Last week, the Technique ran a piece titled “Gamers divided over the Sarkeesian feminism debate.” The piece brought up some interesting points about one of gaming’s most controversial figures: media critic Anita Sarkeesian.
As a casual gamer and a male feminist, I understand the ideas behind Sarkeesian’s criticism. I am annoyed by the lack of strong female leads in many video games, though this is slowly turning around. The blatant sexualization of women in many games is infuriating.
When I first heard of Sarkeesian, I thought that she was fantastic. Then, I watched her videos and spent time doing research on her.
In 2012, Sarkeesian started a Kickstarter campaign, to raise $6,000 so that she could pay for video games and fund production for a set of videos that would criticize gender tropes in video games. Within a day, Sarkeesian hit her initial goal. She went on to raise $150,000.
Sarkeesian missed her first deadline with no concrete explanation. While I was mildly skeptical when I found this out, I was absolutely stunned after watching a few of her videos.
Sarkeesian’s in-game footage is almost exclusively stolen from several YouTubers’ “Let’s Play” tutorial videos. Sarkeesian gave no credit or notice to the video creators. When several commenters began to accuse her of plagiarism, Sarkeesian disabled the comments and like/dislike options on her videos.
Some other critics accused Sarkeesian of exploiting Kickstarter. Sarkeesian, who admitted in a 2010 interview that she doesn’t even play video games, could not have possibly spent $150,000 on buying games and “production” when she simply took clips from other people’s videos.
When implored by critics and supporters alike to produce just one piece of documentation explaining how she spent the money, Sarkeesian refused.
Even when one ignores Sarkeesian’s problems with theft, it is impossible to take her examples seriously. Though Sarkeesian’s actual message may have value, her dishonest talking points shatter her credibility.
Sarkeesian’s tirade on Assassin’s Creed, for example, centers on the portrayal of courtesans in the series, but it ignores both the powerful role courtesans have in the games and the series’ general portrayal of women. Courtesans teach the protagonist important skills and save his life on multiple occasions. Moreover, the series includes several vibrant, strong female characters, including Caterina Sforza, Rosa and Claudia Auditore. Sarkeesian’s other videos contain similar lies by omission, and watching them is genuinely frustrating.
Sarkeesian, who is currently under an FBI investigation for faking death threats against herself, is the worst thing to happen to feminism in the gaming world. While she definitely does not deserve all of the violent hate she gets, Sarkeesian’s methods are misleading, clumsy and infuriating.