Tag Archives: harassment

Robert Yang on Flappy Bird

This week in online harassment: over the weekend, Flappy Bird developer Dong Nguyen pulled his game from the Apple App Store and Google Play due to harassment from players and games press. If you haven’t heard of it, Flappy Bird is a mobile game in which the player taps the screen to make a bird flap its wings; the goal is to pass through as many narrow gates as possible. Supposedly, one of the reasons gamers were angry about the game is that the graphics–particularly the green pipes that form the gates–were “ripped” from Super Mario. Closer examination reveals that they aren’t actually ripped from the game, but even if they were, that really doesn’t necessitate death threats and harassment.

Game designer Robert Yang has a post up at his blog explaining why this happened:

[T]he internet hate toward Nguyen was, or is, partly racist / first-world biased.

Conceptually, the game resembles an undergraduate game dev student’s class project, though the execution is actually very tightly tuned and well-made. I suspect that if Nguyen were a white American, this would’ve been the story of a scrappy indie who managed to best Zynga with his loving homage to Nintendo’s apparent patent on green pixel pipes and the classic “helicopter cave” game genre.

Instead, Dong Nguyen committed the crime of being from Vietnam, where Electronic Arts or Valve or Nintendo do not have a development office.

Definitely read the whole thing. (The article does not contain examples of the abuse, for those concerned about clicking through.)

An alternate history of Flappy Bird: “we must cultivate our garden” — Robert Yang

Feminists in Games Workshop 2013

From left to right: Rachelle Abelar (of Geek Girl Con), Samantha, Quinnae, Anita Sarkeesian (Feminist Frequency) and Mitu Khandaker (DearAda and TheTiniestShark).

From left to right: Rachelle Abellar (of Geek Girl Con), Samantha, Quinnae, Anita Sarkeesian (Feminist Frequency) and Mitu Khandaker (DearAda.com and The Tiniest Shark).

This past weekend (May 31st to June 1st, 2013), Quinnae and I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the 2nd Annual Feminists in Games Workshop in Vancouver, British Columbia at The Centre for Digital Media. This interdisciplinary workshop brings together a wide array of academics, developers, industry professionals and activists who work on feminist issues in games and technology.

This year, we tripled the attendance of the 1st Annual FiG Workshop. The weekend was also a historic occasion in The Border House history as well because it marked the first time Quinnae and I could meet in person. I could dedicate this entire post to describing how much fun it was to hang out with Quinnae in Vancouver but instead I’ll share a brief run-down of the workshop proceedings!

If I had to select one theme of FiG 2013, it would be this: as feminists in games, we are excited about the exponential growth of our movement over the last year but we are also realizing the need to develop new strategies to deal with increasing amounts of resistance and harassment. As feminist scholars, activists, developers and professionals continue to challenge the medium and the culture surrounding it, others seem to be clinging more firmly than ever to conservative traditions of exclusivity. Continue reading

Kickstart This: GTFO: A Film About Women in Gaming

GTFO is a documentary project by Shannon Sun-Higginson that seeks to cover the experiences of women in game development, game journalism, and pro-gaming. There are a few things I like about this project. While the phrase “women in games” has come to mean a lot of things, the documentary is focusing on interviewing women about the sexism and harassment they face in and around the industry. Also, the film is being made by a self-proclaimed “outsider” to the game industry, which could lend it a fresh perspective. The fact that it is a documentary means it has the potential to reach a wider and different audience than, say, a panel at a convention, which will bring more awareness to the issue.

Sun-Higginson is asking for $20,000 to finish the film. It is more than halfway funded with ten days left. You can read more about the project in an interview with Sun-Higginson at GamesIndustry International.

GTFO: A Film About Women in Gaming — Kickstarter

Privacy and the PS4

Christina González is a TAB bicultural Latina. Growing up as a poor gamer with a disabled mother, she naturally gravitates toward social justice and culture topics, as well as community-related issues. She may be found over at christinagonzalez.net or join the conversation on Twitter at @c_gonzalez

Sony kicked off the year of the new console generation (arguably, as the Wii U came out in the fall) with its splashy press presentation last month for the PlayStation 4’s unveiling. While there is much in common between the PS4 and my current PC, I’m still interested enough in the games and promised features to give Sony my attention this year. However, there were some questions raised in the presentation that don’t seem to have clear answers just yet, even weeks after the fact. With the emphasis on integration of our real information and social networks, onboard immediate sharing, and related experiences, there’s potential cause for concern too.

