Mia ConsalvoConfronting Toxic Gamer Culture: A Challenge for Feminist Game Studies Scholars


Consalvo’s piece “Confronting Toxic Gamer Culture: A Challenge for Feminist Games Studies Scholars,” is a call to action for feminist game studies scholars to begin doing more research in particular areas in order to tease out the current toxic gamer culture towards feminism and women on the internet. She contextualizes her call to action through the ongoing #Gamergate (the tweets here currently are very tame compared to when the hashtag first trended) discussion, particularly in regards to Anita Sarkeesian, especially her Kickerstarter where she “proposed investigating portrayals of women in videogames over the past few decades.”

Sarkeesian has continued to make videos despite the threats of violence against her and her videos are actually very critical and interesting. This video is her most recent on her website Feminist Frequency. Note that if you go to the actual YouTube video, she has the comments disabled now. This is likely a result of everything that happened with #Gamergate.

Consalvo discusses the ongoing threats of violence experienced by Sarkeesian, as well as by other females that were part of the gaming community such as a games journalist and a writer for BioWare. She links these instances together, pointing to larger issues of sexual assault and violence connected to gamer culture. She says, “all of these events have been responding to the growing presence of women and girls in gaming not as a novelty but as a regular and increasingly important demographic.”

She calls on research to provide “a firm foundation on which to stand in order to shed light on the persistence of particular issues, point to historical solutions for overcoming similar difficulties, and thereby push for a more welcoming kind of game culture for everyone–not simply girls and women players.” She calls for projects that document hate speech towards women in the gaming community, but also to figure out who engages in the these practices and why they do so. She also calls for determining how networks of support for these misogynistic attitudes and practices emerge and flourish, or diminish. She also calls for a greater understanding to how gamers make sense of the game industry universe. She also calls for a documenting history of toxic gamer culture. She ultimately provides scholars with many areas that are in need of current research and could be helpful in piecing together why toxic gamer culture exists and how it either continues to flourish or diminish in certain spaces.

Dietz & Violence Against Women

Although there were a lot of places I didn’t agree with or I felt needed more clarification in Tracy Dietz’s article, “An Examination of Violence and Gender Role Portrayals in Video Games: Implication for Gender Socialization and Aggressive Behavior,” there were parts that I felt heavily connected with Consalvo’s discussion of toxic gamer culture and violence towards women like Sarkeesian.

I bring Dietz into this discussion because she connects research about gender stereotyping that occurs in video games to research about rape and sexual assault. She writes, “Moreover, gender role stereotyping has been demonstrated to be a significantly associated with callousness toward rape (Burt, 1980; Bell, et al, 1992). Herman (1989) is the result of how American culture has eroticized male dominance. Thus, the concept of masculinity has come to be associated with sexual aggression. Therefore, she argues that the inevitable result of having a society in which women are in–and expected to be in–positions subordinate to men, is the occurrence and acceptance of rape and sexual aggression” (430). Note the time in which this research as well as Dietz’s article was written: 1980, 1989, 1992, 1998. This far back in time we are seeing these issues present, especially when women make their voices heard about what’s considered a ‘male dominated’ entertainment form.

Consalvo’s piece was published in November 2012. Over 10 years overlapped between Dietz and Consalvo and Consalvo STILL needs to make a call to action in order to make this a priority for scholars.

Jumping In

The call to action Consalvo makes hasn’t gone unheard. I also don’t necessarily think that her call to action meant that there wasn’t any ongoing work in this area, but rather her call to action just made it clear on an academic platform (a journal) that this needed to be addressed. Perhaps it worked as a way to legitimate the work. I do think the idea of “Feminist Game Studies” is a new and exciting trend–one I think I’m already a part of, but I’d like to become moreso. I think my undertaking for this course will not just be looking at being a Game Studies scholar, but particularly a Feminist Game Studies scholar.

My MA thesis focused on a critical analysis of Sylvanus Windrunner in World of Warcraft as well as the experiences of women who played WoW and their rhetorical tactics for avoiding violence and ‘toxic gamer culture’ while still enjoying playing and identifying as a ‘gamer’. I definitely want to continue this research as well as tie it into Game Studies at large. Really excited about that!

Works Cited

Feminist Frequency. “Women as Reward.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 31 Aug. 2015. Web. 6 Sept. 2015.

Dietz, Tracy L. “An Examination of Violence and Gender Role Portrayals in Video Games: Implications for Gender Socialization and Aggressive Behavior.” Sex roles 38.5-6 (1998): 425-442.

Consalvo, Mia.  “Confronting Toxic Gamer Culture: A Challenge for Feminist Games Studies Scholars.” Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology 1.1 (2012): n. pag. Web. 31 Aug. 2015.