video games, #GamerGate, handheld, young girlThe #GamerGate campaign has made multiple news headlines, but it can be somewhat difficult to understand. For many video game players, the topic is a polarizing subject. So what’s it about, and how did it begin?

As an avid gamer, I wanted to find out.

It turns out that the movement formed at the expense of a woman and would continue at the expense of many women and girls. Game developer and mental health advocate Zoe Quinn was targeted by an ex-boyfriend who intended to discredit her work. His tirade started a misogynistic movement on social media called #GamerGate that would target women within the world of video games and beyond.

This large-scale act of cyber-bullying by countless men (and sadly, sometimes women) targeted women journalists, game developer Brianna Wu and her family, pop culture critic Anita Sarkeesian, and other female individuals, groups, and allies. Along with Wu and Quinn, Sarkeesian has received rape and death threats after she began a series of YouTube videos called Tropes vs Women in Video Games (mature content warning).

ABC News covered the story:

What’s necessary and important to understand is that this affects everyone, whether you are a gamer or not and whether you are male, female, or otherwise.

According to the 2014 Entertainment Software Association’s “Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry,”  59% of Americans play video games. Out of those gamers, 48% are female. Women make up approximately half the market for this booming business, yet fictional representations of women are consistently portrayed in negative ways within video games. Female characters are often damsels in distress or background decorations (mature content warning) instead of developed and important individuals. This is a harmful misrepresentation of women (mature content warning).

So what should you do about this — gamer or not, female or not? Check out some of my suggestions below:

  1. Don’t be discouraged. No matter who you are, you have a right to play (or to not play) video games.
  2. Do report any harassment. Don’t respond to bullies. Always think of your safety and that of others first.
  3. Don’t harass other people and don’t perpetuate negative stereotypes about women (or anyone).
  4. Do support women and girls who play video games.
  5. Don’t condone violence and sexual assault (even against fictional characters in video games).
  6. Do support video game developers that have multi-faceted women protagonists and antagonists featured in their games.

Remember, video games have a cultural influence, which in turn affects us. Women should be just as valued as men. So play hard, but play fair.

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