The PS4’s controller comes with a touchpad and a new button labeled “Share”. This will enable gamers to prepare and immediately send and upload short video clips from the games they are currently playing without having to leave the game or make any effort beyond enabling the function. Other features will let others be able to tune in and watch your gameplay or even step in and take over playing for you. Sony praises all of this and the other social features as being what gamers want as well as connecting people more closely, including the ability to help your friends out when they get stuck somewhere. While this is true and could work well among close friends, this and other features named during the presentation make me wonder if they also serve to open vulnerable groups of people up to harassment.

Whether or not you have been harassed in the past, this new emphasis on openness, connectedness, and abundant sharing all bring up privacy concerns at the very least, and danger at worst. Sony also mentioned the use of real names and photos on profiles, drawn from existing social networks (though likely including PS accounts too). I don’t always want to draw attention to my gender when playing. In some spaces it’s easier than others to encounter those who want to make the game (and what little time I have to play) an unpleasant experience. I think about other people who might not want to use real names and photos. Some of my LGBT friends come to mind, as well as fellow minorities. If you’ve ever been asked “What are you?” or taunted with gendered language, you will understand why I might just want to exist as “GamerX” sometimes rather than “Christina Gonzalez” online. It’s not that I am uncomfortable with myself; I’m not. I am strong in my identity, but sometimes you don’t want to be ‘on’ and wish to be taken as a username and never use voice chat.

On occasion, privacy and anonymity becomes a need more than a want. To a more urgent end, this applies to people that need protection from having their real names visible. Someone being bullied at school. Someone that just got away from an abusive partner. Someone who has escaped abuse or violence shouldn’t have to worry about relaxing on the PlayStation with some games and potentially being found and terrorized again.

I’ve searched and paid special attention when reading about the PS4 to see if the privacy options for the console were detailed, but haven’t really found anything that addresses them. Although some are raising questions about how far the reach of streaming will go and whether it’s only to your friends or to the whole internet. I hope that similar privacy options that exist for sites like Facebook will carry over when accessed via the PS4. I know that I keep my Facebook profile pretty locked down for those I haven’t added. This isn’t because I post top secret information (in fact, you’re more likely to find a few corny jokes and pictures of vanity license plates). I have, however, been online before, hacked, and harassed. Thus I choose to be selective and only add people that I know in some capacity.

It’s a good idea for Sony to get in on social functionality. Brilliant, in fact, since that’s where a lot of gamers are going, especially younger ones who are open to a life lived less privately. The ability to easily connect with others online has been invaluable for many gamers in connecting with others who they may have never met otherwise. Hell, I met my boyfriend via online gaming. These services are part of many of our lives now, but that doesn’t mean caution isn’t needed. However, while it makes sense and is lucrative to market both consoles and information in this way, it is important that Sony’s considerations also include strong privacy options for those vulnerable to harassment, and frankly anyone who wishes to turn all of this off for whatever reason.

Harassment in nerd spaces, and encouraging honesty

by Maddy, originally posted at Metroidpolitan

Maddy writes about video games and geek culture for the Boston Phoenix magazine, and she manages their website. In her free time, she plays the keytar and makes cosplays. She is composing a musical based on the events of Super Metroid, and whenever it is finally done, she will put it on her new website, metroidpolitan.com.

The following piece of writing will tell an old story. It is a prologue to this story that I wrote about local fighting games meet-ups. I wrote most of this before I saw this video about “con creepers”, which has been going around the internet this week. I didn’t want to publish this story before, and I still don’t want to, but it’s an important story.

I hope this story encourages more people to talk seriously about experiences they’ve had at conventions, at gaming meet-ups, at comic book stores, or any other male-dominated spaces that (however unintentionally) end up housing predators and “creepers” who make people feel unwelcome and uncomfortable. People should feel like they can talk about their experiences without having to use jokey euphemisms (“creeper”) or make supposedly-satirical-but-sort-of-serious videos like the one linked above.

“Creepers” aren’t well-meaning men who don’t understand that what they’re doing is wrong or don’t understand that they’re making people uncomfortable. In my experience, “creepers” do know that they’re making women uncomfortable and they don’t care, because in their estimation, women shouldn’t be hanging around “nerd spaces” in the first place.

I attended Anime Boston in 2011. I had a media pass, and I meant to write about the convention for the Phoenix. I did write about it, in fact, but never published what I wrote. I’m going to write a variation on that piece again, now.

