"Guuurl Gaaamer" bashing and Girlz 'N' Games comic #101

Originally posted on my web comic, Girlz 'N' Games.

“That’s no game...”

But you know what? I think for a lot of people out there in Internet-land it is.

When it comes to online attacks on women in/around gaming, it’s about posting the “smartest”, most insulting and memorable comment.

It’s an antisocial thrill: the online textual equivalent of having sex with a hooker in GTA III and then squashing her with your car immediately afterwards to claim back your cash. It’s morally wrong, obviously, but it’s fun for the “player.” It’s a chance to act out your dark fantasies without consequence because you’re sitting safe and comfy behind your screen.

Except in this case we’re not driving over some blocky, nameless NPC. We’re hit-and-running a real human being, who is also sitting somewhere out there behind a computer screen. Probably hurting over the awful, demeaning comments being directed their way. And it takes something like this – transplanting online-style abuse to the real world – to really highlight how horrible this kind of thing is.

So far in the first 6 months of 2012 there have been 2 high profile, gaming-related attacks on women – the Jennifer Hepler/BioWare incident in February and, most recently, the Anita Sarkeesian/Kickstarter controversy. And personally I've had my own brush with this brand of "infamy."

Now either the media is reporting on this special brand of cyberbullying more frequently or, more worrying, this kind of behaviour is increasing in frequency – and in the process is becoming normalised, accepted and formulaic. For some, cloaked in the anonymity of the Internet, laying into women connected to gaming has become a hobby.

So where has this all come from? Why is it escalating?

Well, in terms of the escalation, I think it’s like most popular forms of entertainment. When the sequel comes around, it has to up the stakes to lure back an easily bored audience always demanding more. Softcore content doesn’t cut it anymore. They have to move on to the hard stuff to still feel something. So the insults get worse; the abuse darker.

In terms of the cause of this violent “Gaaamer Guuuurl” bashing, I suspect part of it has to do with insecurity on the part of an emotionally stunted minority who can’t handle the fact that they’re no longer gaming gods. Gaming has gone mainstream, with women and other “minority” groups embracing the pastime, and becoming a large enough, passionate consumer presence to start demanding that their needs and wants are respected. Sorry to all the disgruntled members of the G.R.O.S.S. Club out there. You’re not “special snowflakes”; your turf is no longer reserved just for you.

And how do these entitled brats act when they’re resistant to sharing? They hog their toys, tantrum, lash out and demean anyone who's not one of them.

Of course, it doesn’t help that online attacks on vocal game-playing women coincide with America’s current “War on the Vag” as Henry Rollins calls it – where conservative US politicians seem more intent than ever on reducing women’s position in society to submissive, silent baby ovens, with no rights; no choices. Again, I think this stems from deep-seated personal insecurity, which has resulted in desperate, weird acts of protectionism.

When it comes to online attacks, unfortunately still the best thing the victim can do is shut up and take the punches because furious retaliation just feeds the flames. All you can do is carry on with your plans, refuse to be deterred and prove the haters wrong.

For the record, I certainly don’t believe that their sex means women deserve an automatic pass when it comes to criticism. Absolutely not. But calling someone a “Jew” and a “terrorist” and a “dumb cunt” and posting fake pornography of them is no way to express your disagreement with what they’re saying/doing. These below-the-belt attempts at character assassination display striking immaturity and no critical substance to be taken seriously.

And frankly, this kind of behaviour is generating a new misconception about gamers that is far more damaging than the popular belief in basement-dwelling, pimply virgins on the brink of a shooting spree. If gamers want to stop being the butt of jokes, and improve their standing in wider society, they certainly shouldn’t be indulging in such miscreant, misogynistic behaviour.

It’s also certainly not fair to the many game-playing men and women I’ve met who are great people: decent, supportive and well-rounded, with a healthy sense of humour and, just as importantly, the ability to express their criticisms articulately without generic personal attacks (for the most part;)).

I will finally add though, to be fair, that anonymous online abuse isn’t only restricted to gamer sectors of the Internet – although that group seems to be getting a lot of press coverage for it at the moment. This marvellous British parody video reveals how widespread this shameful problem has become in all places where online commenting is permitted. It's time to show some decency, humanity.


P.S. If you got a kick out of this Girlz 'N' Games comic, please "Like" the Girlz 'N' Games Facebook page.


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