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August 14, 2012

Slate: What it's like for a girl gamer

I am a gamer and a geek. I'm at the computer writing this in a Star Trek T-shirt, in celebration of the recent Mars Curiosity rover landing. I've been a gamer for as long as I can remember, having had a Nintendo Power magazine thrust into my hands as soon as I could sound out the words on the page in order to be my older brother's co-pilot.

Since then, I have developed a fierce love of games. I have a tattoo of a Trivial Pursuit pie on my right hip. My haircut resembles one of my favorite characters, Lilith, from Borderlands. You can't tell me Revolution X wasn't amazing. You just can't.

This may sound like I'm trying to validate my geek cred. I shouldn't have to prove anything, you're right, but there are those determined to limit my rise in the gaming world. Though 47 percent of all gamers are women and though many of us are equal in our skills and drive to the men, we are often not welcome. The gamers who still aren't ready for us resort to online harassment to belittle, silence and drive us away from their precious boys' club.

Online harassment is a phenomenon as old as online gaming itself, and it is not necessarily limited to victimizing women — although they are arguably its most visible and numerous targets.

A recent New York Times article has given a mainstream voice to the problem and detailed the attack on feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian, who, after conducting a successful Kickstarter campaign aimed at raising money to examine misogynist tropes in gaming, was in for it. The Kickstarter campaign garnered Sarkeesian plenty of attention, both from the gaming media and those who turned to online harassment to silence and denounce her. Her Wikipedia page was vandalized, her website hacked and a Flash game was created where a player could beat a likeness of her black and blue. Mind you, Sarkeesian's proposed project hasn't even gotten off the ground — this is just the response to her planning and getting a decent sum of money to do so.

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