Continue reading

Recommended Reading: Ada Lovelace Day Edition

It’s Ada Lovelace Day! If you don’t know, Ada Lovelace Day is a day for celebrating and recognizing women in STEM fields. There ALD website has a directory of articles about women in STEM for today, but there are two things in particular I wanted to draw our readers’ attention to.

The first is a new website called Dear Ada, which launched today. It was founded by Mitu and Emily of Dear Mitu, Dear Emily; Dear Ada is a continuation of that project, opening up a space for anyone/everyone to submit letters on the subject of gender and games. Definitely something to visit regularly. You can submit your own letter by emailing info at dearada dot com.

The second article is not quite related to Ada Lovelace Day, but it is an important piece nonetheless. Over at The Phoenix, Maddy Myers writes about her experiences on the fighting game scene in Boston. It is a long read and quite in-depth. Through her first-hand accounts of fight nights, Myers makes quite clear the pervasive sexism in fighting games and in video game culture at large.

Any interesting articles to recommend, readers? Did anyone write something for Ada Lovelace Day?

Friday Awesome: Jay Smooth on Internet Harassment

This afternoon, the fantastic Jay Smooth released a video about gamer internet harassment, prompted by the harassment of Anita Sarkeesian for her Tropes vs Women in Video Games Kickstarter. The video is embedded below, along with a transcript.

So a couple of weeks ago I made a video about how sometimes internet trolls are sad and annoying, and other times internet trolls are still sad, but also genuinely destructive and dangerous. And this week we’ve had a great example of that second type of trolling with the sexist gamer dude attack on Anita Sarkeesian.

Anita does the web video series named Feminist Frequency–which, if you watch my stuff, you should already be watching hers–and recently she set up a Kickstarter page for a new project looking at the representation of women in video games. And after the Kickstarter page went up, a whole bunch of gamer dudes decided, even though they haven’t heard what her opinion is yet, that the mere idea of this woman presuming to form an opinion about them at some point in the future was so frightening that they had to organize a scorched-earth campaign of harassment and bullying against her. And Anita has handled the whole situation incredibly well, and her project has wound up getting more support and funding than ever, so in this instance, the private army of sexist dudes has only succeeded in proving her right and making her stronger.

But it’s still been an intensely ugly spectacle that raises a whole lot of questions about why this happens so often and why so many dudes think it’s okay to persecute and harass and abuse women online. A lot of these dudes, if you challenge them, will tell you that they don’t have any real feelings about this, and they’re just trolling for the fun of it. That they don’t really hate women, they just think that it’s funny to treat women as if they hate them. And that–I mean, first of all, you’re lying to yourself, there’s clearly more to it than that, and second of all, that doesn’t make it any better! Only someone who hates women and sees them as less than human would even think that’s a meaningful distinction. And I don’t know what I could say that would get through to someone who is so invested in detaching from their own humanity, so I–I’m just going to think about that and come back to it.

And for now, I’m just going to say to everyone else, and especially my fellow dudes, that when you see something like that going on, you–and by you, I mean we–have an obligation to speak out against it more often. It’s really not cool for us to just shrug our shoulders and say, “That’s just 4chan being 4chan.” And it’s REALLY not okay for you to jump in to somebody’s discussion of this harassment and derail it with a bunch of comments about, “But sure, harassment is bad, but men are discriminated against, too! Feminists are always making something out of nothing buh buh buh buh buh!” No, man! Now is not the time for that! If you need to have that debate, there are plenty of other times for that. If you need to show off your debating skills and try to make fetch happen with the misandry thing, there’s plenty of other times for that. If you want to debate Anita Sarkeesian’s critiques of video game culture, there’s plenty of times for that, like for example, after she makes the critiques.

But none of that stuff is the issue right now. The issue right now is the bullying and abuse and harassment that she’s facing. And you should recognize that harassment is wrong and that’s what matters right now, regardless of your political position on “misandry” and men’s rights and bluh bluh bluh bluh bluh. This kind of abuse and harassment matters, and when it happens in our corner of the internet, we need to treat it like it matters. We need to speak up and let them know that we’re not impressed by how edgy and fearless they are. That we think it’s pathetic that they really think that sandwich joke is funny. That when you bully and harass a woman for speaking her mind, all you do is show us that you’re afraid of that woman’s voice, and you don’t think you can beat her intellectually without using a cheat code. No matter what scene on the internet is your scene, if you are a dude on the internet, and you see other dudes in your scene harassing women or transgender people or anyone who is outside of our little privileged corner of the gender spectrum, we need to speak up. We need to treat this like it matters. We need to add some extra humanity into our scene to counteract their detachment from their humanity.

