Here at TR, we’re raptors, not parrots. With that setting the tone, let’s continue.
This is my take on the recent events surrounding a survey and the sites that published the findings who have done so without question.
As you readers may be aware, there has been a recent trend of reporting about teenaged boys who are down with ending sexism in gaming several days ago. Particularly, focus on a 13 year old boy simply known as Theo. While this sounds great on paper, how genuine is such a claim versus how much is spin? It’s not unusual for children to be coerced into saying things they don’t truly understand for the sake of appeasing an adult’s ego.
Here’s the quote of the now infamous eighth-grader who enjoys Mortal Kombat:
If women are objectified like this it defeats the entire purpose of fighting, I would respect the [female] character more for having some dignity.
A couple of things stand out. If the message is teenage boys are against sexism in gaming, is it wise to prop a kid up who could be mistaken for implying that women need to be a certain way before they are respected as people? For that matter, what eighth grade boy uses terms like objectified? Something about this comes off as disingenuous, or at the very least, a tad suspect.
Next up is the game Theo is into: Mortal Kombat. Not to go all Jack Thompson, but a 13 year old really shouldn’t be playing M rated games in the first place. I’ve played the original back in the day and graphics now are a hell of a lot more detailed. I’ll say this, any character that can go toe to toe with the guys in a fight to the death is worthy of respect regardless of how much aggressive cleavage she has.
Moving along, something else stuck out about these sites publishing this survey: they all had a similar tone. After a successful AMA, I’ve decided to check out Reddit to see if anyone was discussing these articles and sure enough, they were. On the /r/KotakuInAction subreddit, there is a thread that contains archives to all the articles hammering this message home. Some supporters of GamerGate see this as “Gamers Are Dead 2.0,” but I don’t quite see it that way. At least, not on the same grand scale as the former was a clear collaborated move.
Whether it was collusion to push a narrative or reporting on an interesting story, you readers can be the judge of that. Multiple sites running the same story doesn’t confirm any conspiracies, but it’s certainly a coincidence that can not be ignored. For another perspective, The Escapists own Lizzy Finnegan has done a wonderful piece on this survey with her own take over at Average Joe.
I’m not denying the existence of boys who do genuinely object to women being sexualized in video games. What I am saying is an online survey isn’t exactly concrete proof of teenagers across the nation suddenly finding sexualization of women to be problematic. I’ve been there. I’ve been a hormonal teenaged boy once upon a time. Forgive me if I have my doubts teenaged boys now are offended by scantily clad women in droves the way the media is making it out to be. On top of this, proxy rigging an online survey isn’t difficult if you were really determined to skew results. We have no proof how many who took this survey were taken by the targeted demographic or how many responders only responded once and that’s an issue. Take these results with a grain of salt.
In order for data to be considered credible, you would need a large enough pool with extensive documentation. Of course, this is an ideal situation, but one to definitely strive for if you want accuracy in your findings. Without any form of verification, an online poll is just that. There’s no way to confirm if everyone polled actually fit into the targeted demographic or not, especially factoring in anonymity on the Internet. Sure, 1,400 students were subjected, but one small pool and an online poll does not a revolution make. It’s unknown how many “hip” with the “tubular lingo” 30 year olds did tamper with the final numbers.
Is it fair to say this was Wiseman’s intent to fool the public? Not exactly. More so the fault of many publications misrepresenting the purpose of the survey. In a response to TIME following days after the flood of what you could consider shoddy journalism, Wiseman gave a statement of what the purpose of the survey actually was. It was never her intent to use these results as a means to showcase teenaged boys now disliked 3D rendered breasts or to be used as ammo by opponents of the movement GamerGate.
Here’s a snippet to explain what the survey was actually about:
In a recent opinion piece I wrote for TIME magazine, I shared information from a survey I conducted with my colleagues and Ashly Burch. There are some in the gaming community who have questioned how the survey was implemented and our results so we wanted to describe our process here.
We stated at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and in the TIME article that this survey was exploratory or a “convenience” sample that was meant to generate conversations and encourage others in the field to continue this research in more thorough ways. We have never claimed that this is a rigorous academic survey, nor that it should be treated as such —
You’ve read that correctly. While the method itself was sloppy due to the anonymous nature of relying on Surveymonkey, the survey was never intended to be taken at face value. The purpose was to encourage others to do similar studies, perhaps studies that are better controlled. All of the blame can’t be shifted on Wiseman by gamers who didn’t approve of the survey. Imagine if you or a friend made a straw poll about the breast physics on the latest Dead Or Alive with the intent of finding out how many were okay with them and how many thought they should be toned down. Now imagine if many major publications took that data and ran stories with the message of “more men are becoming aware of sexism in video games and are on the side of feminists.” … yeah, that twisted vibe is what readers worldwide got.
Not everything is in black and white. It’s good that there are teenage boys out there who find objectification of women to be a negative thing. However, this is an issue that extends beyond video games. Cat calling random women on the street? That’s creepy, don’t do that. Do the same for an adult actress such as Mercedes Carrera? She’ll probably be flattered. See? Not everything in life is so cut and dry good or bad! We mustn’t forget that facts and interpretation aren’t always the same thing.
Now that we’ve established there are two sides to every story, I want to address something I’ve noticed reading the various comment sections. On one hand, we have people cheering on the results of this survey. On the other, there are those trying to chastise full grown adults in a “ah hah, gotcha!” sort of way for not agreeing with the publications that ran the story. One element that I believe was sorely neglected was factoring in game ratings. Not every video game has them (especially the one that kindled the fire), but for the ones that do, some games were clearly marketed to young adults and not children.
If teens were making the point of being uncomfortable with sexualized female characters in games aimed at their demographic, fine, that is a valid topic of discussion. However, M rated games and above were never intended for children, and thus any complaint from children should be rendered irrelevant. Unrated games are more open for interpretation, which can lead to confusion for some consumers. In this case, the initial outcry came from Kate Upton being the face of Game Of War.
Many teenaged boys and men (girls too) looking at this advert will see an attractive woman clearly using her looks to sell a product and be totally okay with this. If we’re focusing exclusively on the monetary aspect, not a bad way to make $1mil on the first day! Not that this practice is a new phenomenon—it’s been around for forever. Men are used for bodies as well; have you not seen the Old Spice commercials? Terry Crews is huge! It’s called advertising for a reason. People of both genders that have features considered attractive will be the face of products to push them; it has nothing to do with sex, just sex appeal.
Sometimes we get carried away as a people when we see something that we want to see. The method of data gathering was flawed and the publications that ran the stories weren’t entirely honest with representing the nature of the survey itself. What we have is a survey made online that was intended to see how many teenaged boys thought females should stop being sexualized in games. Not a single mention of game ratings, which would have been an important element to factor in. This was not a wake up call boys are changing in huge numbers. It’s an online survey that many publications jumped on because there was something there they wanted to see. Quite frankly, the entire situation was made out to be bigger than it actually was.
What are your thoughts on this and do you believe teenage boys are really that different now than they were years ago? Comment below.