Don’t be such a sexist tool

By Luke Wilusz

Competitive fighting game player Aris Bakhtanians made headlines on gaming blogs this week after a Web broadcast of a recent competition featured him picking up a camera, inappropriately focusing it on Miranda Pakozdi, the only female player on his team, and making several inappropriate comments during the course of 10 minutes. He would zoom in on her breasts, butt and feet—rarely showing her face in the frame—while continually trying to get her to stand up and pose for him and shooing other teammates out of the way if they blocked his view.

The video, taken Feb. 23, was brought to the attention of several gaming blogs after a Feb. 28 article on quoted Bakhtanians saying that sexual harassment was just part of the culture surrounding competitive fighting games.

His actions and attitude are, to put it mildly, disgusting. To put it less diplomatically, one could say that Bakhtanians and people like him are a cancer on gaming culture.

While his misogynistic views and behavior are not representative of the majority of the gaming community, they are nonetheless a pervasive problem. Gaming is a predominantly male culture, in terms of both fans and creators, and much like other facets of geek culture—comic books in particular—sexism is a serious problem.

If video games are going to be taken seriously as an art form and as a culture, then gamers need to grow up and conduct themselves like civilized, respectful human beings rather than a pack of juvenile, idiotic monkeys.

The problem is that many gamers don’t want to confront the issues of sexism, misogyny and homophobia that naturally plague any subculture that’s composed largely of teenage boys. Any time a website publishes a piece that looks at the problem critically or analytically, commenters are quick to either deny the problem exists or try to deflect the discussion from such topics altogether. They complain about “political correctness” rather than even considering the possibility of reevaluating their attitudes.

While these people are really just a vocal minority, they bring the rest of the culture down with them, and they sometimes make me embarrassed to call myself a gamer. They’d rather see videos and screenshots of upcoming games than examine themselves as a culture. Some of them even comment in support of blatantly misogynistic behaviors and don’t see what the big deal is.

The big deal is that a lot of women like to play games and they deserve to be treated like people rather than objects because they are, in fact, people. They deserve a basic level of respect and dignity that they don’t often get when engaging with the rest of the gaming community. They shouldn’t have to be subjected to harassment and humiliation when trying to enjoy their hobby.