If you haven’t heard of the recent events of what has been dubbed “Gamergate,” check out this article from the New Yorker which does a great job explaining what has happened. I won’t go into the details of the events; you can check out the news for that. I want to approach these recent events from a different perspective.
Let me start by saying that I do applaud Sarkeesian for her videos and her courage in making this argument. While I think she could’ve had more depth in her analysis and used more current evidence, much of what she says is true. Female characters have traditionally held certain types of roles in video games. Although, this may be more a symptom of the problem rather than a cause, but that’s beside the point. If you want to watch her videos, which I recommend so you can actually understand what the fuss is about, you can check them out on her YouTube channel.
I think what’s being missed in this discourse, however, is the insights and opportunity offered by the unusually violent nature of the outrage against Sarkeesian. Without knowing the identities of the people involved in making the bomb threats, death threats, and other various violent threats against Sarkeesian, I can only speculate that they are somehow affiliated with gaming or the gamer community. One would expect this sort of response from certain militant groups, but I don’t know that anyone expected videos about sexism in video games to lead to this sort of rejoinder in this country. This is more than the usual cultural backlash which occurs in social media when feminist activism gains popularity. It’s actually quite remarkable. While I do feel quite badly for Sarkeesian, I also wonder if these events have inadvertently given us a window into a festering psychological problem that exists within the gamer community.
Why is it that the subject of video games resulted in this particularly violent response? Why haven’t other prominent feminists who have gained media attention been targeted with the violent zeal that seems to characterize those who are responding to Sarkeesian’s work? While no violence has actually happened yet, the recent history of school shootings tells us that such discourse should not be taken lightly because there are those who will act upon it. I’m curious to think if there if there are multiple people in the gamer community on the edge of committing violent crimes. I wonder if mental health problems are more highly concentrated in this particular group of people. It’s troubling that one arena of feminist discourse, out of so many, has resulted in a violent response. Abortion is the only other topic relating to women that inspires this kind of retaliation in this country, but the community responsible for that has clearly defined itself.
It seems that this may warrant further investigation. There may be a particular personality type that is prone to committing large scale violent crimes, and there may be a central gender or sex related trigger behind it. We may have accidentally stumbled upon a hot bed, and that stumble may allow us to address what could be a significant mental health problem in this country, a problem previously hidden from the wider public eye.