A Gap in Representation


Article By Zoe Howard

Gamers and games have been subjected to scrutiny over the decades for more reasons than most care to admit. From the “dumbing of our nation’s youth” of the late 80s to the question of violence which started with Mortal Kombat 1 and has continued to this day, not only are the games called into question but the characters of those who play such video games. Over the last year the gamer world was shaken once again by the Gamer Gate fiasco. Unfortunately; as it often happens; the mainstream media has taken its own stance on a world they know nothing about.

It would be simple just to start discussing the instances of gamer gate, but in all honesty it boils down to three types of people. One- Those who want attention or to gain some sort of notoriety. Two- those who were fighting for a cause only to find it manipulated beyond their control, and Three-(possibly the worst) the trolls of the internet to unite in rage and scream and yell because why? it’s what they do best. Let’s be honest. Anyone who actually read up on gamer gate quickly brushed it off, realizing the reason it started was flimsy to say the least.

The reason I am discussing this now is the implications it has had on main stream media. Media outlets allowed the mean spirited yelling and bickering among those who debated the subject to take a real effect not only on the internet but the gaming world. The gaming world was seen as a anti-women misogynistic realm where you better be one of the boys or get out. In reality it is nothing like that. There will be those types in all walks of life. Gaming is no different.

My focus point to writing this article is the abomination that was the gamer episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. While it is not a show I have ever seen before, I had to watch the episode that surrounded itself in the world of gaming. When you are part of a community you want to know how it is being represented in mainstream media. The short version, I was completely disgusted.

The show was centered around a female game developer who was being harassed and threatened by gamer boys to the point they actually did what they were threatening. One of her female associates is attacked in the restroom of a gaming convention and that brings in our heroes to solve the crime. The situation in the show escalates (as TV dramas must do) to the point these men are clearly painted as psychotic and unstable to say the least.

This created an issue that is not so far beyond plausible as well it created good drama. While this did it job effectively it was taken out of reality almost immediately by the character who was just attacked. When the cop approached her in the bathroom and asked what happened. Her response had her turn profile into the camera as she simply told the female cop they leveled up. This is not how anyone speaks. What this does is allow the non gamers who watch to be weary of anyone who uses game lingo.

What’s worse is how the police deal with the whole thing incident from the get go. One of the characters stating she can’t tell one nerd from the next. Ice-T even says during an interrogation that the woman’s description of a pale white thin man describes 80% of the people at the convention. From what I saw of the people portrayed at the shows convention this isn’t even accurate. it just further allows the audience to build up a stereotype to be mindful and scared of.

While mean people like this do exist in the real world the show did nothing to point out that this is unstable for any person to do, gamer or otherwise. It let the viewers rely of the fact that they were gamers to prove the instability of the three men, so much so they were using gaming lingo (badly mind you) to explain what the men were doing. Assaulting a woman in a restroom isn’t leveling up. Raping a woman isn’t leveling up and the final level is NOT killing someone. Generally speaking, no gamer would ever think this way. Quite the opposite. Most hardcore gamers are quite aware of the difference between the game world and the real world. So why present gamers in this light on TV?

Is it because it made for good drama? Not really. using the game lingo to portray these acts of violence did nothing but separate the regular viewer from the idea of understanding gamers. It allows the average (non-gamer) viewer to associate those of us who do game as these types of insane obsessed maniacs. The only people portrayed in any good light were the game developers being attacked and Ice-T’s character who in his down time plays violent video games. Even his character falls to the shows stereotype of, yeah, gamers are messed up. He is questioned as to why he would even game being a grown man and a cop. His response is however acceptable. He did a decent job explaining how it made his character feel personally and how it was a way of letting loose.

No Gamers were shown to help. The fact swatting was brought into a episode which was essentially about gamer gate did nothing, but add to the fear of gamers. They even made note to repeat they couldn’t trust calls coming in about the case because they had swatters already proven to call them with hoaxes.

I believe the worst offence of them all was the videos being left by the attackers. The videos were styled in the way Anonymous does their videos. The difference? Anonymous does not go after random people and they (as far as I know) do NOT condone violence against women.

In the end the day is saved by Ice-T using video game strategy to outsmart the devious gamers. Ok, so what did we all learn? Gamers are psychotic unless they become police? I understand the subject matter they were trying to convey, even if they took it to a degree that is so far fantastic that you would have better luck witnessing lady liberty moonwalking across Manhattan. In a show that I am sure is only watched by middle to upper age suburban people this, is a gross misrepresentation of gamers as a whole.

I have discussed the climactic ending a few times and found it receives a bit of a mixed reaction. The final rooftop confrontation with the gamers is partially shot using first person shooter style camera. I have found everyone has their interpretation of this scene. I myself felt it was the culmination of the shows efforts to show the blurring between video games and reality. Personally I wish they hadn’t done this. It felt like they were telling the audience seeing this point of view and how gamers see it is bad. It could simply be they were showing how such matters feel when the perspective is in the hands of the shooter. Again, this part is really open to interpretation.

It has been proven time and time again that those who are more unstable and prone to such issues will do so without the help of outside stimulation. Yet it is always brought back to some form of media telling us it is entertainment’s fault. Books have been through this, movies have been through this, and pretty much since their release to the public some 40 years ago video games have been under constant fire.

Would I be upset at the show if they had taken a more intelligent look at the issue? Not at all. They are welcome to use what has come before in the news to write stories for their show. But to know it was done so ineptly and dangerously is a disservice to not only gamers but those who regularly watch the show. I summed up the entire experience in a question.

Was it really their intent to put a deep gash and create trust issues between gamers and non gamers? If so, they did a brilliant job. Again, I have never seen this show before so I can’t speak on how they deal with other issues, but this one was an utter failure as far as any equal representation goes.

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