What kind of girl likes games as much as you do?
Feminist ACTion! (15) Famerz (Part 1)
※ As women’s call for an end to hate and discrimination gains momentum online and reverberates through the streets, we record these new voices of feminism and the diverse actions they take. This project is carried out with the support of the Korea Foundation for Women’s fund for Gender Equality and Social Development. -Editors
What kind of girl likes games as much as you do?
It’s now been a while since computer games like MapleStory, Mabinogi, NEXUS: The Kingdom of the Winds, and Junior Naver Animal Farm have become nostalgic games. The other activists in Famerz also fondly remember these games as ones that they enjoyed as kids. But when I hear people say things like that, even as I nod my head, I find it hard to agree fully in my heart.
The reason is simple: I didn’t really come to know those games until after I became an adult. The people who raised me wouldn’t allow a girl to play video games. Growing up in that family environment, I’d only heard the names of the games listed above; I’d never dared to try to play them.
But in my heart I loved games, and so I didn’t bow to this oppression. I secretly honed(?) my love by watching gaming broadcasts unbeknownst to my guardians, choosing video games I liked as homework topics, and so on. And then, when the stress of school was at its height, my passion for games erupted as a form of rebellion.
In mid-2016, a game called “Overwatch” was popular. I often skipped out on my school’s evening self-study sessions and escaped to a bookstore or movie theater, and eventually ended up going to a PC room for the first time. I started going there regularly, playing online games like Final Fantasy 14. When I think about it now, this disobedience seems both reckless and trivial, but it was a very enjoyable time for me as a gamer.
As I finished my time as college entrance exam prep student and became an adult, I was finally able to truly live as a gamer. But living as a female gamer in Korea is no easy thing.
Difficulty level of living as a female gamer in Korea: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆
The materials posted by the Twitter account “Girls Who Play Overwatch” [Obchihaneun Yeojadeul] (now ‘Gaming World Misogyny Reporting Account [Geimgye Nae Yeoseonghyeomo Gobalgyejeong], @famerz_GGYG) include a diverse range of misogynistic comments.
“Mercy has to be played by a pretty girl,” “Scientifically, women’s voices reduce tension. Because there’s no tension [in playing against women],” “Today I’ll have to eat[Slang for “rape”] (name)”, and so on...
The screencaps of in-game chats uploaded to the account are full of hateful comments made because the target is presumed to be female.
I had just started playing online games, so I was a casual Overwatch player who didn’t use voice chatting, and my gender wasn’t easy to guess from my nickname. So I was never victimized. But after seeing the contents of the Twitter account, I began to feel fear. It was the fear that I could be sexually and verbally harassed when playing computer games just because I was female.
The year 2016 saw both the Gangnam Station murder and the firing of computer game voice actor Kim Ja-yeon for expressing feminist sympathies. Watching these things happen, I wondered what I as a woman had to do to live safely in Korea. Even while gaming, doing what I enjoy as a hobby, I was at risk of attack for being female. This unjust situation made me so furious that I had to do something about it.
The fear that I had felt at first turned into anger, and this pushed me to volunteer as a staff member of the “National Diva Association” (now Famerz) in December 2016, when it was preparing to launch itself as an organization.
Is gaming a male cultural pastime?
Isn’t is it ridiculous to say that gaming is a form of entertainment that’s for men? Yet, this flawed proposition is accepted as fact in the gaming world. This is because in male gamers’ minds, female gamers are no more real than unicorns, and women only exists as targets of sexual objectification.
For girls and women, there is no space in games or gaming communities where they are allowed to exist. If I reveal during a game that I am a woman, I’m immediately vulnerable to sexual harassment and other forms of misogyny. In gaming communities, it is commonplace for female gamers to be aggressively othered and even subjected to sexual harassment in the form of evaluations of their appearance. Under these circumstances, female gamers have no choice but to give up communicating altogether or pretend to be male. Ultimately, there is no space where women are allowed to exist simply as women.
That is why Famerz’s main goal, as a group for feminist female gamers, was to make the existence of women in the gaming world visible and create a space for female gamers.
When we first started our activism to make women in the gaming world visible, fights with antifeminists were common. Every time, we would have to prove our status as “serious gamers” by taking screencaps showing our level in a game we were playing or our list of games on Steam or other game-selling platforms.
But in the end, that kind of proof means nothing. The people fighting with us about feminism are obsessed only with attacking us. The materials we collected are twisted around to fit their needs and used to attack us. But what is a “real gamer” anyway? How many hours do you have to play per day, how much money do you have to spend on gaming to earn recognition as one? Who decides these standards? Female gamers, us included, are endlessly pushed to prove that we were “real gamers” by vague standards that no one can clearly define.
In these ways, proof of the authenticity and even the very existence of female gamers is demanded. On the other hand, the bad-faith consumers who do things like conducting ideological purity tests on female workers in the gaming industry and calling them “Megal” [like the website Megalia] are considered real gamers without a shred of proof or recognition required. The game industry readily listens to and accepts the ridiculous arguments of these “real gamers”, and as a result, the women who work in it face a crisis of labor rights violations.
Published Sept. 28, 2019
Translated by Marilyn Hook
Original article: http://ildaro.com/8558
◆ To see more English-language articles from Ilda, visit our English blog(https://ildaro.blogspot.com).
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