Gamers, ever wonder why you have a bad reputation? Watch this video.
I don't want to paint the gaming community in broad strokes but sometimes they make it so very fucking difficult. While I know many smart, progressive gamers it's the stupid, regressive and repressive ones who make all the big noise. For every Anita Sarkeesian there are thousands of mewling misogynists who play Flash games where the premise is beating up a woman for pointing out that video games don't treat women very well.
Video games, like many other areas of geek interest, have a big female problem. As women get involved in the subculture there are elements within it who lash out. And even if it's not conscious, there's a boy's club mentality to gaming that ends up making women feel very uncomfortable. On some level it's tempting to pin this all on the lowest common denominator in the fanbase, the same 13 year olds who call me nigger in Call of Duty when I heroically headshot them from across the map. But the reality is that so much of this comes from the top down, starting with the design and implementation of female characters in games and ending up with displays like the tasteless bit of banter at the Killer Instinct demo at the Xbox One keynote at E3 today.
One of the producers of Killer Instinct, a man, got on stage with an Xbox Community Manager, a woman, and proceeded to play Killer Instinct in front of the crowd. He started beating up on her, and then this exchange occured:
"Just let it happen, it'll be over soon."
"Wow, you like this!"
Is that banter scripted? I've seen some who say it is - the guy's mushmouthiness almost makes it plausible - but I think this is just trash talk happening in real time. That this is the trash talk that a man feels comfortable directing at a woman on a stage in front of thousands of people says an awful lot about that man. That people laughed says an awful lot about that crowd.
There's another layer of troubling to this - bringing out a man who worked on the game to beat on a woman (the only woman presenter, I've read, but I did not watch the entire presentation to be sure) feels an awful lot like an attempt to reinforce the 'girls can't play games' elitism that permeates the lower strata of game culture. It seems unlikely that anybody could have held their own against one of the guys who made the game if this was their first time playing, gender be damned. Especially because he has a specialized joystick. Even if the banter wasn't written, the set up was guaranteed to have her lose. If the banter was written this situation is even grosser than it seems.
In some ways this wasn't a big deal. The banter was tasteless, and we don't know how the decision was made as to who would go up against the producer on stage. What makes this a big deal isn't the fact that it happened, but that it's indicative of a larger cancer eating away at the gaming community (and, to be fair, many other geek communities, but it seems most horrible in gaming). This, basically, is what institutionalized misogyny looks like.