When it comes to examining gender feminism and video games, two things need to be separated.
Firstly, the hostile reaction of some people towards what gender feminists are saying when exercising their unquestioned right to freedom of speech; and secondly, the legitimate criticism of the ideas expressed by those same gender feminists.
The hostile reaction I’m referring to is the sexist harassment, death threats and public distribution of personal information, particularly the vitriol directed at prominent critics, such as Zoë Quinn and Feminist Frequency's Anita Sarkeesian.
Of course, this indefensible misogyny pollutes the level of discourse that’s required to have a serious dialogue about sexism in video games. To have that serious dialogue, we need to put these attacks aside and concentrate on the substance of these feminists' arguments.
What's particularly interesting is how eagerly the mainstream media supports feminist critics of the allegedly "toxic masculine culture in video games," while dismissing anyone who critiques liberal agendas as a ranting "crackpot theorist."
For example: Last year, The Guardian published an opinion piece titled, "'Cultural Marxism': A uniting theory for rightwingers who love to play the victim." In that piece, Jason Wilson lampooned what he called "random blokes on YouTube" for invoking "the spectre of 'cultural Marxism'” to account for things they disapprove of..."
However, a few months later, The Guardian’s Jessica Valenti was quick to refer to Anita Sarkeesian’s YouTube series analysing and denouncing alleged misogyny in video games as "smart" and "incisive."
This is just one example of the way each side of the Gamergate debate are portrayed in the media.
Let's consider another example of this double standard. When mass murderer Anders Breivik blabbers on about National Socialism in his paranoid manifest, we suspect he needs psychological help (and a long time in prison to think about what he’s done.)
But when gender feminism offers its own conspiratorial theory -- about how video games universally support the patriarchy by promoting sexism and the misogynistic oppression of women -- why do serious people seem to take note? Especially when very little evidence is provided for such claims.
At this juncture, some will object that this analogy is an attempt to "knock down a straw man" because Breivik promoted violence and hatred, whereas radical feminist critics of the patriarchy promote "egalitarian values."
In other words, how dare I compare the ideological position of Anders Breivik to gender feminism. However, such critics have clearly forgotten who shot Andy Warhol. His attacker was radical feminist Valerie Solanas, who advocated the elimination of the male sex and promoted "anti-patriarchal" ideals.
These days, Solanas continues to be read and studied in academia. Thank God Breivik never will be -- but isn't Solanas' legitimacy a strange state of affairs, in what is supposedly our evil, all powerful patriarchal state.
Sociopathic tendencies are not limited to certain ideologies, and invoking a "how dare you compare X with Y?" argument is rarely fruitful. However, my real point is this: throughout history, people have made extraordinary claims.
Regardless of political position or ideology, these extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Today, however, extraordinary claims are rarely treated with such scepticism, especially by today’s media.
I don’t believe in, or see any explicitly convincing evidence for, any grand conspiratorial agenda on either side of the political spectrum in the West. These "grand theories" often correlate individuals and groups who are pushing the same objective, be it in public policy or economic growth. Now, when it comes to video games, it’s the latter, I’m afraid.
Quite simply, video game designers and producers are capitalists who are in that business for the money, nothing more -- and certainly not to produce propaganda for "the patriarchy."
Whilst this outcome doesn’t suit the narrative of gender oppression, it’s a conclusion reached simply through the process of Occam's Razor:
"Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected."
Arguably, you could say the statement "video games make money because they satisfy our desire to be entertained" requires fewer assumptions than saying, as might feminist critics, "Video games make money because they present a world informed by patriarchal views, one that appeals to their target audience of angry disenfranchised males." But in fact, we know the latter argument isn’t true because evidence suggests just as many women play video games as men.
Either way, critics of gender feminism are not obligated to prove that video games aren’t sexist.
You could ask, "Why not?" but that suggests that the burden of proof lies not with the person making the claim, but with the critics of the claim. It’s a classic example of fallacious reasoning; even a reluctance to disprove the feminist’s claim does not render that claim valid.
It is often said that some of the feminist criticism of video games is hard to swallow, but that’s only because the meal was never designed to be chewed on. Like a brand of "miracle "weight-loss shakes, you were never meant to go looking too closely at the nutritional information, and you certainly weren’t meant to go out and look for empirical evidence of their extraordinary claims.