This Week In Harassment

The Tropes vs Women in Video Games logo along with a bunch of female game characters.

Friend of the blog Anita Sarkeesian of the awesome Feminist Frequency is the latest target of a harassment campaign by misogynist gamers. She has written about the wave of harassment she has received via KickStarter, YouTube, and the vandalizing of her Wikipedia page. The methods are disturbing, but familiar. This is all in response to her KickStarter project Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, a series of videos for her Tropes vs. Women series that will focus on games. As of this writing, the project has over 2,000 backers and raised nearly $50,000, well over the original target of $6,000.

It’s nice that the number of backers doubled once news of the harassment campaign started getting around. But the video game community needs to do more. It’s well past time for the video game community to own up to and condemn the fact that there is a subset of us dedicated to organized mob harassment of people who criticize games in any way, but particularly when it comes to social issues like misogyny, racism, and homophobia. It’s time to stop rolling our eyes about how awful gamers and nerds are. We are gamers and nerds, and this is our community. If you know someone who is involved in this sort of thing, tell them that it’s not cool. Condemn this sort of behavior on forums, on Twitter, wherever you have a voice. If you don’t feel safe doing those things, then don’t (safety is most important), but if you can, speak up. This is a perfect way for allies who want to do more to do so. Let harassers know they are the ones who aren’t welcome in video games, not the people who make thoughtful criticism out of love for the medium. Games don’t belong to them, and the community has no need for people who harass and try to silence criticism.

And by the way, there’s still time to back the project.

“Not Okay”: MovieBob on Sexism and Harassment in Nerd Culture

In another great video, MovieBob at The Escapist has a pretty great breakdown about bigotry and harassment in nerd and video game culture. He debunks a few common excuses for harassment, and points out that, while gamers fear actual censorship from politicians, excusing bigotry just gives folks like Jack Thompson ammunition. You can watch the video below or at this link, and I’ve provided a transcript below the video. Enjoy.

The Big Picture with MovieBob

“Not Okay”

As much as possible, I try to have a good time doing this show, even though I know for a fact I’m potentially cheating myself out of viewers, and thus also possibly traffic and ratings, by doing so. I know, for example, that the most popular and widely-circulated episodes of The Big Picture tend to be the ones where I take on some controversial position [image: PETA logo] or take one myself. But honestly I have a much happier time at “work” doing shows about weird movies or obscure old cartoons, or whatever. But sometimes it’s unavoidable. I run into something that hits me really, really hard, and I can’t ignore the opportunity to weigh in on it. Particularly when I don’t see my would-be position well-represented or when it brings up a bigger issue that I’ve been ruminating on already. Such is the case for today, which is a long-form way of me saying this probably isn’t going to be much of a fun or funny episode of this show, and for that I’m regretful. Life, unfortunately, is not all fun and games.

So today I want to talk about sexism in nerd culture, particularly in gaming culture, a topic which I am certain will bring about only the most reasonable, thoughtful, and mature responses [images: mobs with pitchforks and torches]. Eh, right?

So, Capcom, a company which at this point must have a small heart attack every time a word ending in -ist is mentioned anywhere near it [image: Sheva from RE5 in her bodypaint and leopard bikini outfit], has been streaming the competitive gaming reality show called Cross Assault as part of the promotion for the new Street Fighter x Tekken game. During a recent online televised match, a team coach named Aris Bahktanians began aggressively berating the female contestant he was supposed to be coaching with what can only be described as escalating sexual harassment. I’m not going to run the video or the audio here because it’s, well, vile [words on screen: Ultimately, the young woman in question chose to forfeit her participation in the event; the situation having become too uncomfortable. If that does not sadden and/or INFURIATE you, check your batteries.], and because I’m sure you can find it around if you want to see what the fuss is about.

Since this is a. The Internet, and b. The Internet is increasingly and thankfully no longer operating under the exclusive control and/or to the exclusive betterment of entitled, socially insulated, angst-driven, resentful young men, when the video of the harassment went viral, Bahktanians found himself the subject of criticism, which, you’ll be shocked to learn, he did not respond to in a manner most would consider graceful. Although, for the record, he did issue an apology, ultimately [screen provides URL for the apology: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/g65iqn]. When a twitch.tv community manager asked him in a conversation about the event whether it was reasonable for the expanding audience and participation pool of competitive fighting games to ask that the general atmosphere of the community not include sexual harassment [on screen: "Can I get my Street Fighter without sexual harassment?" - Jared Rea, twitch.tv], he had this to say: “You can’t. You can’t because they’re one and the same thing. This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20 years old, and sexual harassment is part of a culture, and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community–it’s StarCraft.” Wow.

