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Why do we (gamers) find it so hard to embrace disagreement?

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Anita Sarkeesian has to be one of the most interesting people on the internet. Her video series titled 'Tropes vs. Women in video games' has gained as much support as it has criticism. At the XOXO Festival in Portland, U.S.A., she talked about the abuse she has had to endure in the last month. She stated that perpetrators refer to themselves as 'noble warriors'. In addition to this, it was also said that prominent women on the internet were either 'asking for it or inventing it entirely'. This talk happened shortly after reporting that she was forced out of her home because of a threat made to her and her family. She got a standing ovation twice in a row. There's no denying her ability to bring out the difficult topic of women's representation.

How these people consider themselves noble is beyond me. Anyone on a crusade, or on a mission to undermine others may look at themselves as fulfilling a necessary purpose. That's no justification for threats and insults because of disagreement. We all know that Anita Sarkeesian is outspoken, and has a way of ruffling feathers with her social commentary. Disagreement is bound to happen. Anyone with a different viewpoint to hers is bound to raise an eyebrow after watching an episode of Tropes vs. Women.

Critics and Skeptics also need to get separated from the trouble-makers and rabble-rousers online. Valid criticism and debate needs recognition. There are some examples: She admitted to not knowing about video games and this was tackled in a YouTube video. Sarkeesian said she was not a big gamer despite saying the opposite in other footage. Her statement doesn't impact her ability to analyse social topics effectively. It does bring into question her willingness to understand game development as a whole. Look at 3:37 on the video below, and see how positive criticism and level-headedness should be done.

She cites an example of Mass Effect 3 being essentially the same game when played as a female or male. Bioware's intent with the third sequel was to finalise the game trilogy. That meant tying up loose ends and bringing linearity in an otherwise more open world arrangement. Also, player relationships deepened - and certain partners were not available when choosing either gender. Ashley and Steve Cortez come to mind. Certain partners would never be available for players if they died or if romance plot lines were not pursued in previous games. Garrus Vakarian wouldn't be a love interest, for example, if he wasn't paired up with a female Shepard in the Mass Effect 2. While she has a point that almost all the marketing for Mass Effect featured the male version of Shepard, and that Jennifer Hale's voice acting was far superior to her male counterpart - she never mentioned how differently conversation branched out while playing as a female.

I think that the discussion around Anita Sarkeesian comes down to one thing: Respect for the right to an opinion and an open mind. The example I used earlier about Mass Effect 3 is a clear indicator. She needs to look holistically at the content she's criticising. Less examples. In the same breath, hate-mongerers and trolls need to be aware of the negative image they're creating. Insulting Anita Sarkeesian and others who think like her does not promote fair and just thinking, nor does threatening her. Sadly though, there will always be close-minded behaviour no matter how aware everyone may become.

I'm against all forms of abuse online, no matter how wrong a person is. Unfortunately comments are closed on her YouTube videos (and perhaps rightfully so given the flack she's received), and the only place that debate can really happen is in places away from her own content. As for the Noble Warriors she talks about, well, there's nothing noble about the way some people choose to act. Taking apart facts and proving them wrong while providing positive reinforcement is the only way to bridge the gap that has opened between gamers and prominent social critics like Anita Sarkeesian. Maybe Anita Sarkeesian could be the person we need to show that gamers are people, not separated by gender, lifestyle and sexual orientation. Also, whatever happened to disagreeing while respecting a right to an opinion?

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

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