown that the market will shift to deliver what the consumer wants.

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