Monday, July 21, 2014

Gamer Feminism: Misogyny in The Elder Scrolls Online


I'm really proud of my character, though. Check that belt. I made it.

One thing you'll hear about a lot on this blog is video games and gamer culture. And every once in awhile me declaring that I'm not a part of gamer culture because it has yet again absolutely disgusted me. As with every culture that started as a boy's club (and pretty much still is), it's full of misogyny and little boys who are threatened by the presence of women who do not exist for their pleasure.

This is not a new phenomenon. Nor is it one that is steadily improving. I've observed a backslide in the past couple years within the general culture - likely a reaction to feminists pushing for better representation and inclusion in the industry. It's also a reflection of the general culture, which has decided that misogyny and rape jokes are hilarious.

The point is, I've been player The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) lately, and the longer it's been online, the more general misogyny I've noticed coming from the other players. Rape jokes and generally misogynistic jokes in the chat, mostly, but the other day I came out of a town bank to find a male avatar dancing on the dead and naked (as naked as in-game gets, with bra and panties) body of a female avatar. This was obviously deliberately set up, likely by two male players, since dying in town is difficult in the non-PvP standard realm and you have to type /dance to get your character to dance.

The violence of this imagery was pretty astounding. I actually had to log off because I was so disgusted. There are places where I expect to see this kind of thing, but in ESO, I'm not expecting it. When I used to play World of Warcraft a couple years ago, I don't remember seeing anything like that. I don't remember rape jokes in the chat. I got hit on once while playing a female gnome character, and that was weird, but in ESO you can see the effects of normalizing and trivializing rape, misogyny and general male violence against women. People think it's fun and okay to say and do things like this. And escalation doesn't stop there - something I will talk about frequently. "Jokes" easily lead to real violence. Dehumanization has a subconscious effect on the human brain, and the less human you view someone, the easier it is to hurt them.

I've tried reporting a few people for rape jokes but every email reply I get says they can't disclose the outcome of the report, so I have no idea if they're actually doing anything about it.

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