It's that time of year again! Time is filling out their 100 Most Influential People list, and a familiar name from the intersection of feminism and video games has made cut. Described as a "a feminist for the digital age" in a brief introduction by actor and noted geek-about-town Wil Wheaton, Anita Sarkeesian made the Time 100 on Thursday, placing her among world leaders, doctors and scientists. So why not celebrate with 7 of Anita Sarkeesian's best videos? It's a distinct honor, after all, and one that she's alone in holding within the world of video games – as noted by VentureBeat, no one else in the entire video game industry cracked the list.
And if you've never seen some of her work, well, you should! She's had a following on YouTube for quite a while, producing crisp, feminist-oriented analyses of popular culture, movies, music and the like dating back to 2009. It wasn't until she forayed into the world of sexism in video games in 2013, however, that her visibility increased dramatically. Making smart, cogent videos critical of a number of repetitive sexist tropes in video games, she became the target of non-stop criticism, harassment and horrifying threats. It's a maelstrom that's sadly got nothing to do with the content or quality of her ideas, which by and large are all plainly, politely stated and eminently well-reasoned. You could look at it this way: you know Gamergate? Well, the treatment she's received over the last 2+ years could be pretty aptly described as "proto-Gamergate."
So, what's Sarkeesian achieved in the gaming realm? Here are some of her greatest hits from the last couple of years – whether discussing the tired damsel-in-distress model in gaming, violence against women, or getting personal on how the experience has impacted her, she's always an engaging and essential view.
Tropes vs. Women In Video Games
This is the big one, obviously – the Kickstarter-funded video series for which Sarkeesian is most famous. And for good reason! They're slickly-produced, highly informative, and they provide a compelling look at feminist theory in games that I don't think has ever been done better.
Her series is broken up into different, overarching topics. The first three videos (first episode above) zero in on the history of female characters as rote, reductive damsels. She also covers the phenomenon of "Ms. Male Characters," when some games try to feign diversity by slapping a ribbon of a pink color scheme on an originally male character template.
The next two episodes, titled "Women As Background Decoration," get a great deal darker and more disturbing at points, so consider this a warning: you should exercise your best judgment about watching, because violence against women is rather easy to find in countless top-dollar games.
And finally, her most recent offering, one sure to rankle critics who accuse her of never talking up positive examples of female characters – a salute to The Scythian, the woman protagonist of Superbrothers: Sword and Sorcery EP.
25 Invisible Benefits Of Gaming While Male
Ever wonder how playing games might be a different experience for women than for men? Feminist Frequency's 25 Invisible Benefits Of Gaming While Male shines a light on some pretty good examples. Here are a few highlights (full text available here):
- I can publicly post my username, gamertag or contact information online without having to fear being stalked or sexually harassed because of my gender.
- I will never be asked to “prove my gaming cred” simply because of my gender.
- When I go to a gaming event or convention, I can be relatively certain that I won’t be harassed, groped, propositioned or catcalled by total strangers.
- When purchasing most major video games in a store, chances are I will not be asked if (or assumed to be) buying it for a wife, daughter or girlfriend.
Her 2014 Game Developer's Conference Ambassador Award Speech
Sarkeesian took home this exciting honor after the 2014 GDC in San Francisco, presented by The Last Of Us's Neil Druckman. It was later revealed that her appearance on the GDC stage was a considerable act of courage, as Kotaku reported months later that the venue had received a bomb threat over her award.
Telling Us What She Couldn't Say
Speaking before a crowd at the Sydney Opera House in Australia, as part of their All About Women program, Sarkeesian discussed the emotional toll that the years of threats and harassment have taken on her – imagine being recognized at the store and having to ask the person not to tell anyone where they saw you, as an example – and expressed what she felt she couldn't say about as succinctly as it gets: "fuck you."
Image: Feminist Frequency/YouTube