I think what I like best about that asinine statement is that he had to get the fanboy dig in at a supposed rival part of competitive gaming, using “StarCraft” as a kind of in-community curse word the way American talk radio guys [image: Glenn Beck] use “European.” Stay classy, bro.

I don’t think I need to add anything else to this particular incident; that it speaks to the continued infection of too much of modern gaming by a strain of paranoid male entitlement and a vicious, anxiety-fueled hatred of women, should be obvious on its face. But I am kind of fascinated by the thesis of the guy’s central argument, ie. that his behavior should be acceptable because he considers it to be part of the fighting game community’s identity. Mostly because it’s the same thesis that tends to be used to justify damn near every incident of sexism, racism, homophobia, etc, that pops up in the world of internet geek culture, a culture that paradoxically defines itself my a shared experience of social marginalization, but can often be observed practicing just as much insular conformity within its own borders.

How often have we heard that sexism, misogyny, or casual racism in this or that community is just part of how things are there? And how any insinuation that this supposed default status might be a bad thing is violently shrugged off? Particularly, my favorite variation on this theme, “Aw, come on man, this is like the last place where it’s okay for guys to talk like this.” As though some kind of sacred tradition is being preserved by not calling bullies out on their bullying. Hey, uh, genius? Lean your ears up real close. [Through a megaphone:] THERE SHOULDN’T BE ANY PLACE WHERE IT’S OKAY. BECAUSE IT’S NOT OKAY.

It’s not okay to harass women. It’s not okay to “slut shame.” It’s not okay to hurl racist or homophobic slurs as a form of verbal violence. It’s not okay to use rape as a casual synonym for defeat. And it’s really not okay that I have to explain that to anybody.

I do not accept the premise that sexual harassment, misogyny, and bigotry or hatred of any kind is somehow integral to the fighting game community or any other community in video games or anywhere else. But if such a community does exist, yeah, it’s wrong and should be called out as such and disinfected via sunlight.

Of course, this inevitably will draw responses about free speech and the First Amendment from people who do not understand either of those things. Free speech as a legal concept only guarantees you the right to speak. It doesn’t guarantee you the right to be heard, it doesn’t guarantee you the right to be agreed with, it certainly doesn’t guarantee you the right for your speech to not be challenged by someone else’s speech, and most importantly of all, it doesn’t mean you can’t suffer consequences if and when your free speech is used to cause harm to someone. Which is exactly what sexual harassment, racial slurs, and verbal bigotry are. That’s not censorship. That’s fairness.

The only thing that makes me angrier than the continued presence of this stuff in the nerd culture in general and gaming culture specifically is the resistance to having a serious conversation about it. Obviously most gamers are good people, and the bad apples represent a vocal but small minority. But whenever stuff like this comes up, it feels like gaming as a whole would rather just disappear into the memory hole than seriously confront it. “Why are we even talking about this?” being the near-constant refrain. And I understand why that is. Gamers are under constant scrutiny by an unfriendly media [image: screenshot of Geoff Keighley's appearance on Fox News talking about Mass Effect] and cynical political operators [image: Joe Lieberman] ready to pounce on any misbehavior. But you know what? We’re winning that fight. And one of the ways we keep winning is to prove that we deserve the serious, grown-up status slowly being confirmed upon our medium by not letting this crap fester in our ranks. Leland Yee, Joe Lieberman, and Jack Thompson don’t win when we admit that there are problems within the gaming community. They win when we fail to address those problems.

I’m Bob, and that’s the big picture.


An Incredibly Brave Story of Cyberbullying and Harassment

I only have a few seconds to post this, because I am in the lobby of GDC getting ready for the Independent Games Festival Awards.  I read this article by an occasional guest poster and full-time friend of ours, Apple Cider Mage, and absolutely had to post it.

In this intensely personal recount of her experiences of being harassed to the point of going to authorities by someone she met in World of Warcraft, Apple Cider Mage brings the reader into the dark, scary, and anxiety-filled space that she occupies day after day, being a feminist blogger and gamer.  Please take this trigger warning along with you, but comment and leave her your support.  Voices like hers need to be heard.

[Learned Helplessness:  A Cage Called Harassment] by Apple Cider Mage